Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
21 February 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
”Hi Everyone, Looking forward to the time when we can all meet together again. I was wondering if you would all help me with something. I want to create a web page with all our favourite children’s Sunday School songs on. Please would you send me your favourite children’s Sunday School song and we can add it to the website to inspire and encourage everyone. Please (if it all possible) can you say who wrote it as some songs often have a similar title. If you have a link to the song online please send that too. Please also give some information about why you like the song. Thank you all in advance for your help”
“I am a Christian from Chippenham in Wiltshire (UK), and I regularly share my story in churches, schools, and prisons of the miracle God has performed in my life. I was born severely disabled, and I have recently recorded a piano cover of ‘Is He Worthy’ on YouTube, which shows the miracle God has brought about. A number of Christian websites have written articles about my story. I have also just produced a short video which includes my story titled: ‘God’s Perfect Plan’ https://godtv.com/man-disability-piano-worship-god/ . My purpose for making these videos is to hopefully encourage others in their faith.”
(I think he is referring us to this video – Graham)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
Love … keeps no record of wrongs.1 Cor. 13:5
Some 25 years ago I was with a Mission Organisation and upon enquiring of one of the leaders concerning something, he answered me with sharp words and an angry attitude. From then on, every time I saw his photograph on the Missionary’s Publications, my heart sank and this incident came back into my thoughts including my negative thinking about him. As this was happening two years later, I decided I must write to this person and apologise for my wrong thoughts towards him and confess that I was keeping a record of wrongs about him. I received a very gracious reply in which he apologised and confessed that he sometimes lived off his emotions. I was touched by his humility. After that, every time I saw his photograph, I prayed for the Lord’s blessings on his life. Not keeping a record of wrongs is difficult but not impossible and it can bear much fruit, as love always does!
(1) We are called to follow Jesus
A Christian is someone who is called to follow Jesus, and initially we cannot comprehend the depth and extent of that call and of all that is involved. When Jesus first called the disciples to follow Him (cf. Matt. 4:19), what was involved in following Him only becomes much more clear as their relationship develops; e.g. Jesus, much later on, explains in more depth what it means for Him to fulfil the role of Messiah, see e.g. Matt. 16:21. Following this teaching, He now gives more details of what it truly means, for them, to follow Him, e.g.,
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”Matt. 16:24
It’s not that Jesus was deceiving them and wasn’t being upfront at the beginning when He first called them. Rather, He taught them and spiritually fed them in accordance with their spiritual development (you don’t feed a new born baby a 10 oz rib-eye steak or a Lamb Shank – nice though they are). It’s the same with ‘Love.’ They had to learn more and more about
- how to love Him
- how to love one another
- how to love their neighbour, their family, their work colleagues
- and yes, even their enemies
Obviously, they were free to turn away and leave Him at any time, as quite a few did on one occasion see e.g., John 6:60-63, 66 when some disciples, (not the twelve), complained: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus answers them: “The words I have spoken to you – they are Spirit and life”.
And it’s the same with these words about not keeping a record of wrongs, it’s a hard teaching but these words are Spirit and they are life. Not keeping a record of someone’s wrongs does not sit well with our old natures for we naturally do this. Jesus would never respond to the disciples’ protests that something was too difficult by letting them off; no, He expected them to come up to God’s standard by depending more and more on the help of the Holy Spirit rather than their own inadequate resources; e.g., Matt. 19:25-26, when Jesus agreed with the disciples that it was humanly impossible to meet God’s standard but went on to say: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It’s the same for us and it’s the same regarding this very difficult teaching: “Love … keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5). We might want to say, this is too difficult, I can’t do it, and we would be speaking the truth. But with Jesus on our side, we can’t leave it there, for we must go on to: “But with God all things are possible”. Lord help me by Your Spirit to live like this, in Jesus Christ, Amen!
(2) God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
These believers at Corinth were, in their competitiveness, envious of each other’s gifts and were zealous “verging on obsessive concern” (Anthony Thiselton), to receive ‘spiritual gifts’. Paul teaches them that there is a greater, most excellent way, the way of love, the way of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and they should channel all their drive and energies into this whilst also ‘eagerly desiring the greater gifts’ (1 Cor. 12:31):
“Love is the indispensable addition which alone gives worth to all other Christian gifts”
C. K. Barrett
To make sure they understood exactly what love he is talking about, he spends the next chapter explaining what true Christian love is and what it isn’t. He has already taught that some have certain gift and others have other gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11), but now he teaches that love is the gift that everyone must possess. He has already told them that they are not very spiritual Christians, “mere infants in Christ” (see 1 Cor. 3:1-3) and now he is going to teach them that being spiritual is, yes, confessing and “living out Christ’s Lordship (1 Cor. 12:3)” (Anthony Thiselton), but also living the most excellent way of love (1 Cor. 13:1-13). He wants them to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6-3:1). The ultimate way of spiritual living is the way of love and love is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Many will oppose this way of living, not understanding it:
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.1 Cor. 2:14
A believer who loves with the love of Christ is truly a spiritual believer, the most spiritual of believers, and this love builds up others rather than pulls them down (1 Cor. 8:1). Respect for one another, is prominent throughout this letter and reaches its peak in this chapter on love:
“The key to the nature of love is concern and respect for “the other,” which is also the connecting thread that runs throughout the epistle … rooted in the notion of care, regard, … respect … and for the well-being of the other.”
As we ourselves experience the love of Christ we are motivated to love others with the love of Christ, so love is not simply loving those who love us and are kind to us but loving those who hate us and are unkind to us:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.Eph. 4:32-5:2
“The verbs Paul uses are all in the present continuous tense, denoting actions and attitudes which have become habitual, ingrained gradually by constant repetition.”
The love of Christ is in us so may we let it out in blessing others!
(3) Love does not keep books on evil
God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.2 Cor. 5:19
The same word for ‘counting’ (an accountancy term) used here is the one used in our text:
Love … does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.1 Cor 13:5, NASB
If a company is owed money it has a record, a book, an account with that person or company who owes them with a view to seeking pay back. However, love does not keep a record of wrongs with a view to paying back the harm done, or the injury suffered. When Jesus died on the cross He didn’t spend the time speaking out to His Father in heaven a long list of wrongs committed against Him during His time on earth. Rather, He prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
“Love is painfully aware of evil and does not ignore it, but love tries to overcome it with good and does not keep a record to return evil for evil … One has learned nothing if one keeps a tally of the number of times one has forgiven another, so that when the magic number is reached one can stop forgiving and mete out punishment.”
Interestingly, a similar pattern can be seen in Romans 12:3-21; in Rom 12:3-8 Paul writes about the gifts; in Rom 12:9-21 he teaches about love and note he finishes off the section:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse … Live in harmony with one another … Do not repay anyone evil for evil … If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone … Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Rom 12:14-21 selection
C. K. Barrett asks the question: “What then does love do with evil?” And answers it: “The final answer must be that it takes evil upon itself, and thus disposes of it” – this is what Jesus did, Amen!
Questions for Discussion
- Read this passage (1 Cor. 13:4-8(a)) and substitute the name of Jesus for the word love e.g., Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud etc. Now do the same with your name! Do we get convicted on some issues that we fall short of the standard of Jesus? Ask the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our shortcomings. Share some of them with the group and ask for prayer.
- To help us all – share how you were able to love and forgive someone who had harmed you? How difficult was it?
- Is this the hardest thing to do in following Jesus?
- Was there a situation in which you longed to take revenge? What did you do? What was the outcome? Were we able to leave it in the Lord’s hands (see Romans 12:14-21).
Quote for the Week
“Love creates value rather than responds to value. The love of God is essentially God’s free, sovereign grace that sets value upon His people … Christians are to respect and care for those who may not seem attractive or like us in their culture, gender, race or concerns, but are human beings on whom God has set His love.”
Verse of the week
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8
Heavenly Father, we worship and adore You for You are high above all and Your ways are much higher than our ways.
Lord, this is a difficult teaching to put into practice but we thank You for the example of Your Son Jesus Christ who on the Cross prayed that You would forgive those who put Him there including ourselves. Help us, by the love of Christ and by Your Spirit within, not to keep a record of wrongs done to us, but rather to love those who do us wrong, to bless them and to forgive them, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!