Love Never Ends
Series: Love Is
God gives us two reasons to give ourselves to love, the first we’ll look at today, the next, this coming Sunday, and the first is that love is the answer to our wise question, “What really does last?” The answer is the big idea of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12: Love never ends. Why does love never end? 1. Love is goal. 2. Heaven is a world of love.
1 Corinthians 13
Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology
Jonathan Edwards – Charity and It’s Fruits
Phil Ryken – Loving as Jesus Loves
Ray Ortlund – The Gospel
David Garland – Baker commentary on 1 Corinthians
Thistleton – New International Greek Commentary on 1 Corinthians
One of the great problems of life is its impermanence. All the things that we like, and love are transitory; they don’t last. You enjoy a meal, but eventually you get to the last bite and the meal is over. You embark on a long-awaited trip, but eventually you arrive home again, and the journey is over. You fall in love with a TV show, but eventually the finale comes, and the series is over. You give yourself to a career, but eventually retirement comes, and your work is passed on to someone else. I devoted the first twenty-two years of my life to gymnastics. It was my first love, but eventually the 2007 NCAA gymnastics tournament concluded and the love-affair with gymnastics was over. But it’s not only the things of life that are impermanent. The real problem is the impermanence of life itself. Eventually life itself will be gone. The impermanence of life is a problem because all of us, believers and non-believers alike, want to give our lives to something that lasts. Why give your life to something that won’t last? But then again, what really does last? That’s where the Apostle Paul takes us next in our series in 1 Corinthians 13 where we are learning to love one another as Christ has loved us for the glory of God. The last few weeks we’ve really focused on the passage’s description of love in verses 4-7, but this week beginning in verse 8, the passage zooms out. It’s no good knowing what love is and is not if you aren’t convinced you should really give your life to it. So, to close, God gives us two reasons to give ourselves to love, the first we’ll look at today, the next, this coming Sunday, and the first is that love is the answer to our wise question, “What really does last?” The answer is the big idea of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12: Love never ends. Why does love never end? 1. Love is goal. 2. Heaven is a world of love.
LOVE IS THE GOAL
1 Corinthians 13:8 begins with Paul contrasting love, which never ends, with three spiritual gifts that the Corinthians Church highly prized: Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. Love is an affection that leads to action. Love is when others are truly dear to us in our hearts, which leads us to gladly do good to them with our hands. Prophecy is the speaking forth in merely human words something God has spontaneously brought to mind. Tongues is the miraculous ability to speak or pray a human or heavenly language that we’ve never learned before. “Knowledge” does not refer to knowledge in the sense of grasping the truth, which will endure forever, but knowledge as a spiritual gift to understand mysteries that are presently beyond us, but one day will be revealed. Paul’s contrast is clear: love is permanent, but these spiritual gifts will pass.
Why is love permanent, while these spiritual gifts will pass away? 1 Corinthians 13:9-12: For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 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. The reason why tongues, prophecy, and knowledge will pass away when the perfect comes is because they’re partial and when the perfect comes the partial simply isn’t needed any longer. We won’t need to pray in tongues when we can communicate with God directly, in his manifest presence. Prophecy and knowledge will pass away because these are indirect ways of knowing God that won’t be needed when we’re with him face-to-face. Paul says these ways of knowing God are indirect, like a mirror. If I look at my wife through a mirror’s reflection, I’m looking at an indirect, partial reflection of Andrea. But when I have the opportunity to look at her face to face, I don’t need a mirror and I don’t want a mirror. I get her! Prophecy and knowledge are like Citygroup over Zoom. Incredibly helpful now during a pandemic, but when we’re able to be face-to-face, Zoom Citygroup will pass away. When we’re in heaven, we won’t need tongues, prophecy and knowledge because they’re like Zoom and heaven will be face-to-face, and our knowledge of God will be immediate and direct from his presence. Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge will pass away, but love will never end because love will always be needed. We’ll never be done, and we’ll never want to be done holding one another dear in our hearts, being full of goodwill for one another, and gladly doing good to one another from our hearts. The gifts are just means, and so they will end, but love never will because love is the goal. Love never ends because love is the goal.
Now that we’ve followed Paul’s train of thought I want to take us back in time. I want to take us back to first century Corinth and to the church at Corinth. The church wasn’t dissimilar from ours. It was a young church in a major metropolitan area that had a lot going for it. Like many of you, the members of the Corinthian church had great gifts, they possessed great knowledge, and they were doing great things. They were also quite tempted, as many of us are, to derive their significance and security, their hope and happiness, their very identity from their great gifts, great knowledge, and great aspirations. And since they built their identity on what they had and knew, they tended to be a bit trigger-happy and selfish toward one another. Man, they were a lot like us! And Paul comes along and tells them, “all those very good things upon which you’re building your hope, happiness, significance, and security are passing away, but love will never end.” I wonder, what do you think that Paul hoped they would do with this teaching? Do you think that Paul wanted them to give up on their great gifts, great knowledge, and great works since they’re all passing away, but love never ends? No, I don’t think so either. Rather, I think that the Holy Spirit was saying to them and is saying to us is: use your great gifts and knowledge not as ends in themselves, but servants of love. Prize what is permanent. Since love will never end, since you long to live for what will last, make love your goal. Yes, your wealth will pass away. Yes, your career will come to an end. Yes, the partial knowledge you acquire in this life will fall away. But love won’t. So in your career, in your learning, and with your wealth, serve the greater goal of gladly doing good to others because they’re dear to you. Question: What might it look like for you to make love the complete goal of all that is partial in your life?
When I first became a pastor, I met a man named Duane. Duane was an older man who knew as much and was as good with finances as anyone I have ever known. Duane began his career in accounting and finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers. PWC is a global network of consulting firms. Duane was a massive success at PWC and began to amass significant wealth. But Duane was different from his young colleagues who spent all their money on fancy cars and vacation houses. Duane and his wife decided to use their money, which will pass away, to serve God’s Kingdom, which will endure forever. So, they began making “giving goals” and before long the couple was giving away over 50% of their income each year to their church and other causes that proclaim and display the love of God in Christ. As Duane entered into his prime earning years, he left the corporate world, took a massive pay cut in order to bring his financial expertise to a huge Christian non-profit that desperately needed his help. Duane’s financial impact on the Kingdom of God has been nothing short of stunning and he’s far happier then those of us who spend our money on us. Duane did all this for one simple reason: He made love his goal. Money is wonderful, but it’s partial, it’s passing away and love is the goal of money. What might it look like for you to make love your goal because love never ends? Of course, it’s only natural to wonder if it’s really worth it to make love our goal. How can we know that love really won’t ever end? Love will never end, secondly, because…
HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE
At the heart of what makes our passage unique among all the verses in 1 Corinthians 13 is one little word in 1 Corinthians 13:10: PERFECT…but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. The perfect refers to the state of affairs that will be brought about by the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is meant to lift our eyes from the present and focus them on the future and the perfect state that the Lord Jesus Christ will usher in upon his return. And when we lift our eyes and gaze upon the new earth and the new heaven that await God’s beloved children, what we see is that heaven is a world of love. Love will never end because God who is love will dwell with us forever there and his eternal heaven is a world of love. I want to take a moment to lift your eyes to the eternal world of love that awaits God’s people.
Revelation 21:1-4: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. The sea is a symbol of chaos. There is so much chaos and madness in our present world and it can all be traced to failures to love. So much chaos we experience in our own hearts is the result of failing to believe that God really does love us. So much chaos in our world is the result of all of us loving created things more than the creator. So much chaos in our relationships is the result of failures to love one another as God loves us. Our ambitions and leisure, friendships and careers are thrown into chaos because we have not love! But that’s this world with all its chaos. When the perfect comes, Jesus will bring a new heaven and a new earth and all the chaos will be no more because heaven will be a world where love is fully and finally and forever restored. All the chaos that robs our joy will be gone because we will we’ll never again doubt God’s love for us and we will love fully as we are fully loved, forever. The sea of chaos will be submerged in the ocean of God’s love. Perfect peace in God’s perfect world of love forever. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The beauty of the new Jerusalem is a reflection of the beauty of God himself. God does not have a body and, therefore, we’re not talking about physical beauty when it comes to God’s beauty. God is beautiful in the sense that he is the sum of all desirable attributes. God is the sum of everything our hearts desire. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never been satisfied. I’ve always wanted and always desired more. These longings are meant to point us toward God and when the perfect comes they finally be realized in the beauty of God who is the sum of all that is desirable. We’ll never objectify beauty again because our hearts will be satisfied in God’s heavenly world of love where all our loves find their zenith in Him. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. The ultimate reason why heaven will be a world of love is because God will dwell with us forever and God is love. The full force of God’s affection for you will be felt for eternity and even that won’t be long enough to experience it all. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” We will love one another because there will nothing unlovely in heaven. Everything unlovely in us, everything that makes us less than a delight to love will pass away and we will love one another because we will be perfectly lovely. No one will be dissatisfied, no one will be sad, no one will need to prove themselves, no one will be excluded, no one will be shamed, and no one will be wronged because perfect love will fill all and be perfectly reciprocated by all. Love will never end because heaven is a world of love.
And if we receive and rest in the perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus to save you from our every unlovely thought, we will inherit eternal life in the heavenly world of love. If you receive and rest in Jesus Christ for salvation, then nothing will ever separate you from the love of God. As the Apostle Paul himself wrote in Romans 8:38-39: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Earlier I mentioned that I competed in collegiate gymnastics for Penn State. In my freshman year we won the NCAA gymnastics championships. It was a dream come true. But I can remember being a bit scared that we wouldn’t ever win again because some of our best competitors were seniors. I can remember one of my coaches telling me, “seniors don’t win championships, sophomores and juniors do.” His point was that seniors have a hard time maintaining the same level of focus and dedication that they once had because they feel the impermanence of it all and their attention begins to shift to other things. But not sophomores and juniors. Their dedication is at its highest because it all still feels permanent. It’s the sense of permanence in the future that fuels the present. Friends, the permanence of love is no wishful illusion. Heaven is a world of love and as we live in the daily reality that eternity is a world of love and that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ, then love becomes our great prize and pursuit in the present. And together, we become a gospel culture, loving one another as Christ has loved us.