"The Greatest of These Is Love"

Thoughts on the New Sermon Series

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Take five seconds right now and pray, “Father let your love be done in our lives the way it’s done in heaven,” With all his teaching on love, Paul also prayed that God would make love grow in the hearts of Christians. “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you” (I Thessalonians 3:12). “[I pray] that you would be rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). I call the Fasting 40 and all the rest to pray this way for the next couple of months. Did you take the five seconds?

What is at stake in “increasing and abounding in love to one another and to all men” is immense. Consider the demonstration of truth about God which he intends to come through love. Jesus put it like this in a prayer: “[I pray, Father] that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou hast given me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me” (John 17:21-23). I do not fully understand this. But I sense that something tremendous is at stake in the practical unity of love in the body of Christ that the world has dealings with.

Or consider John 13:34-35 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” One indispensable public mark of a Christian is love for other Christians.

Or consider Matthew 5:16 - “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The glory of our heavenly Father is at stake in the pattern of good deeds that we give our lives to.

On the basis of all these texts, I infer that a series of messages on love is also a series on evangelism and missions, as well as a series on pastoral care and marriage and workplace stresses and how to get along with people you disagree with, and everything else.

In the early centuries of the Christian church, Christians lived a kind of love that did not always win approval, but in truth testified to Christ. The Epistle to Diognetus says, “They love all men, and are persecuted by all…They are poor and make many rich; they lack everything and in everything they abound…They are abused, and they bless; they are insulted, and repay insult with honor. They do good, and are punished as evil-doers; and in their punishment they rejoice as gaining a new life therein.”

In the second century, Justin Martyr wrote about the Christians of his day: “We who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live in familiarity with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers of the same joyful hope of a reward from God, the ruler of all.”

Let’s join these remarkable people and demonstrate that we are possessed by the Spirit of the living Christ.

Longing to grow with you,

John Piper