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“For Those Who Love Him”

By Kyle Pope

First Corinthians 2:9 reads: “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’” (I Corinthians 2:9, NKJV). This text is actually a paraphrase of a passage from Isaiah 64:4-5 which reads: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned--In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.” In the context of First Corinthians Paul applies this text to show the glorious nature of the gospel. In it are revealed things that had not been seen, heard or imagined.

Paul does not quote directly from the passage in Isaiah but paraphrases (i.e. summarizes the meaning of) the text to illustrate the point he is addressing in this section of First Corinthians. We are generally critical of modern paraphrases when they are put forward as “translations” rather than human summaries of the Biblical text. Works like Good News For Modern Man or the Living Bible are not literal translations, but paraphrases which express an author’s understanding of the gist of a passage. This is not to say that it is wrong to paraphrase. No preacher of the gospel can teach without summarizing a text in their own words at some point. What may be wrong is an incorrect paraphrase, that misses (or distorts) the truth of a text. In cases when Paul or other inspired writers paraphrase a text, we can be sure that the summary which they put forth is sound, accurate and reliable because it is given by the direction of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20, 21).

In the example found above, the Apostle’s paraphrase, when examined closely, reveals some important things about our service to God. The first part of the passage, in Isaiah and in First Corinthians, are very similar. Both speak of what the “ear” and the “eye” have not experienced. Where the text diverges is in the phrase “which God has prepared for those who love Him.” The text in Isaiah does not speak of God’s preparations, but rather man’s need (in the last part of the passage) to be saved. When Isaiah declares “we need to be saved”— Paul through the Holy Spirit sees in this declaration God’s preparation for our salvation.

What is also different in the two passages is the phrase “for those who love Him.” The Holy Spirit does not lead Isaiah to use the term “love.” Is this an addition on Paul’s part? Quite the contrary, just as Paul sees man’s need for salvation as a foreshadowing of God’s preparations for a way to be reconciled to God, Paul sees what the prophet says about those who are pleasing to God as the demonstration of what it really means to love God. Notice these elements:

I. “The One Who Waits For Him.” There are a number of ways, in our relationship with God that we are called upon to “wait” for Him. As Christians we understand that one day Jesus will return in judgement. The one who loves God keeps this fact before their mind and strives to be prepared for it. In addition to this we are sometimes called to wait upon the Lord in faithfulness to Him as we endure trial, temptation and suffering. The ungodly, in their impatience, turn away from God, thinking that their own ways are best, and that by pursuing sin they can achieve their needs. The child of God recognizes man’s inability to direct his own way and waits in obedience upon God, trusting that God’s ways are best. Paul shows us that this is not passive and inactive. Rather, waiting on God is a way that we show our love for Him.

II. “Him Who Rejoices.” An old song from the 70’s portrayed a confused lover crying out to the one he loved, “That’s a strange way to tell me you love me, when your sorrow is all I can see.” As Christian we sometimes carry-on much the same way. We grumble and moan about the things that the Lord asks of us. We see opportunities to worship Him as interruptions to our schedule. We view meditation upon His word like an unpleasant homework assignment in school. We want to go to heaven, but we spend most of our time unhappy because of doubts that He will see us through hardships or envy of the sins of the ungodly. Yet, then we turn around and try to say to the Lord with our mouth that we “love Him.” Paul shows us here that to love the Lord means that we live a life that “rejoices.”

III. “And Does Righteousness.” What a fallacy the religious world has perpetrated in convincing so many within its ranks that it is even possible to “love God” and yet do what is wrong! Millions have been convinced that they are secure in a loving relationship with God, while they are first unconcerned with even learning what is right and wrong and second told that even though they may give themselves to do what is wrong it doesn’t alter their “love” for Him. In the time of Malachi, the people (much like today) had become spiritually lazy. The very animal sacrifices which they offered were not the best of their flocks and herds, but the sickly and unhealthy. In response the Lord, through Malachi asks, “Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” (Malachi 1:8c). None of us would imagine that we can do what is displeasing to our mate, our teacher, our employer, or our friend and hope to convince them of our love and fidelity to them. Paul shows us in this text that God is no different. If we love Him we will do what He tells us is right.

IV. “Who Remembers You in Your Ways.” The memorial which Christians observe each Sunday is kept “in remembrance” of Jesus body and blood which was shed for our sin. It is important and necessary that Christians keep this observance in order for us to be pleasing unto God, remember the cost that Jesus paid for our sin and as a deterrent from future sins. At the same time, the Lord’s Supper is not the only way in which we are called upon to “remember” the Lord in His ways. Sometimes we must remember Him and His ways when we are totally alone. At such times we must call to mind how God would have us to direct our thoughts, occupy our time and maintain a watchful, temperate disposition. Sometimes we must remember Him and His ways when we are around those in the world. When we are tempted by them to deny Jesus, to be silent when we ought to speak, to speak in ways that we should not, or to do things that we should not. We must not forget who we are and what Jesus is to us. Paul suggests to us in this text that loving God means that we will remember Him and His ways. Paul characterizes all of these traits as true of those who love God. Are these traits true of your life?

Pope, Kyle. "For Those Who Love Him" Biblical Insights 7.2 (February 2007): 21.  

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