1Cor 13:2 If I Have Not Charity 8/8/2010 ßą
#1. Though I Speak With Tongues (Matt 7:21-23, 1Cor 13:1, 2Cor 12:4, Jer 17:9, Rom 5:5, 1John 2:5)
#2. Though I Have the Gift of Prophecy (1Cor 13:2, Matt 17:20)
#3. Though I Give All My Goods to the Poor (1Cor 13:3, Luke 18:22)
Please open your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 13:1 (2X). We are here in the “love” chapter because we were directed to this chapter in 1Cor 12:31. You remember that in the congregation at Corinth divisions began to occur, because some were given messages from God in a foreign language, and others envied them. But in chapter 12 God gave them a parable comparing the church with a human body, and God reminded them that they were to love one another and accept one another as one body of Christ. Then the Lord stated in 1Cor 12:31, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” In other words, it is not wrong to ask for the best gifts of the Holy Spirit; “covet earnestly the best gifts”. And yet, here in the next chapter is the best gift of the Holy Spirit that I have not talked about in chapter 12. And then God leads us into this beautiful love chapter.
There are two different Greek words used in the Bible to express love. One is the word “agapao” or “agape”, where agapao is the verb, “to love”, and agape is the noun. The other is the word “phileo”, which is different from agapao in that phileo much closer represents “tender affection”. On the other hand, agapao is a word that expresses Christian love for the brethren, and is generally not an impulse from the feelings, but is an impulse of the will. In 1Cor 13 the KJV translators have translated the word “agapao” exclusively with the word “charity”, because they wanted to bring out the special meaning of the word “agapao” or “agape” in this chapter. Agapao or agape much closer represents “charity”, because charity is an impulse of the will. On the other hand, the meaning in English of almsgiving is not found in the Greek word translated charity. Keep this in mind. I am not going to define what love is, for that is a diversion which will take much more than one sermon. I will only show you how agapao and phileo are used in the Bible, and especially their meaning in 1Cor 13. And so, let us read 1Cor 13:1-13,
1Co 13:1-13 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. 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. 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. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth (boast) not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 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. 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. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The first thing that I see in this chapter is that it consists of three parts. #1, The excellency of love above all the other gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of speaking in other languages, or the power of understanding all mysteries, above all faith, even of the highest kind, above the virtue of giving all my goods to feed the poor, and above the sacrifice of my own body. All these special gifts of the Holy Spirit stand in the shadow of the gift of love. This first part consists of verses 1-3. #2, A statement of the characteristics of love or its happy influences on the mind and heart, as expressed by the word “agapao” or “agape” in verses 4-7. #3, A comparison of love with the gift of prophecy, and with the power of speaking foreign languages, and with knowledge, in verses 8-13. God shows that love is superior to them all, and love will continue to be with us into eternity and will be the chief glory of that world to come. In this sermon we will have time only for Part #1, The excellency of love, or charity. Therefore the sermon for today is called, “If I Have Not Charity” (2X). This first part also consists of three parts, verses 1, 2, and 3.
#1. Though I Speak With Tongues (Matt 7:21-23, 1Cor 13:1, 2Cor 12:4, Jer 17:9, Rom 5:5, 1John 2:5)
In the first three verses of this chapter God shows us three stages of increasing religiosity which are not pleasing to Him. He shows us that when we are striving to be religious and striving to do good works for the wrong reasons, we are still on the way to Hell. And that is also the message of Matt 7:21-23. We read in 1Cor 13:1,
1Co 13:1 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.
Though I would be able speak all the languages which are in the world. You can see that God is setting up a totally hypothetical case. No one in the world is able to speak the thousands of existing languages. Why would God bring up this hypothetical case? He does this because the tongue-speakers in the church at Corinth were proud that they were used by God. They were proud, not knowing that there are thousands of languages in the world. But they are nothing. Only if they would speak all the languages of the world would they amount to something. But they did not even understand the things they were saying in another language, because they needed interpreters to translate the words they were saying. At this point we understand that the phenomenon of tongues in the church at Corinth was different from the phenomenon of tongues as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts chapters 2, and chapter 8, and chapter 10, and chapter 19 we read of the outward sign that the Holy Ghost was fallen on these people because they spake in languages that they had not learned before. However, there were no interpreters needed. And thus the phenomenon of tongues in 1Cor 12, and 13 and 14 was an inferior kind of gift, inferior compared to those gifted in Acts. Why did God do that? Probably, He did that to humble the tongue speakers in Corinth, to temper their pride. Moreover, why did God mention “and of angels”? Men are not allowed to speak the language of angels. Please turn in your Bibles to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 2Cor 12:4 (2X) The apostle Paul is speaking of his own experience when God gave him a vision of heaven. It could be a vision, but it could also be that God had temporarily translated him into heaven to show him the glories thereof. We read in 2Cor 12:4, “How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” And notice these words, “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter”. God does not allow man to utter these words. Man is not allowed to speak the language of angels. Let us now return to 1Cor 13:1. And thus, God has set up this totally hypothetical case that a man would be able to speak all the languages of the world, and even was able to speak the language of angels. But he had one thing missing. He had not charity. He had not the love of God in his heart. How does one get the love that is called “agape” in his heart? God must give it to him, for we are not born with the possession of this love in our heart. We are born with a heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked, according to Jer 17:9. This outstanding person described here in 1Cor 13:1 had not the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, as described in Rom 5:5. He had not the love of God that is described in 1John 2:5, where we read, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. There are 13 verses in the Bible which state “the love of God” for unworthy sinners, and all 13 verses use the word “agape” for the love of God, and for God’s plan of salvation. And so, if a person has not the love of God in his heart, this would be a person who has never experienced the new-birth from God in his soul, according to John 3. And so, even if this person could speak all the languages of the world, and even if he could speak the language of angels, but he does not have the love of God in his heart, he would be a person whose soul has not been regenerated by God the Holy Spirit, which means that his soul has not been cleansed from sin. There are still many unpaid sins clinging to his soul. And even though he lives a life worthy of sons of God, translating messages from God for this church, it means that he would still have to pay for these sins in Hell. This then would be God’s verdict on such a man who does not have love. God speaks in 1Cor 13:1 about:
God speaks here of two old musical instruments that are presently still used in an orchestra: the sounding bras and the tinkling cymbal are not good translations of the Greek text. The Greek word for “sounding” is also used in Luke 21:25, where we read, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring”. That word “roaring”, meaning “the sound of the sea and the waves roaring in a storm” is the same word that was used for the “sounding” of the brass musical instrument in 1Cor 13:1. Most likely, then, the brass instrument that God has in view is one or more loud trumpets. Then the tinkling of a cymbal makes us think of the tinkling of the triangle in an orchestra. But that is not at all what the Greek text is conveying. The Greek word for tinkling here is also used in Mark 5:38, and there we read, “And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly”, and that word “wailed” is exactly the same word as the word “tinkling” in 1Cor 13:1. It refers to the wailing of mourners for one who has died. And so, when we use these translations in 1Cor 13:1 it gives this verse an ominous impression instead of the lovely intonation that most preachers use when they preach from this chapter. And thus, 1Cor 13:1 actually says, paraphrased, “Even if miraculously I can speak all foreign languages, and even the language of angels, but do not have “agape”, then in the ears of God I sound like roaring brass instruments, like the roaring of a storm at sea, and like wailing cymbals that wail because they are accompanying death. That is not a pretty picture of such a good work done for the edifying of the church in translating messages from God. But this is really the message that God is conveying here for those who speak and translate messages from God in the church at Corinth. And this phenomenon of tongues was only occurring in the church at Corinth. We do not read about this same phenomenon in other churches, not even in Second Corinthians. And so, we should be careful with this phenomenon of speaking in tongues. So far God has not voiced His disapproval of this practice in 1Cor 12. It was still a legitimate way of receiving messages from God, for God has not closed the door on other ways of communicating with Him. God was still giving messages to the apostle Paul in dreams and visions. But we will see toward the end of this chapter that messages from God in a tongue will cease at some time in this church age, long before the end of time comes. Here in this first part of the message today God makes it clear that if we do not have love, or if we do not have charity, or if we do not have agape, or if we do not have the love of God that makes us love God and love our fellow brethren, then we are not pleasing in the sight of God, and we are still on the way to Hell. Why is this so? What is going on?
Let us remember that we are not saved by our good works, but we are saved by grace alone. Translating a message from God for the church may be one of the good works if we are saved, but it does not qualify for salvation Salvation means that the love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and this in turn will generate within us an agape for God, and an agape for our fellow man. But let us be clear on this one thing: Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son. Obviously agape is not the love of complacency or of affection. It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without a cause which lies in the creature himself, but it was made with only that which lies in the nature of God Himself. And thus, God chooses whom He wants to love, for we are all unlovables. God said in Deut 7:7-8,
Deut 7:7-9, The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
#2. Though I Have the Gift of Prophecy (1Cor 13:2, Matt 17:20)
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.
In the previous verse God focused on the gift of tongues. Now in verse 2 God lists the remaining spiritual gifts. Again God sets up a very hypothetical situation whereby the person in view has been endowed with an unbelievably rich amount of spiritual gifts. First, this person has the gift of prophecy so that he understands all mysteries and has knowledge of all things in the Bible. This is something everyone of us strives to learn, but no one really gets to know everything in the Bible. Our life is far too short to learn all of this, and our brain is too small to hold all things there in memory. Moreover, if we are to understand all mysteries it must mean that we understand all the spiritual meanings of every act of God in the Bible. It means that we not only understand God’s dealings with Sarah and Hagar, which He explained in Galatians chapter 4, but also all the other events leading up to the cross of Christ, and leading up to the end of time. You can see that memorizing the whole Bible is something that men can do, for the Moslems must memorize the entire Koran, but to have knowledge and understanding of everything is a far greater task which man cannot do. But in the hypothetical case that there would be a person who had all this knowledge and understanding, and who has in addition great faith so that he could remove mountains, this would be a person who has received all the spiritual gifts. This would be a person who could be of great benefit to the Gospel and to the furtherance of the Kingdom of Christ. God is referring here to the statement of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matt 17:20,
where the Lord Jesus commented on the inability of the disciples to cast out a demon. He said in Matt 17:20,
Mt 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Since we have no record in the Bible of anyone who spoke to a mountain and the mountain removed to another place, must we then believe that no one in the world has as much faith as a grain of mustard seed? No, that is not true, for the Lord Jesus spoke in parables, and without a parable did He not speak unto the people. And as long as we interpret a parable as the real thing we are getting the wrong information. But now, in 1Cor 13:2, here is a person who has great faith. And yet, if this person has no love for God and for his fellow man, God says: “He is nothing.” What does that mean? It means that all of these gifts are of no value.
Let us see if we can understand this. Is God teaching us here that there is something in addition to grace that we must have in order to be saved? One of the rallying cries of the reformation was, “By faith alone.” And today in most of the churches around us the rallying cry is still, “By faith alone.” In most of the churches around us it is believed that salvation is by faith. And they base that primarily on Acts 16:30-31, where we read,
Ac 16:30-31 And he brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
This was not a parable. This was straightforward, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And churches all over the world have adopted this statement as their doctrine of faith. But here in 1Cor 13:2 we come to the conclusion that faith is not all that it is supposed to be. For even if I have great faith, but have not love, or have not agape, or have not charity, or if we do not have the love of God that makes us love God and love our fellow brethren, then our faith is of no value at all, and I am still going to Hell. Is there then a second requirement that we must have in order to be saved? Absolutely NOT. We preach that salvation is only by grace, not by faith, but only by grace, through Christ alone, by the Scriptures alone, and to God alone be the glory. This really was the cry of the Reformation. Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christo, and Soli Deo Gloria. But Sola Fide, which means “By faith alone,” does not belong in this group. And so, what we are discovering again is that we must be born from above. God the Holy Spirit must have regenerated our soul, thereby cleansing our soul, or else we will not have received the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. And so, if I would summarize what 1Cor 13:2 says I would paraphrase it as follows: Even if I have the gifts of prophecy, and wisdom, and knowledge, and faith, and the working of miracles without the gift of agape, I am nothing in the eyes of God; I am of no redeeming value. Which really means I am not fit for the Kingdom of God; I am not going to heaven; I am going to the other place that is a bit hotter. All those good things were of no benefit to me. Yea, I can say that all those good things were actually a curse to me, for if God has showered me with all those gifts, but I remained an unthankful, selfish, unloving, church-going individual, then I have showed by my actions that God’s gifts were wasted on me, and that I deserve to go Hell for my great ingratitude.
#3. Though I Give All My Goods to the Poor (1Cor 13:3, Luke 18:22)
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.
What is God saying here? Have you noticed how the religiosity of the people in verses 1, 2, and 3 is increasing? In verse 1 someone is speaking in the language of angels. In verse 2 someone is moving mountain just by exercising his faith. Now in verse 3 someone is offering his own body to be burned as an offering to God. But is God pleased with that person’s actions? Let us see what else this person is doing. Again God gave an illustration which might occur under extreme circumstances, but this time around it does not fall in the realm of impossibilities. Here is a person who distributes all his earthly possessions to feed the poor. He took the advice of the Lord Jesus to the rich young ruler in Luke 18:22. There the Lord said to the rich young ruler, “Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. The rich young ruler did not follow Christ, nor did he follow Christ’s advice. But this person in 1Cor 13:3 is following Christ’s advice. He gives all that he has to the poor, and now he is himself poor, and in need of a handout. Surely, this must be pleasing to God. And when religious persecution arises he gives his life to be burned at the stake. Surely this also must be pleasing to God. We should properly interpret this event of burning his body. This does not speak about cremation of his body after he has died. Remember, verse 3 speaks of ultimate sacrifices, and to be cremated after you have died is not at all a sacrifice. But this person is not afraid of religious persecutions, and is not afraid to be burned at the stake. In fact he gives himself willingly thinking that hereby he will be pleasing to God. But is God well pleased with that person? We read in 1Cor 13:3, “If I have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Though I should be willing to lay down my life in the most painful manner, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing. Many thousands of Christians have been called to lay down their life in this way during religious persecutions under Nero. Many thousands have been burned at the stake during the Inquisition in the dark ages. And during the Reformation again many thousands were murdered in this way by the Roman church, by burning them as heretics at the stake, not only on the continent of Europe, but especially in England. And so, 1Cor 13:3 says, “If I have not charity, it profiteth me nothing”.
Indeed, if I have not charity all the alms I have been giving to the poor profits me nothing, for the giving of alms does not describe agape. Such charity is not called the charity which is derived from the word agape. And so, we need to understand what agape means, for it is not identical to the word charity that we use in our daily language. If I would summarize 1Cor 13:3, I would paraphrase it as follows: Even if I would sell everything I have and distribute it to the poor, and even if I would become a martyr during religious persecution so that I will be burned at the stake, but do not have agape, all these sacrifices are unacceptable to God. I would still be subject to the wrath of God, Hell. And this is true, because if I have not agape I have not been born again, or born from above. Remember what the purpose was of the spiritual gifts. It was for the saints to build up, or to edify, one another. But before we can do that we first must become saints. We were sinners, but after we were saved we are no longer called sinners, but saints. It is the love of God in letting us know that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. And when His love, His agape, has been poured upon us and we are made alive unto Him, He gives us faith. Thus it is first the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts that made us alive unto Him, and then He gives us faith. And so, God’s agape comes first and makes us alive, and then God gives us faith. And the person who has faith but has not agape does not exist, because faith comes after agape. In all three verses of 1Cor 13 the person who has not agape is still unsaved and is still on the way to Hell. No good works of any kind can change this situation. This is why it is said that good people go to Hell. If they have never been born from above, then they are not saved, and they have not the love of God in them. They are still in the state of the natural man. Moreover, any unsaved person cannot do anything that is pleasing to God. Even the plowing of the wicked is sin.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.