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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Love Never Ends
Text:1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Love
 
Added:2022-05-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ephesians 1

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

 

“Love never ends” : THE IMMORTALITY OF LOVE

  1. Love remains forever

  2. Perfection replaces imperfection

  3. Love reigns supreme

 

  1. Psalm 48: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 52: 1, 3, 5, 6

  3. Psalm 86: 1, 2, 4

  4. Hymn 74:1-4

  5. Psalm 128: 1, 3

  6. Hymn 73:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: arrested, cheeks, Babel, magnify, immature

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why is love beautiful?

  2. We can see God’s love so clearly in justification...but in what other unexpected place can we find it?

  3. Why will prophecy pass away?  Tongues? Knowledge?

  4. Will we have faith in heaven?  Why or why not?

  5. Will we have hope in heaven?  Why or why not?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Congregation loved by God,

This morning, we come to the end of our series on 1 Corinthians 13 and love.  It has been a real pleasure to go through this beautiful love letter with you over the last few weeks.

Just a few days ago, the world celebrated Valentines Day.  Maybe you also celebrated with your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend.  And there is nothing wrong with celebrating this day.  As long as we celebrate it in the right way - truly understanding love.  Truly seeing love for what it is - the most beautiful thing in the world.

You know, there is a saying that compares life to flowers.  I tried to find the exact quote, but came up short.  But this is approximately how it goes: A flower only blooms so beautifully because it knows it will die soon.

It is beautiful BECAUSE it is temporary.

And this is true for flowers...there is something far more beautiful about a real flower than a plastic flower.  A real flower that grows and buds and blooms, and then dies.  There is beauty in the change.

There is so much beauty and awe over a little baby, because, all too soon, those huge eyes and tiny fingers will grow and change.  A baby’s beauty is so precious because it is temporary.

But the beauty of life and the beauty of love is not like the beauty of a flower or a baby.  Because our lives here are not the end.  This life truly has meaning and significance because it affects eternity.

And love...love is truly the most beautiful thing in this world, not because it is quick and fleeting, but love is beautiful because it is from God.  Love is beautiful because it is the journey and the destination. 

“Love never ends” : THE IMMORTALITY OF LOVE

  1. Love remains forever

  2. Perfection replaces imperfection

  3. Love reigns supreme

 

Love never ends

We can see the Apostle Paul come back to his main point here in verse 8.  Let’s trace his argument so far.

The Corinthians were distracted from what really matters.  They were obsessed with worldly status, they were fighting amongst themselves, using their spiritual gifts to accomplish temporary worldly things.

And so, after lecturing them that their spiritual gifts should be used for the good of the church, that each and every one of them mattered immensely to God and His church, the Apostle Paul explains that there is something even greater than the gifts they were using.  The ultimate gift, the gift of love.

Love is the most excellent way.  Paul then goes on to make his point about love being better than tongues, better than faith, and better even then life itself.

Then, to prove his point, to show what KIND OF LOVE he is talking about, our text went off on a beautiful tangent where the Apostle described love and its delightful attributes.

But our text this morning takes us back to Paul’s main point - that of contrasting love with the other gifts.  Love is clearly the greatest gift.

Love never ends

Or, as some translations have it, Love never fails.

What does this mean for love?

Well, it means that love is never defeated.  True love will always win out.  It was love that defeated Satan by way of the cross.

Satan was so sure that love was not a power that could match his.  Anger and hatred and wickedness seem to be so strong.  They seem to win.

It was anger and wickedness that caused Jesus to be arrested in the garden...or so Satan thought.

It was jealousy and hatred that let GOD be condemned by the religious authorities.  This is how it looked at least.

Evil won the day when Jesus was mocked and beaten.  When He was condemned to death, and forced to carry the cross.

Wickedness seemed to drive the nails through His hands and feet.  But really...love was never overpowered.  At any moment, Jesus could have called for thousands of angels to save Him.  If what He truly wanted was His own well-being, He could have un-made them all in a single moment, or destroy them with merely a thought.

But selfish power cannot ever defeat love.  The love of Jesus Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath and drained it dry.

And it was not only justification where we see the overwhelming, pursuing, rich love of God.

God’s love for us did not start at the cross.

So often we have this picture of God the Father as a stoic impartial judge.  Simply needing the numbers to add up.  Almost like a mathematician - “The sin is too much for them to enter into my kingdom.  If we can’t balance the equation, then it is hell for them all.”

But you forget...the whole operation, the whole salvation plan was planned by the Father.  It was the Father who sent the Son down to earth to live and to die.

Our reading puts it this way:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  IN LOVE He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.

God’s love looked at us, sinful, broken, and lost, and chose to save us.  To welcome us into His family.  Divine adoption.  This is beautiful, never ending, never failing love.

Love never fails, love never ends.

This divine love of God, a divine love that we are supposed to see and imitate...it existed in eternity past and it will continue to exist in eternity yet to come.

Love never ends.

And that doesn’t ruin it.  Love isn’t precious or amazing because it will one day end.  When a flower dies, it returns to the earth to fertilize the soil so that other flowers can grow.  One flower can provide for many more flowers.

A baby, losing her cute baby cheeks and wide-eyed stare makes way for an inquisitive child, and finally a full adult.  The lesser gives way to the greater.

But love...love has no equal.  Love is already the pinnacle, and so, for existence to be the best it can be, love must exist eternally.

But not everything is already as good as it can possibly be.  There are still weaknesses, immaturities, and imperfections in this world.  But one day...perfection will replace imperfection.  Our second point.

Love never ends.

As for prophesies, they will pass away;

As for tongues, they will cease;

As for knowledge, it will pass away.

 

Love is the only spiritual gift that remains.  It is the only immortal spiritual gift.  But why?  Let’s examine these gifts one by one.

 

As for prophesies, they will pass away.

Prophesies will pass away.

 

Now, we must acknowledge right away that Scripture speaks of two types of prophesies.

There are the prophesies that are REVELATION and there are prophesies that are DECLARATION.

The prophesies of REVELATION are what we normally think of.  That God visits a prophet, whether through a dream or a vision, and that prophet is given a special message from the Lord.

These types of prophesies have already passed away.  There is no longer any need for God to give His Word, for His Word is complete.  His Word is right in front of us now!  We have all we need to know who God is, and the way we are to be saved.

But the prophesies of DECLARATION...that is happening right now.  I am fulfilling my role as prophet by bringing God’s Word to you in this worship service.  I am declaring to you the Word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am applying it your life.

But Paul says that prophesies will pass away.  So, what does he mean here?  The prophesies of revelation? Is Paul thinking of the close of the canon?  No more books of the Bible to be written?

Perhaps he is.  But we should not limit Paul’s teaching to merely that.

For there will be a day when no more sermons will be necessary.  This day is coming.  Paul was not the first to foretell this, but we can read in Jeremiah 31 that this exact thing was already prophesied many years before the Apostle Paul.

Jeremiah 31 verse 34 → And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.

A day is coming when the office of pastor will be no more.  While writing this sermon, I had the line in here: There will be no pastors in Heaven, but I knew that it could be misinterpreted.  What I mean to say is, the office of pastor will not exist anymore in heaven, though, by the grace of God, pastors will be there.

The prophets of old prophesied in part.  Not every detail is revealed to us in Scripture.  We have enough to know about salvation, to know our God, and whatever else we have is bonus.  But our knowledge is not complete.

The prophets of today also only prophesy in part.  Each week, yet again, I ascend this pulpit and I declare to you the Word of the Lord.

And there are things I miss.  There may be some points that I get wrong.  But by the love and grace of God, you are still spiritually fed.

But there will be a day when both types of prophesies will end.

 

As for tongues, they will cease.

These few words have caused much ink to be spilled.  Some scholars will say that this is proof that the spiritual gift of tongues is over, and that anyone, anywhere in the world who claims to have this gift is simply making it up for attention.

Others will point to the surrounding context and say, “Not all prophesies have passed away yet...knowledge has not yet passed away, so why can’t we still have the spiritual gift of tongues?”

But just as I taught previously when Paul speaks of tongues...we simply do not have enough information on this spiritual gift because Paul doesn’t describe it.  It’s not the main point.  Paul never wrote a doctoral dissertation on the gift of tongues, and it’s probably best that he didn’t.

But tongues will pass away.  The need for speaking in tongues, whether they are the tongues of men or the tongues of angels...the need for this is ultimately due to sin.  The tongues of angels exist because we are no longer in communion with God the way we once were in the Garden.  There is a deep separation between us and the spiritual realms.

The tongues of men exist because of the tower of Babel.  When mankind rebelled against God’s command to fill the earth.

And one day, both of these will be solved.  We WILL be fully in the presence of God once again.  We will have fully restored communion with Him.  And the curse of sin will be undone.  Human beings will completely understand each other once more, and we will all work toward the same goal - glorifying God, not glorifying ourselves.

 

As for knowledge, it will pass away.

This does not mean that in Heaven we will cease to think and know.  In fact, in Heaven, our knowledge will be clearer than it ever has been before.  Verse 12 says exactly that - Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So what does it mean that knowledge will pass away?

Well, just like each of the other gifts, the imperfect is giving way to the perfect in eternity.

Prophecy will become God fully revealing Himself to us and dwelling with us forever.

Tongues will become joining in that great chorus of angels declaring God’s praises.

And knowledge?  Our earthly knowledge of God is but a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what we will know.  Compared to what we will experience.

Paul explains this and illustrates it with two examples.

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.

You could say that, in growing up, your childish knowledge passed away.

For all of the sweat and ink spilled over great theological tomes, books of thousands of pages, trying to explain God’s essence, His being, His perfection...one day that will look like a crayon drawing of a kindergartener that you hang on the fridge even though you have no idea what it is supposed to be.

Our knowledge will pass away into full understanding.

In fact, those are the words that Paul uses here.  He uses two different words.

 

Now I know in part

This is the word used for regular human knowledge.  To generally know of something.  Some topic or person.

 

Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known

This is a special word, used for a deep and complete understanding. Full knowledge.  Added knowledge.  To recognize a thing for what it really is.

In our reading from Ephesians, Paul speaks of his desire for the Spirit of wisdom to enlighten the hearts of the Ephesian church.  For this full knowledge can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit, and will only come fully at the end of time.

And to further drive the point home, Paul uses a second illustration.  He uses the picture of a mirror.

 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

This is an illustration that is no longer accurate to our day and age, for when we look into a mirror nowadays, we can see our faces perfectly clearly.  In fact, I hear that there are mirrors women use that actually magnify their pores.  But this was not true in the days of Paul.  In Paul’s day, mirrors were made of polished metal such as bronze.  This would give a weak and distorted reflection at best.

And that is how Paul describes our knowledge.  Our earthly existence right now.  All of this dim life will pass away into the bring and shining reality of eternity spent with God.

One commentator describes it like this...just as a grand church or cathedral is built up with scaffolding, there is a time when the scaffolding is removed.

As useful as it was, as ESSENTIAL as it was...there will be a time when it is no longer needed.  The gifts of this modern age match the life and the need of the modern church.  But there is a day coming when the church will be glorified into its ideal state.  A state where love will reign supreme.  Our final point.

 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Of all the spiritual gifts that there might be in this world, faith hope and love are imperishable and unfading for this present age.  These three abide.

Faith, hope and love are needed for the church in this world of sin.  Let’s examine each of these further.

 

Faith abides.

Whatever other spiritual gifts there are or were - miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, doing miracles...faith is key in the church.

Our God has seen it fit for us to remain in this world a little longer yet, and we live by faith.  For, though we daily read God’s Word, spend time in prayer and in praise...we do not yet see God face to face.

We do not hear His audible voice speaking to us.  We do not feel His touch.  The Christian life is a life of faith.

It is not a blind faith, refusing to acknowledge the evidence, merely believing because this is how we grew up...but the Christian life is a life of faith.  We walk by faith, not by sight.

The book of Hebrews puts it this way - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

We have not seen God, but we see His work in the world.  And so we live our lives by faith.

 

Faith abides, and Hope abides.

We know what faith is.  A few weeks ago, when we examined Lord’s Day 7 together, we heard a few different definitions of faith.

But hope...hope isn’t something that we have a specific Lord’s Day on.  There is no confessional definition of hope.  But let me give you one.

Biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.

Hope and faith overlap quite a bit.  We heard that moments ago in the quotation from Hebrews.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.

It has been said that hope is faith related to things in the future.  Faith looks backwards and forwards, and that forwards faith is called hope.

Hope is absolutely essential for our life on this earth...and it isn’t natural.  Naturally we go by what our eyes see and what our heart feels.  We look around and it is so easy to be hopeless.  To be without hope.  And that is why our hope is not found in this world, but in the character of our God.

Hope is the emotional reservoir that keeps us going when we want to quit.

 

I have this wonderful plaque that reminds me of this beautiful concept of hope.  It says: I do not fear tomorrow, for I remember yesterday, and I love today.

Now, I would propose a minor change to the plaque.  I always make this change in my mind when I read it.

 

I do not fear what God will send me tomorrow

For I remember what He did yesterday

And I love what He is doing today.

 

Hope will carry us through to the end of this life.

And yet.  For all this high praise of hope...hope is not the greatest of the three.  It is not the greatest of these three exceptional gifts, for hope, like faith, will not endure forever.  Only love is immortal.

 Because hope and faith are just the greatest scaffolding on the church as it is being built up.  Faith is what grounds us in the reality we cannot see...but when this age makes way for the next, when our immature knowledge is replaced by full understanding...what need is there of faith?

And hope.  Paul says in Romans: Hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?

There will be a day when we see.  When we see clearly.  Face to face with Almighty God.  On that day, what need is there anymore of hope?

Only love is immortal.  It is the business of heaven to love God to perfection and to love those before His throne.

It is the business of the church to love those in our midst.  To bring those from the outside to the inside.  To show them the love of Christ.  They will know we are Christians by our love.  They will see God in us by our love.

And even as our bodies weaken in old age.  As our minds begin to wander.  Our earthly tent begins to become worn...but inwardly?  Inwardly our souls will become more and more alive by love.

For each new day is a day to experience the warmth of God’s saving love.  A love that began before time itself, and a love that will outlast this earth.

So seek that which is of enduring value.

Seek love.  For it alone is immortal.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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