Truth Without Love = Nothing
I am humbled. I have learned a lot about myself and others in the last couple days. I believe that the Lord is grieved when His children are not united. Be it factions in a particular congregation or divided as we are by denominations. But I also believe that unity should not be placed above the truth, that is to say I do not believe that unity should come at the expense of biblical truth. With everything that has been said over the past 2 days, I have to say that I am so thankful for the book of 1 Corinthians. It reminds me that the early church wasn’t just experiencing the unity expressed in Acts 4:32-35
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
But the church in Corinth was very much divided, so much so that you could even make the comparison of the Church in Corinth to the churches in my own town. In Corinth there were divisions over which apostle was greater, sexual morality, lawsuits, marriage, eating meat, head-coverings for women, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of believers, and on and on and on. This sounds similar to what is happening in the church at large today, doesn’t it? Our churches are divided over baptism, Lords supper, genesis issues, worship, liturgy, types of songs we sing, eschatology, and on and on it goes.
Paul, who desired for the saints to “be united in the same mind and the same judgment” said something in 1Cor. 11:19 that I found interesting and pertinent to the discussions and debates that are happening now.
There must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
There must be factions. Really? Apparently so! We can see from the same verse that factions serve the church. Factions certainly are painful, no doubt, as we saw from the last post I wrote. But they provide us opportunity to distinguish between genuine and false, believer and hypocrite.
So a question then arises: Does this mean that factions or divisions only occur between the true believer and the hypocrite or between the true church and false church? No not all. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to help the “brothers,” or true believers, to work out their divisions. But factions, or divisions, do reveal false Christians or hypocrites. How? For one, by exposing an unwillingness to submit to the apostles’ teaching as we read 1 Corinthians 11:16, but the lack of love is the main one as we read in that well known passage in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul affirms that love is greater than faith in 1 Cor. 13:13. 1 Cor 13:2 says essentially that if we have truth and not love, we’re nothing”… Nothing. That echoes in my mind. Nothing. So while I meditate on this passage of scripture, I have to say that my intentions were good as I sought God’s glory and my own congregations wellbeing, but still I have to check myself to see if I am genuinely operating in love, or in anger, or pride or (hopefully not) hate or something else. I was simply trying to bring the truth… but…did I do it in love? As the verse says…if we have the gift of prophecy (or of speaking the truth) and not love, we are nothing!
There “must be factions” as Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says it must be so. Factions or divisions expose our hearts and motives in our disagreements and debates. When we engage in these things God tells us, that we must measure our motives, our words, and our actions by 1 Corinthians 13. Someone once said if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s a duck, likewise the less something looks or sounds like biblically defined Christian love, the more concerned he wants us to be about our genuineness. I have asked myself, “Was I genuine? Was I authentic?” The answer is that I really was genuinely concerned for people in my own congregation and for the Glory of God… but in my desire to reach these few people in my congregation perhaps I forgot about the other Christians, those from other “factions.” For that I do apologize.
With that said, it is my place, and yours, to hold people in our own congregation accountable to scripture, to admonish them, and encourage them, and support them in the faith, showing them the love of Christ. Love can hurt sometimes – think of a father disciplining his son. And somtiems we will be hurt in our pursuit of the truth, I have been hurt and I have hurt others. My prayer is that God would be glorified and his love and light would shine through in spite of my shortcomings. I pray for a return to truth for all churches, and I pray that everything we do would be genuine, authentic and in done in real Christian love.
Soli Deo Gloria.
1 Corinthians 13
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, 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, butrejoices 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.