Love each other because Christ lives in you

Love each other because Christ lives in you – a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

1 Corinthians 13 is often used as a wedding text; perhaps some of you may even had this as your wedding text. It’s about love after all, and it sounds good at a wedding, right, when a man and a woman are joined together as husband and wife. They want to hear that love never ends. But this passage is about so much more than the love upon which marriage must be based. It’s about the love upon which our whole life as redeemed children of God should be based. Taking it any other way is like doing what the weary travelling salesman did when he kicked off his shoes one evening in his hotel room. His boss had sent him to the outback to try and get rid of some products they wanted to offload, but he hadn’t been successful. So as he flopped down on his bed at the Green Dragon motel, he was quite depressed. Then he saw the New Testament that someone had left in the room, and although he was and atheist, he remembered that some friends told him that in times of worry, they found comfort and direction in the Bible. He thought he’d start a few chapters in, so he flipped ahead to Matthew 27 and his eyes were drawn to verse 5, where Matthew writes how in his despair Judas went and hanged himself. Now Mr Salesman didn’t find this very uplifting, so he flicked on some 30-odd pages. Not wanting to read a whole section, he poked his finger at a verse and this is what he read (Luke 10:37):

You go and do likewise.

Understandably he didn’t find this all that helpful, so he again skipped over a few pages but as he put his finger down and picked another text, he saw another command by Jesus (John 13:27:

What you are going to do, do quickly.

Friends, this slightly sad story shows how, if we take a text out of its context, we can get its meaning and its application very, very wrong. And this is what very often happens with the passage on love that we’re looking at today. So what then is the context of this passage?

Paul stayed in Corinth for about 18 months during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18). Many people came to faith during that time, but division and factions arose after he left. The Corinthians believers became “puffed up” with their own importance and got caught up in arguments about spiritual gifts. They for instance emphasised speaking in tongues over other workings of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that wild disorder resulted in their worship services. They concentrated so much on these things that they lost sight of the love they were supposed to have for each other. And this is why Paul is writing to them, to correct their thinking. Chapters 12 and 14 have to do with speaking in tongues, prophesying, preaching, and healing gifts. And smack bang between these 2 chapters we have this great love chapter. Sandwiching the chapter on love between the other two chapters dealing with the same subject is a way of underlining its importance. It’s given even more prominence by how Paul ends chapter 12, where he says:

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way

It’s almost like he’s anticipating that the Corinthians are going to say, like Tina Turner, that love is just a second-hand emotion. But Paul is singing from a different song-sheet, instead telling them that Love is what it is all about. Listen people, he says, you boast about all those other gifts, but they are useless if they are not based in love! They don’t have any value in the eyes of God unless they are grounded in a deep-seated love. They don’t mean a thing if they’re not centred on the type of love that Christ told us about. Such love, Paul says, is the gift above all gifts. It is essential. It is alive. And it endures.

  • Love is essential (v1-3);
  • Love is alive (v4-7); and
  • Love is enduring (v8-13).