Our Response Is Always In Love
Lance Haverkamp – January 31, 2016
At the end of last week we were asking what the gospel really looks like. How we can be an example of that Gospel to others. The fact that the Gospel really doesn’t look like the popular misconceptions we hear about today. And most importantly, how we communicate that today.
Today’s reading is the well known chapter from Corinthians on Love. Now unless you just converted from Hinduism, you, like me, have heard several sermons, or read several articles on that chapter. You’ve heard it at weddings, you’ve heard it on Valentines Day. Some ministers have even preached an entire series using each of those comments, by Paul, as a separate message! The good news is I’m not about to rehash a Sermon we’ve all heard twelve times.
The really cool thing about following the Liturgical Calendar, we’ve been following lately, is that most of the time, there’s a flow to what we’re learning. Even though we’re jumping from the beginning of Luke, all the way to the middle of 1st Corinthians, it makes perfect sense: Last week we ended with a question, about how to best present the Gospel. And this week we can look at how Paul helped the Church at Corinth answer that very question. It’s almost like we’ve been doing this for 2,000 years, huh?
Corinth was a very important city, especially for those who traveled or traded. It was dangerous to travel around the southernmost part of Greece, due to frequent stormy weather. It was much better to take a shortcut. Traders or travelers could get off their ship near Corinth, carry their cargo across the narrow strip of land (about 4 miles across) and then load it onto another ship. Smaller ships could even be moved across a wooden slipway (a ship tramway with wooden rails) which was laid down from one sea to the other. It was worth all the effort to cross this land, because not only was the other way more dangerous, it was also a much longer trip (about a 200 mile journey). To go the short way over land, through Corinth, saved both time & lives!
Thanks to the apostle Paul’s extensive correspondence with the Corinthians, we are better informed about the church at Corinth than any other first-century church. In 1st Corinthians, in particular, the apostle addresses a wide range of issues affecting the community of believers, including divisiveness, litigation, food offered to idols, and class divisions at the communal meal. In so doing, he gives us an unparalleled, though hardly neutral, picture of the life of an early church.
The church at Corinth included some Jews, but it was largely composed of Gentile, pagan in this case, converts. Paul’s statements makes clear that the majority of church members were socially humble, some were slaves. Paul also implies that some members were wise, powerful, and even of noble birth.
In other words, with all their faults, with all their misconceptions, with all their various respective baggage, they were a whole lot like any modern congregation, anywhere else in the world. They wanted to be good, do right, be helpful, and represent the Gospel.
Most followers in those days, heavily relied on Spiritual Gifts to allow the Holly Spirit to minister to others. We have denominations who still use Spiritual Gifts with frequency. There’s one in the Forest, Gateway down on Shoup is, and there are many others in town.
The Corinthians let their human nature get the best of them, and began to argue amongst themselves about who’s Spiritual Gifts were the most important, and who had the most important jobs. Paul explained it to them like this:
Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
Later he continues on with:
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
And that’s where he jumps into that Reading for today, 1st Corinthians 13.
We’re going to end with Barb coming back up here & reading our Scripture again, because I don’t pretend to think I can say it better that Paul.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.