Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 26, 1954
NUMBER 16, PAGE 3,6b

Paul's Definition Of Love

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

The theme of this series of articles, of which this is the fourth, is love. This paper is to be a study of the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians as a definition of love.

In the first three verses the apostle teaches the futility of any accomplishment or act not prompted by and proceeding in love. Any life destitute of love is empty and useless. The attributes and accomplishments of love are given in verses 4-8 "Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not: love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil: rejoiceth not in unrighteousness but rejoiceth with the truth: beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away."

Love is longsuffering. Many Christians have neglected to cultivate the tenacity of character necessary to long suffering. About all the consistency they can claim is constant failure in endurance. Failure to persevere in the right is to be attributed to lack of love. The person who is unwilling to take anything, who always has a chip on his shoulder, manifests a lack — he is not mature. The vital element lacking in his make-up is love, for love suffereth long.

Love is kind. As love is kind and love is of God it follows that unkindness is not from God, it is of diabolic origin. As you consider yourself do you find the character of your speech and behaviour to be kind? Kindness manifests itself in consideration and courtesy to others. The absence of kindness is evidence of lack of love, for love is kind.

Love envieth not. Envy is discontent or chagrin over the good fortune or attainments of another. Love requires us to rejoice with them that rejoice. It is easily seen that such a course destroys the possibility of envy being entertained. Chagrin at another's good fortune is the antithesis of rejoicing with him.

Love vaunteth not itself. When we let all that we do be done in love, we will not be guilty of boasting, for the one guided by love is never led to vaunting. The braggart is such a disagreeable person we wonder how he tolerates himself. No one can boast when he takes the attitude divinely prescribed in Philippians 2:3 "doing nothing through faction or through vain glory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself." Such an attitude prevents one strutting or parading self.

Love is not puffed up. "Puffed up" is close kin of vaunting. A person is incapable of parading self until he is swelled with self esteem. No more accurate picture can be given of the egotistical and haughty than the one here drawn with the two words "puffed up." Ego is not grown up — it is puffed up. How frequently we encounter the type, those who are willing to give out that they are some great one, so high and mighty that they must be disdainful of anything which they are too shallow to comprehend. The absence of modesty signifies an unhealthy spiritual condition. A healthy growth in love precludes an unhealthy swelling in self esteem.

Does not behave itself unseemly. Love behaves properly. Our behavior in general is a mark of the presence or absence of the element, love, in our lives. Misbehavior is a symptom of deficiency of this element. Love behaves itself seemly in time of happiness and in time of sorrow, in time of ease and in time of stress. No conditions or circumstances permit misbehavior. Love always behaves itself seemly.

Love seeketh not its own. Frequently one is heard to remark that he is "looking out for number one." Such an attitude and course of action is in conflict with that required by love. Love prohibits one limiting his seeking to selfish interests. Concern for the welfare of others is required. Consideration for the rights, sins, and needs of others are too often crowded out by selfish ambitions. The Holy Spirit requires "not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others." (Phil. 2:4.)

Love is not provoked. Incidents designed to provoke, beset the Christian's pathway. These occasions of provocation do not always come from the avowed enemies of Christ but are sometimes supplied by members of the church. Regardless of the visible source of the irritations those who truly love God and God's people will not be provoked to graceless speech or unrighteous action.

Love taketh not account of evil. This does not require ignorance of the devices of the devil nor indifference to the fact of evil. It does not mean that love denies the reality of sin. The idea is that love doesn't keep an account or record of all evil or harm done. Many people keep a complete account of the evil, both real and imagined, that has been done them. They recite, in detail, at every opportunity all the wrong done to them. The life that is dominated by love will not be soured and embittered by a constant reminder of the mistreatment it has suffered. The only purpose an account book can serve is to retain the knowledge of the things recorded therein. A record of the favors and blessings received from others tends to promote humility gratitude and a forgiving spirit. Like Paul we need to realize that we are debtors to all men. I suggest this 'exercise unto godliness' for those who are accustomed to recite the slights they have received. Suppose you substitute a good thing that person has done to you for each of the slights and recite the good for a while.

Love and rejoicing. Love "rejoiceth not in unrighteousness but rejoiceth with the truth." Love never takes joy in unrighteousness. It never enjoys participating in unrighteousness nor experience joy at its triumphs. The things that give one joy is an index to his character. Some can find no greater joy than in serving the Lord and man. Others take keen delight in hurting their fellowmen. The first are walking in love the others are not.

Love of the truth is essential to spiritual success. Those who love the truth rejoice in the truth. That is false charity indeed that would compromise any principle of truth. Let us cultivate love of the truth, stand on the truth, speak truth in love, in other words, rejoice with the truth.

Love beareth all things. God has promised that we will not be tempted above that we are able to bear. (1 Cor. 10:13.) As long as love guides and restrains our lives we bear all things. Love beareth all things without complaint or whimper. There is nothing weak about love, it can be relied upon. Bearing all things is not a mark of weakness but of strength. This is the opposite of the worldly view of the matter; the world by its refusal to practice the principles of love, shows that it considers love as weak. There is nothing weak or sissy about love. How anyone can view the exhibition of strength of a mother's love, the extent of sacrifice and toil of which love makes her capable, and then question the strength of love is an inexplicable mystery.

Love believeth all things. This is not an endorsement of gullibility, but it does require putting the best construction on others actions. Love continues to believe the best as long as it can and be consistent with the facts in the matter. "Love is easy to be entreated." Belief is based on evidence. Love believes all things based on acceptable evidence.

Love hopeth all things. The "all things" of this as well as the preceding and succeeding clauses does not embrace evil. Love does not believe lies nor does it hope for anything wrong. It hopeth for all things which are proper objects of the Christian hope.

Love endureth all things. Those who are accounted authorities tell us that the word "hupomenoo" which is translated "endureth" is a military term which means to sustain an assault. This has reference to heavier and more sustained afflictions than that of beareth all things. This is not mere endurance but is endurance plus forgiveness of those who afflict us.

Love never faileth. It is eternal, its value will never diminish. Time cannot outmode love. It is of the "Ancient of days" — manifested by the Lord Jesus Christ and will endure when time is no more.