Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-6105
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Epiphany 4 – February 3, 2013 – 1 Cor. 12:31-13:13 – “A More Excellent Way”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Epistle Lesson just read, from 1 Corinthians.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • There are all kinds of sources of advice out there in the world as to how to live a better, more successful, more enjoyable life.  Even within the church there are all kinds of suggestions as to what we ought to focus on, what ought to be the most important things to commit ourselves to.  Some are mentioned in our text, and they are all important things, important tasks, and important blessings.
  • However, in our text the apostle Paul whittles everything down to one paramount concern – and that is love.  It is not that he is excluding the other things as being unimportant, or denigrating them as being evil.  No, everything within the church is of benefit and value, and there are many important things for us to be concerned about and growing in.  However, of critical importance and what must be integrated into everything is love, which Paul describes as “A MORE EXCELLENT WAY.”  This is the focus of our text for today!
  • Though there are many important tasks, functions, and offices within the church,

 

I.  Not Everyone Is Called To Some High Office Or Task Within The Church

 

Text:  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

 

Statement:  Now, not all are blessed with the supernatural gift of languages or the prophetic office, or the gift of knowledge, or to have “heroic” faith, or to participate in exemplary sacrificial giving, or to become a martyr.  As we can read in the verses preceding this discussion of love, “All these [gifts and offices] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” [1 Cor. 12:11]   This does not bother us – but we rejoice in these good and blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit “for the common good,” and we are eager to utilize them as the Spirit gives them to us. 

 

Application:  This is because of “love,” our experience of God’s great love for us personally, and because we know of God’s love for all others.  So we are eager to share what God has given us “for the common good.”  And if we think about it, we also want to share our gifts and to do everything in life in “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY,” for it is clear from God’s Word that:

 

II.  Though Not All Are Called To High Office, All ARE Called To Love – And Without Love Even High Office Is Useless

 

Text:  No matter what I do, if I “have not love, I am nothing.”   

 

So everything that we do, all that we are, is to be permeated by love, and:

 

A.  Love Is Patient And Kind – toward others, like God is toward us

 

B.  Love Does Not Envy Or Boast – it is not egotistical, but selfless and self-effacing

 

C.  Love Is Not Arrogant Or Rude – it is rather kindly, not pushy

 

D.  Love Does Not Insist On Its Own Way, That Is, It Is Not Self-Seeking – love is not selfish but giving, self-sacrificing, and selfless; it seeks only the good and welfare of others

 

E.  Love Is Not Irritable Or Resentful – but rather seeks to get along with others, and love always rejoices in the good and successes of others

 

F.  Love Takes No Joy In Wrongdoing, In Evil – love only rejoices in what is truly good, what conforms to God’s Word

 

G.  Love Rejoices With The Truth – there is no deceiving or lying in love, and especially no joy in any contradiction of God’s Word

 

H.  Love Is Always Faithful – Bearing All Things, Believing All Things, Hoping Good In All Things, And Enduring All Things – And Love Never Ends

 

Statement:  This is an exact description of how God is toward us, for “God is love.”  If ever you want to know more about how God is toward you, what His commitment toward you is, all you have to do is read these verses.  God is “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY,” and the more we come to know Him, the more we understand this – thanks and praise be to God! 

It is also a thorough and correct description of “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY” for human life, for human being and behaving, the way God wants us to be and to conduct our lives in this world.  So if we ever have question as to how God wants us to be and behave in a certain circumstance, we need only turn back to this description of love, “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY,” and utilize His instruction.  

 

Application:  It is certain that we fall far short of love, and often fail – so as we learn more about love and focus on growing in love we are constantly returning to God in repentance, and rejoicing in His forgiving, merciful, patient, and gracious love for us.  And we must be doing this in order to be growing in love, for “we love because He first loved us.”  Our love is dependent upon, and only grows, through our experience of God’s love for us!  So we can understand the importance and pre-eminence of a life of humble repentance and faith in our dear Savior Jesus Christ!

And though love is quite challenging – going against the grain of our fallen, sinful nature, still it is to permeate all that we are and do – otherwise we are “nothing,” regardless of what gifts we have received or what office we conduct or what great things we accomplish! 

 

Transition:  The pre-eminence of this “MORE EXCELLENT WAY” is re-emphasized, for:

 

III.  Other Things Will Pass Away – Prophecies, Tongues, And Knowledge – Only Faith, Hope, And Love Abide, And Love Is The Greatest

 

Text:  “So now, faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

Statement:  So there you have it – there are very few things that will endure, and they are the most important things – faith, hope, and love, and “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY,” love, is the greatest of these.  So no matter what else we may be doing, regardless of how important or exalted it may be, without love it is all useless and worth little.  This is one of the greater blessings that God has worked through allowing things to go as they did in the Garden, when mankind fell into sin and death – that our experience of God’s love might be all the more poignant, and so that we might learn the great blessedness of love. 

 

Application:  We like to focus on practical matters – getting things done and accomplishing much.  But these verses cause us to pause – and to reconsider our perspective and our priorities.  It is not just “WHAT” we get done – of even greater importance is “HOW” we are getting things done, how we do things, how we are as people, how we are being and behaving toward others.  This is of critical importance – our conformity to love, for God is love, and there is nothing higher than that we should be conformed to His image.  He created us in His image, and the restoration of His image in us is the greatest blessedness we can have! 

 

Conclusion:  The Superbowl will be played today – and virtually everyone will be concerned about only one thing, who won.  Of far greater importance is HOW each one played, how each team performed – not whether they won or lost in the end.  It is no different with each of us – who we are and how we live is more important than what we accomplish, for love is not arrogant or envious or resentful.  And we are not loved and precious to God for what we accomplish, but rather just for who we are – His dear children whom He loves dearly! 

God is love, and love is what finally matters, and therefore love is “THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY.”  May God grant us grace and wisdom to grasp this through our experience of His gracious love, mercy, and forgiveness.  And may He grant us to grow and to abound more and more in love!  Amen.

 

Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.