Monday, January 4, 2010

Grow Up in Love--#5 in series

The theme verse for this entire series is Ephesians 4:15, "But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head--Christ." (HCSB)

Other Bible texts related to this post: John 13:35, I Corinthians 12:31-14:1, 1 John 4:6-12

As in all things, for the Christian, Jesus is our model for love. He said to us (John 13:35) that our love for one another would be the very thing that identifies us as His disciples.

As we seek to "grow up in love," the Bible has no more concentrated advice for us than what the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled church in Corinth. Corinth as a port city, very wealthy, but also very filled with sin and dissipation. Some of this had spilled over into the church, with immorality being practiced by people in the church, dissention between various factions, and jealousy over position and prestige. One of the problems centered around a misuse of spiritual gifts. Instead of using the spiritual gifts given by Christ to properly build up the body of the church and minister to unbelievers in Christ's name, they had become the focus of a 'bragging contest' that was ripping the church apart.

The last verse of 1 Corinthians 12 through the first few verses of chapter 13 might be termed "Spiritual gifts vs. spiritual content." In these verses, Paul makes the point that without love...
--tongues are inadequate
--preaching is inadequate
--faith is inadequate
--generosity is inadequate
and even
--martyrdom is inadequate!

Paul then makes some practical points about love...
--it is patient and kind
--not envious
--not boastful or conceited
--doesn't act improperly
--not selfish
--not easily provoked, keeps no record of wrongs
--finds no joy in unrighteousness, but on the contrary,
--rejoices in the truth
--bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things!

Paul concludes the chapter with a wonderful illustration of the endurance and greatness of love.

In our system of chapters and verses, there's a break before the next verse, but it wasn't there in the original letter. And that verse certainly goes with what Paul has been writing about..."Pursue love..."

I have a little problem with the way most English translations render that first verse in chapter 14. Here it is in the Holman Christian Standard Bible: "Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy." This makes the statement "desire spiritual gifts" into a command, and that is certainly one way that the original Greek might be translated...but it is just as legitimate and probably more straightforward to translate the Greek as a simple declarative sentence, "You desire spiritual gifts." This changes the meaning somewhat--Paul would be making a simple observation about the Corinthians, "You folks want spiritual gifts" but would also be telling them again that without love, those gifts will be misused.

John the beloved disciple, in 1 John 4:6-12, has this to say about imitating Christ's love:

6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

9 God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

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