31 January 2021: “The greatest is love”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
31 January 2021

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.


Praying together for the nation:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

A few more prayer initiatives have been suggested. Katherine sent us one recently and the OBU have suggested putting time aside to pray for the nation (and fast – not necessarily food) on Monday 15th February.


“It’s hard but with faith you can cope; The Lord taught us to always think of others who need help more than we do and to offer help if necessary. I have had many trials but through faith and trust I have come through. “Don’t cry for what you have lost but smile for what you still have.” Every day has something to be thankful for even in Covid-19 times. Don’t ever give up; trust in the Lord; He in His time will make it right. The Lord Himself, went through many trials for us to survive; Pray at all times, Amen.”





1 Corinthians 13:1-13


“… the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13)


Having given detailed teaching on Spiritual Gifts in chapter 12 Paul now teaches about something even more important, the most excellent way, the way of love:

“the greatest, strongest deepest thing that Paul ever wrote”

Adolf Harnock

We might think that Paul is digressing here, rather, he is teaching something that is central to the exercise of gifts and love is also central to the whole life of the church. (Respected NT scholar C. K. Barrett suggests that Paul wrote chapter 13 separately on a previous occasion, and he inserted it here because he saw its relevance … to the Corinthian situation … and we might add love is relevant to all situations). Jesus death on the cross redefined love, (‘agape’), bringing out a depth, an abundance and the immense life giving qualities of God’s love, previously unknown. Such became the experience of believers, as a result of God’s loving acceptance of them and the gift of His Spirit through faith in Jesus. Up until then it was a love for those who were worthy, but Jesus changed the meaning of the word to include a love for the utterly unworthy, (‘agape’), a love that was unconditional:

“It is a love lavished on others without a thought of whether they are worthy or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, not from any attractiveness in the beloved”

Leon Morris

Love and grace are at the very centre of the gospel:

“In short, ‘charis’ (“grace”) joins ‘agape’ (“love”) at the very centre of Paul’s gospel. More than any other, these two words, “grace” and “love,” together sum up and most clearly characterise his whole theology”

J. D. G. Dunn

All people are objects of God’s unconditional love

Last week we looked at John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave …” God’s love was the motive for His great giving and must become the motive of our everyday living. He loved the world, unconditionally, and so must we, His church! Paul had urged these believers at Corinth, who were big on knowledge and spiritual gifts, that without love everything else was nothing:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Cor. 13:1-3

So e.g. applying this to church life and those who are first time visitors: The first thing that new people must experience is not how gifted we are but how much we love them. It doesn’t matter who walks through those front doors, everyone must feel loved  and welcomed by the members of Bethel Baptist Church.

Love is a powerful witness

It would be rather strange if newcomers to a church felt very much loved, welcomed and accepted by the people in the church but after some time began to notice that the members didn’t love one another:

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

In the context of 1 Corinthians a church might be great at evangelism but if there is a lack of love amongst them then it is all to no avail.

Everyone needs love

Why is there such an emphasis on love in the Scriptures? Because the God who made us knows that we all need love. He made us to love and be loved. It doesn’t matter how hard and self-sufficient people might appear on the outside they are desperate for love, His love. Hence the greatest commandment,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Matt. 22:37-39

He revealed His love ultimately through His Son. Love is the greatest and this is the greatest love as we hear from Jesus’ words to His disciples:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

The disciples were Jesus’ friends:

“You are my friends … I have called you friends”

John 15:14-15

… friends He would die for, yet, like all of us, they had fallen short of the glory of God and so were sinners, even enemies, in the light of the teaching in Romans:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!

Romans 5:10

There are millions of people who are living today as enemies of Jesus Christ, who, by tomorrow, might be His friends as they come to experience His great love for them. cf. the remarkable turn around of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-22). So we must look upon everyone we meet as those who need to experience the love of Christ and it will happen as we love them with the love of Christ, so that these enemies of God might also become His friends.

A loving welcome

Extending the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 which basically states that exercising spiritual gifts even the greater gifts, without love makes it all null and void, so also welcoming someone without love is useless. I praise God for all those who are on the welcome team at Bethel and David is testimony to the fact that Bethel does give a wonderful and loving welcome to new folk. This welcome must extend throughout the service and at the end also. Two examples come to mind:

  1. A couple who visited Bethel a couple of summers ago. He was on the leadership of a church down South and one of his responsibilities was to improve the welcome his church gave to newcomers. He told me afterwards he thought he would put our church to the test and mentioned to his wife not to approach anyone after the service but see if anyone came to them. No-one did. When I arrived in the lounge to get some refreshments, I got talking to this couple who informed me that we had been found wanting, no-one had come over to talk to them! There is a balance to be maintained between two extremes – ignoring new people and swamping them. Let’s pray we can get it right with each new individual who comes to Bethel.
  2. Not so long ago, following re-opening after the first lock-down, a man who was a Christian visited Bethel. He had been through a difficult time in life and was relocating to live in Macclesfield. I phoned him following his visit but he informed me, in a loving way, that he would not be returning to Bethel because we hadn’t welcomed him or made him feel at home.

In discussing this at the 11a.m. Zoom meeting last Sunday we agreed we can do more to make new people feel loved and welcomed. Some suggestions so far include:

  1. A Welcome Pack – with information about who is who; details of meetings; vision statement; some sweets; general information; Members’ stories – where they were in their life before coming to Bethel, how they connected with us, and how the connection changed them.
  2. Someone specifically designated each week to be available to help newcomers “I’m here to help”.
  3. Can I add – “Bacon Butties”.


  1. God loves all people unconditionally and so must we His Church.
  2. Be encouraged, as we love one another with Jesus’ love, a powerful witness is taking place.
  3. Everyone needs love and will only be truly satisfied when they experience the love of Christ.
  4. Let us work on how we can give everyone who visits us an even more loving welcome.

Questions for discussion and sharing answers

  1. The first time you went to church what was it that made you feel welcome?
  2. What was it that made you want to go back?
  3. Share about some loving things that Churches have done that made an impact on you.
  4. Do you think that everyone needs to be loved? Any examples?

Quote for Week

“God’s love supply is never empty”

Max Lucado

Verse of Week

I am convinced that neither death .. life .. angels .. demons .. the present .. the future, nor any powers, neither height .. depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom. 8:38-39

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the way You love us with Your great and eternal love. Truly Lord, You have loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us to Yourself with loving kindness. Again, we thank You for giving Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place, that we might be reconciled to you and experience this ongoing loving relationship with You. Thank You for the welcome You gave us as You welcomed us to Yourself and Your kingdom.

Lord we pray for the multitudes that don’t know You and have never experienced this great love of Yours, reveal Your love to them. Help us, Your church, to love one another with the love of Christ and so be a witness to the world around. Help us to love the people of this world, especially those who visit us at Bethel, and those we meet as we share Your Good-News with them.

Thank You that nothing can ever separate us from Your love and that you have shed abroad in our hearts this love of Christ. Help us to continually release this love in loving one another and in loving others.

To You be all the glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in and through Jesus Christ the Beloved One, Amen.