When the church reaches “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…. [t[hen we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there….” Ephesians 4:13-14
This a verse that ended a sermon in a series on the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13, given by Jeff Frazier at Chapelstreet Church, The Greatest of These, May 24, 2020)
The sermon began with the observation that 1 Corinthians 13 is not really the “ode to love” that we often think it is. The First Century Corinthians probably didn’t embroider 1 Corinthians 13 and hang it on their walls. Paul was chiding them for all the things they were not doing
The Corinthians were a worldly, wealthy, educated and diverse people. The city would have been candidate for the list of 50 best towns in which to live in the First Century Roman Empire. They were sophisticated in all the ways of the world.
But they fell short when it came to love.
Love, of course, is the greatest attribute of a Christian. That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 13. (1 Cor. 13:13) Though the Corinthians were rich in many things like eloquent speaking, even prophecies and faith, Paul says even those without love mean nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-2) A person could even give all his wealth away and offer his body to hardship, but without love, nothing is gained, says Paul. (1 Cor. 13:3)
The Corinthians thought they were pretty hot stuff. They had much in this world and much in the way of talents and resources, and because of that they were boastful and proud.
The beautiful list of what is love is a list of what the Corinthians lacked.
We could read it this way: the Corinthians are not patient or kind. They are envious, boastful and proud. They dishonor others and are self-seeking, easily angered and keep records of all the wrongs done to them. They delight in evil and do not rejoice in truth. They aren’t protective, trusting, hopeful or perseverant. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The Corinthians were full of jealousy and pride about their own spirituality, and they didn’t appreciate each other. (1 Cor. 12:16 -22) They were given to argument, strife and disunity over which leaders to follow. (1 Cor. 1:10-12) At the same time, they tolerated sexual sin, greed, idolatry cheating, slander and drunkenness in their members. (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-11) They were puffed up with their own knowledge. (1 Cor. 8:1)
The Corinthian church rich in the way of worldly wealth and talents. They were even full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they were poor in fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)).
Paul goes on to say that love is the greatest fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love is the ultimate goal of the Christian, because God is love (1 John 1:9), and He desires us to be transformed into His image. (Rom 8:29) We don’t need wealth, resources, talents, knowledge or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we have love.
Love, including all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is the sign of mature Christianity.
Jeff Frazier said that Paul could have written the love chapter to much of the American church, and I think he is right.