Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 7. What's love got to do with it? . No 02 Super Christian or not? (Part 1)

. No 02 Super Christian or not? (Part 1)

WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO TO WITH IT?

SUPER CHRISTIAN OR NOT (PART 1)

 

Introduction.

Two weeks ago we started this new series on a topic that was placed very close to my heart as I spent 10 days alone with the Lord in the bush. It is the whole theme of love. So in my first sermon we looked at John 13:34-35 where Jesus tells us that He is giving us a new commandment which is that we will love one another to such an extent that the world will know that we are His disciples. They would no longer recognise His disciples based on their physical walk with one another, or the enjoyment of the physical presence of Christ, but now that He is ascending to the Father, they would know that His disciples are Christians by their love, one for another. We looked at many verses that shows just how important love is, to the point that we could ask the question which is also the title of the series: ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ The conclusion we came to is that it has everything to do with it, as God is love, and to be Christ-like requires of us to be imitators of God as dearly loved children and to walk in love (Eph 5:1-2). I believe that this theme is going to make a major difference to us as a congregation in the years to come.

This morning and for the next few weeks we will turn to the Word of God and look at the thirteen verses that are recorded for us in 1 Corinthians 13 which is commonly called the ‘love chapter’.  Let’s turn in our Bibles together and read the first three verses of this great piece of writing by Paul.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

For me, 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most beautiful passages that I believe Paul ever wrote, as it sums up so much of Christian living and that which will make the church pure. I think when Paul started quoting this part for his scribe to write, his scribe sat up and took special note. Why? Because the ring of the words are super, it is poetic, it is dramatic, it has rich imagery, it has rhythmic beauty, it stirs our emotions, it calls for commitment and it establishes us in our relationships.

Well if you read all the preceding chapters, it is no wonder the scribe will sit up, because chapter 13 is a chapter in contrast. The first 12 chapters finds Paul plodding through problem after problem in the Corinthian church. Not exactly the kind of church we would like to model after. They were a congregation divided. Some claimed to be of Paul, others of Cephas, others of Apollos. Paul had to painstakingly explain to them that all these men are of value to them, and they must also realise that all are of Christ. They were a judgmental church. They were a church that tolerated the worst of sins in their midst as we see in chapter 6. They even prided themselves for having sinful people in their midst. They were a church that messed up around the communion table. Some got drunk, others starved while others yet again stuffed themselves. In short they were a church who at times behaved worse than the pagans do. In 1 Corinthians 11:17 we are told that their gatherings do more harm than good. Then in chapter 12 Paul addresses their ignorance as far as the gifts are concerned. They seemed to be a congregation that prided themselves in their gifts rather than in their fruit, and they seemed to regard their own gifts more important than those of others and did not really regard the gifts of their church family as important at all.

So for us today, chapter 12 has much to say about the importance of gifts and chapter 14 gives some general instructions on the usage of those gifts. But what chapter 13 is going to teach us is that the only atmosphere in which these gifts can function is an atmosphere of love. On the basis of the context Paul is saying that love is what is going to make a difference to all ministry. The Corinthians had all the gifts, but they lacked the love that allowed the gifts to function properly. They were actually running after the prominent gifts, they all wanted the greater gifts, they wanted the showy gifts, they were proud, they were selfish and they were self-seeking. They were actually operating in the flesh. In fact, it was so serious that in 1 Corinthians 12:3 (ESV) Paul says: 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!”  Some people had obviously so perverted some gifts as to end up cursing Christ, maybe even in a different language.

So, Chapter 13 is not just a beautiful description of love, it is at the very heart of Paul’s teaching about ministry and at the very heart of Paul’s teaching about spiritual life. Our lives are to be characterized by the dominant Spirit-given fruit of love. The fruit of the Spirit, in Galatians 5:22 starts with Love as I believe it is the all-encompassing fruit. In the Corinthian situation, they were trying to have the gifts of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit. They were trying to carry on mutual ministry in the body of Christ in a selfish, carnal way without love. And the message of this opening part of chapter 13 is anything without love is useless.

So Paul says to them in chapter 12 that they all desire gifts but then he says in 1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV) “31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” So, they can desire the higher gifts, but Paul says there is something more important, something more edifying, something greater, something more excellent and that is Love.

Let’s read the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 again. You need to memorise it. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Paul gives us a picture of a Super Christian.  More super than this you will not find. He presents us with a Christian who 1. Speaks in tongues of men, 2. Speaks in tongues of angels, 3. Has prophetic powers, 4. Understands all mysteries, 5. Has all knowledge, 6. Has all faith, 7. Who gives away all he has, and 8. Is willing to be martyred for his faith.

This is a super Christian. Then we are introduced to a mathematical problem. How much is 8 minus 1. Now logically it should be 7. But, Paul says that if you possess all 8 of these and you subtract 1 namely love, you have 0. So 8 minus 1 is 0, right? All of these in your pocket, minus love means you have nothing. A Super Christian without love is a nil on a contract.

So, Christian, hear me, you can have all the spiritual gifts and still be unspiritual. If you have the gifts without the fruit you are dead. You can put all your Christmas gifts under a pine tree, but it remains a pine tree, and if it does not produce pine cones it is dead. A tree will not be known by the gifts under it, but by the fruit on it. Gifts, do not guarantee that you have a positive impact on the body of Christ. Gifts do not guarantee that you have power in your life and ministry. The gifts of the Spirit must function with the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit comes from walking in the Spirit as we saw in our study of Galatians 5 a short while ago. So Paul’s great concern is that the main issue is not the exercise of gifts but the love that attends that exercise.

Love is the more excellent way. Love is much more excellent than the way the Corinthians were functioning, more excellent than their discontent, distrust, jealousy, envy, selfishness, and pride which characterized them as we find out in the opening twelve chapters. They had counterfeited the gifts. They had used the gifts without love. Paul shows the true gifts must work with love to be of any value.

This is something we need to understand no matter what our spiritual ministry is, whether you’re the pastor, or whether you’re serving in some somewhat invisible category of ministry in the life of the body of Christ, the context in which you serve must always be love.

The word for love that Paul is using here is (agape) which is more than the love of our culture which is second hand according to Tina Turner. It is more than romantic love. It is more than emotional love. It is more than simple brotherly love. It is more than sexual love. Agape love is a love that God’s pours into our hearts and it is a love that just gives and gives and gives. This kind of love is not just tolerance, or hospitality or the giving of a gift, or simple charity towards the poor. All of these definitions are too narrow as we will discover over the next few weeks.

As we saw last week we are talking about love that gives itself as Christ gave Himself. Christ demonstrated love to perfection. Not only did he wash the feet of others, and care for the rejected women and children, but He went to the cross on our behalf. No wonder that a famous psychiatrist ones said that: “If people can learn to give and receive love, they’ll usually recover from their physical or mental illness.”

Well, that’s all introduction. So for today and next week I want to stand still at this Super Christian and show you how each one of the Super Christian’s attributes means nothing without love.

1. Languages without love are worth nothing.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Two languages minus one love equals nil.

The word “tongues” immediately jumps out of the text, doesn’t it? Because we’re very used to the Pentecostal Charismatic Movement and very used to this notion that people are supposed to be speaking some kind of babble or gibberish if they want to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit and ascend to higher levels of spirituality. Now whether Paul is making an inference to the gift of tongues in chapter 12, we are not entirely sure, because simply put the tongues of men are the languages men speak, and the tongues of angels are the languages that angels speak. Based on the context I believe Paul has the real gift of tongues in mind as it carries over from chapter 12. In any case it is supposed to be known languages as well.

In short based on Acts 2 I believe that the gift of tongues is the supernatural ability to speak in a known language that is not your own. In Acts 2 you will clearly see that the gift of tongues bestowed upon the apostles on that day was known languages. Acts 2:7-8 (ESV) 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” I did a whole study with my cell group on it which is available on our website, so you can study it there. But it is clear here in Acts that the tongues the Apostles spoke with was known languages. This was not babble. This was not ecstatic utterance, this was genuine human languages which people knew and heard and recognized, and they were given the supernatural ability to speak it.

What was the purpose of the gift of tongues? Why did this happen? Well, the answer is, that it was a sign on the Day of Pentecost. It was firstly a sign that God was present. The wind, the fire, the languages marked the birth of the church. Later on in Acts we see as the church expanded and moved into a new era among the Gentiles it happened again and then finally also in Acts the same happened to the disciples of John in Ephesus.  The same supernatural gift of languages occurred each times so that each segment people being added to the church would know that they received the same Spirit in the same way and they were equal whether they were Jew or Gentile. The gift of languages was not for evangelism, 1 Corinthians 14 makes that clear. It was not for personal edification, as it is often stated today. It is not for devotional stimulation and it was not a proof of Spirit baptism.

Secondly its purpose was to indicate the Spirit had come, to authenticate the Apostles. It was a sign that God had descended in the power of the Holy Spirit, the church had been born and the Apostles were the representatives of God and their message of the crucified and risen Christ needed to be believed. It was to authenticate the apostles, to show the coming of the Spirit of God and the birth of the church. But when the Jews rejected it, it thirdly became a sign of judgment to the Jews basically drawn out of Isaiah that when you don’t listen when I speak to you in a language you can understand, I’m going to speak in a language you can’t understand. 1 Corinthians 14:21 (ESV) says: “In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

So, Paul hypothetically says, “If I speak,” meaning ‘if I Paul speak’ in the same way they did on the day of Pentecost and the other examples in Acts, and I do a bunch of other things and I have not love, it means nothing, absolutely nothing.

Some might say that what you hear today in church services is actually the tongues of angels as Paul says: “If I speak with the languages of men and of angels. Some call it a prayer language, a language which Satan supposedly does not understand. Have we all forgotten who Satan is? Satan was a fallen angel. Again, as I said, I believe that Paul is setting up a hypothetical situation as there’s no mention ever anywhere in the Scripture of any angelic language or of anybody on earth speaking any angelic language. This is simply a subjunctive, hyperbolic non-factual statement. Paul is simply not claiming to speak all languages, though he did speak many, as he says in the fourteenth chapter, he is not claiming to speak an angelic language. He is simply saying in a hyperbole, “If I did speak in the languages of men and even the language of angels.” If I could transcend my limitations and even get in to angelic conversation, it really wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t done in love.”

Now, by the way I think that there are clear indications that some at least in Corinth were in their tongue speaking actually not speaking in known languages, as what we see in Acts 2, but that theirs might have just been a babble and gibberish noise. Now, if it wasn’t languages, what were they doing? Many theologians and commentators agree that they had dragged into the Corinthian church their pagan babble. This didn’t originate in Christianity. Not at all. It was part of their pagan experience. The worship of Dionysius and others, incorporated this kind of ecstatic gibberish. Ecstatic speech was a part of pagan worship, particularly in the rites of Cybele, and it was accompanied by, of all kinds of things, smashing cymbals, gongs and blasting trumpets, a cacophony of meaningless noise. And what he says to them is, if that’s what you’re doing, it’s just pure paganism. Unless you’re using your gifts with genuine Spirit power under the influence of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, it is just like paganism. You’re no better than a pagan.

Wow, that’s pretty strong language. You’re using your gift whether real or counterfeit, but if you’re not doing it in love, you’re just like the pagans. It is noise. It is babble. It is meaningless, it is nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:7-9 (ESV) 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.”

Now they had taken these pagan ecstatic kinds of experiences, imported them as they imported so many things into the life of the church and it was a loveless expression. Let me get you to the logical end. Simply this Christian, even if you do have the ability to speak languages under the influence of the Holy Spirit or even the best speech in heaven, even if you could talk angel talk, without love it is just nothing, it’s a noise that doesn’t rise above the pagan racket.

So, there are two things here to say. Stay away from counterfeit gifts, obviously. But even in the exercise of the true gift of tongues it require love because speech and language without love is nothing.

Next week we will look further at Mr Super Christian.

Amen!

Logos Community Church: - 27 October 2013