1 CORINTHIANS 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.
Love seeks with all its power to cover a multitude of sins - not to obscure, or condone, or ignore them - but to bring about their wholesome covering in a Christ-like way. There must be a close and affectionate oneness and mutual protection among us, such as the world could never know. Or, we just do not have the truth, and we are not the children of God.
There must be a mutual recognition of weakness and a mutual desire to strengthen and help, and not to expose and condemn. There must be no fleshly antagonism. All problems must be handled in the spirit and according to the Law of Christ.
There must be the quiet, peaceful, beautiful unity of mutual love and self-sacrifice. If we cannot rise up to this of our natural fleshly selves, if we do not have the wisdom to subdue the flesh, and discipline and train ourselves to this, then we do not have the mind of Christ, and we are none of his.
So frequently, we need the exhortation in scripture: take heed, watch, always be aware, alert, observant, thinking, meditating, contemplating about the important things - the spiritual things. Take heed for every danger and pitfall, from within ourselves and from without, not in fear and timidity, but in wisdom and enlightenment, always walking carefully according to the light.
"If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light. If a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him."
We have no light in ourselves.
Whenever we are not carefully watching and observing the divine light, and following it, we are stumbling, though it may seem we are sailing along very smoothly. For we are following the flesh, and there is no good in the flesh-no light.
Every act, every word, every thought involves purpose and motive. That purpose and motive must be either carnal or spiritual. There is no neutral ground. We have no spiritual momentum of our own. It must come continuously from without, by continually following the light. The moment we forget, we revert to the flesh. Therefore, the exhortation,
"Watch and pray always."
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments
3 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.
''Though I Give My Body to Be Burned''
Martyrdom during the second seal period (Rev 6)
Such "miserable sinners," styling themselves "christians," abound in our time; multitudes of whom, tired of the troubles of life, would joyfully suffer death under the delusion that by giving their worthless bodies to be burned, they would by a brief torment acquire posthumous notoriety, and hide a multitude of sins. All this voluntary martyrdom was the result of ignorance and misdirected zeal.
It was no proof of the sufferers being Christ's Brethren. We may admit the piety and sincerity of many of them; but Paul has taught us that giving the body to be burned is no equivalent for the want of that "love," which he, after the teaching of the Christ, says is "the fulfilling of the law" -- hoping and believing all the things testified in the truth (1 Cor. 13). Martyrdom, then, is no proof of a man's being in Christ; and without being in him, he cannot be a christadelphian.
The most it proves is the sincerity and devotion of the martyr to his profession, whatever that may be. Hence, the martyrdom of Huss, Jerome, Cranmer, Servetus, and such like, proved the sincerity of their anti-romish and anti-calvinistic opinions; it did not alter the fact of their being eminently pious members of the Apostasy; the stain of which cannot be obliterated by body-burning, but only by an intelligent belief and obedience of the truth.
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
We are in a very disjointed condition at present. Men are on all hands imperfect, and, of course, brethren too; and if we do not clothe ourselves with something of divine magnanimity that puts up with the frailties and shortcomings of men, we shall never get on at all.
We have to shut our eyes to a great deal. We need not give countenance to faults, but we must not be too critical; we must forbear much and pass things by, or we shall only make a bad job worse. Charity hides a multitude of sins. It exhibits solicitude towards one's neighbour; it looks not only to one's own things, but about the things of others and is rather prone to put a good construction (where such is possible) upon a man's actions, than a bad one.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
3. -- The Apostolic Ministry.
To make the communities of Christ's brethren effective for their objects, Christ, by the Spirit, appointed and qualified a variety of officials, in the first century, whom Paul enumerates as -- 1, apostles; 2, prophets; 3, teachers; 4, miracles; 5, gifts of healing; 6, helps; 7, governments; 8, diversity of tongues. Their appointment by the Spirit made them the responsible overseers of the one body, whom the members were bound to obey. This ministration of the Spirit, and this presence of divine authority in the ecclesias, continued during the days of the apostles, and the generation next ensuing.
After that, an apostacy arose in the apostolic community, after the analogy of the case of Israel, in their first settlement of Canaan; who "served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord that he did for Israel" (Jude vii).
The apostacy prevailed more and more, as the Apostles, by the spirit, predicted would be the case (2 Tim. iv 1-4 ; ii 17), until all trace of primitive truth disappeared, and the spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from all association with an empty Christian name. Whatever genuine profession may have existed since then, has not been honoured by a return of the Spirit's witnessing and governing presence.
The Ecclesial Guide
11 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.
Discernment, we have said, is necessary to profitably extract the lessons of childhood. This is a scriptural warning. There are qualities inherent in childhood which we must resolutely put away.
It is these things, sadly enough, to which we tend to cling.
The smallnesses, the limited perception, the narrow outlook, the desire for amusements, the petty quarrels, the fussing over trifles, the frivolity, the foolishness, the love of pleasure, the playing of games, the silly talking, the daydreaming, the lack of ability to face and analyze facts, the fatal attraction of novelty and colour, the immature love of bright toys and shiny playthings, the lack of self-control, and of courage to think and to be different-these things, upon becoming men, we must firmly put away.
"Brethren, be not children in understanding: in understanding be men"
-1 Corinthians 14:20.
Bro Growcott - As Little Children
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Put on the new man
Put on, therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering. . . . Above all these things put on love, which is the bond (or girdle) of perfectness" (Col. 3:10-14, R. V.).
Without love our spiritual attire is incomplete. What is love? For the truth on this vital question let us turn to Paul, and not to unenlightened man. Wrong thoughts on this subject have led to cruel mistakes. Imperfect knowledge has caused many an exemplary brother to be unjustly condemned, and many a worldling (in whom the genuine article has been wanting) to be lauded to the skies.
A man can give all his possessions to the poor, and his body to be burned in the cause of religion, and yet lack love. What is Bible love? It is a product of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), it is of God (1 Jno. 4:7). It is no blind feeling inherent in the flesh-its root is not there. It is an intelligent, discriminating, truth-loving, truth-obeying quantity (1 Cor. 13).
It is exceedingly comprehensive in its attentions-it does not confine itself to one object, but extends to many. It is a something which even goes out towards our enemies-to those who hate us. It is a principle which rises above, nay, which controls all our natural affections, curbing some and stimulating others. There is, perhaps, no better definition of love-the love which is of God-than that given by John,
"This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, March 1910
Holy and blameless in love
What then, is love? When we read 1st Corinthians 13 we are apt to think that we have got to the bottom of it. Here is a full explanation, we feel. Love is a combination of all the best characteristics -- meekness, long-suffering, kindness, patience, etc.
But that is not true. Paul there isn't telling us what love is, but what it does. Electricity isn't light and heat and motors and dynamos -- it is the POWER behind all these things.
John tells us what love is, and his conception is much deeper than just a combination of its manifestation. He says, "God is love." Let us go a step further. Jesus says God is Spirit. And what is spirit? Spirit is power -- the power behind every power -- the power in and by and through which all things exist.
The more we analyze it, the more we conclude that there is no power but true love. It is the love of God that conceived and maintains the universe in motion. This is not far-fetched. All things, we are told, were made for Christ -- he is the nucleus of all. But why was Christ made? He was made, we are told, to be the supreme manifestation of the love of God. The whole creation is designed as the setting for the highest expression of the love of God, and the power of God.
Love is power. Power is that which does things -- accomplishes things. Now clearly the highest and greatest power would be that which has the highest and greatest accomplishments.
We say that God's offering of His Son is the greatest manifestation of His power, because it accomplishes the most. It is the power by which He draws men upward and forward -- the power by which He transforms them from carnal to spiritual -- by which He drives out the natural and infuses them with holiness.
It is the power by which His whole purpose is moving forward. By love, God is gradually developing a host of beings who will reflect His glory and His divine attributes. Beings who, because of the divine attraction which is love, have freely chosen the hard but glorious upward ascent to Him. What power but love could accomplish this?
Love is power. God's love, we have seen, is at the bottom of all mechanical power, for it is the mainspring of the universe. But there is something else. Two thousand million people are in constant motion upon the face of the earth. What is the power behind every action that they make? It is love. Of course, it is not love in the pure and exalted sense in which we have been considering it. When Paul speaks of love, we understand him to mean holy love, the spirit or power of holiness -- true love, as God intended it to be.
But the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. Love can be misplaced and debased. It can be a power for evil just as for good. But still love is the power that moves every human creature in every human act. What, for instance, was it that dictated the course of Demas? Love of this present world. And of Diotrephes? Love of pre-eminence.
Repeatedly we are told: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. We must love. All living activity is impelled by love. Loving is synonymous with living. Even in the simplest acts, we set our love upon a result, and that is the power that moves us to accomplish that result.
And here lies the vital importance of setting our affections high. We cannot create the power. God does that. We are born with power and desire and will. But we can choose in what direction that power is to move us. If we set our love on the world, we are drawn down to the world; if we set our love on ourselves, we shrivel up within ourselves.
But if we set our love on God, that marvellous power that energizes us makes contact with a greater and unearthly power -- we are drawn to God and He is drawn to us, and in accordance with the universal law of magnetism, as we approach Him the attraction becomes greater and greater, until finally we are swallowed up into His substance.
"As many as receive him, to them he giveth POWER to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).
We are drawn toward whatever inspires our love. That mysterious magnetism is the secret of all movement and activity. God could force us, or could teach us with cold reason. It did not need the death of Christ to persuade us that obedience to the Supreme Power of the universe is the only sensible course.
But God loved us, and He manifested that love in the most powerful way possible. Therefore we love Him, and are drawn toward Him. We want Him, not because He is Almighty and can do us a lot of good, but because He loves us and we love Him.
Every act is propelled by a drawing toward some object or end in view. We are born with this tremendous and incalculable power. See what labours men will perform, what hardships they will endure, what they will sacrifice to accomplish their ends! It is an irresistible, terrifying power, stronger than life itself, and when the magnet is brutality or gain, love is a destructive force.
But there is no magnet like the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Herein is the wisdom of God. If He appealed merely to our self-interests, there are often many stronger attractions than that. Men will give up all their self-interest and lay down their lives for a person or cause that they love.
But God holds before us the highest possible manifestation of love and power -- the offering of His Son, who himself joined in that love with every fibre of his being; and looking upon him we are irresistibly drawn toward Him. Lesser powers and attractions fade -- a power outside ourselves carries us forward. This attraction is divine and eternal; others are light, passing shadows.
Therefore, we see why Paul so strongly emphasizes the necessity of looking upon Him --turning our hearts and minds in His direction -- setting our affections upon Him -- allowing his light free course into our souls -- bringing ourselves into the focus of His glory -- directing the mighty inborn power of love toward the fountain of holiness, and permitting nothing to obscure the vision or blot out the light.
So we find the power that He has given us to become the sons of God, and that power is love. We must love these things -- and they are ours. We can be rooted and grounded by the power of love. We can forbear one another, be bold to speak the Truth, edify the Body, walk in the steps of God, all by the power that He has given us, the secret of which is love.
In his final words, after divers exhortations, Paul closes the epistle with a vision of this two-way current of transforming power still before him --
"Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ..."
"Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with an imperishable love."