A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians

If Watermark does not have love, then we don’t have anything. Using the famous “love passage” of 1 Corinthians 13, Timothy “TA” Ateek identifies four truths about love and explains how they should guide the way we relate to each other in the church.

Timothy "TA" AteekJul 17, 20221 Corinthians 13:1-13

In This Series (20)
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
David MarvinJul 31, 2022
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
Oren MartinJul 24, 2022
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 17, 2022
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
John ElmoreJul 10, 2022
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 3, 2022
Repentance, Allegiance, and Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
John ElmoreJun 26, 2022
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
John ElmoreJun 19, 2022
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Jermaine HarrisonJun 12, 2022
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 5, 2022
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 22, 2022
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 15, 2022
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 1, 2022
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
John ElmoreApr 24, 2022
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
Timothy "TA" AteekApr 17, 2022
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
John ElmoreApr 10, 2022
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 27, 2022
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 20, 2022
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 13, 2022
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
John ElmoreMar 6, 2022
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John ElmoreFeb 27, 2022

In This Series (20)


Although often quoted at weddings, the famous “love passage” of the Bible was written about how we should all love each other in the church. If Watermark does not have love, then we don’t have anything. Here are four truths about love that we can learn from God’s Word:

  • Love is THE defining mark of spiritual maturity (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Spiritual maturity isn’t measured by what you do; it’s measured by why you do it. We should serve out of love, not because of a sense of obligation or because we are seeking recognition or self-satisfaction.
  • Love is action (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). In the original Greek, the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 is “agape,” which refers to self-sacrificing love. And although the English translation uses adjectives to describe this kind of love, in Greek they are verbs:
    • Love is patient.
    • Love is kind.
    • Love does not envy.
    • Love does not boast.
    • Love is not arrogant.
    • Love is not rude.
    • Love does not insist on its own way.
    • Love is not irritable.
    • Love is not resentful.
    • Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
    • Love bears all things.
    • Love believes all things.
    • Love hopes all things.
    • Love endures all things.
  • Love is a response to and a reflection of Jesus’ love by the power of the Spirit. 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.” So, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t just designed to tell us how to love each other; it first exists to tell us how God has loved us. When you experience God’s love, it becomes more natural to express God’s love (1 John 3:16), which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
  • There is nothing greater than love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Other gifts will end, or not be needed, in eternity. Faith, hope, and love are eternal; but love is the greatest of those three because it is the one that shows the character of God.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • How have you experienced God’s love? If you haven’t, ask someone at Watermark to share with you about the gospel. If you have, ask God to remind you of His love and keep it fresh on your mind.
  • What is your motivation for serving or for spending time with God? Is it done out of obligation? To make yourself feel better? For others to see you and give you recognition? How can you make love your motivation instead?
  • Which of the characteristics of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 do you most struggle to live out? Ask God to empower you with His Spirit to love that way like He does. Pray that Watermark would be a church marked by love.
  • Additional Scripture: 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 4:8

How are we doing? Okay. I'm glad you three are doing great. The rest, we'll work on it. Hopefully we'll get you there by the end. It's good to see you. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I am one of the teaching pastors here. If this is your first time that we're in the same room together, I'm so glad we get to spend some time together studying the Word of God.

I'll start by sharing this. When my wife Kat and I got engaged, it became time to register for gifts. When that time came, I found my place and my role in that process very quickly. I learned early on that my responsibility was to nod and smile and say, "I agree." The only thing I brought to the registration conversation was I wanted one thing. There was one thing I really wanted, and it was a bread machine. I had heard a friend talk about registering for a bread machine, and I was like, "I want that." I decided that I, too, wanted a bread machine, and I got the bread machine.

I just loved the idea of having people over and being like, "Hey, can I get you a slice of cinnamon swirl? I have a loaf rising right now." To be able to say that sounds epic. Now, we've been married almost 16 years, and I can count on two hands the number of times I've used that bread machine, but let's be clear: I could make a loaf of cinnamon swirl if I wanted to. That's just the right I have and the ability I have because of that bread machine.

Now, here's what I realized when using the bread machine. There were moments that a loaf would be done, and I'd bring it out, and the aroma would fill the house, and it was amazing to the taste. Then there were other times where the bread machine would run its cycle, and I would go and open it up, and it was just this janky ball of mess, and I was like, "I do not know what happened in the last couple of hours that this thing has been working, but it is very clear to me that I either forgot an ingredient or didn't use the right amount of an ingredient."

I tell you that because this morning, we're looking at a passage in the Bible that is all about having the healthiest church possible. Here's the reality: when it comes to Watermark being a healthy church, there is one ingredient that must be present, but if we don't have this one ingredient or we don't have the right amount of this ingredient, then this church will just be one big mess. That ingredient is love.

I tell you that because, this morning, we are looking at 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, which is the famous love passage. First Corinthians 13 just might be the most famous passage in the Bible. I mean, it was read at Jim and Pam's wedding on The Office. That's how significant this passage is. It is read at most weddings. Show of hands. Who had 1 Corinthians 13 read at their wedding? Not many of you. Y'all must have gotten married before Christ.

Anyway, 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous wedding passage. The interesting thing, though, is that Paul, when he was writing 1 Corinthians 13, wasn't actually writing it to address love in the context of marriage. He actually wrote it to address love in the context of the church, because he's writing to his friends in Corinth, and they were a highly dysfunctional church.

In chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to them about spiritual gifts that God has given to each individual in the church. God has given us these gifts so we can edify the church, we can build it up, but in Corinth, the Christians were dividing spiritual gifts into JV and varsity. It was causing all sorts of issues, because some people had certain gifts, and everyone was like, "Okay. They're varsity. You guys have these gifts. You guys are JV."

It was causing envy. It was causing boasting. It was causing arrogance. It just wasn't a good thing. So, Paul is going to write to them, and he's like, "Guys, look. If the church in Corinth is going to be a healthy church, if it's going to be God's church, then you're going to need the one key ingredient for your church to have the aroma of Christ and to be sweet to the taste of those who come and worship here." That ingredient is love.

So, as we turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, this morning, I just want to be clear with you. Watermark is nothing without love. If you have a Bible, turn with me to 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. Paul writes and says this. I'm going to read you the whole chapter.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

All eyes on me. Here's what I want to start by saying. What's interesting is the passage we apply to marriage, the most intimate relationship we know of, Paul is actually applying to relationships in the church. That just shows you how important our relationships with one another are. The love we talk about at wedding ceremonies should be applied in marriage is actually the kind of love God wants us to apply with one another.

So, I want to push Watermark toward health. My hope is that Watermark would be a church that is marked by love. That's the type of church I want to be a part of, and I hope that's the type of church you want to be a part of. We should desire to be a part of a church that is marked by love. As I seek to encourage us to be as healthy as possible, I just want to identify four truths from this passage about love that will help us get there.

Now, I need to warn you. As I was preparing, some friends dared me to try to make my points famous love songs. Here's the compromise. I'm going to give you real points, and then I'm going to throw in a song title for those who would enjoy that more. This might not go well. If it doesn't, editing is an incredible thing, and before it hits the web, it will be edited out.

  1. Love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity. If you want a famous song, here it is: "What's Love Got to Do With It" by Tina Turner. Tina, the answer to your question is "Everything." Love has everything to do with spiritual maturity. Here's why I say that. Look back at the text. Remember, Paul is writing to people who are experiencing great dysfunction, especially around spiritual gifts.

He says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." What I need you to understand is that Paul is utilizing hyperbole here. In verses 1-3, he is painting the picture of people who don't actually exist. He is taking the Corinthians' understanding of spiritual maturity and exaggerating it.

In the church in Corinth, the most prized spiritual gift was the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul says, "Okay. Think with me, friends, hypothetically. Imagine I am able to speak in the tongues of men and of angels." So, what does that look like? He's saying, "Imagine I have the supernatural ability to speak a language I have never studied, but I'm able to instantly speak it and share the gospel with someone from a different culture, and they understand the gospel in their language."

If there was someone from a different culture in this room, and I knew that, and I just instinctively slipped into a different language I have never studied, you might see that and be like, "Oh my gosh! TA has some direct line to heaven. He and Jesus are so synced up. That guy is the most spiritually mature guy I know, because that guy just, on a whim, started talking Arabic, and people came to Christ. It was crazy."

Paul is saying, "Imagine I'm able to speak in the tongues of men but also able to speak in the tongues of angels." People want to debate what Paul is talking about when he talks about the tongues of angels. Remember, he's using hyperbole. I think what Paul is saying is "Imagine I have the ability to speak a supernatural language no one else understands." So, whatever the language of angels is, I'm not just able to speak a language I've never studied; I can understand the highest form of supernatural language that exists.

The people in Corinth would be listening and be like, "Oh, yeah. That would be amazing. That would be the pinnacle of spiritual maturity." And what does he say? He's like, "If you can do that, but you don't have love, do you know what you are? You're like a gong or like clanging cymbals." It's like this. I got these from my mom's house. These have been around since I was a kid.

Paul is like, "You know what? If you can speak in tongues and understand angels, but you don't have love, it's just like this." When I go to my mom's house, my kids head straight for the music bin, and when they find these, it's cute for, like, the first three seconds, but then five minutes in, it's like, "You should maybe think about not doing that." Then 10 minutes in, it's like, "Lord Jesus, come quickly." That's the reality. It's annoying. It's not beneficial.

If you think about cymbals, cymbals are not a solo instrument. I don't know the last time you heard someone do a cymbal solo, but it's not a thing. No one leads worship from the cymbals, like, "How great is our God! Sing with me! How great…" No. No one does that. Paul's point is "Tongues by itself doesn't work. It is meant to be accompanied and actually fueled by love."

Then he goes on. Look at what he says in verse 2. Again, he's using hyperbole. He's painting pictures of people who don't actually exist. He's trying to paint a picture of the most spiritual human being the people in Corinth could conceive. "And if I have prophetic powers…" Like, the ability to hear a special word from God that I don't get from studying.

"…and understand all mysteries…" No one understands all mysteries. "…and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains…" Like, I have such a gift of faith I could look at a mountain and be like, "Go somewhere," and it just does. He's like, "Imagine that." "…but have not love, [I am a zero] I am nothing."

Verse 3: "If I give away all I have…" So, the most extreme display of generosity. I have been around some wildly generous people in my life, but I've never been around someone this generous, that they've literally given away every cent and every belonging they have. "…and if I deliver up my body to be burned [I suffer for Jesus Christ], but have not love, I gain nothing."

Do you see what he's trying to show? He's trying to show, "Hey, guys, what you think is spiritual maturity is not spiritual maturity. You guys are elevating these gifts. You're like, 'Oh, you speak in tongues? You are spiritually mature. Oh, you have the gift of prophecy or the gift of knowledge? Oh, you guys must be somebodies.'" He's like, "No. You might think you're somebody, but if you don't have love, you're a nobody. You're a zero." Why? Because the defining mark of spiritual maturity is love. Love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity.

Don't miss what I'm telling you now. Spiritual maturity is not measured by what you do but by why you do it. So, just push pause on your life right now and ask the question…Why do you do the spiritual activity you do? If you have a quiet time every day, why do you do that? If you serve on Sunday mornings here, why do you do that? If you're involved in a Community Group, why do you do that? What's the motivation?

Pay attention to the motivations of obligation, self-satisfaction, or recognition. Some of us do things out of obligation. It's like, "You know what? I have a quiet time because that's what I'm supposed to do as a Christian. I have a quiet time so I don't feel like a spiritual loser. You know what? I serve… It's super inconvenient, but I do it, because if I don't do it, that's a problem, because you're supposed to serve if you're a member. So I do it because I'm supposed to do it."

Do you think God is in heaven like, "Thank goodness. I know you hate doing it, but I'm just glad you do it. I don't care why you do it. You'd just better get in there and read your Bible"? No. What kind of twisted father would do that? Pay attention to self-satisfaction. It's like, "You know what? I serve because it makes me feel better about myself. I just feel better about me when I do that. I come to church, especially after a tough Friday or Saturday night, because I just feel better about myself. I read my Bible so I just feel better about myself."

Or recognition. Like, "You know what? I serve to be seen. It feels good to feel like people need me. I like doing something that people are like, 'Oh man. We need you here. Thank goodness you do what you do.'" Paul's point is, "Hey, spiritual maturity isn't measured by what you do; it's measured by why you do it." Love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity. Let me just give you an example from my own life of how things have gone wrong for me.

A while back, I was invited to speak to a college ministry in Clemson, South Carolina. I was coming from College Station, Texas, so to get to Clemson, it was a whole day deal. I had to drive to Dallas. I had to fly to Atlanta. I had to drive three hours to South Carolina. It was a journey, and my heart was not in the right place the entire time. As I'm going there, I'm like, "Man, these kids are so lucky that I'm going to all this effort to come and be with them. Tonight, they're going to get to hear from the director of Breakaway Ministries, so that's probably a pretty big deal for them."

So, my motives are in the complete wrong place. When I get there, everything begins to unravel. I am about to go up to speak, and moments before… They're playing the worship song, and I'm sitting there in my chair, holding an open cup of tea. I need to adjust something on my microphone, so as I do that, I just begin to pour tea on my knee. Now, my jeans were super thick, so the tea didn't soak through and touch my skin until far too late. By the time I looked back, I had this big wet spot on my pants, which usually is not how you want to put your best foot forward.

So, I get up onto the stage, and I'm super rattled. I haven't really prepared my heart for this moment, so I just pull a talk that's kind of like a sugar stick for me. I'm like, "I've seen God use this talk before, so let's just kind of plug and play it." I go through the talk and finish up, and when I sit down, not one person comes up and is like, "That's exactly what I needed to hear tonight." It was so clear that that night at least, I was just a clashing cymbal to these students. Why? Because I tried to use my gift without love.

So, I stepped into the summer, and the Lord began to do a radical work in my life and on my heart. I stepped into the school year to lead the college ministry I was leading at College Station. I stepped into the semester with a deeper conviction and love for the Word of God than I had ever experienced in my life. I had a deeper urgency in my heart for college students to taste and see that the Lord is good.

What happened is I started showing up on Tuesday nights with a love for teaching the Word of God, which was the gift God had given me, and a love for students seeing Jesus. It was interesting, because students began to come up to me and say, "Something is different about this semester." That's what happens when your gift and love go in tandem. It builds up the body. People are edified and encouraged. When you divorce the two, it's a waste. So, let's be clear. Love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity.

  1. Love is action. If love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity, it begs the question…What is love? You would think that's the song I chose. It's not. We need to understand what love is, so my hope is that every single one of us would leave out of here echoing the words of Forrest Gump: "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is." I know my wife is super embarrassed that I just tried to imitate Forrest Gump. I did my best. It's mediocre, but point across. My goal is that we all leave here understanding exactly what love is.

To be clear, love is action. The reason I say that is in the original language of the New Testament, which is Greek, all of the characteristics of love we see right here in 1 Corinthians 13 are verbs, but they show up in our English Bibles as adjectives. Knowing they are verbs and love is action, what's the song choice? All you DC Talk or John Mayer people, "Love Is a Verb." Right?

The Greek word Paul is using here for love is the Greek word agape, which is different from the Greek word eros, which is sexual love (that's where we get erotic from), or philia love, which is where we get the word Philadelphia from. It's brotherly love. It's different from storge love, which is where we get the idea of familial love from. This is agape love, which is self-sacrificing, one-way love. It's not the result of emotions; it is a result of the will. It's a type of love that sees the needs of another person and seeks to meet those needs.

So, here's what I'm going to do right now. I'm going to rifle through 15 characteristics of love that we see in this passage. There are 15. I want to make sure you understand what each one means, so track with me. Take notes if you want. We want to understand exactly what love is and what it isn't. We don't have the right to define what love is, because God has been very clear what love should look like in the church.

First, love ispatient. The Greek word there is the idea of having a really long fuse. It's a type of self-restraint toward those who do us wrong, even when it would be easy to retaliate. It's the ability to put up with a great amount of irritation or criticism. Here's the deal. In this church, if you decide to step into leadership, whether it's lay leadership or leadership that is employed by the church…

Whenever you step into leadership, you are basically consenting to being misunderstood. That's the way it goes. Leadership is the agreement to being misunderstood. People will have a problem with what you do. Criticism will come. In this church, leaders are required to exhibit patience, the ability to take criticism and not retaliate but to be long fused.

Paul says love iskind. Kindness is simply seeing someone's needs and taking action to meet their needs with no strings attached. There's no hidden agenda. You just want someone's life to be better. Then Paul turns and begins to talk about what love is not. There are seven negative characteristics that love doesn't possess.

He says love does not envy. Envy is simply desiring what someone else has. It's the result of comparison. That's what the people in Corinth were doing. They were looking at the people who had the gift of tongues, and they were like, "Man, I wish I had that. I just have this gift." Love rejoices at the success of others. If you see someone operating in their gifts, and they're successful, their success doesn't mean you're a failure. In the church, if someone wins, the whole church, the body of Christ, wins. We celebrate that.

Love does not boast. Another way of saying it is love doesn't parade itself. Love doesn't have to have the spotlight. It doesn't serve to be seen or praised. Love is not arrogant, which means love doesn't have a big head. Love doesn't need everybody to be a nobody so you can feel like somebody. Verse 5: love is not rude. The Greek literally means without form. Love isn't without form. Meaning, love isn't void of tact or respect for others.

We have to make sure we never label rudeness as simply having a strong personality. It's good for some people to realize that maybe you've been successful in your work because you've been extremely aggressive or have bulldozed people to get your way. It's good for you to understand that what has made you successful at work might make you a failure in the church, because love is not rude.

Love doesn't insist on its own way, which means love isn't self-focused; it's others focused. Love champions what's best for the body, not for self, which means you don't walk into this place prioritizing your preferences. Actually, your preferences die at the door instead of you dying on the hill of your preferences.

Often, churches will split on things like, "Well, you know what? The music is too loud. You know what? The music is too soft. You know what? The worship is too progressive. It's not progressive enough. I like that speaker better than that speaker. I think I could do a better job with what we're doing in children's ministry." All of that is just insisting on its own way. Those things have to die when you step into this place.

Love is not irritable. That word just means easily angered or overly sensitive. Love is controlled and restrained. Love is not resentful. That Greek word is a mathematical or accounting term. Another way of saying it is love doesn't record wrongs. At least at Watermark Community Church, we seek to treat each offense like it's the first offense. We cancel out accounts of wrongs.

Verse 6: love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. The idea of not rejoicing at wrongdoing is the idea that you don't celebrate when someone fails. If someone falls, you confess to God the moments where something in your spirit finds some satisfaction when someone else fails, because their failure just makes you feel better about your own sin in your life.

We don't gossip about other people's failures (that's what it means to not rejoice at wrongdoing), but we rejoice with the truth, which means here at Watermark, we're going to have courageous faith. We're going to stand on truth. We're not going to compromise truth just to bend to culture. It means that, but it also means we are always going to celebrate when people, individuals in this church, take truth and apply it to their lives and experience victory because of it.

When you see friends walking in the truth and experiencing victory, you don't need to feel insecure if you're still struggling. You don't need to want them to fail so they kind of stay right where you are. No. We celebrate when victory is experienced. Love bears all things. It can mean two different things. Some people believe it means to cover over, that love covers over all things. It's the idea of protecting someone's reputation.

If someone sins, we don't go around gossiping about it to protect the reputation of the person. Charles Spurgeon put it this way: love stands in the presence of a fault with a finger on her lip. Other people believe that when it says, "Love bears all things," it means to put up with. So, you endure people's sin. It doesn't mean you turn a blind eye to it or ignore it. It just means you don't run from people when they are difficult to deal with.

Love believes all things, which means we believe the best about each other until facts tell us otherwise. Love hopes all things, which means we're optimistic about the future. We hope for the best in each other. We actually expect God's grace to win. We expect for people to walk into re:generation saying, "There's no way. I'm a slave to this sin. There's no way out," and for them to walk out of it saying, "God's grace has been sufficient for me, and I'm beginning to experience healing and victory." We hope all things.

Love endures all things. That word endures is a military term meaning to hold a position in a war in the face of overwhelming odds. We are willing to stay in the fight with each other even when times get tough in the church, because love endures all things. Do you see it? Love is action. It is not primarily a feeling. It is really comforting for me that love between one another in the church is not, first and foremost, a feeling.

I find that encouraging, because when I look through this list, there are several things that don't feel natural for me on the list. Look back at it. Is anyone here looking at the list, like, "Man, I am crushing this list"? You're looking at it like, "Check. Check. Check." All 15, you're just like, "Got it." If that's you, would you actually come onstage? Would you just stand here? We'll just look at you for the next 20 minutes and be like, "All right. I guess that's it. That's what we're aiming for."

But if you're not that, if you look at the list… Anyone here wanting to be honest? You look at the list, and you're like, "Yeah, there are maybe a few things I could work on." Anyone? Just me? Really? Okay, yes. Thank you. We all have room to grow, and that is okay. The question is…What's the path forward? This is where things can get really dangerous.

We've just established that love is the defining mark of spiritual maturity, and we've said that love is action. If we're not careful, this talk will just turn toward behavior modification. It's like, "Okay, guys. Here's the game plan. We're all going to go read Atomic Habits, and we're all going to agree we're going to start loving for two minutes a day, and just watch. Those two minutes are going to turn to three minutes, four minutes, and eventually, we'll have a habit of love."

That's not how it works. You don't just say, "Three, two, one, love." That's not how it works. Shane talked about that in worship a couple of weeks ago. So, how does it work? Well, the third truth I want you to see is this. This is the theological foundation for walking in love here at Watermark.

  1. Love is a response to and a reflection of Jesus' love by the power of the Spirit. If you want a song title, here it is. It's by the band Foreigner. It's "I Want to Know What Love Is." Do you remember that song? "I want to know what love is; I want you to show me…" That's what we're talking about here. We want to know what love is, and we want someone else to show us what love is. Love is a response to and a reflection of Jesus' love by the power of the Spirit.

First John 4:8 tells us that God is love. The reason that is important is what that means is that 1 Corinthians 13 is not, first and foremost, a description of how we are to love one another. It is, first and foremost, a description of how we have been loved by God. So, when we look at 1 Corinthians 13, we can't just automatically snap into, "Okay. Here's what we need to do with each other." We first have to pause and recognize, "This tells us about what God has done for us. This tells us about God's love for us."

Let me give you a few examples. Jesus was and is patient. Jesus stood silently while he was being accused. Jesus Christ was hung on a cross for your sins and mine, and people hurled insults at him. They begged him to come down off the cross to prove that he was the Son of God, but he didn't. He patiently endured the cross until he was able to declare, "It is finished." If he had come down off the cross, every single one of us would have been left in our sins and headed for the wrath of God.

Even now, God is patient. Second Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." If you're here this morning and don't have a relationship with Jesus, you need to know you are sitting in the midst of God's patience toward you, because he is allowing you to live on the earth he made. He's allowing you to live with apathy in your heart toward him, indifference, and a rejection toward him, but he loves you, and he's patient with you, because he desires for you to come into relationship with him.

Jesus is also kind. He looked at us in our helplessness. There is nothing that we, as imperfect people, can do to be made right with a perfect God. Knowing that, Jesus Christ, who was and is perfect, in his kindness left heaven and came to earth to deal with all of our imperfections on the cross. He rose from the dead, defeating our imperfections, and through faith in Jesus, his perfection is given to us so that when a perfect God looks at us imperfect people, what does he see? The perfection of Jesus Christ. That's his kindness.

Jesus didn't insist on his own way. The night before he was crucified, what do we see him doing in the garden of Gethsemane? He is sweating blood and praying, "Not my will, but your will be done." Jesus isn't resentful. That word in the Greek is an accounting term. Jesus does not keep a record of our wrongs. Romans 4:8 says, "…blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." That is the good news of Christianity. Jesus has done something. He has made a way for you and me to experience complete forgiveness of sins, that we can be made right with God and live for all of eternity at peace with God.

So, the point we're talking about is this: love is a response to and a reflection of Jesus' love by the power of the Spirit. First Corinthians 13 unpacks God's love toward us. Look at 1 John 3:16. This is key. It says, "By this we know love…" How do we know love? "…that [Jesus] laid down his life for us…" So, if we want to know what love is, we look at Jesus Christ laying his life down for us. "…and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."

Love is, first, a response to Jesus' love. We love one another. We lay down our lives for each other as a response to Jesus laying his life down for us. We express the love we have experienced from Jesus Christ. It is a response to his love, but it's not just a response; it is a reflection of his love. We do what Jesus did. Jesus laid his life down for us. We lay our lives down for one another. That is what love is. That's the motivation. We step into church, and we love one another, because we are responding to his love and seek to reflect his love.

I'll just bring it into an earthly example. I have two amazing parents. My mom and my dad are gifts from God, two of the most generous and sacrificial people I know. I'll speak specifically about my father because I am a father. My dad was one of 10 kids and grew up in a two-bedroom home. I think because of that, he has learned to hold everything so loosely in his life.

Growing up, and even now, my dad is just a giver. The joke in our family is if you want something my dad has, all you have to do is compliment it. It's like, "Dad, I like that shirt," and he'll be like, "Oh, really? Let's try it on." He'll take it off and be like, "Put it on. Let's see what it looks like."

"Dad, I like those shoes."

"Oh, really? Oh, try these on."

He just wants to give. My dad is the type that when I will have speaking engagements out of town… Even when he lived in Dallas and I lived in College Station, if I were speaking in Houston, my dad would drive from Dallas to College Station to pick me up to drive me to Houston just to be with me and cheer me on. I have experienced his love in an incredible way, and now, as a father, I want to express that same love to my kids.

It's interesting. Especially over the last month, there have been different times where my kids will thank me for doing something or apologize that I'm having to do something, whether it's give them something or take them somewhere or clean something up, or whatever, and do you know what I've found myself doing in those moments? I've found myself saying, "Hey, guys, I'm happy to do it, because this is what fathers do." I tell you that just to say: because I experienced that love, I want to express that love. I am responding to my father's love, and I'm seeking to reflect it to my own kids.

The same should be true in the church with our love from Jesus Christ toward one another. Love is a response to and a reflection of Jesus' love…here's the key…by the power of the Spirit. The reason I said that is Romans 5 says, "…God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Do you know what that means? It means God has given us everything we need to put 1 Corinthians 13 love into action here with one another.

  1. There is nothing greater than love. Here's the song: "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles. There's nothing greater than love. I don't have time to unpack verses 8-13 for you verse by verse, but the point is simple. Paul is addressing the fact that the people in Corinth are elevating spiritual gifts and prioritizing that over love.

Paul is just making the point, "Guys, spiritual gifts are set to expire. They are on the clock. You're not going to take your gifts with you to heaven, because we're not going to need them in heaven, but love is something that lasts for all of eternity." That's his point. Just watch it, and I'll explain it very quickly.

He says, "Love never ends." That's the fifteenth characteristic of love. It never ends. It's permanent. It's eternal. "As for prophecies, they will pass away…" They're temporary. They're on the clock. "…as for tongues [they're on the clock], they will cease; as for knowledge [it's set to expire] , it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away."

All he's saying is that spiritual gifts exist for us to build each other up and know God more, but when Jesus comes back, we will have mature and complete understanding of Jesus Christ, so spiritual gifts will just be redundant. They will be completely unnecessary. They're going to pass away. Now in verses 11 and 12, he gives illustrations of the fact that spiritual gifts are going to pass away.

He says in verse 11, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." Paul is equating our life now to being a child, and when Jesus comes back, that's being an adult. He's just saying right now, even with spiritual gifts, we're like a child. Our knowledge is limited. Our speech is limited. We have limited understanding, but when we become an adult, things change. There's different capacity.

It's kind of like this. When my family was at lunch yesterday, we were just asking random questions, and my wife asked our family the question, "Hey, if you could be transported anywhere instantly in the world for 24 hours, where would you want to go?" My answer, as an adult, was "Bora Bora." My 4-year-old's answer was "Galveston." Very different. Limited understanding; full understanding. Paul's point is when Jesus comes back, we will have full understanding. The gifts won't even be necessary anymore.

Then he says in verse 12, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." Verse 13: "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." He's saying if you want to know what you should value most, it's three things: faith (true understanding, true trust in Jesus Christ), hope, and love. Why? Because those are the three things that last for all of eternity.

Faith lasts for all of eternity. Even though we will see Jesus face-to-face, the faith that has begun now… "Jesus Christ is Lord" will be our anthem for all of eternity. The hope we have now is that good things are coming in the future. We will have that hope with great certainty in heaven. We will spend all of eternity saying, "Good things are coming. Good things are coming."

And we have love.He says, "The greatest of these is love." Why? Because love is the only thing that reflects Jesus Christ. See, Jesus doesn't have faith; he's the object of our faith. Jesus doesn't have hope; he's the object of our hope. But Jesus, God, is love. For us to love is to show that we truly belong to him. I tell you that just to say there is nothing greater than love.Here at Watermark Community Church, we believe we've been transformed by Christ to love like Christ. We want to be people who believe the gospel and live it out with one another.

So, let me close up today by reminding you we are nothing here at Watermark without love. I want to be a part of a church that's marked by love, and I hope you do as well. I want to be a church that is marked by people who, individually, all throughout the week are sitting with Jesus and reminding ourselves of the beautiful reality that Jesus Christ came, and in his love he died for us, and then he conquered the grave. When we remind ourselves of that all throughout the week, imagine what happens when we all come together to collectively celebrate that with one another.

I want to be a part of a church that's marked by patience, where we will sin against each other and wrong one another, yet we're not resentful. We don't keep records of wrong. We fight for relationships here. We pursue reconciliation. We marvel at the gospel's ability to restore relationships. I want to be a part of a church that's marked by the kindness of God, that we actively see each other's needs and seek to meet them, that no one has to struggle alone. No one has to suffer or battle or grieve alone.

I want to be a part of a church that wars against envy, that we don't have to compete with one another; we can celebrate one another. We can identify each other's gifting and encourage each other to steward it well. I want to be a part of a church that wars against boasting and arrogance, that we walk humbly with one another, that we don't insist on our own way. We don't come here to die on the hill of our preferences, but we put our preferences to death at the door.

I want to be a part of a church that believes all things, that we assume the best about one another. I want to be a part of a church that hopes for all things, that we believe God's grace will triumph, that this is a church that's consistently watching one another apply truth to life and walk in victory. I want to be a part of a church that's marked by love. But here's the thing: I cannot expect Watermark to be marked by love if I myself am not marked by love, and neither can you.

You cannot expect Watermark to be marked by love if you yourself are not being marked by love. So, I just want to invite you now to take a moment. Let's pray together. I just want to ask you now in this moment… Take a moment. Would you just allow yourself to be reminded of the beautiful reality of the gospel? Would you allow yourself to be loved by God in this moment? Would you thank him for the cross? Would you thank him for his resurrection? Would you thank him for his love for you?

Then I want to ask you to pick one of the characteristics of love that you struggle with from this passage, and I want to invite you to ask God to empower you with his Spirit to love like he does. Then would you pray for our church? Would you pray that Watermark would be known in Dallas for its love for one another and for this city? Pray that we would be a church marked by love.

If you're here this morning and don't have a relationship with Jesus and this is the first time you've ever heard about his love, or maybe you came into this place believing that Jesus could never love you, would you realize that his love is toward you this morning? He gave his life on the cross to communicate his love for you. Would you respond in faith this morning, inviting him in to save you from your sins and to be the Lord of your life?

Lord Jesus, we need you. We thank you for your deep love for us. God, I pray that Watermark Community Church would be a church that is known for the way we love one another and love this city. I pray our love for each other would be a response to your love and a reflection of it as well. We need you, Lord Jesus, amen.

About '1 Corinthians'

Challenges believers to examine every area of life through the lens of the Gospel. Paul addresses divisions among believers, food, sexual integrity, worship gatherings, and the resurrection.