05-15-2022 “What Love Is–and What It Isn’t”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                           Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                        May 15, 2022

What Love Is—and What It Isn’t”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We noted last week, in our first of three sermons from 1 Corinthians 13, that love (Greek agape [agaph]) is the sine qua non—the indispensable ingredient—for Christian faith and life. Today we come to a profound description of that love, a love by which God loves Himself, both in unity and in trinity, by which He loves His redeemed in His Son, Jesus Christ, and by which He loves the world (cf. John 3:16). In particular, we see the love described by which we who are in Christ are to love one another. Let’s us give our attention once again to the Word of God read and proclaimed in this place.


First, let’s note what love is. It is patient, long-suffering, and enduring. We’ll see next week, God willing, just how enduring and preeminent this love is. The agape love of God, expressed toward one another, bears all things—even when tempted to irritation and provocation by the things (and people) being borne. Love, moreover, believes all things—not in a foolish, easily duped sense, but in a believes-the-best sense. It will not believe the worst of another without compelling evidence.

Love hopes all things. It trusts that future good will come to us from God’s good hand, and it trust that the promises of God surely will come to pass. It even trusts that God’s purposes in others will come to pass—and this helps when we struggle not to give up on people or on God’s work in them. Furthermore, love endures all things—and this is especially welcome news in the face of difficulties. It perseveres through difficulties to blessed outcomes afterward. Love also is kind, doing things of benefit to others—and even this kindness, like the love undergirding it, is of a patient, long-suffering, enduring kind.

Now, second, let’s note what love is not—and this requires more speech and print, for the Lord leads Paul to say more about what love is not than about what love is. Here’s a succinct summary of the whole: Love is not self-seeking. Let’s see this summary verified in the constituent elements of what love is not.

Love envies not. It does not begrudge the favorable providence afforded another. Nor does it aim to pull down the favored one. Love also boasts not. In particular, it boasts not of anything related to self. It complies with Jeremiah 9:24, “…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, Who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD,” and with 1 Corinthians 1:31, which says, “…so that, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

Love also is not arrogant, or puffed up with pride. Love thinks not oneself better than another—and it certainly does not express this. The corrective lies in Philippians 2:3 (cf. 2:1-11): “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Love, furthermore, is not rude (or behaves not indecently). Love will not think or utter snide remark, nor will it contemplate or commit moral turpitude. This love insists not on its own way (or seeks not the things of itself). Rather, it seeks the glory of God and His highest and best in the lives of others. It is not irritable, or easily provoked, as noted earlier. Nor is it resentful. It keeps no mental record of wrongs, nor does it harbor grudges. This is the sum total in today’s text, of what love is not. It is quite the list, but—to avoid committing anything on the list—aim by God’s grace to do quite the opposite.

Third, love is delighted with truth—not with wrongdoing. Love delights in true doctrine, true practice, and so forth. Let us delight, therefore, in those things noted by the Apostle Paul, as led by the Holy Spirit, in Philippians 4:8, to wit, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Love has no pleasure in error, falsehood, wrongdoing, and the like. Let us flee these in favor of the truth and the things which flow therefrom.

This love, at times, can be sugary sweet. We see it in courtship and marriage, for example—and we hear soaring strings and passionate piano on the soundtrack. Many times, however, this love is anything but sweet. It is gritty, and it is rugged. It is self-denying, even self-sacrificing—and none of us gravitates toward such naturally. This agape love of God is other-centered, even when—maybe especially when) the other’s best is not what the other wants for himself. Yet this is what love is. May God give us His powerful grace to love Him, to love each other, and to love the world in this way.