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We Are Nothing Without Love | 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

September 17, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: Shaped to Serve

Topic: Love Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–7


We’re in the midst of a series called Shaped to Serve. The key verse for this series is Ephesians 2:10, which says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. God has shaped each of his children in a unique way so that we can serve in a unique way. How has God shaped you? What kind of good works do you God has “prepared beforehand” for you to do? Are you willing to do those good works?

All for Nothing?

Have you ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture? Have you ever neglected one important step in the instructions and had to take it all apart and start over? All of your work was for nothing.

Now let’s replace assembling a piece of IKEA furniture with living the Christian life. Let me describe to you how Fred (not a real person) lives the Christian life.

Fred is at church whenever the doors are open. He gives not 10%, but 15% of his income to the church. He reads the entire Bible every year. He doesn’t even skip over the genealogies, and he reads every word of Leviticus! You look at Fred and you think, “There’s a model Christian.”

But when Fred’s life is over and he stands before God, God says to Fred, “It was all for nothing.” How could it be all for nothing? First Corinthians 13 gives us the answer: Without love, we are nothing.

“But Have Not Love”

We shouldn’t rip 1 Corinthians 13 from its context. In chapter 12, Paul brings up the topic of spiritual gifts (“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed,” v. 1). What is a spiritual gift? A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service (“there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit,” v. 4).

We’re not given these abilities so that we can impress others by how gifted we are. We have been given spiritual gifts to help others: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (v. 7). Paul likens the church to a human body—many parts with different abilities. We are the different parts of the body of Christ, and we are to work together to help each other become more like Jesus.

Then at the end of chapter 12 Paul says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31b). What is the “more excellent way”? It’s the way of love—using our spiritual gifts in love.

If we don’t have love, we miss the point of being a Christian. We can do lots of impressive things, but it will all be for nothing if we don’t have love. [Read 13:1-3.]

The Bible isn’t unclear about love like IKEA assembly instructions are sometimes unclear. We can’t blame our lack of love on the instructions.

What Is Love?

But what is love? The clearest expression of love is the cross: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The kind of love Paul is talking about is not merely a feeling. Love is behaviour. “To love is to act; anything short of action is not love at all.” [Read vv. 4-7.]

To love others is to treat others as God has treated us. 

  • “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2). 
  • “Concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). 
  • “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34b-35).

[Read vv. saying “Jesus” instead of “love.” Then add your own name instead of “love.”] 

Evidence of Salvation

How do we know that we’re saved? How do we know that we’ve been “created in Christ Jesus”? How do we know if we have the Holy Spirit within us? Galatians 5:22 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce love in our lives. The presence of love in our lives is evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Love should be the reason why we obey God’s will. (This doesn’t mean that people can’t be helped when we don’t do something in love.) The Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce in us the love we need. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

Don’t miss what the Christian life is to be all about: serving others in love.