The Greatest Thing in the World
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
This week’s lessons challenge us to ponder the depth of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of Christ. If you substitute the name of Christ for the word love, it gives us a perfect description of his character. That is why he is so lovely. Jesus Christ is patient. You know what we are like. We produce anything but patience in the reaction of other people, yet Jesus Christ is patient with us. He does not give up. When we sin again and again, when we’re so thick to learn a spiritual lesson, oh, how patient he is!
Jesus Christ is also kind. Haven’t you found Jesus Christ to be kind? If there is anyone who knows your heart, if there is anyone who can expose what you really are, if there is anybody who can point a finger and say, “Ah, look at that sin,” it is Jesus Christ. People have done that to me, and even though it hurts, I am glad that they only see the surface. It is Jesus Christ who sees below the surface. And yet, he does not point a finger at us. He does not mock us. Instead of that he works with us. Scripture says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isa. 42:3). He works kindly with what we are in order to bring forth his own character within us.
Jesus Christ does not envy. Jesus Christ does not boast. Jesus Christ is not proud. Jesus Christ is not rude. Jesus Christ is not self-seeking. Jesus Christ is not easily angered. Jesus Christ keeps no record of wrongs. Aren’t you glad of that? Jesus Christ does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects. Jesus always trusts. Jesus always hopes. Jesus always perseveres. I think that is absolutely marvelous. You see, it is the recognition that our God is like that. Our Savior is like that. It is the knowledge that this is the nature of reality. This is what life is about. Everything else – the envy, the boasting, the pride, the rudeness – is an aberration. It is not what God intended. That’s not what life is all about. Reality is the character of Christ. It is knowledge of that that draws us to put on that character by his grace.
Henry Drummond, whom I mentioned earlier, looked at all those things. He analyzed them very carefully. So when he got to the end of his sermon, he said, “Get these ingredients into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal.” You see, if love is going to abide, if love is not going to die, if love is not going to fade by the way, then these things which are the expression of love are not going to die either. So, if what you do is characterized by patience, if what you do is characterized by kindness, if what you do flowing from love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres, then what you do not only matters, but endures, and it endures for all eternity.
Why is it then that we spend so much time trying to do the opposite? We spend so much time acquiring knowledge because we want to be thought wise. We want people to say, “Oh, he certainly knows the Bible. You ought to hear his explanation of irresistible grace. That’s really marvelous.” Then when someone praises us for that, we say, “Ah, I have made my mark. I’ll be remembered.” Paul, however, says that it is going to pass away.
Others may say, “Oh, I’m not much the theological type. I don’t have a great mind. But, oh, I want to do something supernatural. I want to speak in tongues. I want to be endowed by God with the gift of healing. Oh, if I could only do that then I’d be remembered.” Paul says that, too, will pass away. I do not know if people are used by God in healings today. I suppose it is possible, but even if it does happen, the healed person is still going to die eventually.
What about good deeds? Many people seek to be known by their deeds, yet Paul says that those, too, will pass away. But, you see, if what you do is characterized by patience, and kindness, and not by rudeness, or self-seeking, or any of these things, then what remains really remains. It remains eternally because it’s the work of God. If we could just see that, I suppose that one thing alone would so radically transform us and our churches that the world would actually sit up and take notice.
Why do things that are characterized by love last for eternity?
Is your pursuit of knowledge and good deeds characterized by love or selfish gain?
In order to deepen your understanding of Jesus Christ write out 1 Corinthians 13 on an index card, substituting the name of Jesus Christ for the word love. Keep the card nearby until you can repeat it by heart.