Praise YHWH and our Saviour Yeshua on this the day He has made amen! The world calls today what? Valentine’s Day – let me ask you what do you think of when you hear Valentine’s Day? Do you think of nice little red hearts, fluffy teddy bears and chocolates, flowers and various expressions of love? Before joining in on all the worldly fun it would be wise for us to know where this tradition comes from, right? Well firstly Valentine’s Day began when the early Roman Catholic Church tried to ‘Christianise’ an already pagan Roman holiday held in mid February called Lupercallia – a festival that honoured Lupercus – a hero-hunter for wolves and fertility god. This festival became so popular that the church included this day in their calendar, hoping that they might retain their new members and turn them from the sexual licentiousness of the festival to true morality by linking this day to a saint. They chose Valentine, believed to have been a Roman priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius and who was beheaded on February 14 around 270AD for not denying Messiah and marrying young Christian couples in secret which was forbidden under Claudius’ reign. The Roman church tried to Christianise a pagan day of worship by naming it after a martyred saint. Part of the pagan ceremony was to put girl’s names in a hat and have boys each draw out a name and the two would be paired off until the following year. Eventually this custom led to the sending of cards or messages to those one admired and became the acceptable way of celebrating Valentine’s Day – this once pagan holiday. This festival originated in ancient pagan Rome and was a festival based on fertility and sexual licentiousness, and in an attempt to break this, the church tried to get the people to rather follow after the example of a saint and no longer engage in the ancient practice of honouring a pagan god through free sex. Despite some success the holiday today still attributes to immorality amoung many and promotes the wrong view of love. YHWH said that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. YHWH wants us to be free and not held captive by false beliefs and pagan ideas, and YHWH is opposed to any form of religious or secular holiday that keeps people blinded from the truth of His love. We have, in the Scriptures, a clear outline of YHWH’s holy days and festivals, each one illustrating a significant part of His ultimate love for us – a love that led Yeshua Messiah to the cross to die for us while we were still sinners. The celebration of Valentine’s Day has no part in the salvation of mankind, having its origin in pagan worship. In Deuteronomy YHWH warns His children to avoid the customs and practices of the pagan nations and that they were not to worship like they did – they were to eradicate all elements of pagan worship amoung them. Valentine’s Day has its root in pagan worship and the world’s ways according to the cravings of sinful man.
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of Elohim lives forever.”
Wow, ok so where does that leave us today? Well today I want us to look at the truth – at what true love is and we are going to look at the love chapter of the Scriptures – yes 1 Corinthians 13 in a message called, “The most excellent way”.
I want us to look at YHWH’s love and the love we are to walk in, so please turn with me to 1 Cor 13. I pray that YHWHwill truly help us understand what love is, not by what the world tells us, but by what His Word tells us, amen!
In order to fully understand this passage we need to understand and know the context of which Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. The chapter before this Paul speaks of the Spiritual gifts and the importance of them in the body and how the body is made up together to be in unity, each part having its unique role. We must understand that the Corinthian believers had made two mistakes. Firstly they had taken a spectacular gift (all gifts of the Holy Spirit are spectacular!), but less significant gift and given it priority in their meetings which you can read about in chapter 14. Secondly, they had carried over the pagan notion that such ecstatic utterances were a mark of spirituality – a mark of special closeness to YHWH. They primarily thought or taught that if you could speak in tongues and make a ecstatic utterance then you were really close to YHWH and set this as a standard to measure one’s walk with YHWH! This is where chapter 13 comes in, for Paul deals with this issue in answering a question that is often asked or thought of, “How do we recognise special closeness to YHWH in ourselves and in others?” We all yearn for a closer walk with YHWH, and if we do not understand the “closer walk” we are likely to grasp at an ‘unusual experience’ such as having to speak in tongues as being the key mark of closeness to YHWH! If we do not understand what it means and what it looks like to walk closely to the Lord then we may be likely to look and listen to the person with the unusual experience, and then taking their gift as the mark of divine favour. Paul wanted the Corinthians to recognise the priority of the more important gift in the ministry of the church and show them true spirituality is completely unrelated to the gifts a person may have from the Spirit. You must also understand that in 1 Cor 3:3 Paul tells this church that they were ‘still worldly, even though he acknowledges in 1 Cor 1:7 that they did not lack any spiritual gift, which means they were exercising the gifts and were still classed as ‘worldly’. Quite a rebuke if you ask me!!! And so in the process of explaining the gifts, he describes to them the most excellent way – Paul was now introducing to them the way to a deeper and closer walk with YHWH – Love. Love is the key to growth and maturity and is the practical indication of the spirituality in others. You know we often take spiritual gift tests, which are very good and help us understand our gifts and helps us get an understanding as to how to use our gifts effectively in the body. But how often do we, in a sense, take a ‘love test’? The test to see how close we are truly walking with YHWH as expressed in our actions toward others. They way we treat and engage with others is a great litmus test of our walk with YHWH!!! This chapter describes the love walk – the most excellent way – and in essence can be a love test for us.
This chapter, being a practical definition of love in the daily routines of life related to the problems the Corinthians were experiencing: Jealousy (3:3); Bragging (4:7); arrogance (4:6); seeking their own good (10:24); taking wrong into account (6:7-8); rejoicing in unrighteousness (5:1-2). This ecclesia was failing the love test and needed to listen to the direction of Paul in showing them the most excellent way. Paul put a high premium on Believer’s love for one another as he followed Yeshua who placed loving others as the second greatest and most important law of Scripture – and without love for others all Spiritual gifts are practically worthless.
Here you have an ecclesia of Believers that was excelling in operating in the gifts but was failing in love – I am sure this could sum up many churches today as well as many individual Christians today!
You know the world tries to put love into a category of having a warm fussy feeling or a fluttering in the heart, especially on days like today, Valentine’s Day. The definition of love that Paul gives is not just a very romantic – he speaks of it in two ways – in actions and in choices. Love is an action and a choice – it is not a feeling!
He introduces in the first three verses what seemingly is negative statements yet explains YHWH’s language of Love:
VERSE 1 – YHWH IS MORE CONCERENED ABOUT OUR ATTITUDES THAN OUR ABILITIES:
Verse 1 Paul speaks of having the ability to speak in all kinds of tongues, even the tongues of angels. To speak in many languages is a great ability and certainly comes in handy, especially if you are a missionary to a foreign country. Speaking in tongues edifies oneself into YHWH’s presence – it is for self and not for others unless there is interpretation which will edify the body. Paul says, hey you can speak in all the tongues you want - if there is no love – you are just making a big noise!!! YHWH is more concerned about our attitude of heart than our ability. He is more concerned about our availability than our ability! Ability comes from YHWH but if the attitude and availability is not right then we are just another noise maker rather than a love carrier!! This must have ticked some of the Corinthians off – those who had exalted themselves above others because of tongues must have looked like fools! Attitude over ability!!!
VERSE 2 – YHWH IS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT OUR COMPASSION THAN OUR COMPREHENSION
Paul is describing that even if you have great intellectual knowledge and can fathom all mysteries – and you can explain the text of the Bible – all which is important for the body in building it up in to maturity – but if there is no love, I am nothing. I can have all the faith (not salvation faith) but faith for miracles – I can believe YHWH for the impossible, but if I have no love I am nothing. I can be knowledgeable and believe, yet without love I am nothing!!! Knowledge puffs up, loves builds up. Now when we possess love with the knowledge and faith Paul describes well that is another story – a strong asset for the body!!!
VERSE 3 – YHWH IS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT OUR OBEDIENCE THAN OUR SACRIFICE
Here Paul describes a person willing to give their all – something the rich young ruler in Yeshua's day could not do. I mean someone willing to give their life for Messiah – shows great loyalty to YHWH, yet Paul says that if this is all done without being motivated by YHWH's love then there is no eternal value that can be attributed to their sacrifice! Listen this is real stuff. All the above mentioned acts are great and required in the body, but if done without love being the driving force then it is all a waste of time. The way we show YHWH that we love Him is not by what we are willing to give up in His name that the world would think is significant. They way we show YHWH we love Him is by being obedient - to say, do and be what He tells us to say, do and be, amen! Obedience not sacrifice is YHWH’s primary love language!
The pursuit and exercise of spiritual gifts must be bathed in love – the most excellent way!
So what is this love Paul is writing about?
Well let’s understand firstly love as viewed from 6 different styles or expressions as described by John Lee who researched this in 1979
There are various descriptions or styles that describe love in varying ways of action:
1 – EROS - This is a very passionate or erotic love, a romantic love that carries tremendous passion and physical longing – it has a deep intensity and intimacy and a desire – very sexual – seeks to be satisfied through physical intimacy
2 – LUDUS – This can be described a game-playing love, a conquest – like the love of a knight for a princess. It fantasises and engages in playful interactions but carries little or no intimacy and no deep intensity. People with ludus love jeep their passions in check – avoid trouble and intensity in relationships. They are uncomfortable about commitment. They easily keep secrets from their significant other and are more likely to have affairs. For them it is ‘all part of the game”, part of the conquest, will run form partner to partner.
3 – STORGE – This is a friendship based love – it takes a long time to build. There is strong companionship and shared values, yet little intimacy. It is an affectionate love based on similarity – a ‘family love’.
4 – PRAGMA – This is classed as logical love. It is a combination of storge and ludus love. It refers to practical and logical love in which someone actively searches for a partner with certain characteristics.
5 – MANIA – This is what could be classed as ‘possessive love’, and is really a combination of eros and ludus love. It is also known as the troubled love. This love is shaped by jealousy and dependence (often called co-dependency) – it is dependant upon the possessing of another’s love. There is great intensity and little intimacy. It is highly volatile, is obsession based and fuelled by a low self esteem. So people who express love in this way are often very critical of every move their partner makes, always accusing and assuming things that are not there and is the result of having a past of rejection and neglect.
6 – AGAPE – The highest form of love – the love of unselfish regard and has a devotion to the welfare of others. This love gives without asking anything in return, whereas all of the above expressions of love have an expectation of a return. Agape is a sacrificial love – giving of oneself – it is the purest form of love – this is Godly love. It is an unconditional love for others in spite of their character flaws and weaknesses and this is the love that Paul is writing about as the most excellent way.
9 times the word ‘love’ or ‘agape’ is used in these 13 verses – this unconditional love – the purest form of love is the most excellent way for us. This is YHWH’s love for us and He is they way, amen!
So let us look briefly at what this love is by looking at each of the 14 characteristics of what this agape love is:
1 – PATIENT – the Greek word here, makrothymia, means simply this – “the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate”!!! Wow, and we thought patience was just having to wait for something – the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. When someone wrongs you – are you patient? Or do you retaliate, be it in word, deed or thought? Corinth had many who were wronged – there was lawsuits amoung the brothers – they left the poor our when having communal meals.
This patience carries with it endurance and is actively good – it endures evil while conferring blessing. Patience is a quality of love frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. It signifies forbearance and slowness to repay for offences. YHWH is repeatedly described as patient, because He does not immediately punish those who offend Him. We are told to remember how YHWH was patient with us and so too be patient with one another. When an offence takes place, a loving Disciple is slow to strike back, in fact the patience or longsuffering becomes the opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness. The Corinthian church had many disagreements and had to practice patience to stop them from disintegrating. How are you at patience – one most of us all too often are found to be failing at!!! Patience is not ignorance. Paul loved the Corinthians and was patient with them although he did not ignore their offences. He worked with them carefully and slowly to bring about the desired end of edification and honour to Messiah.
2 – KIND – Kindness is a demonstration of love and is connected with patience again in Galatians 5 with the fruit of the Spirit for these concepts are similar. While patience may be the ‘negative’ side of love, kindness is the ‘positive’ side – as it extends good to others. Kindness speaks of being useful and gentle in behaviour.
3 – DOES NOT ENVY – Is not jealous – for jealousy is admiration and desire gone astray. Jealousy and envy begin when admiration and desire turn to resentment of others for the good they have. They are the attitudinal root of many terrible actions in the world. James, in particular, wrote, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James. 3:16). Do you often find yourself being envious of another, be it what they have or their gifts and talents, their attributes – if you do as James says you will find disorder and every evil practice.
James 4:2 “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask Elohim.”
When you don’t get what you want and others do – how do you react? Love does not envy!!!
4 – DOES NOT BOAST – Love does not parade itself in a pompous show! The meaning of this Greek word for boast can be ‘bragging without foundation’. The Church at Corinth was bragging about their tolerance of sin (read 1 Cor 5:1-2) which was like an ancient series of ‘Days of our lives!’ and this kind of behaviour shows no regard for others, nor regard for the glory of YHWH. Loving other people does not mean failing to acknowledge the good YHWH has done in oneself and in others, and at the same time love does not mean lying about human accomplishments. Paul said he boasts in YHWH, it is a sure foundation. Commend each other and build each other up, boasting about oneself only seeks to position oneself higher than another and we are to rather humble ourselves and become as a servant to others. When things go well, don’t boast about your accomplishments – praise YHWH and give all the honour and glory to Him.
5 – NOT PROUD – Pride is a killer. Before a fall comes pride. Pride thinks only of self and leaves others out, pride is consumed with ones own agenda and life and cares nothing for others. To be proud is to be overly self-confident and inappropriately insubordinate to YHWH and others. YHWH resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. I am not going to go too much into pride for you all know what I am talking about. Pride stops you from receiving correction. Love is not proud!
6 – NOT RUDE – When one is rude toward another you show disrespect for them and have no regard for their likes or dislikes. Let me ask you do you care about your brothers likes and dislikes, or could you not care less? Proper regard shows love for others. Come on how many of you are rude at times, be it with a cashier, or a waiter who is not up to scratch, or even one who is? When others are talking do you cut them off and chip in as if what they have to say doesn’t matter? Love is not rude!
7 – NOT SELF SEEKING – love is unselfish –
Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
How many of you put the interests of others before yourself? And I mean always? This is a hard one in today’s world – we are taught to look out for self and even if it means at the expense of others! Yeshua says no – put your brother first!
8 – NOT EASILY ANGERED - this could also mean not easily provoked or not easily irritated. Let’s be real, who of you here gets irritated quickly, especially when you are in a place you don’t want to be, be it your work place, visiting your family or even coming to 'church'. Those who love others do not normally become irritated and angry whenever others do wrong, but rather are slow to anger and are patient with each other. James tells us we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. I think we often find ourselves slow to listen, quick to speak and far to quick in becoming angry because we don’t get our way! There are times we may be angered; Yeshua, in anger, turned the tables of the money changers in the temple. If you get angry don’t let it cause you to sin, sort it out quickly and resolve the issue peacefully and lovingly so as to not give the devil a foothold. Do you get ticked off too easily – listen to Paul’s most excellent way.
9 – KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS – Boy is this hard for most – I mean how can you walk in YHWH’s love and hold on to the wrong that people have done to you! Forgive as YHWH forgave you! If you do not forgive, how can YHWH forgive you! If YHWH remembers your sins no more, what gives us the right to keep any record or score sheet against others? This means we are not to be resentful or think evil of another because of what they may have done. If you love others you will not meticulously keep a record of every offence. This again is not ignoring an offence, for Paul had to have been told what they were doing, but He sought to lead them in truth, not holding their sin against them for loves covers a multitude of sin. Can you keep loving someone who keeps wronging you and not be vengeful but rather seek to restore?
10 – DOES NOT DELIGHT IN EVIL BUT REJOICES IN THE TRUTH – The Corinthians had delighted in the immorality that was taking place in the church and so revealed that such enjoyment demonstrated a lack of love for the man and woman living in sin. Sin destroys people’s lives, so to rejoice in their sin is to rejoice in their destruction. Do you laugh at and take joy in the things that people do wrong or that you do wrong? How often you see people laughing about how they lied or ripped someone off, and 'Christians' at that too! Don’t delight in evil – walk in the truth and rejoice!
11 – ALWAYS PROTECTS – this also means ‘bears all things’ – this means that it endures all things without divulging to the world personal distress!!! This means holding fast so as to contain oneself in silence from giving vent to what selfishness would prompt under personal hardship. This means that no matter how tough the hardships you face you endure without seeking to expose the sins of others and put them down. How we often like to ‘bad mouth’ others for what they are doing, be it with people at work, fellow family or fellow brother in YHWH. Keep quiet, keep it to yourself, love protects always. How often are you not protecting others by mouthing off all the bad they are doing and so poisoning their appearance to others who do not even know them?
12 – ALWAYS TRUSTS – Listen this means love gives the benefit of the doubt. Suspicion and doubt toward others do not usually indicate much affection or love. On the contrary, when someone loves with Messiah like love, he entrusts himself to the one he loves time and again. Again this refers to your ability to trust YHWH – do you always trust Him?
13 – ALWAYS HOPES - Hope is an attitude that good will eventually come to those who may now be failing. Who have you lost hope for in coming to YHWH? Love always hopes and hope stirs faith to believe and pray and intercede. Believers, who love, continue to hope for the best. Even when others let you down, do you give up on them and walk out of a relationship with them or do you always hope for the best – that things will work out in time? All too often Believers walk out of fellowship as they do not walk in love – they give up hope!
14 – ALWAYS PERSEVERES – love does not stop when things get difficult – although for many this is true. What happens when the going gets tough – do you keep going or do you throw in the towel? Loving someone is easy when they are not challenging your affections by offending you or failing you. The quality of our love becomes evident when we must endure trials. We are to persevere in our love to others.
Walking in agape love, walking in the most excellent way, Paul declares that this way never fails – it is a sure and secure way – it is the only way!!! Love enables us to endure everything; it enables us to keep on believing in every circumstance; to keep our confidence in YHWH and to remain patient no matter what happens to us. We are to grow up in these things and put away childish attitudes!
Faith saves us, hope cheers us and love send us out after others. Faith is the root of love; our hope makes us helpful, but love is directly concerned with the welfare of others around us – love makes us like YHWH – YHWH is Love and as Love grows in us YHWH grows in us, amen! We are shaped into His image and likeness, that image and likeness being restored from Genesis when YHWH said “let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. Sin distorted that image and the most excellent way restores it again!!!
If we truly desire to show YHWH that we love Him, we have to be more than willing to simply say “I love You YHWH”. We must commit ourselves to YHWH’s language of love – the love that pays more attention to heart matters like attitude, compassion and obedience. Let us read verse 4-7 together, but instead of love say your name in the place of love.. (read)
How have you passed the love test? You know there is the power of life and death in the tongue – did you just hear what you read, what you confessed over yourself? Now walk in the most excellent way!
This is a call to obedience of love – obedience to YHWH. Are there any areas of love where you have been disobedient? Are you obeying His Commands out of a reverant love for YHWH? You may have been using your gifts, just like the Corinthians but without love? Have you or are you holding a grudge, are you envious, have you been boastful? Have you rejoiced in evil and called it light fun? Perhaps you have not forgiven someone and have kept score on those who have wronged you. Perhaps you have retaliated, whether it be in thought or action and not exercised patience in affliction.
Make a commitment today, just as you have by your own admission declared with your very own lips, to walk in the most excellent way – to walk in the agape love of YHWH – to walk as Yeshua Messiah commands us to – "If you love me you will obey my commands", Yeshua said.
Love is a choice and an action – choose to act according to YHWH’s most excellent way. It may be Valentine’s Day in the world’s eyes – but we are here to celebrate YHWH and His perfect love – as we come to embrace His love and choose to walk in it – we choose the most excellent way. Say it with me “I choose the most excellent way!” Wow, powerful stuff – now walk in it and yes you will be tested, but by His grace you can pass the love test, amen!