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Nearly everyone who has some Bible knowledge will know the text in I Corinthians 13:13 “and now abideth faith, hope and love; these three, but the greatest of these is love.” The charismatic gifts in the church fail, cease and are done away with, when a certain point of development in the church and in the giving of God’s revelation has been reached. But faith, hope and love are verities in the church which abide from age to age. But of these three which remain the supreme verity and attribute in the church is love! Does not the word of Jesus shine as a Beacon Light across the ages, when he says to his disciples in the night in which he was betrayed “in this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

Let this word sink deep into our hearts! 

In this essay we would call attention to this aspect and proof of our discipleship, that we indeed do draw nigh unto God and the very presence of God in truth with a pure conscience, and that we do hold fast the confession of our hope firm and without wavering to the end. 

Three times the writer says “let us . . . .” It is an echo of the Hundred Twenty-Second Psalm “My heart was glad when they said unto me: let us go into the house of the Lord. . . .” “Let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith.” And, again, “let us hold fast the profession of our hope. . . .” And now in the text of our essay “and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

In this trial the last is not the least in importance. This is clearly stated in I Corinthians 13:13. “The greatest of these islove!” But this is also rather evident from the text itself. The apostle is not addressing a mixed multitude, a crowd of people on the street comer, but he is addressing the “brethren,” who have a merited boldness in Christ to come into the very presence of God, in the presence of their heavenly Father. They have this in the blood of Him, Whose blood speaketh better things than Abel. This is the blood of atonement and of reconciliation. When our consciences have been cleansed by pure water we no longer say with Cain “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That is the horrible condemnation upon those who are murderers, haters of their brother, and who are alienated from the life of God. These say very proudly “I know God,” but they belie this bold confession whereas they hate their brother. They do not have the truth in them. They are liars! Such liars can do many things. They chiefly can provoke to wrath; the truly soft answer they do not have! Fools are they, be they never so learned. They are unprofitable. They do not seek out God. The way of peace they have not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes! They are the godless in the church, which shall perish as the chaff is burned from the threshing-floor! (Rom, 3:17, 18) 

Here is another way unto which we are admonished. It is that we “consider one another unto provoking unto love and good works.” Here the rule holds which is only possible where we have had fellowship with the Father in His very presence and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-3). This is the “more excellent way” (I Cor. 13:1). Here is hope in action, the hope to see God. “Everyone who has this hope upon God purifieshimself as He is pure.” (I John 3:3) Here we know that we are our brother’s keeper, as the Heidelberg Catechism. puts it so clearly “. . . that everyone must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.” (Question 55) And thus it is in the text, The “let us” is directed to all who draw near with true hearts and who hold fast to the profession of the hope. And these know the more excellent way and have learned to sing with the apostle Paul “. . . Love suffereth long and is kind . . . beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Here is that beautiful Psalm 133 in action. Here is experienced “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity . . . for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore!” 

Here is the straight gate and narrow way which few find! Alas, how often this is not found even by ministers and elders in the church! What a holy resolution and what an earnest and a meaningful exhortation. Let usconsider one another. This is a very mutual activity. 

Here is it consider one another. The term in the Greek is “Katanooew.” It means: to perceive thoroughly with the mind, that is, with sanctified understanding. It is not fault-finding; it intends to be constructive and loving and edifying. One who is spiritually engaged in this debt of love to his neighbor has done a little consideration concerning himself. He has “considered” whether there is a “beam” in his own eye, heeding the word of Jesus “And why beholdst(“blepeis“) thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not (“ou katanoeis“) the beam that is in thine own eye?” The hypercritical man cannot give this spiritual “consideration” of the brother. He does not desire that he “be considered.” He is member extra-ordinary! Here is spoken of a great consideration for the brother: it is continuous and careful and prayerful thoughtfulness! It is thoughtful and sympathetic regard. It is the more excellent way! It is also very profound and spiritual—this activity. It is the same profound “consideration” which Jesus enjoins us to have for God’s handiwork in the lilies of the field and the ravens which God feeds. We must see the work of God, and the care of the Lord for each creature, especially for us His children. (Luke 12:24, 27) It is the same thoughtful consideration, the sympathetic pondering which we must have for the greatness of the High-Priesthood of Jesus, as He towers above Moses the faithful servant of God. (Hebrews 3:1

Now we see how this “consideration” is very love itself!

The term in the Greek is in the present tense. Hence it means to tell us that we must keep on having this spiritual consideration for one another and not become weary in well-doing. For this is in the midst of “brethren” who are yet in the midst of sin, and who have a love which is not yet perfected. It is the only formula for living in the midst of the brethren here in this imperfect church on earth. Here the formula is “upholding each other in love, in meekness, striving(not strife!) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1

In this spiritual climate we can speak of “provoking to love and to good works.” This is a peculiar provocation. When one takes a hasty look at the terms in “Young’s Analytical Concordance Of The Bible” we notice that it is most often used in the sense of provoking to anger (Deut. 4:24); to make bitter: provoking God as Israel did at “Mariba,” or when Israel provoked God by their blasphemy. Thus it is used in Hebrews 3:8, 15of Israel in the wilderness. However, here the term is that from which we get our medical term: paroxysm. This means to excite, to stimulate, to call forth the good in the brother, and in each other which is there by virtue of the seed of regeneration: the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. This is a provocation by those who have love in their own hearts which “endureth all things, believeth all things” concerning the brother. The Holland translation has “opscherpen der liefde.” To make love more keen and active in the full orb of its expression in the church, toward God, Christ and man and all things, so as to be some firstfruits of God’s creatures. This sharpening of love we can only exercise when we are good examples of it, in the spirit of meekness, lest we fall into temptation. (Gal. 6:1-4

What is this “love” here spoken of in the text? 

The term love here is the term always used for the ethical love. In the highest and most profound sense the Bible says: God is love. In that profound section of I John 4:7, 8 we read “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Such must be our starting-point in understanding love here in the text. For the writer does not write love of God, or love of Christ, etc. but simply “love.” There is no limitation. The only reference is that of the clause which follows: “and good works.” Hence, this is a love which has its starting-point in God and which has its fruit in good (beautiful) works. Nevertheless, even so we must see this love is the realization of the New Covenant of God in our hearts. Wherefore Jesus teaches us in John 15:8-10 “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you; abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in hi? love.” This is very significant, for it gives us to see how this love of God becomes ours; it shows us the love which must be provoked in us to do good works, to bear much fruit and glorify our Father who is in heaven. The pure love which the Father has for the Son in the human nature, the eternal Son, is the same love in which the Son has loved us. This is the love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ, taking it out of Him and giving it to us. Thus His joy becomes our joy and our joy becomes full in perfected love! 

Here Christ unfolds the mystery of the love of the brethren for one another, and sina qua non of the provoking of each other to love and to good works. And, therefore, all men may know that we are Christ’s disciples in this that we have love one for another!! 

Our love for one another is a fruit of and manifestation of the love which the Father has for the Son! 

Thus we are indeed image-bearers of God! 

Thus we are Sons and daughters of the living God, who dwell in His temple day and night. 

And this love will surely reveal itself in good works of thankfulness, in the keeping of the commandments of God. For the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned. The good works here are those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the commandments of God, and which are unto the glory of God’s grace. They are beautiful works, which testify of their divine origin, namely, from our heavenly Father’s love for His Son, which love the Son has manifested to us and worked in our hearts. Fruits these are of the branches in the true Vine of the heavenly Husbandman, God! And in the garden of God’s congregation we must provoke the living planting of God’s branches in the Vine to bear much fruit of beautiful works.

To this end we must consider each other! 

Each must esteem the other greater than himself. If there be any encouragement of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions—let us have sanctified, considerate attention to one another in the garden of God’s planting!