Good Evening. Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13.
We’ve been working our way through Paul’s famous chapter on love, and we have noted along the way that this is no mere sentimental fluff. Paul is giving a positive statement about what true love ought to look like, and it stands as an implied rebuke to the divided Corinthians church, and it stands as a rebuke to each of us today.
Sober reflection leads us to see that we don’t always measure up. We’re not patient all the time, nor are we kind to everyone; we’re often arrogant and irritable and slow to forgive, like we studied last week.
This week we move into verse 6 which deals with both our actions and our heart. The verse will probe us, and sift us, and make us face who we really are. Am I loving towards others, or not?
But we will also see more of the beauty of Christ, who was not merely love personified, but was love incarnate. He is the God of love who took on flesh, and his love for his bride is seen in the way that he rejoiced in truth, even when it cost him his life.
Let’s begin by reading our text:
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Verse 6 begins by saying Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. Or we might say it rejoices not in unrighteousness.
This verse seems pretty straightforward on the surface. It would take a pretty callous person to laugh at clear evil. That’s something that the Joker does in the old Batman shows, deriving pleasure at wickedness.
It can also be pretty easy to spot this kind of behavior in the world. For example, we don’t merely have the presence of homosexuality in our nation, we need to have gay pride month. Society isn’t content to have access to abortions, we need to have a “Shout Your Abortion” hashtag movement on social media. It is not enough to partake of evil. With an absence of love, you will rejoice in it.
Psalm 10:3 says, “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the covetous curses and renounces the Lord.”
However, just because such unbecoming behavior is easy to spot in the world, that doesn’t mean that it is always so easy to spot in the church, and it can be even harder to spot in ourselves. Rejoicing in wrongdoing can take several forms, it can bear various fruit.
For example, one way that we can take delight in unrighteousness is by having within us a hypercritical spirit. Being hypercritical is one fruit of a loveless heart. Earlier Christians would call it having a censorious spirit, which is to say, having a heart that is inclined to see failure in others, severely critical, faultfinding, or bent toward carping.
This sort of disparaging disposition is easy to possess, indeed feels natural for many of us, even though it ought to be to our shame. We have been given two eyes by God, and instead of using them to spot the good, we instead only fixate on the evil and the unrighteous.
This kind of person always has a complaint, and is never satisfied. They seem to always be discussing what’s wrong with the church, and can find it exceedingly difficult even to admit to the good that might be there. They’re reluctant to acknowledge growth in others, and instead are never satisfied with any progress that has been made.
This kind of person tends to have a hard heart. Never satisfied and always critical, they’re like the father whose child comes up with a picture they drew of the family, and the father immediately criticizes the coloring outside the lines and the unrealistic shape of the bodies.
Such a disposition crushes the souls of people around them. They spout off unbearable burdens, that the weaker souls around them cannot bear.
Eventually, good people just stop coming to them, because their conversation is always so negative, and the only people who will share their company are those equally as inclined towards being critical, thus producing a hypercritical echo chamber that only reinforces the pattern.
In the end, you’re left only with a heart that can ONLY rejoice in unrighteousness.
But a censorious spirit isn’t the only fruit of a loveless heart. Another way we can rejoice in wrongdoing is through Gossip. Gossip. There exists within each of us a temptation toward savoring the juicy. Not all are equally tempted toward this, but many will find their souls salivating over the salacious details. I think that’s why proverbs compares gossip to choice morsels.
There’s a strange appetite in our fallen souls to not merely possess knowledge that feels special or secret, but to take it a step further, and to delight in some sort of unrighteousness. That’s why the commercials for the news will interrupt your tv show and say something like, “Family of four brutally murdered in their own homes, more at 11.” They know people will want to hear more about that wickedness.
I found this own temptation in my own heart as I listened to the podcast about Mars Hill church in Seattle. It is certainly not necessarily sinful to listen to such investigative journalism, but as I listened to it I had to shut it off. I found the details of the sin were entertaining for me, and inclining me to root for the downfall of certain individuals. I wasn’t handling the knowledge well, so I had to remove the temptation.
Gossip can have a similar effect. We may couch it as loving concern and seeking prayer for somebody, but we often are just entertained by the wickedness of someone else.
Related to gossip is slander. Gossip is speaking behind someone’s back, but slander is an outright assault on someone’s reputation. Slander is murder of someone’s name, their status. Slander is divisive, as proverbs makes clear in multiple places. It separates close friends. To gossip and slander is to demonstrate a lack of love, and to rejoice in wrongdoing.
Indeed, another way to delight in wrongdoing is to not merely gossip about them, but to delight in their downfall. To delight in the downfall of others is to delight in unrighteousness. The Germans have a word for deriving pleasure at the misfortune of others: shadenfreude. It means to delight in another’s misfortune. That’s a good jeopardy tidbit for you.
But, Paul would have us consider, that to wish for anyone’s demise is a peculiarly malicious vice. Satan is the one who delights to see the demise of God’s image bearers, and when we are entertained or are pleased to see others’ demise, we take up Satan’s mantle. God says in Ezekiel 18:23 that he does not delight in the death of the wicked, and for us to do that, we image, not God, but Satan.
This kind of sin can be found in something simple, like consuming those magazines at the checkout line which detail all the juicy details of the latest celebrity scandal. Or your favorite podcast, or discernment blogger, or watching clips of your political opponent making a fool of themselves. Delighting in the downfall of another is no Christian virtue.
Love will not have a censorious spirit, participate in gossip, or delight in the downfall of another. But these behaviors are all fruit of sin, what would be the opposite? If these are the vices, what would be the corresponding virtues extolled?
That’s the second part of the verse: Love rejoices at the truth.
It is interesting that Paul doesn’t parallel what we would expect. A lack of love rejoices at unrighteousness, so love we would expect would rejoice at righteousness. But that’s not what he says. He contrasts unrighteousness with truth.
But the connection between truth and righteousness shouldn’t surprise us if we’re familiar with our bibles. Truth and righteousness are often put together. One old commentator put it this way:
“Truth, is gospel verity, the divine saving reality. Where unrighteousness prevails truth is of necessity absent. Unrighteousness prevails where the heart has pleasure in it, loves it, and thus rejoices in it. There, the love that Paul describes is absent. But where the heart rejoices in the truth, embraces it gladly, finds pleasure in possessing it, there unrighteousness is driven out.”
In short, where truth is, there will be righteousness, and where love is absent, there will be neither truth nor righteousness. So what does it mean to rejoice at the truth? One way is to think in terms of gospel progress.
Henry says simply Love is “glad at the success of the gospel,” which is often called the truth in the NT by way of emphasis. Think of passages like 2 John verse 4, where the apostle John, the apostle of Love as he is often called, writes, “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth.”
Again in 3 John 3, the Apostle says that he “rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.” Rejoicing that others are walking in the truth, rejoicing that the gospel is advancing and bearing fruit.
So what might it look like to be a people with this kind of love?
It would mean that we would refuse to have a censorious spirit, and instead pursue an encouraging spirit. Love is not hypercritical, faultfinding, always fixating on the negative and problems, never able to see and appreciate growth.
But love is instead quick to see the evidences of growth. It is nurturing of the good it sees in others, however slight it may be. Love is tender to take a small little ember of truth, and eager to see it fanned into a flame.
Further, Love will not rejoice in wrongdoing by partaking in gossip. Proverbs says a gossip, or a whisperer, separates close friends. Gossip brings division. It breaks, divides, and destroys relationships.
But love instead refuses to participate. Indeed, in the absence of a gossiping soul who delights in wrongdoing, gossip will die out. Proverbs 26:20: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” What would the church be like if everyone refused to gossip? It would be a place of security and protection and trust. It would be a haven of love.
Love covers a multitude of sins, it lets gossip die by giving it no fuel, and it refuses to perpetuate anything it hears that might not be a blessing to others. It also refuses to slander, but instead will protect the name of others.
That’s another way that love demonstrates it rejoices in the truth, by protecting the name of those around you. Love will bend over backwards to protect the reputation of someone else. That means speaking the truth, of course, but only speaking negative things when it is for the good of others.
Love means being quick to point out evidences of grace and growth in the people around us. It means not growing impatient with the slow progress of others, but instead being grateful to God for any measure of growth at all. It means not harboring a record of wrongs, like we discussed last week, but instead harboring a record of rights.
How many of us are quick to see the ways that people around us are growing? Do we appreciate growth, even slight growth, in the lives of others?
Moving on, love rejoices in the truth when it refuses to delight in the downfall of others. Love mourns and laments evil. I’ll admit that there is a good and right sense in which we can delight in seeing justice served, but we all need to be warned that such delight can easily devolve into delighting in another’s demise.
Rather, a Christian will see the downfall of the wicked or see the fool getting the rod like he deserves, and far from rejoicing, the Christian will reflect. He will soberly reflect on his own life, and be grateful to God that he did not receive the rod that he too often deserves. Further, love is prompted to compassion and pity toward the downfall of another.
There is an interesting story in 2 Samuel 4, which you can read later for homework. But David, who had already been anointed by God as the next king of Israel, who has been relentlessly pursued by a wicked king Saul, David is delivered a message of Saul’s death. The text says that the messenger thought he was bringing good news to David of Saul’s demise.
David says in the text, ““As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10 when [the messenger] told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. ” The messenger delighted in the news of a man’s death, even though the death belonged to an enemy of the king. Such delight belongs not to true love.
And how often do we find ourselves a little entertained, a little pleased, a little smug over the downfall of someone that we don’t particularly like?
Love doesn’t do that. Love rejoices in the truth. Love clings to the truth, and refuses to gloat in the downfall of any man or woman made in God’s image.
Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
How good are we at holding fast to what is good? If we really use this text as a mirror, we will all see some ways that we fall short. I sure have seen that as I’ve studied through it.
I find in my own heart great defects that incline me to rejoice in wrongdoing. Not so much in an overt way of exulting in sin, but I find it so easy to be faultfinding and hypercritical.
It takes no effort for us, does it, to spot the deficiencies and failings of those around us? We’re not often quick to rejoice in the accomplishments of others, or in the growth that they’ve made, however slight it may be?
Indeed, we’re instead quick to gossip, to slander, to murder the reputation of someone else made in the image of God. We use our tongue for evil, rather than rejoicing in the truth. James says the tongue is
“a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so.”
When we destroy someone else’s name, and use our tongue for their demise, we’re no better than Satan, the father of lies who rejoices in unrighteousness.
I’m so thankful that Jesus Christ was not that way. Christ never rejoiced in unrighteousness. If anyone had the opportunity to be hypercritical and faultfinding, it could have been Christ. He had perfect knowledge of the heart of every man, and instead showed immense love.
When the woman in John 8 was caught in adultery and thrown down in front of Jesus by the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, how did Jesus respond? He could have pointed out every sin that the woman had done and justly condemned her for her unrighteousness. But he didn’t do that.
He said to her “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He wasn’t like the Pharisees, fixated on her wickedness in an attempt to conceal their own. Rather, Jesus’s sharpest rebukes were for the seemingly-religious people who thought they were righteous, but were instead full of unrighteousness.
Jesus was not faultfinding and disparaging.
But neither was he a gossip. He never whispered juicy morsels for others to consume. Neither did he slander the name of anyone else, murdering their reputation in the eyes of men.
Instead, rather than murdering a name, the bible teaches us that he protected a name, indeed manifested a name. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17: ““I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”
Unlike we Christians who tarnish the name of God in the eyes of men every time we slander and gossip, Christ perfectly revealed the name of God and protected the names of men. He wasn’t concerned with speaking truth at the cost of love, but always conformed all his speak to both truth and love.
He has, in the gospel, protected you by providing you with a new name, His name, a name of perfect. Have you ever thought about that? His name cannot be tarnished, nor will it prove insufficient. And it has been given to you through faith.
Simply by belief in Jesus, we’re given the protection of His name. That means when God see us, he sees the perfection of the son. He sees the righteousness of the Son. He sees the truth of the son, and that causes him to delight, because love delights in the truth.
If you’re trusting in Christ, then be encouraged that God doesn’t delight in your failings, but rather he delights in you because he sees in you the faithfulness of the Son. Your meager attempts at love are perfected through the priestly work of Christ.
And God delights to see our growth, however slight, in the areas of love. That’s part of the blessing of the gospel, that God actually delights in our meager attempts and our slight and imperfect growth in truth.
Even though we fail, he delights when we repent, and struggle instead toward love and truth.
Even though we wander off, he delights when we come home.
Doesn’t that warm your heart to know that God delights in you, God rejoices in you, not because you are perfect, but because you have been given perfection in Christ? You’ve been counted as righteous, and therefore worthy of his rejoicing, rather than counted as unrighteous, which is what we’d be outside of Jesus.
Isaiah 62:5 prophesies that, “and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.” If you’re in Christ, be encouraged that God rejoices over you like a groom rejoices over his bride. He isn’t reluctant to embrace you or unwilling to get close to you. Rather, he lifts you up, and he praises you.
Zephaniah 3 says that God will “rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
God rejoices in you in Christ. Even though we were lamentable in our condition and had earned nothing but judgment and death, we’ve been not only spared from such a state, but transferred into a position of honor and grace. What a privilege we have in Christ!
But we must also know that Christ’s protection will not extend to those who reject him. For those who remain hard in your hearts, who refuse to listen to the Word of God and rejoice in the truth, know that your judgment is coming.
Christ will return to vindicate his name, and his wrath will be hot. His judgment will be fierce. Hell awaits any who refuse to bend the knee to Christ in this life. Read in scripture of Hell’s description, and compare it to the state of believers in Christ. Don’t you want to be rejoiced over, and sung over, rather than being judged and punished? Come to Christ tonight, and flee from the wrath to come.
The way of escape has been made plain, and the cost is simply faith. Believe in Christ, and you too can be spared, saved, redeemed, bought out of bondage to slavery, and made into a child of God.
And for us believers, we have the opportunity to rejoice in truth tonight in another way. God has provided a picture, to remind us of the truth, and to aid us in rejoicing in that truth, that Christ has died in the place of the ungodly, that we might be spared judgment, and so that we might be nourished through our journey to the promised land, the heavenly city.
The message pictured is this: that for the joy set before him, Christ willingly endured the cross. That means that his body and blood were separated, shed for you, that you might be saved, and that he might rejoice over you.
If you’re trusting in Christ, loving him, and are committed to his truth found in God’s word, to fellowship with the body of Christ, to the breaking of bread with the saints, and to prayer, then we invite you to join us.
If you haven’t yet trusted Christ and obeyed him in baptism, then let the plates pass.
 R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Ausburg Publishing House, 1963), 559.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: On the Whole Bible 6 Volume Set (Hendrickson, 2006), 6.463.