1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “The Definition of Love”


1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “The Definition of Love”


Last week we began chapter 13, the love chapter, by seeing God’s perspective of love

To God, love is supreme

It is who He is – His essence, it is the motivation behind all He does and it is our earmark, that which is

 to identify us as disciples

To illustrate love’s importance, Paul gave us 3 examples the stress the need for love

Without love, our most eloquent communications is little more than noise

Without love, all our giftings, talents & abilities are of no benefit

Without love, all our acts of service or sacrifice profit us nothing

We mentioned that the love God is concerned with is agape love

That selfless, other’s centered, unmerited, unearned, undeserved love

Love that simply seeks an object to lavish it’s affection on

It loves by choice of the lover, regardless of the beloved

The conduct, response or attitude of the beloved has no effect on the love given

The love of a mother for her newborn child


After expounding on the importance of love, how we are basically noisy worthless nothings without it, it

 would be terrible if Paul simply moved on to the next subject without describing that love

Love’s important, now go figure out what love is on your own

Most of us would be in big trouble, with at best tweaked definition of love

Some of us didn’t really grow up with love, or at least not how God defines it

Left to our own devices, our definition of love would be different from what God desires

Thankfully Paul doesn’t do that

In verse 4-8 Paul defines the agape God love

Like facets on a diamond, Paul lists 16 characteristics of agape love

They describe what this love looks like, how it acts, how it responds, it’s attitude and it’s applications

According to 1 John, God is agape love

In reality, Paul definition of love in these verses also serves as a definition of God

It shows us who He is at His core

Best of all, it tells us how God loves us

We know He loves us, but often we feel His love fluctuates based on our performance

As we’ll see, this love has nothing to do with the performance of it’s object

As such, please know that God loves us in spite of us

Our performance is actually a response to His love, rather than the motivation of His love

These verses are not intended to be some kind of indictment to condemn us as loveless

Actually, there really should be an encouragement to all of us


they tells us the character and nature of the God we serve



they show us the kind of love that God has for us

they depict the love that that Spirit is working into us

These verses become a measuring stick, a standard that we can compare our lives to

Substitute your name every time you see the word love and reread these verses

Would these verses remain true? Or does the Spirit still have a lot of work to do?

The longer we walk with the Lord and surrender to the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the truer they should sound

As such, we can use these verse as a progress meter of our sanctification


Now substitute Jesus’ name for love and reread the verses

It fits perfectly and doesn’t detract from the truthfulness of the verse at all

My prayer, for me & you, is that these verses come to describe us more and more each day

The Definition of Love (13:4-8a)


we are told that agape love

suffers long

Most of us tend to avoid anything with the word suffer in it

Agape love is more than just patient, it suffers long, it patiently endures

It endures and bears with wrongdoing for an extended period of time

There is a ‘stick-to-it-ness’ about it

It is not quick to drop it’s object of affection at the first sign of difficulty or problems

It doesn’t give up quickly

So many times our love is conditional

What have you done for me lately?

If the answer is very little, or worse yet caused me to suffer, we are quick to drop our love

Agape love is about committed faithfulness regardless of the situation

This also conveys the idea is that it is not quick tempered, fast to react negatively

Agape love is far from wrath or anger

When we perceive we have been wronged, rather that suffer long and endure it, we are quick to want to retaliate, usually in a negative way

That is not the way of agape – it is able to rise above petty things and continue to love

How perfect a definition of God

Aren’t you glad that God was longsuffering with you before you got saved?

Aren’t you glad that now that you are saved, He continues to be long suffering with your failures and

 when you deliberately sin against Him

Aren’t you glad that God never did, nor will, give up on you? –

Phil 1:6

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”

God is indeed longsuffering

When Moses wanted to see God, God passed by and declared His name to Moses

Ex 34:6-7

“And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

Peter even addressed the issue that some felt God was unconcerned because He didn’t bring His

 judgment swiftly –

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Is our love longsuffering or is it simply fair weathered and self benefit orientated


agape love is


The best description of this kindness is actually tender compassion

Compassion is more that just feeling sorry for someone or identifying with their situation and suffering

Compassion carries with it a strong desire to intervene to alleviate that suffering

In other words, it doesn’t simply shake it’s head and say what a shame, it actively looks for ways to improve the situation

The word comes from the same root word for bowels – what the ancients believed was the seat of all emotions, in the pit of your stomach

The bible sometimes renders the word as tender mercy

Not only does love suffer long, it responds with active kindness


Agape love is always seeking an opportunity to be kind and tender

It wants to be an asset, a help, a benefit to those upon whom it is given

No matter what or how much it must endure and suffer, agape love always seeks to be good and kind to others

Naturally speaking, when we are wronged, kindness isn’t usually on the top of our response list

Luke 6:35-36

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Needless to say, this describes God perfectly

God is not some malevolent and maniacal being looking to pour out His anger or wrath

He is the opposite – loving tender and always seeking to pour out His kindness and compassion

Look at His response to sin

He didn’t look down, shake His head and say too bad for you

He sent His Son to alleviate the problem

Titus 3:4-7

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Throughout the gospels we read; ‘Jesus had compassion for the people’ or ‘Jesus was moved with compassion’

He looked at the multitudes with compassion because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd

Do we always respond in kindness?


agape love

does not envy

Envy is a desire for what another has or is – similar to coveting

There are 2 types of envy

Simple envy – you have it I want it

Malicious envy – you have it, I don’t necessarily want it, I just don’t want you to have it

This quality means that love is not jealous

True love has an aspect of contentment

It doesn’t have a wrong sense of ambition or competition

Within the body it doesn’t look upon the call, gifts or influence of others with a sense of jealousy or

 covetousness

Jealousy is an insidious thing and is often called ‘the green-eyed monster’

When I think of envy, I think of king Saul

He was so envious and jealous of David

It infuriated him when the people sang of Saul killing his 1,000’s but David his 10,000’s

So strong was his envy, that it moved Saul to chase David around the wilderness for years looking to kill him

When Jesus died, what possessions did He have

Nothing – even His clothes were gambled away

He had to be buried in a borrowed tomb

When approached by a potential disciple Jesus responded in

Matt 8:19-20

“Then a certain scribe

 came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him,

"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."”

But doesn’t the bible say that our God is a jealous God and that His name is Jealous

Yes – but God is jealous for us, not of us

He is jealous that we serve Him alone, because He knows that is what is best for us



agape love

does not parade itself

The old KJV says

‘charity vaunteth not itself’

To vaunt means to push forward or push up

Love doesn’t do what it does to be seen, to be elevated in the eyes of others

I wish some of the TV Christians would understand this

The idea is that love isn’t some kind external show

It is genuine, not an act for others to see and admire

It isn’t a braggart – It doesn’t need to be the center of attention, nor does it need or seek applause

In actuality, love most often does it’s work outside of the sight of others

We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus

He was never seeking the crowds, in fact He often withdrew from them

When He did His miracles, He often said ‘don’t tell anyone’

After He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead we read in

Luke 8:56

“And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.”

He wasn’t out campaigning for the popular vote

Our love isn’t to be demonstrated in such a way that we are seeking to build up our image in the eyes of others



is not puffed up

Here we have the internal attitude of pride

Pride is something we all have and struggle with – something we must fight against

It was the 1 st

sin, the sin of Lucifer, and is really the genesis of every other sin

Pride is simply seeing yourself as above others

With that comes the need and attempt to prove that

When this is the case, then any charitable deeds are done for an ego stroke

Look what I did, boy and I great, I’m so much better than so and so because they didn’t do what I did

This manifestation of love is really selfish in nature

Plain and simple – God hates pride

Both James & Peter tell us that

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”

Humility is really a fundamental cornerstone of the Christian life


agape love

does not act rudely

It is not short, curt or terse

It is always polite, showing common courtesy



does not seek it’s own

True love doesn’t act based on what it can get for itself

It is not selfish, self-centered or self-seeking

Agape is always looking out for the benefit of others

It is willing to give others the credit

Agape is all about giving, not taking


agape love

is not provoked

Some people add the word ‘easily’ before provoked

The idea is that there is a limit, a line not to cross

Once crossed, then love is provoked

That is not what the bible says

Here we have the idea of not being over sensitive

Love isn’t touchy, easily offended or easily frustrated

Love has that staying endurance we talked about, and doesn’t give up in a huff

Agape love has thick skin and a soft heart




thinks no evil

Agape love doesn’t operate with any kind of malicious intent

It always focuses on that which is good

It is not suspicious, it doesn’t think the worst about people or situations, rather it gives the benefit of the doubt

It actively searches for the good qualities and accentuates them, rather than focusing on the bad

It is innocent, not fault finding, or nit picking

This can also be described as not keeping a record of wrongs

We often keep lists of the way people have wronged us and if honest, we hope that some day they will get theirs

Agape love is a quick forgiver, not keeping those lists

As such, agape love leaves no room for bitterness or harshness of attitude to develop

Once again we see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus

One of the most simple and sublime statements about Jesus is in

Acts 10:38

“God anointed Jesus of

Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

He did good to all – His followers as well as His opponents

His first words from the cross are also evidence of this goodness –

Luke 23:34

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Honestly, my prayer would have been just a bit different



doesn’t rejoice in iniquity

First this means that love doesn’t smile at the misfortunes of others

It isn’t excited about other’s failures because they make us look better

When something bad happens to someone who we feel deserves it, agape doesn’t celebrate

It doesn’t take an attitude of ‘It serves them right’

Example – Tagger hit on the freeway

This also speaks of it’s attitude towards sin and ungodly behaviors

Love isn’t tolerant towards, ignorant of or wishy-washy about sin

It has a backbone and is willing to confront sin and rebellion with the truth

Love refuses to compromise with sin but always seeks to do the right thing even when that is the hard thing

Jesus identified and ministered to sinners while never condoning or identifying with their sin



rejoices in the truth

Love is excited when people are right on, living in godliness according to God’s word

God’s word is truth, it is pure absolute truth, thus love rejoices when people are living according to the

 precepts, judgments, statutes and commandments of the word

As such true agape love does not compromise when it comes to God’s word

Sometimes we feel loving if we overlook something in another’s life that is contrary to God’s word

We like to think we are showing grace

In reality, the most and best love we can show someone is to clearly show them what God says

Agape love rejoices in biblical outcomes of all situations

Twelfth – Fifteenth

These four qualities each have that dreaded word – ‘all’

All means all, and that’s all, all means

For these to be completely true about us we would have to replace the word ‘all’ with the word


Bears all things

Nothing is too strong for love so that it is crushed – It always hold’s up


It’s supply is greater than any demand

Agape love comes directly from God Himself who has an endless supply

What demand then could exhaust that supply?

For this to be a reality, we must be constantly in fellowship with God receiving His love so that we then have love for others that bears all things

Believes all things

Here we have the honesty of love

It isn’t mistrustful or distrustful but rather is willing to give the benefit of the doubt

True agape doesn’t allow it’s faith to waver or fail

It doesn’t become jaded in various situations

Hopes all things

Agape is always optimistic, never negative or cynical

It doesn’t allow it’s perspective concerning the present or future to be dominated by the past

Past experiences can not overwhelm it to the point where it becomes pessimistic about what is to come

It is confident about what good will come

Endures all things

Here we have the final outcome of suffering long

Agape love outlasts all other things – the wrongs done to it, the failings of others, the hurt, pain and sorrow

In the end, agape love remains because it endures all things


love never fails

The word for fail here actually means to fall off, fall down or fall out of

It was used to describe a flower or leaf falling off a plant

It was also used of an actor being booed or hissed off a stage

When we read that love never fails, it means it holds it’s place

It isn’t moved, diverted or detoured by anything or anyone

It is firm, sturdy, unflappable and unshakeable

When everything else is shaken and moved from the scene, love will remain

It is permanent – which is what the rest of chapter 13 teaches us


God’s definition is just a bit different from ours

His definition is the only definition that matters

This is the kind of love that described His nature and is the kind of love He has for us

Does it describe the kind of love we have for Him and others

If not, allow the Holy Spirit to work this love into, through and out from your life

Next week, we see the permanence of love