1 Corinthians 13:6

Sermon preached on March 13, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Martin Niemöller was a prominent Protestant pastor in Germany during the rule of the Nazis. He was an outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler and was arrested because of that. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in various concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

Those words are striking and tragic. Yet the sentiment they express is often true. I'm sometimes surprised how we Christians are comfortable with injustice. Sometimes we're so self-centered that even though a great injustice is done to someone else, because it's not done to us—we do nothing about it.

When Niemöller said that they came for the Socialists, some people that didn't like the Socialists were glad when the Nazis arrested them. In a 1963 interview with West German television, Niemöller acknowledged that he used to be anti-Semitic and expressed regret. I'm not sure it was true of Niemöller, but many people in Germany who were anti-Semitic were glad when the Nazis persecuted the Jews and came and took them away.

Those people were delighting in evil.

Some of you may remember that when the news of 9/11 broke there were TV videos of some people in the Middle East who were celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers. They were dancing in the streets. In their minds their enemies had been dealt a great defeat and they were glad about it even though many innocent people had suffered and been killed.

During World War II both the Axis powers and the Allied forces both bombed civilian targets in each other's cities. If I had been alive then I would have wanted the Nazis to be defeated. But I hope I would have been appalled at the bombing of German civilian targets. It's the same with drone strikes today. I saw on TV a video taken from a drone of three men who were planting a IED in the middle of the road in front of an advancing American convoy. The convoy was still a few miles away but the drone picked up these three men planting a bomb. I can understand using a drone to stop them. But in many other cases done strikes have killed entire families and some bystanders—innocent women and children included. In some cases even Americans being held hostage have been killed in a strike designed to kill terrorists. They are collateral damage. But no matter how good the intention, when innocent people are killed there is evil and injustice.

We should never rejoice nor accept evil. The principle that the Holy Spirit gives us in our text is that love never comes down on the side of evil but always sides with righteousness. The apostle Paul wrote , (1 Corinthians 13:6)

"Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth."

Charles Hodge says, (1 Corinthians, p. 270)

"The general sentiment of this verse is, that love does not sympathize with evil, but with good."

The great principle we see here is that

love is opposed to all evil.

Jonathan Edwards writes, (Charity and Its Fruits, p. 222)

"Negatively, the apostle declares that charity is opposed to all wickedness, or evil practice; and, positively, that it tends to all righteousness."

Love does not rejoice in evil. The Greek word Paul uses here means, ("χαίρω," BDAG, 1074)

"to be in a state of happiness and well-being, rejoice, be glad"

It's the opposite of crying or weeping, of being a state of grief. Love does not rejoice over something that is evil.

The Greek word translated 'evil' means, (NIDNTTE, 1:155)

"wrongdoing, unrighteousness, injustice;"

Charles Hodge says that what is in view is, (1 Corinthians, p. 270)

"any thing which is not conformed to the standard of right. The word is usually translated unrighteousness; but this is not to be limited to injustice, but includes all forms of moral evil."

The NIDNTTE adds, (1:156)

"the word group covers all that offends against δίκη (morals, custom, decency), all things that are unseemly, unspeakable, or fraudulent."

As Christians we are called on to be opposed to all forms of evil and wickedness. 2 Timothy 2:19 tells us

"Everyone who confesses
the name of the Lord
must turn away from wickedness."

(NIDNTTE, 1:159)

"unrighteousness is not compatible with calling on God's name."

But we are not to think of turning away from wickedness as just referring to our outward practice. Inwardly, the inner attitude of our hearts must be against evil. We must never sympathize with it or delight in it. Love does not rejoice in evil.

The second thing our text tells us is that

love rejoices with the truth.

Evil and truth are contrasted in our text. At first that might seem unusual. We usually think that the opposite of evil is righteousness or holiness—not truth. But Charles Hodge notes, (1 Corinthians, p. 270)

"Truth is often used antithetically in Scripture to unrighteousness, as it is here… Hence it is commonly interpreted in such cases as meaning righteousness."

We see this usage in Romans 2:8. Paul wrote,

"But for those who are self-seeking
and who reject the truth and follow evil,
there will be wrath and anger."

We also see it in 1 John 1:6. It says,

"If we claim to have fellowship with him
yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live by the truth."

Truth is antithetical to evil. We see this as well in Romans 1:18. It reads,

"The wrath of God is being
revealed from heaven
against all the godlessness
and wickedness of men
who suppress the truth
by their wickedness,"

In 2 Thessalonians 2:12 not believing the truth is likened to delighting in wickedness. It says,

"all will be condemned
who have not believed the truth
but have delighted in wickedness."

The connection between truth and righteousness is very strong. The Greek lexicon BDAG says, ("ἀλήθεια," BDAG, 42)

"Truth expresses itself in virtues like righteousness and holiness,"

Love, truth and righteousness and intimately related. They have nothing to do with evil. Love does not delight in evil. It rejoices with the truth. Truth is the antithesis of evil. Love and truth are intertwined. David E. Garland writes, (1 Corinthians BECNT; p. 619)

"Love does not suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18), exchange it for a lie (Rom. 1:25), do anything against the truth (2 Cor. 13:8), or become upset when faced with the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is (Gal. 4:16)

Love rejoices with the truth.

This has great practical implications for us.

First of all,

it shows that there is an ethical component to love.

This is very important. Love is not primarily a feeling. Love is not amoral. Love is not something that can be separated from truth. Love is so intertwined with truth that they always go together. If you move away from truth you move away from love. It may not seem that way—in fact it may seem the opposite. But be clear on it—love and truth are so intertwined that they are inseparable. If you move away from truth you move away from love.

If you really want to be a person who loves—you need to know the truth of God and live it.

In our society today God's Word is despised and people think that they don't need it to be wise, to be moral, to be righteous, to be loving. They think the Word can be dispensed with.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you really want to be a person of love you need to rejoice with the truth of God. You can't go by your feelings. You can't go by your mind. You need to go by the truth of God. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, (1Corinthians (PNTC; p. 647)

"As BDAG suggests, truth here has to do with 'the content of what is true,' especially 'the content of Christianity as the ultimate truth' and it is contrasted with unrighteousness (evil) since it 'expresses itself in virtues like righteousness and holiness.' Here the idea is that it rejoices when the truth (righteousness and holiness) wins out."

You need to saturate yourself with the truth of Jesus Christ and live as He lived, loving the truth, practicing the truth and rejoicing with the truth.

Secondly, this means that

you should never support your loved ones when they pursue or practice evil.

Love does not rejoice in evil. Gordon D. Fee writes, (1 Corinthians, NICNT; p. 708-709)

"Evil and truth, therefore, are probably thought of here in their larger sense of the gospel and all that is opposed to it. Here again by his use of agapē Paul is especially reflecting the character of God, which is now to be displayed by God's people. The person full of divine love joins in rejoicing on the side of behavior that reflects the gospel…"

Satan sometimes uses family members to draw other family members into sin. For example, Bruce Jenner's mother, Esther, recently commented on his sex change. She said,

"I have never been more proud of Bruce for who he is, himself as a father, as an Olympian, a wonderful public speaker. He instills enthusiasm in people. He's gifted. Right now I am more proud of him for what he's allowing himself to do. I am more proud of him now than when he stood on that podium and put the gold medal around his neck. He deserves all the respect."

You see the same thing in other areas. Many parents, when their son of daughter starts living with someone without getting married—they support them in their sin. They accept their behavior. And when they came to visit they do up the guest room for them.

It's the same with homosexuality. If a son or daughter comes out as being gay, very soon after many parents change from opposing a gay lifestyle to supporting it.

All of this is done in the name of love. But love never delights in evil. It never goes there. The farther one moves away from truth, the farther one moves away from love. One may still call it love, but it's not love, it's so perverted, so distorted that it bears little resemblance to the original. Evil, sin, wickedness, if unrepented of, will destroy people. Joining with them in celebrating evil contributes to that destruction. It is not love.

Thirdly, this means that

you should never rejoice when your enemy sins or when he is punished for his sin.

John McArthur writes,

"'Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, or in iniquity.' It's really all too characteristic of human nature… to take pleasure in other people's sins? Wow! You know, we live in a culture that is fed with salacious material about other people's wretchedness, isn't it? And in a bizarre kind of way, we like that stuff because it makes us feel good about ourselves because we're not extreme perverts and mass murderers.And it even gets closer to home. We love to gossip about other people who in our minds are worse than we are. And so we find some kind of bizarre satisfaction in the iniquities of other people because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We can always find people whose sins are different than ours. That's part of being human and it comes into the life of the church."

If you love other people you will be praying for their well-being, for them to come to Christ, for their holiness. You will not be glad that they sin nor should be you glad when they suffer for their sin. Proverbs 24:17–18 warns us with these words,

"Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when he stumbles,
do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove…"

Gordon D. Fee writes, (1 Corinthians (NICNT; p. 708-709)

"Love absolutely rejects that most pernicious form of rejoicing over evil, gossiping about the misdeeds of others; it is not gladdened when someone else falls, especially someone who 'deserves' it. In many ways this is the most difficult of all; how glad we often are when someone who 'deserves' it, 'gets' it. But for the apostle, love stands on the side of the gospel and looks for redemptive mercy and justice for all, including those with whom one disagrees."

Lastly, this means that

if we love other people, we will show them the truth of God.

We're sinners. People will be lost if they follow their own inclinations. We need to show them Jesus and point them to His work. He's our only hope. He died in our place. He died not only to save us from the consequences of our sin—but He died to save us from the power of sin—so that we can be His holy people. He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we may say no to sin and unrighteousness. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, (1 Corinthians p. 647-648)

"Söding reminds us that God is the one who supremely 'hates injustice (cf. Rom. 1:28; 2:8) and bears all truth in himself (v. 6).' The reference to truth here suggests that for Paul 'love implies the biblical notion of 'justice,' right relationships with God and other people."

People need to be right with God. Their sin has separated them from God and put them in darkness. We need to point them to Jesus. We need to urge them to repent. We need to do everything we can to get them to see the glory of Jesus and find life in Him. There's no greater love than that.

May God give us grace to be His faithful witnesses.