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A Message on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

For three weeks, we have been talking about love. We talked about God’s love to his people using the story of the Prophet Hosea and Gomer. We entitled it THE STRANGE LOVE STORY. We asked the question: “How can a holy man like Hosea love a prostitute like Gomer? Then we began to wonder: “How can a Holy Being like God love a sinner like me?” We learned through that story that God loves us no matter how undeserving we are. But it also emphasized that we desperately need God’s love.

Then Pastor Joel talked about THE LOVE THAT NEVER FAILS. He picked up the verse in John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you…” From that verse we learned that (a) If we remain in His love we are blessed, (b) if we remain in His love our love is righteous, (c) if we remain in His love we are eternally secured.

Then last week Pastor Joel continued the series on love with the message LOVE YOURSELF. The message was from Mark 12:31 “…Love your neighbour as yourself.” In that message we learn that we are meant to love ourselves for us to (a) take care of ourselves, (b) to channel God’s love to others.

Today, we continue on that series of Love. This time I will take it from the Negative Side, that is why the title of our message today is WITHOUT LOVE. We shall tackle the very common verse from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

Let me read the verses from The New King James Version. Please open your bibles to

1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

(Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,/ but do not have love,/ I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy,/ and know all mysteries and all knowledge;/ and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,/ but do not have love,/ I am nothing./

3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,/ and if I surrender my body to be burned,/ but do not have love,/ it profits me nothing.

First let me get us into context. Let us remember that the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians was a correction letter. Keep in mind that Paul was still dealing with the question of spiritual gifts. Here he is emphasizing the fact that gifts without graces are nothing. The fruit of the spirit is more important in the Christian life than the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. When the church strives for miraculous experiences rather than Christian holiness and character, there will be division, confusion, and carnality.

It is evident that the Corinthians were using their spiritual gifts with an attitude of competition and not of love. The church was divided, and the situations was getting worse because the very spiritual gifts that were supposed to build the church, were doing more harm than good.

In the verses we just read, Paul took up some of the spiritual gifts and showed their emptiness apart from love. That is how important love is in life. Even Christ emphasized it by asking Peter not once, not twice, but three times, “DO YOU LOVE ME?”

Let me tell you a story first. This is a personal experience. Jia and I call ourselves, Mommy and Daddy when we are in public. But when we are alone, we call each other Tart, and it is much more intimate than just mommy and daddy.

One night, when the lights were off, soft music was playing in the background, the air was very romantic, I asked her, “Tart, do you love me?”

There was no answer. The stillness of the night was deafening.

A few minutes later I asked her again, “Tart, do you love me?”

Still no answer, still quiet.

I inched closer to her, and put my hands on her shoulder, and asked one more time, “Tart, do you love me?” and all of a sudden I thought there was lightning or thunderstorm. The stillness of the night was broken by,

“Samok, tulog na diha.”

So allow me to walk you through 5 lessons from these 3 verses.

(I Corinthians 13:1)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Words without love are just noise. People resent and reject unloving words. But they will listen and respond to words spoken in love.

At times, Christians become so obsessed with religiosity rather than spirituality, and in the process they lose love. Yes, we need to tell others about Jesus. But we also need to show to others the love of Jesus in our life and our actions first.

Without love all I say is ineffective

So, if we really want to live a truly effective, meaningful life, we will put love for God and others first. Let love be our filter. If we can’t say it or do it in love, let’s not say or do it at all.

(I Corinthians 13:2a)

2a. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I am nothing.

The world is exploding with information and knowledge. Yet many of our most basic problems are not being solved, because the world is not looking for more knowledge. The world is looking for love.

Without love all I know is incomplete

When knowledge stays in the head, it leads to pride. It bloats your brain, and will lead you to think that you are the most intelligent person in this world and the others don’t know anything at all.

That is why, in the Trichotomy of Things, there is the HEAD, then the HEART, and the HANDS.

So, you learn things, that is good. You learn many things, that is even better. Then it needs to go down to your heart. You need to believe in your heart, with love, then you will express it through your hands, in good works and Christian actions.

Gifts have no spiritual effect on the life of the church if there is no love, for it is love that the Spirit uses to build the church.

(I Corinthians 13:2b)

2b. and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Many people have the misconception that being a Christian is just about believing certain truths and doctrines. But do you love Jesus? Do you realize he loves you? Christianity is about experiencing the love Jesus has for you and learning how to love like him.

Without love all I believe is insufficient

This is why in our Church History, you will see how the apostles, Paul and other leaders in the early church, spread the gospel of love of Jesus Christ. Their preaching may not be very theological, but a testimonial to what Christ has done for them, and how the love of Christ changed them.

(I Corinthians 13:3a)

3a. If I give all I possess to the poor but do not have love, I gain nothing.

There are all kinds of motivations for giving, including obligation or prestige or guilt. Just because you give doesn’t mean you’re doing it in love. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

Without love all I give is insignificant

So we ask ourselves, What is your greatest motivation to tithe? What is your greatest motivation to give to your favourite cause or non-profit organization?

(I Corinthians 13:2b)

3b and if I give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

You can have all kinds of great accomplishments. You can even sacrifice your life for the greatest cause in the world—the Kingdom of God—but without love, it’s wasted effort.

You can have the eloquence of an orator, the knowledge of a genius, the faith of a miracle worker, the generosity of a philanthropist, and the dedication of a martyr. But if you don’t love, it doesn’t count.

Without love all I accomplish is inadequate

The good news is that you can love others because God first loved you. Jesus says that as you live within his love, he will help you to love others. When you draw closer to him, your ability to love will increase—he makes it possible for you to live out the calling to love others.

Allow me to end today’s message with a poem I’ve read before. Actually, this was used as an introduction to a song entitled Without You, by Tom Jones.

To live for today and to love for tomorrow

Is the wisdom of a fool

Because tomorrow is promised to no one

You see love is that wonderful thing

That the whole wide world needs plenty of

And if you think for one minute

That you can live without it

Then you are only fooling yourself.

LOVE, we cannot live without it. Be it God’s unconditional love, (Agape), brotherly love (Philios), empathy love (Storge) or romantic love (Eros).

Because without love, everything that we say is INEFFECTIVE,

everything that we know is INCOMPLETE,

everything that we believe is INSUFFICIENT,

everything that we give is INSIGNIFICANT,

and everything that we accomplish is INADEQUATE.

No wonder Christ asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”


“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit” by Kahlil Gibran

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