• Jamie McClanahan

The Supremacy of Love Part 3

The knowledge gained as a result of proclaiming and receiving prophecy is wonderful and beneficial for the body of Christ. Paul explains in I Cor. 14:3, "The one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them." So, there are those in the body of Christ with the gift of prophecy and knowledge or a great capacity to learn. However, even those who wield great power in prophecy or possess vast storehouses of knowledge of God and his Revelation, are nothing without love. The gift of knowledge is one who "has a comprehensive grasp on the great mysteries of God, including his plans for the future…"[1]

Even if you can possess the vast wealth of knowledge available to us online or in massive libraries worldwide, without love, it means nothing. The statement is also true that no one cares much about how much you know unless they know how much you care. Love opens the door to knowledge received and given. So, love must precede knowledge for it to be equitable.

In his book, The Wisdom Pyramid, Brett McCracken, remarks on that we are facing an “epistemological crisis” in our ability to process knowledge. He writes:

Our world has more and more information but less and less wisdom. More data; less clarity. More stimulation; less synthesis. More distraction; less stillness. More pontificating; less pondering. More opinion; less research. More speaking; less listening. More to look at; less to see. More amusements; less joy. There is more, but we are less. And we all feel it.[2]

The world is ever-growing with knowledge and information. In one minute in 2019 an amazing amount of information is consumed worldwide. However, in 2025 this is predicted to grow exponentially. McCracken further explains:

The exponential explosion of information in the “information age” is mind-boggling. Consider a sampling of the numbers. In 2019, a single minute on the Internet saw the transmission of 188 million emails, 18.1 million texts, and 4.5 million videos viewed on YouTube.1 By 2020, there were 40 times more bytes of data on the Internet than there are stars in the observable universe. Some estimates suggest that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be created each day online—the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs per day.2 What even is an exabyte? Well, consider this: five exabytes is equivalent to all words ever spoken by humans since the dawn of time.3 In 2025, that amount of data will be created every 15 minutes.[3]

The point to make here is that even if you could attain an exabyte of information, it would amount to nothing without the infusion and application of love for God and others. The illusion of knowing about God and knowing God personally is easily confused. Likewise, there is great confusion about genuine faith and love and faith which, apart from love, is bold and reckless with a mixture of God and self as its end glory.

It is this impure convoluted mixture that Paul addresses in I Cor. 13:2b. He writes, "…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." I love the Message Version, which says, "… and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing." Either version points to the same basic truth about faith in relation to love. We are not just talking about a little faith; it is "all faith" to emphasize the greatness and boldness of the measure.

The example is given about enough faith to remove Everest or Mt. McKinley from their mountain roots. In I Cor. 12:9, this type of faith is referred to as the spiritual gift of faith. It is not a reference to saving faith, although that is where all faith begins. It is rather defined as "an unusual measure of trust in the Holy Spirit's power to do mighty works." [4] The gift of faith can be observed in a believer who trusts God for what seems to be impossible, especially in the work of his church and the growth of his kingdom." [5]

Jesus encouraged is disciples to demonstrate this great measure after their failure to cast out a demon in Matt. 17:19-20. It says, “19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

The point of this phrase is that even if a person possessed the highest level of faith and boldness, without love, it is nothingness.

In the same way that an excess of faith, derived of love, is meaningless; so, it is true of sacrifice devoid of love.

In I Cor. 13:3, Paul transitions from addressing the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, and faith to a more tangible example. He writes, "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." Self-sacrifice is the main focus of this passage. The spectrum is from giving possession to giving up one's life. The Message Version captures the meaning well. It says, "If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere." The early church's pattern was to give up possessions for the sake of the church and feed the needy (Acts 2:45). Generosity and compassion were encouraged and modeled by Paul and the early church. Possessions were never to mark the identity of a person. Jesus taught, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15). Covetousness is the opposite of generosity and was to be avoided. The goal of the 1st-century church's generosity was to meet others' needs for the sake of the Gospel.

Self-Sacrifice is perhaps the most easily corrupted virtue by people of faith. In Matt. 6:1-2, Jesus addressed the religious leaders of his day who were active in sacrifice but detached from love for God and others. He taught, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." What is the motive of the giver and of the sacrificer? Apparently, both Jesus and Paul taught that it is possible to give away all, even your own life, for selfish motives. A sacrifice unto death can be the ultimate expression of love, or it can be the greatest perversion of it. Jesus is our supreme example of self-sacrifice done with the right motive. Romans 5:6-8 says, "6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

While Jesus seems to be a positive example of self-denial and self-sacrifice, there is another that is a negative example given in Mark 10.

The dialogue recorded in Mark's Gospel is a fascinating look into a man who was ill-motivated to give up everything. Jesus met this man, who many label "the rich young ruler." Phil Ryken relabels him as "the man who thought he knew how to love."[6] The man was interested in eternal things, and for that should be commended. However, his motives are soon exposed not in his words or knowledge but in his unwillingness to surrender all and follow Jesus lovingly. In the course of this fascinating discussion, the man asks Jesus a question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" It is a good question. Jesus reaffirms the divine goodness of God and the veracity of obeying the Ten Commandments. The man responds that he has kept all of the commandments since childbirth. The hinge verse is verse 21, "And Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." The non-verbal and verbal communication of Jesus gently exposes the man's perverted motives. The response of "the man who thought he knew how to love" was also verbal and non-verbal. Verse 22 says, "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."

In knowledge and word, he was gifted, but he was deficient in his love for God. He missed the mark of what pleases God most, Love. It was Jesus who would later summarize the commandments into two statements after being questioned by a religious leader. In Matt. 22:35-40, he said, "35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

[1] Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loved, 21. [2] McCracken, Brett. The Wisdom Pyramid (p. 11). Crossway. Kindle Edition. [3] McCracken, Brett. The Wisdom Pyramid (pp. 24-25). Crossway. Kindle Edition. [4] Mark Taylor, 1 Corinthians, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 28, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 307. [5] Ryken, 22. [6] Phil Ryken, Loving the way Jesus Loved, 24

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