16 Biblical Facts About Love From Martin Luther's Sermon On Christian Love

With today being Valentine's Day, I thought we could take a look at Martin Luther's sermon on "Christian Love" based on 1 Corinthians 13.


1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,a but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


We're all familiar with that passage, right?

But have you ever read Martin Luther's sermon on this very same passage?


 
Luther's Sermon On Christian Love


It's what he preached at one point in this sermon that grabbed my attention as being worthy of our prayerful consideration today.

Here are 16 statements of truth he made about "Christian Love" that speaks to the very nature of this kind of peculiar love.


“Love suffereth long, and is kind.” Now Paul begins to mention the nature of love, enabling us to perceive where real love and faith are to be found. A haughty teacher does not possess the virtues the apostle enumerates. Lacking these, however many gifts the haughty have received through the Gospel, they are devoid of love. 
First, love “suffereth long.” That is, it is patient; not sudden and swift to anger, not hasty to exercise revenge, impatience or blind rage. Rather it bears in patience with the wicked and the infirm until they yield. Haughty teachers can only judge, condemn and despise others, while justifying and exalting themselves. 
Second, love is “kind.” In other words, it is pleasant to deal with; is not of forbidding aspect; ignores no one; is kind to all men, in words, acts and attitude. 
Third, love “envieth not”—is not envious nor displeased at the greater prosperity of others; grudges no one property or honor. Haughty teachers, however, are envious and unkind. They begrudge everyone else both honor and possessions. Though with their lips they may pretend otherwise, these characteristics are plainly visible in their deeds. 
Fourth, love “vaunteth not itself.” It is averse to knavery, to crafty guile and double-dealing. Haughty and deceptive spirits cannot refrain from such conduct, but love deals honestly and uprightly and face to face. 
Fifth, love is not “puffed up,” as are false teachers, who swell themselves up like adders. 
Sixth, love “doth not behave itself unseemly” after the manner of the passionate, impatient, and obstinate, those who presume to be always in the right, who are opposed to all men and yield to none, and who insist on submission from every individual, otherwise they set the world on fire, bluster and fume, shriek and complain, and thirst for revenge. That is what such inflating pride and haughtiness of which we have just spoken lead to. 
Seventh, love “seeketh not her own.” She seeks not financial advancement; not honor, profit, ease; not the preservation of body and life. Rather she risks all these [in her effort to promote the well-being and salvation of her neighbor, that he may profit though it be to her hurt.—So that] in her is no such thing as [self-seeking nor self-love but a seeking of her neighbor's good out of sincere love. Far different are the base self-idolizing affections of those who practically hate their neighbors, yea, who hate the very children of God, by behaving not as] the Church of Christ nor as true Christians, [but as the sons of the devil who choose their own happiness and security over the very life and preservation of fellow creatures of God, Christ's Church, and the Glory of God.] Many erring spirits, especially strong pretenders to [Christian holiness, affect much of these things in word, but in deed it is impossible for them to truly seek the glory of God or the good of their neighbor out of true Christian love so long as they remain the servants of corruption.]2 
Eighth, love “is not easily provoked” by wrong and ingratitude; it is meek. False teachers can tolerate nothing; they seek only their own advantage and honor, to the injury of others. 
Ninth, love “thinketh no evil” It is not suspicious; it puts the best construction on everything and takes all in good faith. The haughty, however, are immeasurably suspicious; always solicitous not to be underrated, they put the worst construction on everything, as Joab construed Abner’s deeds. 2 Sam 3.25. This is a shameful vice, and they who are guilty of it are hard to handle. 
Tenth, love “rejoiceth not in unrighteousness [iniquity].” The words admit of two interpretations: First, as having reference to the delight of an individual in his own evil doings. Solomon (Prov 2.14) speaks of those who “rejoice to do evil.” Such must be either extremely profligate and shameless, characters like harlots and knaves; or else they must be hypocrites, who do not appreciate the wickedness of their conduct; characters like heretics and schismatics, who rejoice when their knavery succeeds under the name of God and of the truth. I do not accept this interpretation, but the other. Paul’s meaning is that false teachers are malicious enough to prefer to hear, above all things, that some other does wrong, commits error and is brought to shame; and their motive is simply that they themselves may appear upright and godly. Such was the attitude of the pharisee toward the publican, in the Gospel. But love’s compassion reaches far beyond its own sins, and prays for others. 
Eleventh, love “rejoiceth in the truth.” Here is evidence that the preceding phrase is to be taken as having reference to malicious rejoicing at another’s sin and fall. Rejoicing in the truth is simply exulting in the right-doing and integrity of another. Similarly, love is grieved at another’s wrong-doing. But to the haughty it is an affliction to learn of uprightness in someone else; for they imagine such integrity detracts from their own profit and honor. 
Twelfth, love “beareth all things.” It excuses every failing in all men, however weak, unjust or foolish one may be apparently, and no one can be guilty of a wrong too great for it to overlook. But none can do right in the eyes of the haughty, who ever find something to belittle and censure as beyond toleration, even though they must hunt up an old offence to find the injury. 
Thirteenth, love “believeth all things.” Paul does not here allude to faith in God, but to faith in men. His meaning is: Love is of decidedly trustful disposition. The possessor of it believes and trusts all men, considering them just and upright like himself. He anticipates no wily and crooked dealing, but permits himself to be deceived, deluded, flouted, imposed upon, at every man’s pleasure, and asks, “Do you really believe men so wicked?” He measures all other hearts by his own, and makes mistakes with utmost cheerfulness. But such error works him no injury. He knows God cannot forsake, and the deceiver of love but deceives himself. The haughty, on the contrary, trust no one, will believe none, nor brook deception. 
Fourteenth, love “hopeth all things.” Love despairs of no man, however wicked he may be. It hopes for the best. As implied here, love says, “We must, indeed, hope for better things.” It is plain from this that Paul is not alluding to hope in God. Love is a virtue particularly representing devotion to a neighbor; his welfare is its goal in thought and deed. Like its faith, the hope entertained by love is frequently misplaced, but it never gives up. Love rejects no man; it despairs of no cause. But the proud speedily despair of men generally, rejecting them as of no account. 
Fifteenth, love “endureth all things.” It endures whatever harm befalls, whatever injury it suffers; it endures when its faith and hope in men have been misplaced; endures when it sustains damage to body, property or honor. It knows that no harm has been done since it has a rich God. False teachers, however, bear with nothing, least of all with perfidy and the violation of plighted faith. 
Sixteenth, love “never faileth;” that means, it abides forever, also in the life to come. It never gives up, never permits itself to be hindered or defeated by the wickedness or ingratitude of men, as do worldly individuals and false saints, who, immediately on perceiving contempt or ingratitude, draw back, unwilling to do further good to any, and, rendering themselves quite inhuman, become perfect misanthropes like Timon in his reputation among the Greeks. Love does not so. It permits not itself to be made wicked by the wickedness of men, nor to be hindered in well-doing. It continues to do good everywhere, teaching and admonishing, aiding and serving, notwithstanding its services and benefits must be rewarded, not by good, but by evil. Love remains constant and immovable; it continues, it endures, in this earthly life and also in the life to come. The apostle adds, “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 he commends above all other endowments, as a gift that can never pass, even in the life to come. Those other gifts, the boast of the false apostles, are bestowed only for this present life, to serve in the administering of the ministerial office. Prophecy, tongues, knowledge, all must cease; for in yonder life each individual will himself perceive perfectly and there will be no need for one to teach another. Likewise, all differences, all inequalities, shall be no more. No knowledge and no diversity of gifts is necessary; God himself will be all in every soul. 1 Cor 15.28. 
Here Paul gives utterance to the distinction between the life of faith here below and that heavenly life of divine vision. He would teach that we have in this life and the other the same possession, for it is the same God and the same treasures which we have here by faith and there by sight. In the objects themselves there is no difference; the difference consists in our knowledge. We have the same God in both lives, but in different manner of possession. The mode of possessing God in this life is faith. Faith is an imperfect, obscure vision, which makes necessary the Word, which, in turn, receives vogue through the ministry, tongues and prophecy. Without the Word, faith cannot live. But the mode of possessing God in the future life is not faith but sight. This is perfect knowledge, rendering unnecessary the Word, and likewise preaching, tongues and prophecy. These, then, must pass. Paul continues, “We know in part, and we prophesy in part.” 
 “We know in part”; that is, in this life we know imperfectly, for it is of faith and not of sight. And we “prophesy in part”; that is, imperfectly, for the substance of our prophecy is the Word and preaching. Both knowledge and prophecy, however, reveal nothing short of what the angels see—the one God. “But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.”  
He proves this by way of illustration and contrasts the child with the man. To children, who are yet weak, play is a necessity; it is a substitute for office and work. Similarly, we in the present life are far too frail to behold God. Until we are able, it is necessary that we should use the medium of Word and faith, which are adapted to our limitations. 
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” Faith, Paul tells us, is like a mirror, like a riddle. The actual face is not in the glass; there is but the image of it. Likewise, faith gives us, not the radiant countenance of eternal Deity, but a mere image of him, an image derived through the Word. As a dark riddle points to something more than it expresses, so faith suggests something clearer than that which it perceives. But in the life to come, mirror and riddle, faith and its demonstration, shall all have ceased to be. God’s face and our own shall be mutually and clearly revealed. Paul says, “Now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known [know even also as I am known].” That is, God now knows me perfectly, clearly and plainly; no dark veil is upon myself. But as to him, a dark veil hides him from me. With the same perfect clearness wherewith he now knows me, I shall then know him—without a veil. The veil shall be taken away, not from him, but from me; for upon him is no veil.


Beautiful, eh?

Painful too. I'm ashamed to tell you how many of those 16 Biblical facts about Love aren't all that evident in my life right now. Disturbing and humbling for sure!

Reading through this list, I was confronted (reminded) with the truth that I fail to show this kind of Christian Love to my neighbors! I know I couldn't possibly ever be righteous enough to show this kind of love perfectly and on a regular basis, but I should be able to do so at least some of the time, right?

On one hand, I'm mortified. On the other hand, I'm grateful. I'm a sinner who needs to repent for my horrendous sins in this area. Thankfully, I also have the promise of the grace that was earned for me some by Jesus some 2,000 years ago on the cross.

Bottom line? Thank God for His forgiveness, grace, mercy, peace and restoration purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, because I certainly need it!

As Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller reminds us (thanks to Pastor Matt Richard for sharing this one on Facebook today!)...


Love is never done. The command to love, then, always accuses us, it always shows us our sin. This understanding results in three profound theological truths. First, our life of love is a life of repentance. Second, our works are always and only begun, never finished. Jesus, and Jesus alone, cries out, "It is finished." Third, it is impossible for us to find comfort in our works. We never think we've done enough because, well, we never have done enough.


Precisely! This is why we need more Law-Gospel preaching and teaching like this in the Lutheran Church today -- the Law accuses us, the Gospel comforts us, and both do what God intends for them to do for us.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we need to remember that genuine faith in Christ shows itself in brotherly love (John 13:34-35) and we would be wise to familiarize ourselves with the truths about Christian Love found in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 so that we can love our neighbors properly.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!