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LESSON 10 - HIGH PRAISE FOR LOVE (1 CORINTHIANS 13)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is one of the most famous
chapters of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13. Let's see what we can
learn about love!

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF LOVE

     A. Do you remember last time we discussed Paul's advice to
     "eagerly desire the greater gifts?" (1 Corinthians 12:31) I
     didn't ask you last week, so I ask you now, what spiritual
     gift would you like if you could choose any? If that is too
     personal, tell me what spiritual gifts you would like to see
     in our church? (List all of these. After you make the list,
     note to the class that if one Christian had all of these gifts
     together that person would be pretty awesome, right?)

     B. Now let's slide into this week's lesson. Read 1 Corinthians
     13:1-3. These three verses paint a picture of contrasts for
     us. Let's start out by listing what this theoretical Christian
     can do or has accomplished. What is on that list of
     accomplishments?

          (1. Speak in tongues. (This coming week I want you to
          contemplate what Paul meant in v.1 when he said, "tongues
          of men AND angels." This will help prepare you for next
          week's discussion.);

           2. Have the gifts of wisdom, prophecy and faith; and,

           3. Be completely unselfish, giving up your money and
           even your life!)

     C. How does this list compare with our "awesome Christian"
     list? Pretty close?

     D. What does Paul say that these gifts, of themselves, mean?
     (Nothing.)

          1. Nothing!!?  How can these gifts be nothing?

          2. Let's explore this nothing, because it seems that we
          have three kinds of "nothing" here. Verse 1 says the
          nothingness is a loud noise. What do you think Paul means
          when he says the gift of tongues, without love, is a loud
          noise?  Does that make any sense to you? (Noise gets your
          attention, but it means nothing, does nothing,
          communicates nothing. Noise is sound without substance,
          right?)

          3. In verse 2 we are told that prophecy, wisdom and faith
          are present in a person who "is nothing." What does that
          mean? And how can that be? (These are important gifts,
          yet they confer no "status" on this recipient!)

          4. In verse 3 we are told that the person has given up
          everything. Paul says that person "gains nothing."
          Right! In the world's eyes this person just gave up
          everything, of course they gain nothing! Is this the way
          the Christian views things? (No. Matthew 19:21 finds
          Jesus telling the Rich Young Ruler that if he gives up
          "his stuff" here, he "will have treasure in heaven."
          That is how the Christian looks at this. We might call
          our offerings here "seed money.")

               a. With the Christian perspective, how does it make
               any sense that this unselfish, generous person,
               "gain[s] nothing?"
 
          (In all three examples Paul wants to convince us that we
          get just the opposite of what we expected!  What a
          Christian would reasonably expect is not fulfilled.)

     E. Let's go back just a minute and look at the second half of
     1 Corinthians 12:31: "now I will show you the most excellent
     way." The way to what? (Notice the first half of v.31 speaks
     of the "greater [spiritual] gifts." We just found out (13:1-3)
     that these gifts alone mean nothing. So the "most excellent
     way" must mean that love is an essential component of
     spiritual gifts.)

II. LOVE IS.

     A.  Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We will have two lists: "Love
     is," and "Love is not."  Tell me what should be in each list?

Love Is                                 Love is not

Patient                                 Envious
Kind                                    Boastful
Protection                              Proud
Trust                                   Rude
Hope                                    Self-seeking
Perseveres                              Easily angered
                                        Recording wrongs

     B. What are we looking at in these two lists? What, as a
     general matter, can you call the things on our lists? (They
     are generally attitudes.)

     C. Where do you see yourself as you look at these lists?
     The other day I was speaking to someone and they said
     something like, "Patience is not my thing."  Do you like to
     wait in line at the store?  How did you react if you were
     running behind on the way to church and got behind a slow
     driver?

          1. I see myself in almost all of the "love is not" list
          except being easily angered and recording wrongs.  Even
          then I know I remember certain "wrongs." How many of us
          make "an exception" for being easily angered when it
          comes to driving?

          2. Let me take a poll. Do you feel generally good or bad
          as you look at this list of what love is and is not? How
          does your life "stack up?"  Those who feel good, raise
          your hand? Those who feel bad raise your hand?

               a. Let's read on to find out what we can do about
               this.

III. THE ROAD TO BECOMING A BETTER LOVER?

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. What do you think Paul means
     (v.8) when he says "love never fails?"  Didn't we just
     discover that "love fails" in our own lives pretty regularly?

          1. Notice that Paul says that the gifts that he mentioned
          in the first three verses (prophecy, tongues, and
          knowledge) will pass away.

               a. When will they pass away? (v.10 "when perfection
               comes.)

                    (1) When does "perfection come?"

               b. Why will they pass away? (When we "know it all,"
               knowing partially is no good. A blind man can
               retire his seeing eye dog if his eyes become
               perfect. No need for an "aid" to help him
               understand. Prophecy, tongues, knowledge are here
               to help us understand God and His will. When we see
               Him face to face, we do not need these aids!)

     B. Wait just a minute!  Paul says that our limited partial
     knowledge will "go away" in the face of perfect knowledge. Why
     doesn't our limited partial love also "go away" in the face of
     the perfect love in heaven?

          1. Why does not the some logic and reasoning apply to
          love?

          2. Is not our present love imperfect?

     (As usual, we are looking in the wrong direction.  We are
     looking at ourselves and saying "our love and our knowledge
     are now imperfect."  Why not look instead at God? God will
     give us the greater knowledge and understanding when we get to
     heaven. But you know what? Your understanding of love is now
     perfect because He already gave us His Son!  This is the
     "perfect" understanding of love!  The perfect demonstration of
     love!)

     C. We have the vision, we have a perfect picture of perfect
     love.  How do we get from our imperfect love (remember our
     list) to this perfect love?  How do we get from where we are
     to where we should be in the love department? (If you compare
     Romans 5:5 (God has poured out His love into our hearts by the
     Holy Spirit....") with Galatians 5:22 ("But the fruit of the
     Spirit is love....") we see that our love is also a spiritual
     gift.  Therefore it is a gift that we need to pray about. A
     necessary component of all of the spiritual gifts that we need
     to request.  Next week we study 1 Corinthians 14 and it starts
     out (v.1) "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual
     gifts...."  This shows that love is not only a gift of the
     Holy Spirit, it is a component of all of the gifts! Praise God
     for His gifts!)

IV. NEXT WEEK: "WORTHWHILE WORSHIP" -- 1 Corinthians 14. Ask God to
help you to understand this difficult and important chapter. Think
about whether your church is missing one of the gifts of the Holy
Spirit as you study. ts! Praise God
     for His gifts!)

IV. NEXT WEEK: "WORTHWHILE WORSHIP" -- 1 Corinthians 14. Ask God to
help you to understand this difficult and important chapter. Think
about whether your church is missing one of the gifts of the Holy
Spirit as you study.