Responding to the Presence of Jesus – Week 5

“Love is the Source, the Way, and the Motive!”

Key Verse:  1 Corinthians 12:31  (NASB)


Last week, in the sermon, I mentioned as an aside what the Lord would have me unpack in more detail today: Love is the source, the way, and the motive of all that we do as the Church of Jesus Christ!


Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 12 with verse 31,
“But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.”


Paul is teaching the new believers in Corinth how to be the Church of Jesus Christ. In chapter 11 he discusses communion and orderly worship, in chapter 12 he begins his discussion on spiritual gifts and the body imagery of the church that he then completes in chapter 14. Very often, and to our own demise, chapters 11, 12, and 14 are discussed divorced from chapter 13—the love chapter. What does chapter 13 have to do with taking communion, orderly worship services, healthy church life, or the ministry of the spiritual gifts after all?


Well, I’ll tell you what—when you divorce love from practical and spiritual conversations you get tens of thousands of church denominations characterized by church splits. You get a lot of broken people, broken families, and broken churches. In short, you get what we have! Why? Because we put Chapter 13 up on the wall as a poem, instead of in our hearts as the heartbeat of our lives!


Today, we are going to return Chapter 13 to its rightful place—not as an interlude of flowery poetry, but the very heartbeat and schematic of the church and the Christian life!  


Chapter 13 describes the “more excellent way,” that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:31! Paul starts it off in verses 1-3 with a shocking teaching,
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”


Love is the Source, the Way, and the Motive of the spiritual life—for both the gathered church and the individual Christian as a member of the body of Christ! Let’s take each of these one at a time:


Love is the Source: Love, according to Paul is the “more excellent way”! Love is greater than tongues, prophecy, knowledge, miracles, sacrifice, and even martyrdom. How is that possible? I’ll tell you why! Because God cares about the what flows out of your heart—in your own life, in relationships, in ministry, in church work, in all things!


Remember what King Solomon taught us in Proverbs 4:23,
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”
Who is the source of the springs of your life? Here is the answer:
God’s presence is supposed to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).


The Beloved Disciple, John, explains to us what is looks like for God to be our Source. Listen to 1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.


We must always ensure that Love is the Source and that means that God is the Source.


James teaches us in James 1:17,
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”


Love is not only the Source, Love is the Way: In 1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul calls love the most excellent way!


It is important to note that Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of God dwelling amongst us, said of Himself,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).


Examining the context of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12—14, Jesus does not call us to a life of promoting the spiritual gifts or even the church, but a life of utilizing the spiritual gifts to promote (“lift up” or “exalt”) the name of Jesus Christ through the proclamation of His Gospel. That is the purpose of the Church, remembering our lesson from last week,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
When you know your identity in Christ, then your attitudes and actions will flow from that central place of His Lordship.


Paul focuses us on the way with two key passages: 1 Corinthians 14:12 states,
“So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
And in verse 26,
“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”


These are key verses in understanding the purpose of spiritual gifts—to build up and strengthen His Church. We are living stones that make up the Temple of God’s presence in the world and we are members of His body so that the world may see His presence. Spiritual gifts and how we gather and conduct ourselves are all for this same reason—to make Him known! To draw people to Him!


Spiritual Gifts are given by the Source of love to live in the way of Jesus!


The best examples of the way of love are found in the major events of the Christian faith:
(1) Christmas (the incarnation);
(2) Good Friday (the atonement);
(3) Easter (the resurrection); and
(4) Pentecost (the birth of the Church).
These are all signs of God’s love poured out for us and poured into us. Because of God’s faithfulness in the past, we await the completion of His love with the New Heaven and New Earth. We are still awaiting the completion of love, but we know that the Day is coming.


Until that Day, we gather as the Church and use His spiritual gifts as witnesses to the Way of Jesus Christ. We are to put on display the character of Jesus Christ, called the “Fruit of the Spirit” by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. Not surprising, first out of the block on the character of Jesus Christ is: “love” followed by “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”


This is what it means to follow Jesus!


We must expand this teaching! I do so because the “Fruit of the Spirit” is grammatically a collective whole and not 9 individual fruits: If we do anything, no matter how spectacular for Jesus or how accurate to the Word we think it is… If we do anything without love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, then that work or sermon or debate is “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).


It’s empty! Because the source must be love and the way must be love and the motive must be love.


Love is the Motive of all that we do as the Church of Jesus Christ: The building up the Church is our motive because the Church is the Body of Christ—it is built up and held together only by love. The Body of Christ requires each member to live a life of love mutually submission to one another and complete dependence upon Christ who is the head of the Church.


Love is our Source, Love is the Way, and Love is our Motivation!


As Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24,
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”


Check your motives…


Check your ways… your attitudes and actions…


Check your heart… Who is sitting on the throne of your life—your identity and your decision making?


Holy Spirit, search me and know me… we invite you to refine us with Your fire Heavenly Father…

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