|Lesson 10||March 1-7|
|"High Praise for Love"|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Corinthians 13.
Memory Text: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Key Thought: There can be no greater pursuit in the Christian life than seeking to have the love of God find hands and feet and voice through us. First Corinthians 13 invites us to participate in sharing god's unconditional love.
|Sabbath Afternoon||February 28|
EXPERIENCE THE LIFE-TRANSFORMING POWER OF LOVE. The glowing words of 1 Corinthians 13 are impressive. Writers seem to compete to grant honors. The chapterhas been called "the greatest, strongest, deepest thing Paul ever wrote" (Adolf Harnack). Others expand the compliment by calling it "the most wonderfulchapter in the whole New Testament." Ellen White exhorts: "The Lord desires me to call the attention of His people to the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Read this chapter every day, and from it obtain comfort and strength. ..." [The chapter will teach us.] "that Christlike loveis of heavenly birth, and that without it all other qualifications are worthless."--Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1091. Savor this magnificent chapter every day this week, and prepare to share your experience with your class. Experience the life-transforming power of Love!
AGAPE LOVE (1 Cor. 12:29-31; 1 Cor. 13).
How is the New Testament's love song introduced? 1 Cor. 12:29-31.
"By all means covet the best gifts ... as an artist would wish to be deft with all his limbs and quick with all his senses; but above all, cherish love, as that same artist would cultivate the pure tast which lives and breathes within him--the secret spring of all his motions, the faculty that prompts his skill."--Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1981), vol. 7, p. 196.
For Paul, how is "love" demonstrated and where is it most clearly seen? Rom. 5:6-8; Eph. 2:1-7.
Cicero, the great Roman orator who lived before the time of Christ (106-43 B.C.), shares the following anecdote: "What cheers there were ... all over the theatre at a passage in the new play of my friend and guest Pacuvius; where the king, not knowing which of the two was Orestes, Pylades declared himself to be Orestes, that he might die in his stead, while the real Orestes kept on asserting that it was he. The audience rose en masse and clapped their hands." Cicero comments, "And this was an incident in fiction: what would they have done, must we suppose, if it had been in real life?"--The Harvard Classics, vol. 9 (New York: Collier & Son, 1909), pp. 16, 17.
Cicero, of course, had not seen the fictional become real in the life and death of Jesus who said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Paul's understanding of agape (the Greek word for "love" that he uses in 1 Corinthians 13)as expressed in Christ's self-sacrifice is the basis for his love song. Christ dies, not just for His friends but for those who are His enemies--the ungodly and sinners, among whom are counted all humankind. What would Cicero have said?
Christians think of love as "that quality we see on the cross. It is a love for the utterly unworthy, a love that proceeds from a God who is love. It is a love lavished on others without a thought whether they are worthy or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, not from any attractiveness in the beloved."--Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985) p. 177.
"LOVE AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS" (1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 1-3).
Paul's love song falls naturally into three parts. Verses 1-3 compare love to spiritual gifts with this thought emphasized: any spiritual gift, without love, is valueless. Verses 4-7 describe the workings of love--what it does and what it does not do. Verses 8-13 again compare love and spiritual gifts, this time contrasting the relatively passing nature of the gifts to the eternal permanence of love.
Our appreciation for this grand chapter is enriched by recalling the context in which Paul crafts it. Paul does not isolate himself for a decade or two and then write this exalted praise for love. Paul addresses these inspiring words to a specific context--the divided and sometimes clamorous congregations at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 13 is not meant to be taken as a theory. It applies to a very real situation and speaks to our lives today.
What specific gifts and acts are listed as being "nothing" in the absence of love? 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
The "more excellent way" of love is eternal, for God is eternal. Now gifts or acts are worth much unless they are immersed in love. This fruit of love must propel the exercise of any gift. Love has to do with our state of being, while gifts relate to our state of doing. Only the love of Christ in the heart can transform who we are into what we do.
"When love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not because of favors received from them, but because love is the principle of action."--The Mount of Blessing, p. 38.
Of the gifts cited by Paul in verses 1-3, "tongues" and "knowledge" seem to have been especially prized by the Corinthians. Are there gifts or qualities that you prize so highly that they may obscure the excellence of love?
Imagine how you feel when you hear gifted preachers waxing eloquent about love in their sermons, yet in their contacts with others they seem cold and uncaring. We all need the Holy Spirit to purify our motives so that He may empower us to possess the love that we profess. May this be our prayer. "Dear God, we offer back to You the gifts You have given. We confess that our motivation to exercise them often seems mixed. The sweet movings of Your Spirit are so often corrupted by our own selfish ambitions. Grant us fresh use of these gifts of Yours, inspired more purely by that self-giving love You so clearly displayed on Calvary. Amen.
THE WORKINGS OF LOVE (1 Cor. 13, especially verses 4-7).
Verses 1-3 challenge us to examine motivations that drive our actions and our exercise of spiritual gifts. Verses 4-7 challenge us in a different way. Every human heart cringes before the standard sketched in these short verses. Love does not insist on its own way. But we sometimes are! Love hopes all things. But hope so often fades from our hearts. We at once thrill at the heights of pure love and despair of ever providing an adequate reflection of it.
In sharing such an exalted picture of love (verses 4-7), does Paul mean to discourage or encourage his readers? How can this be discouraging in aspiring to reach this ideal?
Just as gifts and ministries are given by God's Spirit, so is love? It is impossible for us to generate so sublime a thing in our own lives. As with spiritual gifts, we find ourselves recipients, not manufacturers. Paul does not mean to entice the Corinthian Christians with a love that they cannot experience. Rather, he pleads for their actions to be prompted by the greatest of God's gifts, the "more excellent way" of love. The appropriate response to Paul's high-powered words on love is not despair. It is, first, to confess how consistently we have failed to express such love. And, second, to pray for open hearts to receive God's gift of love that we might truly bless those around us.
Which of the "wordings of love" described in verses 4-7 do you most need to have expressed in your life just now? How can you start making this a reality in your life today?
With regard to Paul's phrase, "Love is not resentful," Lewis Smedes writes: "The power of agapic love drives us to a new beginning. Love lets the past die. It moves people to a new beginning without settling the past. ...
"We are enabled by a love that keeps no accounts since they were settled by Christ at his cross. From the cross, God moves on to new history. ...
"Love is the power that drives us toward the other who has done us wrong because it is able to tear up every moral scorecard. This is reconciliation, and reconciliation is love's ultimate goal"--Love Within Limits: A Realist's View of 1Corinthians 13 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 71, 72.
THE PERMANENCE OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 8-13).
In the final section of this great chapter, Paul contrasts the permanence of love with the comparative impermanence of spiritual gifts. What a superb tactic for people so focused on the exercise of spiritual gifts that they have missed the surpassing importance of love!
Do verses 8-13 suggest how a Christian should relate to "time" and "eternity"? What are some consequences of focusing only on one to the exclusion of the other? Compare Matthew 24:36-44.
Paul does not suggest that Christians should forget about spiritual gifts, even though they will not last beyond time. He argues that God's gifts provided for time must be authenticated with that grand gift of love furnished for eternity. We should have God's eternal kingdom as our primary goal. But this does not mean we should ignore the resources given for this age. We should use the present to prepare for God's future--a service of love till Jesus comes.
How does our current knowledge compare with the knowledge we shall be granted in God's eternal future? 1 Cor. 13: 9-12. How does this fact help you live with some unanswered questions?
Corinth was noted for producing some of the finest bronze mirrors available. When Paul says "we see in a mirror, dimly" (verse 12, NKJV), he probably does not refer to a distorted image so much as an indirect one. The revelations of God in Christ are not inaccurate, but our understanding of them is limited.
What are among the things we can know now? Eph. 1:18, 19?
The Christian must not claim to know more than God has revealed. Nor should one underestimate and demean the precious truths God has made known. "Thank God we do know; but let it check our conceit, we know only in part. Beloved, the objects we look at are distant, and we are nearsighted. The revelation of God is ample and profound, but our understanding is weak and shallow."--Spurgeon, Treasure of the Bible, vol. 7, p. 196.
AGAPE AT WORK AND HOME (1 Cor. 13).
It is all too easy to allow Paul's lofty words on live to miss their mark. He is interested in God's eternal love as expressed in Jesus Christ actuating our lives as we interact with others. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, we must apply these words to our lives today. First Corinthians 13 is not just to be enjoyed in quiet moments of contemplation. It is to be lived out in the hustle and bustle of life, amid the mix of demanding children, dirty dishes, and everyday life.
How can we invite God's love to transform us? How can God's patience and kindness replace our own irritability and resentment?
By reading 1 Corinthians 13 every day this week, you've established a great habit! 1. Read verses 4-7 a second time. 2. Ask God to deal with that counterpart to love (envy, arrogance, boasting, rudeness, etc.) that is troubling you the most just now. 3. Ask God to grant you that positive quality of love (patience, kindness, etc.) that you feel is most needed in your life. 5. At the close of the day, reflect on those times when divine love has come to your aid. Thank God for His great love in Christ. Only through Him, living within us, we may manifest His traits of love.
"In many of our homes there is a hard, combative spirit manifested. Critical words and unkind actions are offensive to God. Dictatorial commands and haughty, overbearing manners are not acceptable to Heaven. ... The love of Christ must control our hearts, and the peace of God will abide in our homes. Seek God with a broken and contrite spirit, and you will be melted with compassion toward your brethren. You will be prepared to add to brotherly kindness, charity, or love. Without charity we will become 'as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.' Our highest professions are hollow and insincere; but 'love is the fulfilling of the law.' We shall be found wanting, if we do not add charity that suffereth long and is kind; that vaunteth not itself, that seeketh not her own."--Ellen G. White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 21, 1888.
In which of your relationships do you need God's love to become especially evident? Pray for that to happen.
Can you think of a gifted area in your life that needs to be submitted to and purified by God's love?
Further Study: The word love is prominent in all of Paul's letters. Use a concordance and explore other occurrences of love or charity. If you wish to broaden your search, explore the word in John's Gospel and letters. One interesting theme suggested by 1 Corinthians 13 is the connection between "love" and "Christ's Return." On this idea see Phil. 1:9, 10; 1 Thess. 3:12, 13.
On the theme of love in the home, read "Security Through Love," chapter 31 in The Adventist Home, pp. 195-199.
"Love's agencies have wonderful power for they are divine. The soft answer that 'turneth away wrath,' the love that 'suffereth long, and is kind,' the charity that 'covereth a multitude of sins'--would we learn the lesson, with what power for healing would our lives be gifted! How life would be transformed and the earth become a very likeness and foretaste of heaven!"--The Adventist Home, p. 195.
"The love of God in the heart will lead us to speak gentle words. ...[1 Cor. 13:4-7 quoted.] Shall we not remember this? If the love of God is in our hearts, we shall not think evil, we shall not be easily disturbed, we shall not give loose rein to passion; but we shall show that we are yoked up with Christ, and that the restraining power of his Spirit leads us to speak words that he can approve. The yoke of Christ is the restraint of his Holy Spirit; and when we become heated by passion, let us say, "No; I have Christ by my side, and I will not make him ashamed of me by speaking hot, fiery words.'"--Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 25, 1898.
|1. In your life, who has provided the
clearest example of God-like love? How did you respond? What
impact does that still have in your life?
2. In what practical ways can you apply the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 in your home, place of work, and community?
Summary: The cross shows the great love of God acting on behalf of His enemies. That love draws us to the cross and sends us forth again into the world to reflect rays of divine love toward others. Meditation and prayer based on 1 Corinthians 13 can be an important aid in helping us to fulfill this noble mission of love.
|Sabien's Faith, Part I
Sabien limped into the clearing and sat down. A large tropical ulcer on his leg caused him obvious pain. It was our first Sabbath among the Iwam people on the May River in Papua New Guinea.
After Sabbath, my husband, John, invited Sabien to the clinic, where he treated his wound. Gradually his sore healed, and Sabien's gratitude overflowed.
Sabien came faithfully to church, and eventually joined the baptismal class. He was making wonderful progress. Then one day a few weeks before the baptism, Sabien told John that he felt he should not be baptized just yet. Surprised, John asked him why. Then Sabien explained that his father was building a house, and when it was finished his father would give it to him. According to local custom, when a house is completed, the entire village comes to a feast given by the homeowner. Sabien's father expected him to attend the ceremony. But beer and betel nut would be served, and Sabien did not feel right joining the feast after being baptized.
John and Sabien prayed about the situation, then John explained that the devil was using this ceremony to keep Sabien from following Jesus in baptism. Sabien decided he wanted to follow Jesus now, and not wait until after the feast. We prayed earnestly that God would be with Sabien as he told his father of his decision.
Later Sabien returned to our home. He told us that his father had become angry when he learned that Sabien would not drink the beer and chew betel nut at his father's feast. He told Sabiennot to come to the feast, that he would not give Sabien the house as he had planned. So Sabien, who had looked forward to living in the new house, was forced to move his family into a tiny, one-room house. But Sabien was not discouraged. He had decided that it was better to follow Jesus than to have a house.
Sabien was baptized. But that was not the end of his tests of faith.
(continued next week)
|Belinda Kent, her husband, John, and their four children serve as missionaries in Papua New Guinea under the auspices of Adventist Frontier Missions.|
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