1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 91
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|If you seek after the Giver, you’ll take care of the gifts. They’ll all point back to Him. That’s his whole point. Corinth is an upside down, fleshly minded, immature church, and he’s trying to show them the better way. Attach yourself to Christ; surrender to Him. Be the vessel through which the living water can flow and the gifts will take care of themselves.|
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Nine Characteristics of Love
I love the psalmist in Psalm 42:1: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my heart pants after You, O Lord.” The problem with Corinth was they thirsted for other things. They’d rather have experience. They’d rather be attached to a preacher. They’d rather have a manifestation. They didn’t seem to understand that only Christ is that unending fountain of grace. If they would attached themselves to Him, all the rest of it would have taken care of itself. But Corinth didn’t do that. Corinth was upside down. It attached itself to everything but Christ.
The thing I’m getting out of our study of chapters 12, 13, and 14 is if you’re seeking after a gift, you render yourself unusable in the body of Christ. If you seek after the Giver, you’ll take care of the gifts. They’ll all point back to Him. That’s his whole point. Corinth is an upside down, fleshly minded, immature church, and he’s trying to show them the better way. Attach yourself to Christ; surrender to Him. Be the vessel through which the living water can flow and the gifts will take care of themselves.
He begins in verse 1 and follows it all the way through verse 3 with a little word “if.” It’s amazing. In English we only have one word for “if.” But there’s more to it in the Greek language. The word “if” is the little word transliterated ean. That’s a little different than another word, ei, also translated “if.” That’s a hypothetical “if.” Ean actually could be in the realm of possibility. It implies a condition that experience must determine. It’s always in the future sense.
In other words, Paul says, “The possibilities are there for this to happen.” Let’s see what he’s talking about. He says to them, “Hey, if I arrive—and evidently that’s what you guys are trying to do there in Corinth.” What does he mean by “arriving?” Verse 1 says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” The word “tongues” there should be languages, as you know. We studied that in chapter 12. “If I speak with the language of men. Let’s take it a step further; let’s say I’ve come to the point I can even speak in the languages of angels.”
Now, don’t get mystical on me, because no angel ever spoke in a language that was not understandable. We’re not talking about an ecstatic, irrational tongue. We’re talking about something very understandable. Angels spoke understandably. So do men.
So Paul says, “If I reach that pedestal in my life, if I arrive there,” that’s possible because one day we’re going to be perfect in the Lord Jesus when He comes again and we’re glorified to be with Him forever. Then he goes on and says, “but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Then he says in verse 2, “And 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 deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Now look at the categories here. If I get to the place that I can speak in the languages of men and the languages of angels, but I don’t have this love, the one thing that I have to have to prove me spiritual and to surrender to Christ, if that’s missing, even though I get to this arrival point, he says, “I’m nothing more than noise, irritating noise.”
Then he lists another category in verse 2: “And if I have the gift of prophecy [to foretell and to tell forth all the truth of God], and know all mysteries [to unlock the things that God has hidden], and all knowledge [not some knowledge, all knowledge], and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but,” he says, “if I miss the very thing that’s only produced by surrendered life which is love, I’m nothing.” The word “nothing” in the Greek means a zero. I’m going to look at it a little more carefully in a little bit.
He says in verse 3, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” That’s interesting to me, how he divides that up. I’m a noisy nothing that doesn’t profit from anything if I don’t have love in my life.
Now, you see, the Corinthian church, what did they want? They wanted all of these things and they wanted that arrival point. They wanted to get to the place they could speak in these languages. They wanted to get to the place they could prophecy. They wanted to get to the place where they could unlock the mysteries of God and have all knowledge and have all faith to remove mountains and to do all these great deeds. But Paul says, “Hey, it doesn’t mean a thing unless the love, the fruit of the Spirit of God, is in your life.”
Do you know what he just did? He just disarmed all religiosity for all time, because what he mentions are experiences, gifts, and abilities, but they have nothing to do with spirituality. Spirituality is when I’m surrendered to Christ. It’s not in how much I know; it’s Who I know and how well I know Him. It’s not in what I can or cannot do; it’s what He can or can’t do and will do in my life. So it’s a difference here. Paul is saying, “Let me show you a better way. This love is the gift wrapping that goes around all the gifts, all the manifestations, all the work of God and if it’s not there, there’s nothing going on. You’re having experiences but that’s all.”
We got to the last part of verse 2 the last time, and we didn’t look at all faith. Let’s look at that. He says, “and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Now, the word “all” means all, each act of faith, every act of faith and all of the faith put together. Folks, that’s getting there. That is getting there. You can see the Corinthians saying, “Can we arrive there?” Paul, by using the word ean suggests the possibility, because if you use the other hypothetical word it would not be there at all. He suggests it’s a possibility. He said, “If we can arrive there.”
The word “faith” is pistis, having the ability to so believe God. Then he goes on to qualify it, “that could remove mountains.” The word “remove” comes from two words, meta, denoting change of place or direction, and then the word istemi, which means to stand or place, to remove from one place to another. We get the word metastasize from it, to move from one place to another place.
Now, can you imagine? Could you see the meeting we could have to prove how spiritual we are if we all walked out and we spoke to the Smoky Mountains, “Smoky Mountains, we don’t like where you are. You change places with the Rocky Mountains,” and the mountains “Poof!” they changed? We would have a crowd next Sunday morning and be spiritual. You’ve got to be spiritual to do something like that.
By now Paul certainly had their attention. He had to have had their attention. To speak in any language, even languages of angels, to prophesy, to forth tell the word and to foretell the word, to all mysteries, to have all knowledge, this is better than what’s on television. Good night! Can we get there? This would prove us to be spiritual. Then the clincher, “but if I have not love, I am nothing.” I don’t know if that rattles your cage or not but that sure rattles mine. “Do you mean to tell me that if I had this experience, that doesn’t prove anything in my life?” No. “Do you mean that if I have this manifestation of the Spirit?” No, it doesn’t prove anything. “Do you mean to tell me if I have a great ministry out there it doesn’t mean anything if this love is not there?” I didn’t write it. He wrote it. And he said it means absolutely nothing.
The word “nothing” there, oudeis, means I’m not even one. I’m the very least. If there was a list of one hundred people, I’m a minus twenty-five on the list. Even if I could speak in all the language of men and of angels, if I had prophecy and unlocked mysteries and have all the knowledge and all of the faith to make one mountain here move over there. If I had all that and didn’t have the love, I’m nothing, absolutely nothing.
I’ll tell you what. If I was in the church of Corinth right now I would be very repentant in my heart, because what he’s just told them is there’s nothing going on in the Church of Corinth spiritually, absolutely nothing. Then he goes to verse 3. This is the category that somebody would say, “Well, hold on. This would prove you spiritual. All of that other stuff, I can see what he’s talking about. But this would have to prove you spiritual.”
It says in verse 3, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned”—my goodness! How much can you do? Come on! —“but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Do you mean if I give all I have to feed the poor it profits me nothing? Isn’t it interesting what we do? Religion is what you’re going to make somebody think you are by what you do, what you experience. Spirituality is who He is in you. Christ is our spirituality. It’s not a matter of doing something, it’s being someone in Christ. And when you’re surrendered to Him He becomes the aura of your spirituality. It’s not your experience or your manifestation. It’s His love manifested through you and through me.
I’m not picking Mother Teresa, I just want you to evaluate something. If this gets back to me that I’ve said something negative about her, no sir, I have not. I’m just quoting something to you. Everybody thinks that because somebody gives of themselves for the poor, they have got to be spiritual. I was reading Newsweek Magazine and it said Mother Teresa signed the document to make Mary the co-redeemer of the world. There’s a cross in South America with Jesus hanging on one side and Mary hanging on the other side. They say that she was virgin born, just like Jesus. They deified Mary in that document, and she signed that. People say, “Oh, but she must have been spiritual.” Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t. But what Paul would say is, “You can give everything you have to feed the poor but if you don’t have the love in your heart, it proves something to everybody. You are nothing.”
That kind of knocks it in the head of going to church and trying to prove you’re spiritual to somebody and being nice to little old ladies and helping them across the street or giving to the church budget. Maybe that proves you’re spiritual. No, sir. Your surrender to Christ is manifested by a love that only He can produce. That is the absolute proof of being a spiritual believer, a believer surrendered to Christ. You can give everything you have and it doesn’t prove you’re spiritual.
Then he tops it all off. He says, “and if I deliver my body to be burned.” That’s martyrdom. “Greater love hath no man but to give of himself for another.” That’s what Jesus said. So if somebody dies, wouldn’t that be spiritual? Well, he says if there’s no love in it, it profits him nothing. This is what you’ve got to see here. He didn’t say it didn’t profit them. If I give all I have to feed the poor, they profit because they’re fed. It didn’t say it didn’t profit them, it says it didn’t profit him. If I give all I have to the poor, it doesn’t profit me if the love is not in my life.
What does he mean by “profit”? We know the apostle Paul. We know that he doesn’t profit materially from anything. He died penniless in a prison in Rome. He wouldn’t be talking about that. So what’s he talking about? “In a spiritual sense” is what he’s saying. In other words, there’s nothing spiritual about me. I don’t profit from the fullness of God reigning and ruling in my life. I think he’s even pointing to something else, because in chapter 3 he mentions the rewards one day, how God’s going to judge the motives of men’s heart—not just what they did, but why they did it. If it’s not out of surrender to Christ, the motive is impure no matter how it looks on the outside. Paul says, “Yes, it may have profited them. Certainly it did. But it didn’t profit me. I’ll stand before God one day and God’s going to say, “Son, you didn’t do it by faith, and only those things which are of faith produce the righteousness of God.” I’m serious.
He has just taken a crowning blow to what religiosity is in the twentieth century. You can’t fake this, folks. I can’t fake it. We live in the realms where we try to fake it. We hide behind church and make church our spirituality and our good deeds for others the standards by which we judge ourselves. But he says here that you can’t fake this fruit. This fruit is only produced by the Holy Spirit of God. It must wrap every gift you have. It must wrap every manifestation you experience. It must wrap every deed that you do. It’s got to show people it doesn’t come from you. It comes from God.
That’s not a very popular message. Do you know that? That’s about the time people pack up and leave and find another place where they can just have their Sunday School pins for perfect attendance and at least feel a little more spiritual about what they do. Surrender produces a love in your life. That’s what Paul says, “I want to show you a better way. I’ve got a better way. If you surrender to the Giver, I’ve got something far better than gifts. It’s the fruit and you can’t fake the fruit.”
Language without love is an irritating noise, no matter whether it’s the language of angels. It doesn’t matter. Prophecy, all knowledge, all faith, without love means you’re nothing, absolutely nothing, the least of the least. Greatest acts of service which are giving all you have to the poor and even dying for others produce no profit for you at all, spiritual advantage at all in the spiritual kingdom of God because when you stand before Him, it’s the motive of your heart that’s going to be judged. So, this love is very, very important.
All of us hide behind something, don’t we? You take away what we do and where’s your identity? Paul is trying to show them that it not in what you do. It’s not in what you experience. It’s not in what you feel. It’s in who you are in Christ Jesus and whether or not you’re surrendered to Him. That’s your identity. Take all the doing when you can’t do anything, that’s still who you are in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, Paul turns now to the quality which he says we must possess. I’ll tell you what. Take all the books off your desk. Take out a clean sheet of paper. We’re going to find out whether or not we’re real, whether or not we’re really filled with the Spirit of God. All the gifts that you say you have, all the ministry and effects and the abilities, take all of them and put them on a shelf. Just forget them and let’s just find out if we really love the Lord Jesus and are surrendered to Him. Wives, your husbands already know more than what you think, and husbands, your wives definitely already know a whole lot more than what you’re willing to admit. What happens here is we find out the ground is level at the cross. Let’s just find out who’s spiritual and who isn’t. Forget gifts. Forget manifestations. Forget great acts of service and let’s just find out who’s surrendered to Him.
Love is patient
He starts off with two positive qualities and follows with seven negative qualities. What he’s doing is beautiful. The first thing he says there in verse 4 is, “Love is patient.” When Paul or Peter makes a list, the first thing they mention sets the tone for the rest of it. The first thing he chooses to do is pick out a relationship word. We know what he’s doing already because we know the context of 1 Corinthians. What’s going on in 1 Corinthians? Division. We get the word “schism” from “division.” It means to rip something apart. This is a bad division in the church. He says that in 1:12 and repeats it several times in the letter. We know this is a church where there is no love.
Why does he put chapter 13 in? He wants them to see that all this stuff they call spiritual has nothing to do with spirituality. He wants to show them what they’re not by showing them what they need to be. So he says, “Love is patient.”
The word “patient” is a beautiful word. Makros is the first part of the word. It means to stretch something. Say I pin something down and pull it as far as I can pull it. I extend it so far it’s almost ready to break. That’s makros. The second word, thumos, is the word that means anger or wrath. That’s interesting. But the idea of the word is you have been ill-treated. And, yes, there is a response that your flesh wants to make. But rather than make it, because of the empowerment of God’s Spirit, you’re willing to stretch. It’s that willingness to endure the bad things of your brother as far as you can possibly stretch it. That’s what the word means, the long-suffering of somebody.
The implication of the word is you’re mistreated by someone but you’re willing, rather than to let your wrath explode, to let it be long-suffering. An even though you’re upset and it has hurt you, you’re not willing to retaliate. God’s love in you put the restraining power on that and keeps you from doing that. It even gives you the best interest of that other person. How can you love that person in the midst of the ill treatment they’re giving to you? That’s a quality of God’s love, you know.
Look over in 2 Peter 3 at the passage where He’s going to judge the world by fire. Some people ask, “Why is He hesitating?” In 2 Peter 3:9 the apostle Peter explains why He hesitates, why He is long-suffering, why He’s willing to put up with all the garbage He puts up with. Why does He do that? This is the very heart of God that the fruit of the Spirit produces in us. It says in verse 9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness [you may think He’s taking a while to get about the things He said He’s going to do] but is patient toward you [longsuffering, makrothumia], not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That’s the redemptive heart that God has. That’s the redemptive heart He gives to us when we’re mistreated by others.
This love does not allow division. This love hangs on for dear life for that unity of the Spirit. This love will do whatever it takes to make sure that that peace of God and the unity of the Spirit is maintained, as Ephesians 4:3 tells us to do.
In the context of Corinth, when this love is present, you don’t go sue your brother just because you’ve been mistreated by your brother and it’s cost you something (chapter 6). In the context of Corinthians (chapter 8-10), just because you have knowledge and your brother doesn’t have knowledge, you don’t trample over him. You walk along with him and help him get to the place that he can walk on his own. In chapter 11 the rich don’t come and bring the food to the Lord’s Supper and the poor go hungry and the rich go fat and drunk. You don’t do that and desecrate the whole Lord’s Supper. That’s what was going on in Corinth.
So the first word he chooses just slaps the church of Corinth up the side of the face. He says, “Love is patient.” They don’t even know what it means because they’re not living surrendered. Oh, but they’ve got gifts. Oh, they’ve got ministries. They’ve got effects. They’ve had manifestations. They must be spiritual. Baloney! Look at your relationships. That’s the gauge. If you’re walking with God this way, you can walk right with man this way. So love is patient.
Love is kind
Now he adds one to that. The second positive quality he brings out is kindness. He says, “love is kind.” The word is chresteuomai. It comes from the word chrestos, which means, by the way, to be useful. This is an interesting word here. It has the effect of a kind heart in the sense that it’s always looking out for the other person. “What can I do for you?” It’s not what can I do for me, or what can I do for you that will benefit me. It’s what can I do for you? It’s the kindness that will express itself in deeds that we’ll be willing to help and assist another brother. We become useful to our brother when the love of God is produced in our life, only then. We’re not useful to anybody until we’re surrendered to Christ. When you’re surrendered you can even take ill treatment. Not only that, you’ll have an attitude constantly, “What can I do to be useful to you?”
That’s why some of the gifts they were chasing after were edifying themselves. They were not useful to the body. Why would they do that? Because there was no love in Corinth. They’re upside down. I don’t see how much clearer it can get. It’s almost like you don’t even have to apply anything. You just read it and everybody can shut their book and praise the Lord. It’s as clear as a bell if you just look at it.
Then he shows us seven things that describe what this kind of patient kind love is not. It’s very important that we see this. We started this chapter with some things about what love is not in 1 Peter 2, but now he does his own list. Seven is not a bad number. He took seven things about what love is not. He could have picked other things, but everything he picks, everything he addresses, has something to do with Corinth. Context always rules. He doesn’t stop and forget what’s going on in Corinth and teach a chapter on love. It fits beautifully into the mix of this wonderful book.
Love is not jealous
The first thing he says about this love and what it’s not, he says in verse 4, “Love…is not jealous.” The first two things Paul mentions, patient and kind, which are useful, but now he enters with a negative, what love is not. The word “not” there means not in any way, shape, or form. Love is not jealous. The word jealous is the word zeloo. It’s the word that can be good or bad. It can be zealous toward God so that He would use you in the fullest. You surrender to make that happen. That could be a good thing. But here, obviously, it’s used in a bad sense. It comes from the word meaning to boil, to boil over.
Have you ever been around someone who’s about ready to boil over and you can just sense it? That’s the idea of the word. It’s a fleshly quality that cannot stand the good fortune of somebody else. This is interesting. Patient and kind is contrasted to a person who doesn’t care about anybody and is offended at the good things that are happening to his brother. He can’t rejoice with them. In fact, he wants to take their joy away from them because it’s not his own joy.
How does that fit the context of Corinth? Somebody stands up and speaks, babbling a tongue that nobody can understand, and somebody sitting over here gets angry because they say, “That’s what I want in my life. I don’t want him to be that. I want to be that.” That’s the kind of contentious things that was going in Corinth. It seeks to rob the other person of their joy that God’s given him. It’s very similar to envy, very close to envy. Love is patient and kind and cannot seek to rob others of this joy. He’s showing them now what this love really is. In no way, shape, or form can it take the joy away from others. It is not jealous.
Love does not brag
The second thing to find out about this love is it does not brag. Love does not brag. What was going on in Corinth? Verse 4 says, “love does not brag.” The word for brag is not the normal word used to describe bragging. It’s a different word, perpereuomai. It’s only found here in all the scriptures. It’s a word that means to think more highly of yourself, bragging about something because you have a higher estimate of yourself than you ought to think. Corinth had that going on. “Have you had the gift of speaking in tongues?” That was the subtle way of saying, “I do.” Or “have you seen any miracles lately? I have.” That kind of garbage doesn’t go on when the love of God’s Spirit is being produced in a person’s life. There’s no bragging notion. There’s no bragging at all because you know that whatever God’s doing, God puts His hand and seal of approval on and it draws attention back to Him.
Love is not arrogant
Verse 4 goes on to say love “is not arrogant.” We’ve seen this word five times in 1 Corinthians. I want you to look with me. First Corinthians 4:6 says, “Now test things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written [that was their problem, by the way; they went far beyond what was written] in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” Then he goes on and says, “For who regards you as superior?” That was their problem, arrogance.
Look in verse 18 of the same chapter. He says, “Now some have become arrogant [it has to do with what they were saying] as though I were not coming to you.” In other words, they are really bragging. They think they’ve got their act together. Look at what Paul says, “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power.” Oh, they ought to be shaking in their boots if the apostle Paul came in because he would know one hundred yards off where the power came from.
Look over at 5:2. Here they would not deal with immorality in their church, and he calls it an arrogance. He says, “And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.” In other words, you can become arrogant and overlook sin. It’s amazing what this arrogance is. It was definitely a trait of the Corinthian church.
Look over in 8:1. He’s talking about things sacrificed to idols and says, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge [in other words, they have been well taught]; knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
What is the word “arrogant?” The word “arrogant” is phusioo, which means to be a bag of wind. I used this illustration before when we touched on it. You go to buy your favorite big bag of potato chips. You open it up, and what really is in it? A big bag of air. That’s the word phusioo. God’s love doesn’t allow somebody to brag or to think of themselves so highly that they become nothing more than a braggadocios bag of air. That’s what was going on in Corinth.
Do you know what I’ve noticed? A person who’s unteachable is phusioo. He’s a bag of hot air. I’m going to ask you something. I come at chapter 12 a little differently than other people. No apologies. But I wonder if you closed me off because it’s not the way you did it or you read about it or somebody else told you about it. You became unteachable at that point. That’s exactly what’s going on in Corinth. They can’t listen because they know it all already. That’s what happens when knowledge sometimes gets perverted and distorted.
Love does not act unbecomingly
Well, Paul goes on. In verse 5 he says, “does not act unbecomingly.” The word there, aschemoneo, is the word that means indecently. It has the idea of doing something indecent to disgrace somebody else. In 1 Corinthians 7:36, you have a case of a father who’s kept his virgin daughter at home and finally realizes he’s disgraced her by not allowing her to marry. He’s put a disgrace upon her life. So it’s something you do openly to somebody else that disgraces them. Love will not allow you to do that. Love will not allow you to disgrace somebody else. It’s an outward behavior that brings disgrace upon someone.
Now, you say, “How do you know so much about this?” Because I’m reading it from scripture, but I also know a lot about it because I’ve been that way many times in my life. But so have you. Any time the flesh is dominant, you’ll do things that will probably bring disgrace upon somebody else. Don’t point your finger. There are three more pointing right back at you. You can’t blame somebody else for doing it. We all do it. That’s what this kind of love forbids. God’s love does not in word or deed cause disgrace. It seeks to change others, not disgrace them.
Love does not seek its own
The number five he mentions there in verse 5. God’s love is not only patient and kind, but it does not seek its own. A patient love, a kind love, does not seek its own. The word for “seek” is very similar to the word we got the word jealous from. It’s the word zeteo. It’s the word that means to strive to find something. The word “not” is not any way, shape, or form. “Its own” really means of itself. In other words, there’s a selfishness here. You might go out and minister to somebody, but you’re really doing it for your own benefit. Love will not allow you to do that. You cannot do anything, whether you call it spiritual or whatever, and do it for your own benefit. You can’t do that. You can’t be self-serving.
The great commentator Linski made a statement. He said, “Cure selfishness and we’ll return to the Garden of Eden.” That’s a powerful statement but very true. What’s the root of all sin? Self, selfishness. But God’s love will not allow you to be that way.
I want to tell you something. For years of my life this is what convicted me and brought me to salvation. When I walked the aisle at nine years old I had a preacher ask me had I ever lied to my mother. He convinced me what I had done. So now, convinced of what I had done, he told me to pray a prayer, be baptized, and I’m saved. I prayed the prayer and was baptized and lived miserable until I was 32 years old. I was in the ministry eight years, and I began to notice something. I was not doing anything for the benefit of God or others. I did everything, even in the name of ministry, for my benefit. I received something out of it.
One morning I was so miserable I got on my knees in my den and said, “O God, show me what’s wrong with me. Show me me.” That’s the morning I cried for two hours until I began to realize the difference of being convinced that you’ve sinned and convicted that you’re a sinner. Hugely different things.
Ever since I’ve been saved my flesh still wants to do the same thing. Just like Corinth was influenced by a pagan past, I have been influenced by my pagan past. There have been times that I’ve ministered from the pulpit for my own advantage, but it’s broken my heart. God has brought me to the pulpit and made me repent of that and be cleansed of that because it can be that way anymore. You’re not out for your own benefit. It’s for His benefit and for the benefit of others. If there’s anything else, there’s no love there. That’s the bottom line.
We have learned to be nothing good, haven’t we? We’ve got seminars that train people on how to be nothing and how to be useless. The Corinthians were selfish and used their gifts to benefit themselves and covet each others’ gifts, which distorted the whole thing.
Love is not provoked
Number six, he says in verse 5, is closely tied to seeking your own, love is not provoked. Oh, man. Good grief! It’s time to pack up and just go home. Love is not provoked. The word “provoked” comes from two words, one meaning movement toward something and then the other is to sharpen or to irritate. The idea is to be provoked or aroused to anger or to provoke or arouse to anger, but mainly the way you are provoked. It’s not easily provoked. In other words, it’s the action happening on the person.
Paul’s referring to fleshly anger. He shows that there’s a righteous anger in verse 6 because he says, “does not rejoice in unrighteousness.” If you don’t rejoice in it, you must hate it and there’s an anger toward it. There’s a righteous anger, but this is an unrighteous anger that we have, provoked anger. It’s very closely tied to seeking its own.
Here’s what I’m saying. When a person is seeking his own, when they’re doing what they’re doing for themselves, they are easily provoked by everybody. I grew up that way, I think. I wish I could bring my mama and my daddy back from Heaven and say, “Mama, Daddy, I know something different than I knew then. I would love to live at home and not be so provoked by everything you do, by every word you say.”
Do you know anybody who is easily provoked? All you have to do is look at them and they’re provoked? Why? Because they’re seeking their own way. That’s why. You can’t please them. Everything you do is wrong. You may know a child in a family who can’t get along with anybody. They are always provoked by their parents or sister or brother. That young person is so eaten up with himself he can’t see the forest for the trees. You may know a husband who is easily provoked by the wife and everything that she does. That man is a self-centered man. If he’s full of the love of God, he cannot be provoked like that. He cannot be easily irritated because he’s not seeking his own. He looks out for the needs of others. Try telling your family you love them and then be provoked with them that nobody even wants to be around you. See what this love shows us.
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered
The seventh and the final one that he mentions here is love does not take into account for wrong suffered. Oh, me!! He saves the worst one for last. Here’s the grenade. He just pulls the pin out and everybody’s saying, “Oh, we were doing so good.” He says, “Fine, here you go.” This nails every one of us right here. The word “does not take into account” is logizomai. It’s a bookkeeping term. That ought to tell you everything right there. Why do people put things into a book?
When you put something down that you want to keep, you log it into a book. Look at what he says here. Love doesn’t log into a book to keep the wrongs that you suffer. Oh my goodness gracious! What do you mean I offended you three years ago? Not only that, a year and a half later you offended me again. I did? Not only that, yesterday you offended me. Son, you’re keeping a good ledger there. I’m proud of you.
Do you get the point? God’s love won’t let you do that. Here we go back to the flesh again, don’t we? God says, “Deal with it through My love, and My love will not allow you to deal with it that way.” There’s some people who won’t go to church because of what happened ten years ago. Good grief, man! Get up under the love of Christ Jesus. It not only changes you, but it gives you an outlook towards your brother that you begin to realize that he’s far better off than you are because you see your own flesh instead of seeing his. That’s what this love does.
I guarantee you, every person has struggled with that. I’m glad God’s not that way. Aren’t you? Have you sinned this week? Yes, you did. Or you just sinned by saying you didn’t. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t keep a book like that for believers? Thank God that’s not His heart.
I want to show you the passages of Scripture that echo how God deals with that kind of thing. Love that is patient and kind, useful to others, endures ill treatment, is not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, and does not take into account a wrong suffered. Now, you say, “Well, let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about gifts and ministries and effects.” Paul says, “Why? Because you’re not useful anyway.” Only when we’re surrendered to Christ can Christ produce a love in us that cannot be faked.”
It looks like a duck. It acts like a duck. It quacks like a duck. It flies like a duck. I think it’s a duck. Paul would say, “It loves like Christ. That love makes him even look like Christ. That love so changes him, he’s acting like Christ. I think he’s a Christian.”