Message # 50 | 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 | June 18, 2017

 

Love rejoices when truth triumphs (13:6).

Defining unrighteousness and truth. Unrighteousness is a general “disregard for what is right.”[1] Our specific context establishes that it is a disregard for truth. Paul writes of this in Romans as well, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18 ESV). Unrighteousness is the rejection of truth and its practical implications.

Truth in this context is more than simple propositional statements, although it includes those statements. Too often we limit truth to a list of specific statements. God is love. Mankind is born into a state of sin and misery. Man is to glorify God. Sin is falling short of God’s glory. Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind. God is the creator of all things . . . and on and on we go. If we limit “truth” to just these statements, we can look at them from a distance with no real impact on our lives. Each one of those truth statements has a coinciding practical outworking. God is the creator of all things, so I must submit to His will each day. God is sovereign so I have no reason to be anxious or worried. Mankind is sinful and this demands my repentance and humility. Christ died for my sins so I must rely on him for my salvation. And, this reliance should continue throughout every day of my life. Truth statements work themselves out in truth actions. Paul rejoiced when he saw this reality in the life of the Colossian believers.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints . . . Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel . . . 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:3–10 ESV).

Simply put, Paul rejoices that they have received the truth (or the gospel) and he continues to pray that those truths work themselves out in “bearing fruit in every good work.”

So then, love for others will result in our joy when others choose to embrace the truth and live lives reflective of those truths. The reverse is as well true, if we are truly loving them, we will be broken when we see those we love not embrace the truth and choose to live in unrighteousness. We can’t “rejoice with those who rejoice” when they are rejoicing in actions that are contrary to truth. True love does not rejoice when others choose to make unrighteous decisions.

THISELTON. Love takes no pleasure in someone else’s failure, and delights in integrity and reality. If the situation is bad, love wants to help; if the situation is good, love wants to celebrate.[2]

The Corinthian Church rejoiced in unrighteousness. This rejoicing in unrighteousness may take a number of different forms. (1) It appeared as arrogance in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and the interaction with the man who was with his father’s wife. Paul writes “you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?” (1 Cor 5:2). It seems most likely that the church saw their dealings with this man as some type of wonderful expression of patience and tolerance.  They probably considered themselves loving and understanding.  They may have thought, “We have an open mind.  We’re not judgmental.” And yet, in leaving this man in this sin, they were actually unloving towards this man. (2) The Corinthians were as well rejoicing in unrighteous behavior as they took each other to court and rejoiced as they defeated those who had offended them in some way. A vindictive heart is not loving. (3) There also seemed to be a great deal of status seeking in the Corinthian Church. Typically, as you try to establish a position or status for yourself, you rejoice when you leave others behind. You rejoice when you see others fail making room for you to step in. This is as well rejoicing in unrighteousness.

LANGE. The trait here brought out, is that disposition to rejoice in the downfall or injury of others, which springs out of ill-will or jealousy, and which is gladdened when those who are envied for their advantages are compelled through some misstep to come down from their high position and incur disgrace. [3]

Reasons we may rejoice in wrongdoing. Sadly this is evidenced in the modern church just as often. Every time we find some kind of sordid joy when someone we didn’t really like falls or fails, we are rejoicing in unrighteousness. We seem to like others being knocked down because it places us just a bit higher – if not only in our minds. Every time we see someone fail, allowing us to correct and admonish them, we are rejoicing in unrighteousness. When we enjoy the feeling of vindication when someone else fails or falls, we are rejoicing in unrighteousness.

Social media and the news are full of reports of disaster and evil deeds. People crave reports of others failing. There is something within our flesh that appeals to this sordid pleasure. Whatever it is, it is not love.

Love is stubbornly optimistic (13:7).

Overview of chiasm. Let’s look at these four positive characteristics of love as a set. I don’t want to overemphasize this, but it appears that Paul is writing these four characteristics in chiastic structure. If so, he is paralleling bears with endures and believes with hopes. While they are paired together they do have different nuances of meaning within them.

All things or always? Before we jump into a better understanding of these four characteristics let us better understand the ESV’s translation “all things.” By large, the translations use “all things” but with the NIV translation we read a slight variance. It reads love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”[4] This may be splitting hairs but is Paul encouraging believers to bear, believe, hope, and endure everything? Are we supposed to set aside our discernment and logic and just take whatever comes our way? Believe whatever your told. Accept whatever comes your way. Is that really what Paul is saying? Or, is he exhorting believers to “always” bear with those we love? We are to believe in and hope in and endure with those we love, not naively or ignorantly. Our love will always result in our bearing and enduring with those we love.

Bears and endures. Bears has a literal meaning of “roof.” This meaning works itself out figuratively in two different ways: (1) covers or protects and (2) endures or puts up with. I’m not going to draw a firm conclusion to which one Paul is primarily emphasizing. Either way, both are true.

Love covers or protects. We find this truth taught in a number of passages in scripture. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Prov 10:12 ESV). “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 ESV). “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Rom 4:7 ESV). It was God’s love for us that motivated him to send Christ to cover our sins. This is what love strives to do. It’s not oblivious to sin. It is aware of sin and at times must confront or admonish sin. But it always does its’ best to protect and cover the one it loves. One commentator offered the idea, “love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person”[5] Love for others will keep me from gossiping about them and will instead motivate me to protect their integrity and others opinion of them.

Love endures or puts up with. This word bear can as well imply that it will always endure or put up with. This idea would be closely tied to patience. Your love for someone will drive you to put up with a lot of stuff. It bears up through all kinds of ordeals. Consider the following. A couple of weeks ago we purchased a metal gazebo for our deck. The frame is metal but the roof is fabric. There were a few times throughout those couple of days that I had to go out and push up the roof and remove puddles of water that had formed near the bottom of the roof. The roof looked like it was about to give in and let all the water come pouring down on our furniture. It did not appear to be bearing up well under pressure. Our love for others can be that was at times. Our love may feel strong but when attack after attack comes at us, we may begin to feel like the roof is about to cave in and destroy the love we have for the other person. The love mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 13, always bears up. It always persists.

In the first, your love protects the one you love. In the second, your ongoing love is protected from the challenges and frustrations that attempt to destroy it.

It is evident that Paul limited such endurance or protection. For example, he instructed Timothy that “those who sin are to be rebuked publicly” (1 Tim. 5:20). Likewise, he called public attention to the strife between Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2). He commanded the Corinthians to stop tolerating the man who had his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1–13). Wisdom is required to know when and how to protect or to expose, and love always tends to protect.[6]

Love always endures. The fact that love “endures all things” is very similar to love “bears all things.” “If there is any difference between this first verb in the verse and the fourth verb, it may be that this one has more of the idea of “not giving in” while the fourth has the idea of “not giving up.”[7] Love never gives up on people, whatever they do.

Believes and hopes. It is here that we see introduced both “faith and hope.” Love is stubbornly optimistic. The stubborn aspect of this is borne out in “always bears” and “always endures.” The optimistic part we find in “always believes” and “always hopes.”

Love believes all things. This doesn’t mean that we are naïve or gullible. It doesn’t mean that we believe falsehood or that we don’t expend the effort to ascertain the truth. It doesn’t mean that we believe everything we are told and believe in everyone, but instead that our love drives us to always have faith in people – more specifically, in Christ and his ability to transform all people. No one is beyond the scope of Christ’s redemptive work. We must always believe this. We are neither cynical or judgmental. We believe the best about people until we know with certainty the truth. When we know the truth, and if it is negative, we assume the best of their motives until we know otherwise. When we know otherwise, we continue to hold on to hope that God can and will work in them. Simply put, we give people the benefit of the doubt . . . and when there is no doubt we place our faith and hope in Christ who can redeem anyone – even us!

CALVIN. not that the Christian knowingly and willingly allows himself to be imposed upon—not that he divests himself of prudence and judgment, that he may be the more easily taken advantage of—not that he unlearns the way of distinguishing black from white. What then? He requires here, as I have already said, simplicity and kindness in judging of things; and he declares that these are the invariable accompaniments of love. The consequence will be, that a Christian man will reckon it better to be imposed upon by his own kindness and easy temper, than to wrong his brother by an unfriendly suspicion.[8]

We love, therefore we never cease believing in or hoping in the promises that it is Christ “who began a good work in you [and] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6 ESV). And it is not us but Christ who has the power to uphold and make those who fall to stand,  “he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4 ESV).  And with that we find our optimism. Love is stubbornly optimistic. But, optimism can tend to lead to foolishness and wishful thinking. For example, while Paul clearly loved the Corinthian believers, and his love was characterized by bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring; he still thought it necessary for the incestuous man in Corinth to undergo church discipline so that he would be brought to repentance.

 

 

[1] Timothy Friberg, et al., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 35.

[2] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1056.

[3] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Corinthians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 270.

[4] The NLT’s translation is similar . . . “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

[5] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1058.

[6] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 232.

[7] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 649.

[8] John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 425.

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