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Sun, Oct 14, 2012

75 - What is Love? [c]

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 by Robert Dean
Where do you find a definition of love from which to set standards, expectations and goals? Does scripture clearly define love? Attributes of love are introduced throughout scripture in concepts including submission, authority, grace, mercy, faithfulness, forgiveness and a multitude of others. Love is ultimately exemplified at the cross. While emotion and affection can be a part of love, they are more the result than the motivator. God sets the standard for love, so to understand love we must know God. For a believer, love for one another is a reflection of God’s love for us which is based on His integrity and righteousness. The Holy Spirit is our only means of approaching the love God wants His body to exhibit toward one another and to perpetuate the stability of His divine institutions.

Note that the class series (Romans) on the video is incorrect.

Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:49 mins 20 secs

What is Love? 1 Corinthians 13

 

Love is a difficult term to define. Even when we get into the Scripture we don't really have a clear definition, we have descriptions of love. The attributes, the characteristics of love are there but to define love per se is extremely difficult. If we go to the Oxford English Dictionary or Webster's Dictionary we will discover that they do a fairly poor job of defining love, especially if we understand love from a biblical viewpoint. In Webster's love is defined initially as an emotion. But there is a problem with defining love as an emotion because emotions are fleeting. Emotions are subject to all kinds of things that cause many different fluctuations in our affections. But for love to have real significance, real staying power, to truly understand love as the Bible teaches it, we have to go deeper than just emotion. And this is what we pick up on in our study of 1 Corinthians 13.

Have we ever wondered why, as we read through the passages in Colossians chapter three, why the wife is never commanded to love her husband? In other places we are all commanded as believers to love one another. The wife is commanded to respect her husband, and there are other aspects. But the wife as a responder—the soul of the woman is designed to be the responder; the man is designed to be the initiator and leader—and she doesn't have a problem with loving the man. Her problem is related to that judgment: she is going to want to be the boss. That is why Ephesians 5 addresses the woman in terms of submission: it is because of what happened in terms of the judgment that she would desire to control the man. That is why there is no command there for the wide to love the husband. It is not that she is not supposed to but that wasn't the problem the curse. So these commands in Ephesians chapter five are related to correcting the specific area of problem from the fall. So when we ask the question as to why wives are commanded to submit and husbands are commanded to love it is because this is directly related to the deficits that come from the curse.

We are all co0mmanded to love one another; love is not optional. But we have to understand something about what love is. We have to understand the fact that as 21st century Americans our culture has really done a number on the whole concept of love. When we go back to the 19th century the concept of courtship and finding a mate for life was very different. In the first place, there was not this concept of an adolescent, a teenager and pop culture until the early 20th century. In all cultures of the world in all of history, e.g. the Jewish culture where you are a child until bar mitzvah and then you are a man, there is no intermediate period of adolescence or those teenage when you are neither a child nor an adult. In all of history until the 20th century there was never this kind of teenage thing, or this whole idea of dating and going out with somebody on a whole lot of different dates with a lot of different people. In most cultures in most of history, as hard as it is for us to understand, the parents decided who would marry their child. They did that because it was understood that the parents probably understood their children better than anybody else. In other cases, there were arranged marriages or people just got married for whatever reason, but they didn't go through this kind of courtship thing. The options in many cases were pretty limited. In New Testament times a lot of the marriages were arranged. In some cases they never even saw the person they were going to marry until right before they got married. So if we think about the fact that in many of the homes that Paul is addressing that is the background, when he says wives submit to your husbands, the wife isn't submitting to the husband she chose. That makes it a lot more difficult! Husbands love your wives. Same thing. So three commands are addressed to a culture that is somewhat different from ours, but they are commands that are trans-cultural; they are to be put into practice by anyone. It doesn't matter how you have ended up with the person you have ended up with. It is not based on this idea of dating, finding someone, and falling in love. That is not the background for understanding this inscription. Love was something that people grew into over time.

In American culture we have confused the emotion with what love really is. That does not mean that love doesn't have an emotional dimension to it; what it means is that love in and of itself is not to be identified with an emotion. When we understand the biblical concept of love this is what really under girds all of the spiritual life. It is the background for understanding these commands in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3.

1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB "Love is patient, love is kind {and} is not jealous; love does not brag {and} is not arrogant, [5] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,} [6] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [7] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Love never fails …" This is a description of love. And we need to think about this because of we are married, wish to be married, or are going to have children, love permeates all of this and we need to think about this a little bit. Within the family there should be the modelling of unconditional love by the parents: that they accept their children even despite their failures and everything else, they love them consistently all the time. That what we are talking about as the foundation for all love, and that is what 1 Corinthians 13 is describing—this unconditional type of love that comes from the throne of God the Father.

1 Corinthians 13:4 KJV "Love suffers long…" The Greek word here is makrothumia [makroqumia], a compound word from makros—long, big, large, and thumia, meaning anger. So literally the idea is that it takes a long time to get angry. It therefore means to be patient or to be persistent in the face of opposition, to persevere through difficulty. It means to describe someone who is not easily angered or provoked within that relationship. That means love that is not going to easily react and yell and scream and blow up at the object of their love. It is a recognition that the one you love is someone who is going to fail. As Christians we understand that we are all fallen, all sinners, and we are going to fail, be disappointed by others and will all disappoint others. We need to have someone who loves us despite our failures.

Does that mean we are being permissive and they are getting of Scot free? Not necessarily. But think about the Father's love for us. How many times have we not had the boom lowered on us when we have sinned and failed? The Father deals with us in grace. That doesn't mean we get away with it all the time, it simply means He picks and chooses how to deal with us in terms of our failures and our flaws according to who we are. But His love is stable, it doesn't change; it is based on His character. When we love someone it can't be based on our character because our character is grounded on the sin nature that is often too self-absorbed and too arrogant to be any kind of foundation for love. So there has to be something more permanent to base our love on, and that means that as Christians we have to understand the character of God. After all, we are in the image and likeness of God and we are to reflect that. We are being renewed according to His image in our sanctification, so we have to understand His love, and that is a stable, unchanging, immutable love that is consistently faithful; never faithless. That and that alone can bring real virtue to our concept of love. We have to love other people, not because of who and what we are but because of who God is and what Christ did for us on the cross. That is the foundation; that is why we really have to understand that and how that impacts our love.

So0 the first this is, love is longsuffering. It is not easily provoked, easily angered. We see this in passage emphasizing the character of God and how the concept of longsuffering is related to His grace. Psalm 103:8 NASB "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." The emphasis there is on His unmerited favour toward us; we don't deserve any of it. It is related to grace. If we are going to deal with our loved ones—our spouse, our children, our parents—in love then that means that we have to be grace oriented to them. That means that we are going to treat them not on the basis of who they are or what they have done but on the basis of God's character. Again, that doesn't mean permissiveness because God clearly disciplines us, clearly allows us to suffer consequences for our sin; but God never stops loving us. It is a love that is "abounding in mercy." This is the Hebrew word chesed which is difficult to translate into an English word. It means loyal love, faithful love, loving kindness. But it is a word that is consistently applied to God, and not to man, and it is tied to His faithfulness to the covenant. Think about that in terms of marriage. Marriage is grounded upon a covenant, a covenant that was sealed in the marriage ceremony. There is a contractual relationship between the husband and the wife. That means that there may be times when you don't like the other person, but you need to be faithful to that covenant. That is demonstrated by God in that He is always faithful to His promises.

In terms of the human realm we have this same word used in James 5:8, 9. Notice the contrast between the two verses. The context is talking a little bit about waiting for the Second Coming. James 5:8 NASB "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near." Then in verse 9 he says, "Do not complain, brethren, against one another …" Apply that within the marriage relationship. Don't gripe and moan and complain about each other or to each other about each other. "… so that you yourselves may not be judged." There is accountability there. Just because God has faithful love for us doesn't mean there's not accountability. Then the warning: "… behold, the Judge is standing right at the door." The context is the Second Coming. When the Lord returns there will be judgment. When the Rapture occurs and we go to be with the Lord in the air there will be judgment at the judgment seat of Christ, and part of that evaluation judgment relates to our marriage, family, parenting, etc.

Another way the Scriptures talk about suffering is tying it to forgiveness. Peter asked the Lord: "How many times, if my brother sins against me, do I have to forgive him, up to seven times?" The Lord said: "Up to seventy times seven." That is hard to do. That's tough. We can't do it on our own; we can only do it through the grace of God. Other passages use this same word. Ephesians 4:2, describing the entire Christian life: "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." That's everybody, not just "husbands love your wives." That means, ladies, you still have to love him.

Colossians 1:11 NASB "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously."

Colossians 3:12 NASB "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" – kindness is also mentioned with regard to love.

In Galatians 5:14 we have the command to love one another. Then we have the statement in Galatians 5:22ff describing the fruit of the Spirit. "Fruit" is in the singular because there is only one fruit here. Textually it is love; then we have the characteristics of love. We don't have different fruits of the Spirit. There is one fruit, and it is love. It is characterised by "joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." This is another description of the different facets of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB "Love is patient, love is kind …" Be kind to people. We live in a world where there is no longer any good, kind civil discourse anymore, and no respect for other people because there is no love. There is no character is people, everybody is so self-absorbed where they just get angry and yell at each other all the time. This same word is used in the description of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Colossians 3:12 also listed this as a characteristic we are to put on in the Christian life. But notice how it is tied to grace in Luke 6:35 NASB "But love your enemies, and do good [describing love], and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind [related to love] to ungrateful and evil {men.}"

"{and} is not jealous…" zeloo [zhlow], which can mean  positive passion for something or negative in  the sense of jealously or envy, representing the illegitimate desire for what others have and you want it because you think it is going to make you happy; self-absorption. "… love does not brag {and} is not arrogant." Both of those descriptions emphasize self-absorption and arrogance, they come out of a mentality that is completely focused on one's own feelings and approbation and what you are getting out of the relationship.

1 Corinthians 13:5 NASB "does not act unbecomingly …" Love has good manners. Most of the things that go wrong in marriages is just because you don't have good manners toward the other person, you are not thinking highly of the other person, not treating them with respect, not letting them go first. Very basic rules of life are broken down. When we live in a culture today where so many people come out of broken homes and so few parents teach discipline and good manners and respect for others and others' property to their children, it is no wonder that marriages break down. They don't know the fundamentals of just how to talk to one another politely in conversation, how to avoid being self-absorbed all the time. These basic skills just are lost. The word there for behaving rudely is a word simply meaning behaving improperly.  "… it does not seek its own." A word meaning to seek, to pursue, to strive after something. So when you are loving someone, it is not all about you. "… is not provoked." When we are arrogant we are easily provoked because anger is really when we perceive that we are not going to get what we want. When we are easily provoked and there are flash points it is just because we are not getting our way. When you are having a lot of problem about anger it is because you are 180-degrees opposite what the Bible teaches about love, and you are running as fast as you can away from it. "… does not take into account a wrong {suffered,}" – "account" is the word logizomai [logizomai], the same word James uses when he says "Count it all joy." It is an accounting term; it means to add things up. As an accounting term is basically means that you are not going to think or count up the evil that is going on in somebody's life.

1 Corinthians 13:6 NASB "[LOVE] does not rejoice in unrighteousness …" That has application to antinomianism but basically what that is saying is that when somebody fails and falls into sin you are not saying: "Yeah, they finally got it."  "… but rejoices with the truth." We have to be careful because we can rejoice in the truth and become arrogant. The focus is on, "I'm right and you're wrong." That just leads to more fragmentation of relationships. We rejoice in the truth but we don't rejoice when somebody's sin brings it home to them.

Then in conclusion: 1 Corinthians 13:7 NASB "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." The word for "bears all things" means to cover or to endure. The last word for "enduring" is more persevering through all things.

We forgive pets things. They do things on that expensive oriental rug and we love them anyway! We don't hold that against them. You put up with things. Think about the people you love and the things that they do. If it was somebody else you'd haul off and slap them; you'd never talk to them again. But this is somebody you love and so you forgive them and not hold it against them. You put up with it because that is just the way they are and you are going to love them anyway. That is what it means to bear all things. It doesn't mean to cover it up; it doesn't mean to ignore it; it means you recognize that they are just a fallen, rotten lousy sinner just like you are, and you are going to love them despite those flaws and failures. And you are going to persevere. That goes back to the very first statement of makrothumia – longsuffering, patience. It is a synonym of hupomeno [u(pomenw] meaning to endure. It is persevering and persisting in spite of the flaws, the failures, whatever.

In conclusion, what is love? The way most think of love is that it is affection, feelings, emotion, friendship. That is part of love but that is not the core of love. If that is all there is then when the hard times come it is really easy for somebody to vacate the premises. One of the reasons that people need to stick together in marriage for thirty or forty years and really learn to love each other is because when you get to that point when you have dementia, lung cancer, this or that or whatever the other thing is, or it is the other person, there is a relationship there that you can count on. You know that person is not going to vacate the premises just because life has become a little rugged. Because you have built together, grown together, and have overcome difficulties and obstacles together so that when you get there you are not going to say it is too much, I'm out of here. If your love is based on emotion it is really difficult to deal with those end-of-life issues where you have to take care of somebody.    

The foundation is really the Greek word agape [a)gaph]. The word that is used for morbid emotional love is phileo [filew]. But agape is foundational love. It is based on virtue; it is volitional. It is not based on feeling, it is based on a choice related to responsibility. A big word in love is loyalty, respect. It is unconditional and is focused on what is best for others, not what is best for me. When you put them together the core is agape love. It does not exclude emotion but it is not based on emotion. But when there is agape love there, then when that emotional dimension there it is much richer, much fuller, much more dynamic because it is grounded on virtue, on that which truly lasts. That is the kind of love that God has for us, and as believers we are to reflect that in all of our relationships.