Agape IV


Agape is the character of our Father, and our elder Brother, Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament, agape’ becomes the character of God.


1st Corinthians 13:6, agape’ “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…”  Not rejoicing in iniquity, but rejoicing in the truth, this is a plus and minus command.


Minus part:  “not rejoicing in iniquity”:  Agape causes a person to be repulsed by sin.  (But we try to get as close to sin as possible, now don’t we?) 


1.  Society tends to be repulsed by the consequences of sin (i.e. A.I.D.S. and other various venereal diseases), but not the sin itself that caused the consequences. 


Agape causes us to be repulsed by sin.  We as younger people tend to see sin as an adventure (the sinning antics of the crew of my submarine were hilarious, and it was quite an adventure—lucky we were young and most of us, even as unconverted adults, grew out of that lifestyle).  Sin on the front end of the experience is fun, so we must strive to find the repulsive aspect of it and not be seeking the fun aspect of it.  Genesis 34, Dinah, one probably 16-year-old innocent girl who had probably never seen much of the outside world, the world outside of her family.  This prince of a king, the king of Shechem, fell for Dinah and basically gives her a night out on the town, and sleeps with her.  The end result, was the whole murder of everyone in Shechem, including her prince charming and his father the king, by her angry brothers.  It seemed like fun at the time.  Agape causes us to fear the results of sin.  We as humans (and too often as believers) don’t ordinarily fear the results of sin.  We tend to tread where angels fear to tread, as the saying goes.  We also tend to play games with God’s mercy, knowing that if we go to God and ask for forgiveness for a transgression, he because of Jesus’ sacrifice has to give it to us.  If we’re not careful we begin to rejoice in iniquity, take that grace of God lightly by repeated sins in a particular area of our lives.  We begin to see iniquity as not evil, we begin not to hate it or fear it and we begin to compromise in our lives.  This starts small, like leaven, until we’re rejoicing in iniquity.  Agape’ doesn’t rejoice in iniquity---doesn’t find it attractive.  We have to be repulsed by sin and not just the consequences.


Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  That describes people who rejoice in iniquity---they won’t be in the Kingdom of God.  Where do you start stopping rejoicing in iniquity?  In yourself.  When you start being repulsed by the sin you see in yourself.  That drives us to God for repentance.  Why is it we find certain sins in our personal lives so hard to overcome?  It is because we still like them more than we hate or are repulsed by them.  Sometimes we still like them more than we hate them.


Approving of Evil


2. The second way we tend to rejoice in iniquity is far more subtle:  We can rejoice in evil by simply approving of evil.  This is found in Romans chapter 1:28-32, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.”  This section of Romans is a scathing attack by Paul on Roman society of the time.  Every last thing, from the negative perspective, that we have covered in 1st Corinthians 13:4-6 thus far, was just mentioned in those five verses.  What Paul said in those five verses is the exact opposite of agape.  I hope you noticed that.   He said that particular society was sick and could not be saved by God.  Our present society is, interestingly enough, getting sicker and sicker by the year.  It will soon be so sick that it too will not be worth saving by God.  It may already be that bad now.  So you and I live in a similar society to the one Paul found in Rome.  You might say the society had become rotten to its very core.  He said in verse 32 that those who practice such things are worthy of death.  But notice the rest of the sentence---“not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.”  We can rejoice in evil by simply approving of evil.  At the same time, we’re not to go around judging everybody in the outside world for their evil lifestyles, God will do that soon enough, that’s not our job. But we can’t approve of things that are wrong.  We live in a society that is so tolerant of sin, and it thinks this tolerance is a great virtue.  Society’s approval of evil parades itself as political correctness oftentimes.  Jesus was not politically correct, ever.  He was tactful when agape demanded it, and blunt about sin where agape demanded it, always for the good of the other person.  But are we to disassociate ourselves from this evil society and go live like a hermit?  Paul spoke on this in 1st Corinthians 5:9-13, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world [Greek kosmos, lit… world].  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner---not even to eat with such a person.  For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside?  Do you not judge those who are inside?  But those who are outside God judges…”  There’s a difference between friendship with the world and interacting with the world.  H’s not saying we have to have friendship with the world.  But we do have to interact with the world.  Sometimes we have close friends in the world---but we can’t become the world.  We can’t rejoice in the iniquity of the world.  So, rejoicing in iniquity can be done by approving of those who do iniquity. 


Spreading Stories About Others


3. Agape’ doesn’t rejoice in spreading stories about other’s sins.  A third way we can rejoice in iniquity is by spreading other’s sins about in conversations.  There are times when you have to tell somebody about someone else’s sin.  But you know there are people who just live for that, they enjoy telling about other’s sins, and you’ll find that they remember other people’s sins from years ago.  This is a similar point to agape doesn’t keep records of other’s wrongs. 


4.  A fourth way we can rejoice in sins is found in Proverbs 6:12, “A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth.”  These people tend to be worthless to themselves and society.  This person is always finding a way to trick others, get a fight going, always trying to play nasty practical jokes that harm others.  This is not talking about good-natured practical jokes.  But hurtful practical jokes (like putting super-glue on a public restroom toilet seat).  We can rejoice in iniquity with the wink of the eye, or picking a fight and ducking out, to watch the outcome, enjoying it happen, enjoying watching others trying to trick people.  But we can find ourselves living a vicarious sinful lifestyle through watching other people, such as in the movies (or reading those spicy-hot romance novels).  Have you ever watched a movie and part way through you feel uncomfortable?  Vicarious rejoicing in sin, we can do it at all kinds of levels if we’re not careful. 


“Agape Rejoices in the Truth”


“Agape rejoices in the Truth.”  There are two kinds of truth this can apply to:


1.  Agape Rejoices in the Truth of God: We can know this for so long that we don’t appreciate the truth of God anymore, don’t find ourselves rejoicing in it anymore.  Do you remember when God first called you, opened your mind to his truth, the truth of what the Bible really taught?  You were overjoyed.  They call that “first love.”  Now that knowledge has become ‘old hat’, and you find yourself compromising on the Truth.  The Sabbath---because you don’t rejoice in it anymore---your marriage---lifestyles, how you dress, the little things?---and all because the truth of God really doesn’t excite us anymore.  We don’t rejoice in the truth of God.  And if you find yourself not rejoicing in the truth of God, you will find a way to compromise on that truth.  How is this so?  Well, when you’re excited about God’s truth you can’t compromise with it.  2nd Thessalonians 2:8-10, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”   Why is this beast person able to bring a deception upon the whole world is because “…among those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”  It didn’t say they didn’t hear the truth, it doesn’t even say they didn’t believe parts of the truth.  It says this happened  “because they did not receive the love of the truth”---they did not rejoice in the truth.  They will accept part of the truth, like any other kind of information extant in the world.  But it will only be part of the overall mixture of the information they’re taking in, which is a mixture of lies and truth.  The best lies are what?---lies that have some truth mixed in them.  In the end-time the world will not love the truth of God, and for Christians, the greatest challenge will be learning to “rejoice in the truth.”  David said “restore to me the joy of your salvation.”  He hadn’t lost salvation, per se, but he had lost the joy of salvation, the excitement of it, the motivation of it.  He prayed to God to give that joy back to him.  David genuinely loved the truth of God.  Read Psalm 119 sometime.  Agape rejoices in the truth.  We shouldn’t be ashamed of it, want to hide it (and yet, we’re not supposed to cram it down other people’s throats, either).  How much trouble in life do we have because we’re not rejoicing in the truth, but are compromising with it? 


2.  Another thing about the truth:  We must search for the truth in everything, every situation we find ourselves in.  We must be willing to adapt to truth---we must be willing to follow truth.  That’s not easy.  We must constantly be verifying what we know.  Even in history or science, scientists, true scientists do this, and honest historians, what I like to term as historians who follow the “smoking gun” of history, do this.  But we humans tend to judge situations that we do not fully understand.  We make decisions on half-knowledge, half-truths, judge other individuals on these half-truths, and in doing so we’re not rejoicing in the truth, and fowling up relationships.  The truth is, we must find all the truth---before we make judgments.  In dealing with human beings we often make some terrible judgments because we did not wait for or obtain all the truth in a situation.  We should strive to get “the other side of the story” before making judgment between human beings.  (Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?---does anyone know who led the Japanese down a 35 year long path of militaristic societal structure which broke loose on the world on December 7th, 1941?  We blame the Japanese.  Do you realize it was the fault of the United States, and specifically the Roosevelt administration going back to 1905? [read James Bradley’s The Imperial Cruise])  We must search for the truth---in everything---and a lot of times it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of understanding.  And then, there are some things in life we’ll never know the truth about.  But we must pursue the truth, and that takes having a lot of patience.  If we all waited in situations, until we learn a sufficient amount of truth about a matter---because we rejoice in the truth---we would react much slower than we usually do (especially in how we judge and talk about others).  Finally,


1. Rejoice in the truth of God, as David did, ask God to restore the joy of salvation to you.


2. Always search for the truth, what actually happened in a situation.  Before you make any judgment in a situation, search for the truth, be careful when you make judgments, especially about others.  This often involves waiting patiently, when we don’t know all the facts, waiting and not passing judgment.  This ends this condensed sermon series covering 1st Corinthians 13:4-7. 



In Conclusion


Gary Petty had this to say, in summation.  His comments also debunk a powerful misconception held by most Protestants, that saying (and doctrine) of their’s “Faith plus nothing.”  “You see, what I had to break through was the Protestant belief---that I didn’t realize was so deep---where the Protestants say that faith is the product---that it’s the end goal.  They say, “Faith plus nothing.”  Well, I don’t belief that.  Faith equals obedience [cf. read James 2:14-26 in direct context with what Gary’s saying and what we have just studied!].  Okay.  But the realization that, when Paul says, “This [i.e. agape] is greater,” what’s that mean?  In other words, this is the product.  The product of this is this.  [i.e. he’s saying the product is agape]  You can’t have agape without faith, but you can have faith without agape.  Because faith leads us to this.  Faith leads us to become Christlike.  Hope leads us to look into that mirror.  And when we look into that mirror, what do we see?  Back to 1 Corinthians 13.  What do we see when we see Christ in the mirror?  Well, we see someone who suffers long.  We see someone who is kind.  We see someone who does not envy.  We have someone, who amazingly, does not parade himself.  We have someone who has no human pride.  We have someone who is never rude.  We have someone who never has to have his own way, which is amazing with that kind of power!  We have someone who is not provoked.  He’s angry without being provoked.  We have someone who thinks no evil, keeps no records of wrong---when this relationship of repentance takes place.  We have someone who does not rejoice in iniquity.  We have someone who rejoices in the truth.  We have someone who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  That’s what we see.  And that’s what we’re supposed to become.  That’s who we’re supposed to be.”


Have a blessed Passover, and Days of Unleavened Bread season this year!  And remember to agape each other, not just phileo each other.


[This whole four-part series on Agape was condensed down from notes taken from Gary Petty’s 8-hour sermon series on Agape.  Full credit goes to him.  If you’d like the full version, contact him at]


Listen to the Audio version by clicking here Agape IV