Saint Paul Church MKE Sunday School

LESSON 8 • OCTOBER 25, 2020

LOVE DIVINE

BIBLE BASIS: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

BIBLE TRUTH: Of faith, hope, and love, Jesus identifies the most significant Christian virtue: love!

 

 

MEMORY VERSE: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV).

 

LIFE NEED FOR TODAY’S LESSON

Special gifts such as knowledge and wisdom can easily make us lose sight of our obligations to others. How can we avoid being pleased with ourselves? Paul suggested that love is the best way to relate to others and forget one’s own status.

 

BIBLE LEARNING

Jesus teaches that love is supreme.

 

LESSON AIM: By the end of this lesson, we will VALIDATE Paul’s understanding of love as the apex of the Spirit-led life, APPRECIATE love as motivation to share our God-given gifts, and ACT in love when sharing our God-given gifts.

 

BACKGROUND SCRIPTURES: Corinthians 12:27-14:1—Read and incorporate the insights gained from the Background Scriptures into your study of the lesson.

 

BIBLE APPLICATION

Christians will solicit the best in others and always seeks to do good.

 

STUDENTS’ RESPONSES

Believers will love one another.

 

 

 

LESSON SCRIPTURE | 1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13, KJV

 

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

 

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

 

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

 

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

 

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

 

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

 

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

 

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

 

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

 

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

 

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

 

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

 

 

BIBLICAL DEFINITIONS

A. Charity (1 Corinthians 13:1) agape (Gk.)—Love, fellowship, affection, benevolence, or specifically divine kindness

 

B. Tongues (v. 1) glossa (Gk.)—Languages

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Corinth. The city of Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, which included the southern half of Greece. The ancient Greek city-state of Corinth had been destroyed in 146 BC when the Romans conquered the area. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar ordered to rebuild the city as a Roman colony. Corinth was a major trade city located on an isthmus or narrow strip of land that connects cities in northern Greece, like Athens and Delphi, with cities on the Peloponnesian peninsula, like Sparta and Olympia. Corinth was a bustling business and cultural center because of maritime trade on the Aegean Sea to the east and on the Gulf of Corinth to the west.

 

Corinth was socially, culturally, and religiously diverse. In fact, in AD 49, Jews who were expelled from Rome resettled in Corinth. The Christians of Corinth reflected the diversity of the city. Congregations included wealthy persons, merchants, slaves, and former slaves. During the time that Paul wrote his letter, Corinth was known for its wanton sexual immorality. The Greek word korinthiazesthai, which means to live like a Corinthian, suggested that one lived immorally.

 

LIFE NEED FOR TODAY’S LESSON

AIM: Students will agree with Paul’s definition of love.

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Agape

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians while he was living and ministering in the city of Ephesus. The letter was written between AD 53 and 55. During his time in Ephesus, he had also received a letter from the church at Corinth (7:1) expressing confusion about marriage, divorce, corporate worship, bodily resurrection, and living in a pagan society. Paul wrote to encourage the Corinthians and to emphasize the importance of holiness. He also wrote to correct their misunderstanding and abuse of spiritual gifts, which he discussed in chapter 12. Chapter 13 is often misinterpreted, which leads to its improper application as merely an ode to the virtues of love. Paul was using 1 Corinthians 13 to address specific issues in the Corinthian church: selfishness, division, abuse of gifts, and envy.

 

The Greek term for love (KJV: charity) used in this chapter is agape (ah-GAH-pay). This word is closely associated with the Hebrew word chesed (KHESS-ed), which refers to God’s covenant love for His people. Because of this association, agape became a keyword for describing God’s character and took on the meaning of a divine love that is intensely loyal. Believers should emulate this love.

 

 

BIBLE LEARNING

AIM: Students will demonstrate by their lifestyle that love is superior.

 

I. LOVE IS SUPERIOR (1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3)

 

The Corinthians held eloquence of speech in exceptionally high esteem and were somewhat preoccupied with the gift of speaking in tongues. However, even the most sophisticated gift of tongues is just noise if not exercised in love. Although it is a desirable gift, prophecy is useless without love (14:1). Knowledge of the deepest mysteries of God has no value apart from love. Faith, even when great enough to move mountains, is nothing apart from love. Likewise, boundless generosity is not profitable without love. Willingness to suffer, even to the point of martyrdom, is worthless in the absence of love.

 

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

 

Love is a radical reordering of priorities and ultimate values. The believer is no longer the center of his or her universe or the focus of ultimate concern; “the other” is now the center. Without love, everything we do is for our self-glorification and benefit. With love, what we do is for God and others. Love is not a feeling; it is what we do for others without regard for self. It is partaking in the very nature of God because He is love (1 John 4:8).

 

Spirit-inspired speech, which is the verbal expression of the gift of the Holy Spirit, different languages, brilliant human rhetoric, or superhuman entreaties, mean nothing if not spoken in love. Tongues without love are only noise. The gift of prophecy or preaching is mere entertainment or scolding and is useless if the speaker is not motivated by love. The gift of intellectual accomplishment without love leads to contempt and snobbery. The gift of great faith that gives much or sacrifices greatly can lead to false pride. None of these gifts edifies the body of Christ or pleases God unless they are motivated by love.

 

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

 

The world applauds benevolence and self-sacrifice. In terms of spiritual maturity, giving, even if sacrificial, means nothing without love. To give out of obligation, self-promotion, or even contempt can help those who are poor and needy, but it does not profit the giver unless love is present.

 

The Corinthian Christians had the wrong motives. For Paul, love says it all. It is not an issue of love versus gifts. Paul stresses that purpose of spiritual gifts is love. The gifts are not for their own sake. They are for love’s sake.

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 1

Why does Paul stress agape love to address the issues in the church?

 

QUESTION 2

Where does love need to be exercised in your church setting, and what can you do to model love?

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Charity.

Love is essential. Spiritual gifts can be destructive when not practiced in love. Love is what enriches the gifts and gives them value. Whatever our gifts, love should be the motivating factor and pleasing God our objective.

 

Paul explains the character of agape (Gk. AH-gah-pay) to the Corinthian church. In the King James Version, the translation of agape is “charity.” When we think of charity, we usually think that giving to others is an active expression of Christian love. But this is not the full meaning of “charity.”

 

In the King James Version, “charity” relates to the word “cherish.” To show charity to someone is to show that you cherish them, which goes beyond giving alms or offerings, as Paul explains.

 

When Paul speaks of “charity,” it is “love.” More importantly, Paul is speaking of a specific form of love. He is not talking about eros, the sensual or erotic kind of love. Nor is Paul describing philia, “a brotherly affection or friendship.” Paul is speaking of agape, “a commitment of the will to cherish and uphold another person”—love that describes God’s love. Agape is our intentional decision to treat others with the utmost care and concern and esteem the best interests of our brother or sister above our own.

 

 

 

II. LOVE’S CHARACTERISTICS (vv. 4-7)

 

Paul sums up his elaborate and poetic description of love in verse 7: love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Paul’s use of language implies that love must be active at all times. Love “beareth all things.” It withstands the assault and protects those under its sphere of influence. Love “believeth all things.” It is always willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Love “hopeth all things,” and does not despair. Love “endureth all things,” including temptation or testing.

 

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

 

Paul describes a life characterized by love (vv. 4-6). He presents an other-centered life in action.

 

1) Love “suffereth long” (Gk. makrothumeo, mah-kro-thoo-MEH-oh)—or endures patiently—the errors, weaknesses, and even meanness of people. Love makes us slow to anger. It will suffer many things for the sake of the relationship. If God’s love is in us, we will be longsuffering to those who annoy us and hurt us.

 

2) Love is kind. Kindness is demonstrated in simple acts, such as giving a cup of water to the thirsty (Matthew 25:42).

 

3) Love “envieth not” (Gk. zeloo, zay-LOH-oh). It does not earnestly covet another’s good fortune. Love does not get angry at another’s success.

 

4) Love “vaunteth not” or does not brag about itself. It is not boastful or stuck up. Love does not parade itself. Love in action can work anonymously. Love does not crave the limelight. Love gives because it loves to give without the praise of others.

 

5) Love is not “puffed up” (Gk. phusioo, foo-see-OH-oh), snobbish, or arrogant. Loving people means to esteem others higher than themselves. To be puffed up is to be self-focused, self-centered or conceited.

 

6) Love does not behave rudely; love is not ill-mannered or brash. Where there is love, there will be kindness and good manners. A person who loves does not just speak his or her mind but minds his or her speech! Love does not go around hurting others’ feelings. It always uses tact and politeness.

 

7) Love does not seek its own, an idea that Paul expresses in a slightly different manner in Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:4. Love never demands its rights but seeks its responsibilities toward others. It is not self-centered or self-assertive.

 

8) Love is not easily provoked. It is neither touchy nor irritable. Love does not fly off the handle. It does not lose its temper. It is not easily exasperated at people.

 

9) Love thinks no evil. It does not store up the memory or keep an account of any wrong it has received. It forgives the evil that people do. It does not carry a grudge. Love does not like to hear about the moral failures of others. It does not get pleasure out of the misfortune of others.

 

10) Love does not rejoice in iniquity: “I told you so,” and “It serves you right,” do not reflect the language of love. Love desires the best for others and does not derive personal satisfaction from the failure of others.

 

11) Instead, love rejoices in the truth. Love is happy to hear what is right, no matter how painful. Love celebrates what is righteous and learns from the truth.

 

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 

Paul ends the discussion of the characteristics of love on a positive note, summarizing the things that love does. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. The Greek word pantos (PAHN-toce), translated “all” can also be interpreted as “always” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Paul’s point is that love never tires of what it does. Most of us do the work of love, but only for a while. The greatness of agape is that it keeps on going!

 

Love “beareth” (Gk. stego, STEH-goh) the errors and faults of others. Other translations will say love “protects.” This verb is related to the Greek noun meaning “shield,” which can be viewed from either side of the battle. If you are the attacker, a shield is protecting your target. If you are the defender, a shield is bearing up under the assault.

 

Love “believeth” the best, trusts in the object of its love, has confidence in him or her, and gives credit that might otherwise not be self-evident except through the eyes of love. Love can bear all things because it believes all things with the special insight that only a loving relationship can bring.

 

Love “hopeth” with joy, full of confidence in eager expectation that the salvation of the Lord is to come. It bears all things because love believes that God will reveal people’s true nature. Love trusts in the eventual reconciliation with God.

 

Love “endureth” (Gk. hupomeno, hoo-po-MEN-oh) and continues to be present; it does not perish or depart despite errors, faults, or wrongs. The verb carries the image of “remaining or abiding under” hardship. Love is not going anywhere; it will endure.

 

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 3

Why is this beautiful description of love so powerful?

 

QUESTION 4

Describe how you have seen these aspects of love shown in those whom you admire.

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Practice Love

Paul highlights the character of love as Christians should express it. His descriptions of love are active, indicating that love is something one does, not merely an emotion. As Christians, we have received the love of God. Therefore, we are to love others.

 

Contrary to what many believe, love is not an abstract notion. Love is practical and must be put into practice daily. Christians must always be aware of their actions and ask themselves, “Did I show love in that situation or toward that person?” Paul explains that love results in characteristics that can be seen and heard.

 

Love is evident in the words we speak to one another, whether the discussion is about personal concerns or business concerns. Being professional is not an excuse to be rude. Leadership is not a license to cut others with stinging words. “A person who loves does not just speak his or her mind but minds his or her speech,” could well be a placard above every conference room, especially where Christians are gathered. “Love does not go around hurting others’ feelings. It always uses tact and politeness,” which is a sentiment that seems quite forgotten today.

 

Listen to how we speak to one another! There is a lack of gentility, of politeness, of gracefulness. The climate seems to encourage everyone to “tell it like it is” and “be tough,” as if crudeness is a show of strength. May God help us to cherish the qualities that are Christlike, and may we repent every time we think we have the right to be rude. Remember, Jesus Christ is also sitting at the table, and He is listening.

 

 

 

III. LOVE ENDURES (vv. 8-13)

 

Love surpasses all the other spiritual gifts because they will pass away, while love endures forever. Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are limited (v. 9). There will be a time when gifts will not be necessary. The Spirit gives gifts for the building and maturation of the church. We will not need such things in heaven.

 

Corinth was well known for its bronze artistry and bronze mirrors, and the reflection is imperfect. We exercise our gifts imperfectly. Our knowledge is as incomplete as if we are looking through a bronze mirror. However, imperfection will give way to perfection, and we will see clearly, perfectly. In heaven, we will experience love eternally. Because love is eternal and is superior to the other spiritual gifts, it is childish to focus on spiritual gifts to the exclusion of love.

 

Not only is love superior to spiritual gifts, but it is also superior to faith and hope. Just as in heaven, we will no longer need prophecy or tongues, we will no longer need faith when we finally see God. All hope will be fulfilled (cf. Romans 8:24). Love is the greatest gift of all.

 

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

 

The verse begins Paul’s conclusion on the topic of love. He has been addressing the over-emphasis of the Corinthian Christians on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here, Paul attests to the permanence of love as he continues to put the spiritual gifts and virtues in perspective.

 

Love is eternal; it never comes to an end. It is permanent. The gifts in which the Corinthians pride themselves are transitory at best, but love is transcendent. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts as instruments for this age. Paul anticipates that we will not need these gifts in the next age. When Christ returns and fulfills the reign of God, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will be unnecessary. Love, on the other hand, is essential and will never pass away.

 

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

 

Love, like God, is complete. We are imperfect creatures who can only comprehend reality—both material and spiritual—in an incomplete manner. Therefore, we can only preach or prophesy imperfectly and partially. For Paul, the kingdom of God is near but not yet. It is not fully revealed in this age, so our knowledge and prophecy of it can only be partial.

 

The “perfect” (Gk. teleios, TEH-lay-ose) maturity or completeness will come with the end of this present, imperfect age, and the beginning of the new, perfect age. Paul describes the times the Corinthians live in as transitory. They should not make gods or idols out of the gifts they esteem so highly.

 

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

 

Paul poses a metaphor of the maturing spiritual human being who grows from childhood to adulthood. Paul, who had called the Corinthians “babes in Christ,” chides them once again to grow up and put away the trappings of childhood, in this case, using their gifts for the wrong reasons (3:1). It is wrong to suggest that verses 11-12 see tongue-speaking and prophecy as childishness, particularly considering that Paul does both. Paul is saying that there is an appropriate time to speak in tongues, and now is the time. When the completion of that time finally arrives, then it will be time to set aside what was appropriate and needful for that age.

 

The word translated as glass (Gk. esoptron, eh-SOHP-trone) is another word for mirror. Mirrors were a primary industry in the city of Corinth. Mirrors made in Corinth were finely polished silver or bronze. The image was often concave and distorted, much like today’s amusement park house of mirrors. We see only dimly through the distorted reflections of our limited understanding. But when Jesus returns and makes His dwelling place among His people, we will see Him face to face (cf. Revelation 21:22–23). We not only come to know, but we will also be known.

 

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

 

After everything has been said, here’s the conclusion of the matter. Spiritual gifts are given for a particular purpose and for a specific time. It is childish to esteem them too highly. We, like the Corinthian Christians, must remember that giftedness is not the measure of maturity. The display of love is.

 

 

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

 

QUESTION 5

We’ve heard it said that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” What is the difference between speaking the truth and intentionally hurting others with our words?

 

QUESTION 6

How are we to “put away childish things” but still retain child-like faith?

 

 

 

LIGHT ON THE WORD

Jesus is Coming Again!

It is by faith that we are saved according to the grace of God. In hope, we wait upon the return of Jesus and the coming of the reign of God. All this is due to God’s love for us. These are what remain when one matures in Christ.

 

When Jesus returns, the reign of God is fulfilled. We do not need hope when we stand face-to-face with God. When we see all that there is to see, we will not need faith. We will continue to love and be loved by God. Love never ends! It is eternal and the greatest gift of God. Hallelujah!

 

 

 

BIBLE APPLICATION

AIM: Students will review this lesson during the week.

 

One session, class, or Bible study is too brief to digest all that Paul expresses here in this chapter. Often we read passages too quickly. Rather than internalizing and meditating and digesting again what we’ve studied, we are superficial and dismissive. Paul’s letter is instructive, and obeying God’s Word leads to transformation. But it demands work. This week, re-read 1 Corinthians 13. Study the explanations again and again and ask the Holy Spirit to imprint these principles on your heart.

 

Look into the mirror of God’s Word. Listen to yourself. Child of God, do you sound like love?

 

 

STUDENTS’ RESPONSES

AIM: Students will demonstrate the love of God in their words and actions.

 

True love comes from God. It is the very nature of God. We demonstrate our love for God when we show our love for one another. We are often frustrated in our church work, especially when it feels as though others are not as committed as we are. Over the next week, pray and ask God to reveal to you areas where you may have failed to demonstrate love toward your co-laborers. Then, ask God what you can do to remedy the situation. Also, ask Him how to show love to those who don’t show it to you. It may call for you to make apologies, seek forgiveness, or even forgive others, but it will be worth it.

 

 

PRAYER

Father, we repent from missing the mark. We are majoring on minor things in our Christian walk. In the process of doing “great” things for you, we are leaving so many wounded soldiers behind. We wound with our words, both written and spoken, and we are insensitive to one another, those for whom You died. Have mercy on us, O God. Let us truly be the church where people will come for healing and not leave because they are hurting. Cleanse our hearts and minds, Holy Spirit! In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

 

DIG A LITTLE DEEPER

Over 500,000 children in the U.S. currently reside in some form of foster care. Two-thirds of these children are African American, and they stay in foster care longer than children of other ethnicities. The average time Black children live in foster care is ten years, which means they become institutionalized because they are living in group homes.

 

The challenges of these children are complex and may include blaming themselves and feeling guilty because they were removed from their birth parents. Children who are living in foster care (which is more descriptive than calling them “foster care children”) experience rejection when they are not adopted, and rejection results in feeling unwanted. Over time, children feel helpless, especially when they are taken from foster home to foster home and experience dozens of changes in foster parents over time.

 

These are our children, and they are in desperate need of love. Since love is action, everyone has the opportunity to express love by doing something! Feeling sorry is not enough. How can you help? Become a foster or an adoptive parent. You must be over the age of 21 and financially stable, and able to meet certain safety requirements such as criminal background checks and child abuse screening. There are no preferences made to race or ethnic origin, educational background, marital status, occupation, or homeownership.

 

How might helping or even fostering these children show the love of God? Consider becoming a foster parent and encouraging your church family to actively take the lead in the community to be advocates for the least of these.

 

HOW TO SAY IT

Achaia. ah-KIE-ah.

 

Peloponnesian. peh-low-pow-NEES-ee-an.

 

Aegean. ah-GEE-an.

 

 

 

 

DAILY HOME BIBLE READINGS

MONDAY

Activists and Supporters Share Victories

(1 Samuel 30:21-25)

TUESDAY

The New Life in Christ

(Romans 12:1-8)

WEDNESDAY

Live by the Mind of Christ

(Philippians 2:1-11)

THURSDAY

Faith, Hope, and Love in Action

(Colossians 1:3-8)

FRIDAY

Gifts for the Good of All

(1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

SATURDAY

Pray with the Mind and Spirit

(1 Corinthians 14:13-19)

SUNDAY

The Life of Love

(1 Corinthians 13)

 

 

PREPARE FOR NEXT SUNDAY

Read John 13:1-35 and next week’s lesson, “Loving by Serving.”

©2020 by the Saint Paul Church MKE Media