Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Power of Love (1 Corinthians 13)

"Though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3b).

At the time of the Great Awakening in New England, many critics brushed aside the truth of the religious experiences of these new converts, maintaining that the Great Awakening consisted of natural religious excitations and not true conversions. Jonathan Edwards countered these critics defending the truth of the conversions. However, in the months and years following the Great Awakening, while Edwards still defended the truth of many conversions, he began to witness a turning away of many new “converts.” In an effort to deal with this dilemma in North Hampton, he penned his famous Religious Affections.

Edwards describes the differences between true and false religious affections. He distinguishes between affections natural to man and those that come only by the Spirit. He maintains that the natural man can find comfort in the proclamation of the Word and promises of God, yet still remain unregenerate. Tears can flow and hearts pound as the preacher proclaims forgiveness in Jesus Christ, yet the supernatural impressions on the soul can remain absent. Edwards said religious affections flow from a supernatural origin when they excite love for the excellency and holiness of Christ. The hypocrite has no true love for God’s holiness, for the excellency of His being in all its fullness, because these affections can only come from the indwelling Spirit.

Paul emphasizes the priority of love in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says that you can possess all the gifts of the Spirit, even a faith of sorts, but without love it is nothing. True love for Christ, a love that encompasses His justice, wrath, holiness, righteousness, and mercy, grows from a heart renewed by the power of God. The Scriptures teach, as did Edwards, that this true love for Christ is not passive, but is exercised in practice. Love gives our deadened hearts the inclination to honor and serve God. It humbles itself before God’s sovereignty and before the authority of His Word. Christ said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” True love bears fruit. Obedience that stems from a heart of love is generated by the power of the Holy Spirit, who seals God’s children until the day of glory when all that will remain is love.

Examine your love for God today. Do you love everything about Him—His holiness, righteousness, mercy, and forgiveness? Do you love God as He has revealed Himself in the Old and New Testaments? Do you love Christ not only as your Savior, but as your King, whom you must worship and obey?