Message # 48 | 1 Corinthians 13:5 | June 4, 2017



We find ourselves in the midst of eight anti-characteristics of love. Last week we were able to consider envy, pride, and rudeness. Arrogance was that root issue that manifested itself in boasting, envy of others, and shameful behavior towards others. There is no place for any of these characteristics in love. We continue in 1 Corinthians 13:5 and consider that love does not insist on its own way and is not irritable.

Let’ remember that the primary context of this love is to be displayed between brothers and sisters in Christ in a church setting. It is this love that John Wesley calls us to when he wrote the following:

JOHN WESLEY. Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union; yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?[1]

Love does not insist on its own way.

Define “insist on its own way.” To fully understand this concept, let’s take it in steps. First, the word translated as insist is most often translated as seek. There are in fact a number of versions that translate it this way. “Seeketh not her own” (KJV), “It does not seek its own” (NAS), and “it is not self-seeking” (NIV). While this is an accurate translation, there is a concept that may be lost if just the word seek is used. Inherent in the Greek meaning is the idea of passion, striving, or pursuit. This is why a couple other versions translate it as “it does not demand” (NLT) and “it does not insist” (ESV).

Searching for a key. Consider an example. You’re running just on time, if not a little late, and you’re running out the door to go to work or school. As you look for your keys in the spot that they most typically reside, you find them gone. How might you describe your “seeking” at that point? You might use words such as frantic, rushed, or crazy. You ignore the phone call that comes in while you’re seeking. You leave the socks on floor instead of picking them up. You ignore your child’s request to help them find their spinner that went missing the night before.  Simply put, you set everything else aside and have a singular focus on finding your keys. All your energy is put toward that task and anything in the way is set, pushed, or even thrown aside.

Parents search for Jesus. If the key analogy falls short for you, you may be able to connect to the frantic and fearful searching for Jesus by his parents. You may recall when Jesus’ parents took him to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when he was twelve. Afterwards the group that they had traveled with departed to go home and Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers . . . (Luke 2:43–46 ESV).

Its own way.  Let’s add another dimension to this insistence or demanding. Your insistence is “on its own way.” And it is here that the concept veers off from being potentially acceptable to being outright self-centered and the antithesis of love. For certainly we can be focused in seeking after good things, but when our singular focus is “on our own way,” we are not loving.

A scenic route. Let’s take a moment to veer off the main path and dig a bit deeper into this concept of insistent and demanding self-centeredness. What might this be called? It is here that we find one of the four Greek expressions of love – that being eros. There are four Greek words that can be translated love: (1) eros, which is erotic love and is not used in the New Testament at all, (2) storge, which refers to familial love and is only used in the negative form twice in the New Testament, (3) phileo, which is friend love and is used often throughout the NT, and finally (4) agape, which is the sacrificial love of which we’ve been speaking for the last few weeks, and is again found throughout the NT.   

Eros finds its Italian equivalent in amore and it’s Latin equivalent in cupid. As I mention Cupid, probably some weird image of a young, chunky, and winged boy comes to your mind. He holds a bow and arrow in his hands, and in shooting those arrows he stirs within an individual a love that cannot be quenched or controlled.

Some refer to this uncontrolled passion as the libido. This driving force is usually equated to sexual energy, but goes well beyond that scope and really includes all of the natural driving forces that motivate our behavior. Freud referred to this as the id and claimed that the id seeks pleasure and demands the immediate satisfaction of its desires. It demands immediate gratification and if it has its way, will direct you to take what you want, when you want, no matter the situation or consequences. This concept is the essence of Aleister Crowley’s teachings in his satanic book titled, “The Book of the Law.” In it he writes, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. . . . take your will and fill of love as ye will, when, where, and with whom ye will!”[2]

Eros is a love that primarily demands its own way, and it is opposite of the sacrificial love we are called to manifest as Christians. Thiselton writes, “love as Eros does indeed seek its own satisfaction: Eros seeks to “possess” the object of love . . . By contrast . . . Agape in Paul stands in “opposition to all that be called ‘self-love’”[3]

Biblical Example. We don’t have to think long and hard to think of biblical examples. (1) Our minds may quickly pull up David and his passion for Bathsheba that cared little for Bathsheba and clearly didn’t care for her husband. He insisted on his own way and destroyed his family and murdered Uriah. (2) Israel is regularly led astray by their passion to be like the other nations around them – likely because the other nations around them were able to give into their passions. They insisted on their own way, God gave them what they wanted, and it led to their destruction. (3) Judas was clearly motivated by has passionate greed, and he demanded his own way at the sacrifice of his master and his own life.

We as well don’t have to think too long and hard about where this passion and “insisting on our own way” finds its presence in our lives. Of course there are really obvious examples such as addictions: drugs, alcohol, pornography, excessive food, gambling. Those probably touch some of our lives, but maybe less obvious passions are rooted in our lives. When is the last time you binge watched the entirety of some TV season? When was the last time you sacrificed your sleep and probably a pleasant attitude the next day so that you could stay up and play games, or surf social media? Before you sit there and think that none of this hits home with you, consider how our own comfort, ease, solitude, and retirement can become that which we demand. We can be frantic about just getting home so that we can relax.

Consider once again the example of the lost keys. What are the lost keys symbolic of in your life? For sake of example let’s say your lost keys are “entertainment.” You insist upon or demand to have certain forms of entertainment. Time with family is sacrificed. Time in devotion, prayer, and service are sacrificed. Time with your kids is pushed to another day. Your willing to sacrifice being alert at work.

Love is the solution to demanding self-centeredness. Let’s remember our definition for love. Love is a decision to sacrifice ourselves, not motivated by our emotions, our circumstances, or the treatment of others. It is a decision to sacrifice ourselves for the betterment or well-being of another. This love is the very opposite of insisting on our own way. But also remember, this love is only produced in us or possible for us when we are clinging to Christ and walking in the Spirit.

With that said, once our love for others begins with a pure and sacrificial love, the other forms of love become more appropriate and beautiful. Eros can be beautiful when it is the product of a married couple that are characterized by sacrificial love. Familial love and friend love become more meaningful and deep when they flow out of sacrificial love. On the other hand, if relationships are started with eros or amore they will never amount to anything substantial or lasting or meaningful.

Love is not irritable.

Define irritable. In studying this root Greek word, we find a few different translations. Some translations render this irritable (ESV, NLT), a few translate it as not easily angered (NET, NIV), and a couple as not provoked (KJV, NAS). All three of these translations are accurate and offer us a fuller understanding of the word. Parozuno carries the literal meaning of “sharpen” and a figurative meaning of being aroused and stimulated – sometimes in a positive way but often in a negative way.

Biblical examples. This word (in the LXX) is used almost entirely in the context of God being irritated with Israel for their ongoing idolatry and rejection of Him and His laws. Of many similar instances, consider two in Deuteronomy. “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness” (Deut 9:7 ESV). “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols.” (Deut 32:21 ESV).

Paul in Athens.  This word is used only two times in the NT, here in 1 Corinthians 13 and again in Acts 17:16. In Acts 17, Paul is waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him. As he waits he observes that the city was full of idols. The passage tells us that as a result, “his spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16 ESV).

Jesus in the temple. Paul’s passion in Athens was likely similar to Jesus passion in his temple cleansing. Luke narrates this temple cleansing which followed Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:45–46 ESV).

How then is being provoked wrong? Clearly God was not wrong throughout the Old Testament as he was provoked to anger by Israel. Both Paul and Jesus were not wrong when they were irritated in these moments. How then can Paul write, here in 1 Corinthians that “love is not irritable” or “love is not angered” or “easily provoked”?

Distinguish between righteous anger and self-centered anger. From these examples, we can conclude that there is a form of anger that is appropriate and acceptable. It is this kind of anger that is referred to as “righteous anger.” Paul allows for this kind of anger when he wrote to the Ephesians, Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26 ESV). We can apparently have appropriate anger, so how can we know when that anger become inappropriate or sinful? How do we know when our anger becomes what Paul is referring to here in 1 Corinthians? Let me oversimplify this for our sake and, I believe, the intent of this passage. The anger that Paul is referring to is an anger that is selfishly motivated. When Paul and Christ were angry, there anger was directed not at personal offenses but instead blatant idolatry and rejection of God. Christ and Paul were angry at sin that was directed towards God and other people not sin that was directed at them.

Christ and Paul weren’t angry over sins committed to them. When sins were directed at Christ and Paul, they didn’t become angry. Peter speaks of Christ when he writes, “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:23 NLT). Paul outlines for us how we are to respond when people sin against us.

Never pay back evil with more evil. . . .18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. . . . Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” (Romans 12:17–20 NLT).

MACARTHUR. To be sensitive to the offenses against God is a spiritual virtue. To be hyper-sensitive to the offenses that other people bring to bear on your life is an expression of sinfulness.[4]

Love is the solution to being provoked. Sacrificial love is the antithesis of being easily provoked and easily angered. When we are angered over how people treat us, we are being both impatient and demanding our own way. On the other hand, when we truly love others, we will be patient, will not demand to have our own way, and will demonstrate true love.

MACARTNEY’S ILLUSTRATIONS. There is a tradition that Jonathan Edwards, third president of Princeton and America’s greatest thinker, had a daughter with an ungovernable temper. But, as is often the case, this infirmity was not known to the outside world. A worthy young man fell in love with this daughter and sought her hand in marriage. “You can’t have her,” was the abrupt answer of Jonathan Edwards. “But I love her,” the young man replied. “You can’t have her,” said Edwards. “But she loves me,” replied the young man. Again Edwards said, “You can’t have her.” “Why?” asked the young man. “Because she is not worthy of you.” “But,” he asked, “she is a Christian, is she not?” “Yes, she is a Christian, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live.”[5]


The conclusion remains the same as it has for the last couple of weeks and will be for the next couple. For us to love in this manner, we must cling to Christ and walk in the Spirit. We do that by (1) giving attention to God’s Word, (2) avoiding intimate interaction with ungodly influences, (3) attaching yourself to God consistently throughout your day, and (4) cultivating a deep affection for God in every area of your life.


[1] Elliot Ritzema, ed., 300 Quotations for Preachers (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

[2] Crowley, Aleister. The Book of the Law (Kindle Locations 14-20, 93-94). Kindle Edition.

[3] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 1050.

[4] John MacArthur. “The Perfections of Love, Part 2,” (Grace to You, September 5, 2010). Accessed June 1, 2017.

[5] Clarence Edward Noble Macartney, Macartney’s Illustrations; (New York, Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1945), 377–78, .

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