The Beatles sang it. We believed it. Then we supplanted the message of the Gospel with the theme to the detriment of everything else Jesus teaches us.
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (CSB)
Paul said it all. Nothing is more paramount than loving in God’s book. However, there is a ‘but’ in there too that we cannot overlook.
I gave up a long time ago trying to identify my favorite passage of scripture, but there are ones I’ve developed a fondness of which always remain at the forefront of my mind. The Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 is one of these sections of God’s Word that is always persistently present, and I think there is a reason for that, and it is purposeful.
We embrace a lie
This will sound harsh, but I assure you it is spoken with love; unlike the ending to the Beatles’ song where they chant “Love is all you need”, the Gospel dictates much more than just love.
If we only function on love alone, we sell short the message Christ left us to carry to the world. We may get a great many to buy into the mantra and fill our churches with smiling faces, but we could also subject literally millions to hell in the process.
Love is not all we need. ‘For you are saved by love?’… No, you’re not.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB)
Our salvation is accomplished by our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Nothing more, nothing less. But this faith coupled with the grace that is imparted to us and the rebirth that ensues, results in a great number of things, which we as disciples of Jesus spend a lifetime growing into.
Repentance comes first.
He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Luke 24:46-48 (CSB)
We are saved by faith, but that faith is demonstrated when we invest that grain of trust, in what Jesus proposes, take intellectual possession of what He tells us, and start a spiritual-physical change in alignment with Jesus’ way of thinking. When we put His will in front of our own. That’s repentance.
The little element of trust weights in and then we commit to that which we trust and alter our way of thinking to align with the master’s, this is where our faith comes to fruition and grace is applied.
Real faith results in something. Real faith drives a multitude of other things. Real faith is demonstrated because we repent from our stubborn self-centered motivation and trust in what Jesus has done for us and will do with us because we are willing to subject our will to His. That is repentance! Then grace is applied.
You might say, ‘where did the love go?’ It’s coming, have faith ahead of that. Repent ahead of that. Alter course and set your sights on Christ Jesus as your example and what he tells us, the love is coming.
John wrote these words pronounced by Jesus…
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
John 14:15 (CSB)
Obedience is critical
Now we have this grace imparted to us and on that instant, the Holy Spirit implanted in us, the next thing is obedience, because we love Him. It is so simple and straightforward.
If we really love someone, we want to do the things they want us to do. In a real sense, the first fruit of the Spirit is our love, and that love is first manifested in our love of Jesus. That manifest love is demonstrated in our willingness to be obedient to His commands.
Do you see how this is a sequence that needs to happen in us?
The very same John later wrote this…
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:19-20 (CSB)
“We love because he first loved us.” Here comes the love!
Hear that? The love is here.
John says, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar.” I will propose without reservation that if anyone says they have faith in Jesus without repenting and seeking to obey what Jesus commands is a liar and a fraud.
Harsh! No, it’s not. Because if you propose that that love is there without the repentance, faith and obedience, that is exactly what you are. The love comes because of these things and isn’t an option we are given which allows us to engage in or not. It would be ‘harsh’ of me not to say this because it is what the Gospel teaches us.
The gospel of ‘only love’ is that ‘other’ gospel we are warned about. The gospel of love means we don’t really have to change that much if we just love, love, love, as God loves, loves, loves us, we’ll be just fine, and you’re not!
Paul closes the love chapter with this.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB)
After all the dust settles the three things that remains are these; faith, hope, and love. And yes, the greatest of these is love, but that life changing force of faith comes first. Real faith is coupled with repentance and obedience, fostered by our hope in the promise that the Lord tells us that even though our sins be like scarlet, we shall be white as snow.
“Come, let us settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 (CSB)
Unconditional forgiveness predicated on repentance and faith.
Love is not ‘all’ you need. All you need is faith in Jesus and love is going to come!
In His Grace,