#669. THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE (14/10/22)
This week, we’ve restarted our series and devotions from 1 Corinthians.
‘Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
Summary: Love is greater than faith and hope in that it builds God’s vision of community, and keeps faith and hope from being self-serving.
Paul tells us that ‘the greatest of these is love’ - love is greater than faith and hope. This is quite a thing to say! How is this the case? Why is the greatest of these love? To understand, we must look at the context of the passage. The context is about correcting the Corinthians’ selfish use of spiritual gifts. Paul is teaching them to use gifts in love - for the good of others. Love is the greatest in the sense of fulfilling this goal. To put it another way: Faith and hope are vital, but only love ensures we turn outward in lives of service.
To apply this to ourselves, are we those who are actually loving our local church as a priority (Galatians 6:10). Many Christians can have ‘faith’ (they trust the gospel and trust God each day); many can also have ‘hope’ (they believe in heaven and are looking forward to it); however, many Christians fail to actually love their church! They are on no serving teams. Attendance is sporadic. They are not pursuing deep relationships… this text confronts all of us. Faith and hope must be combined with practical, relational love. Jesus commands us,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
He warns us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats that sheep - those who are saved - are identified by love for suffering Christians (‘Brothers and sisters’):
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 34-36, 40)
This week we have scratched the surface of the three most important character traits that Christians are to embody. I personally have thought about faith, hope and love like never before. My prayer for myself and for others is that we would enjoy and bring the light of Christ to others by allowing the Holy Spirit to work these attributes into our lives.
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
As this week is 'SIV week', perhaps we could start by sharing any encouraging conversations around the gospel and faith that we have had with people recently.
3. THIS WEEK IS SIV WEEK (SERVE INVEST AND INVITE)
After a very brief recap of Sunday's message, let's spend this time sharing, thinking and praying about how God wants to work through us to help our communities to come to Jesus. In this time together, I’d like us to specifically think about how we can prepare to invite our friends to our carol service on 11th December.
Please read 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)
On Sunday, we looked at how Faith, hope and love are eternal principles on which we are to build all our thinking, activities and relationships. These character traits are also vital if we are to help to bring our communities to Jesus and share the gospel with them.
i. Faith - is trusting God. Trusting He exists. Trusting in the gospel to save us. Trusting in Him each day and in all that we do. Faith enables us to do hard things because we trust in God's promises.
ii. Hope - is believing for the glorious, eternal hope of heaven and a recreated universe.
iii. Love - is loving God and others like Christ has loved us. Love is laying our lives down for the good of others, particularly those who don’t deserve it.
This discussion and questions are designed to help us to plan and pray about who we could invite to our carol service.
Take a moment, firstly, to pray that God would lead you in your discussions, planning and inviting.
How do faith, hope and love help us to serve, invest and invite in our communities?
Discuss ideas of things that you could do personally, or as a group, in order to connect with your friends prior to the carol service.
Make a decision on the thing(s) you plan to do (as a group/personally).
Write a list of your friends that you would like to invite. Let’s pray for them now and every day leading up to the carol service.
Pray for what you plan to do.
Pray for the carol service.