This article first appeared as a meditation in the Sept.15, 1947 issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.23 #22) and was penned by Rev. Gerrit Vos.
The Speech of Love
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” I Cor. 13:1
What does Paul mean with this astounding verse?
Well, you must know that things were not as they ought to be at Corinth. There was a division in the church. Some of the household of Chloe had told Paul about the sorry state of affairs at the church of Corinth. There were four different parties there. And it seems as though all the members were included in the four parties that are mentioned. Everyone said: I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ!
A sorry state of affairs, indeed!
They should not speak that way.
Instead of that, Paul tells them that they all should say the same thing. You may read that in the first chapter of the epistle from which we have chosen our text.
And they should say the same thing because of the fact that they all enjoyed the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord. Surely, if the Lord Jesus inspires you with His Holy Ghost, you will not go about, claiming all kinds of allegiance to men whose breath is in their nostrils?
Oh, they did have that unity in the very depth of their hearts. There is no doubt about that. They are “the church of God which is at Corinth, them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours!”
In the inner man they all had the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of that Spirit, they were one, one body, baptized into the Lord and all had been made to drink into one Spirit! Oh, yes, they were one.
But not in the manifestation of their life at Corinth! They were divided, miserably divided, because they allowed the flesh to dominate them.
They were a very gifted church, but they did not realize that all these gifts were wrought by the selfsame Spirit of the Lord, and that therefore they all were manifestations of the one body of Christ.
But Paul will teach them. He will tell them in detail how that every diversity of gift is by the Spirit of God which they all have received, and that, therefore, they should be one in that Spirit. Yes, my dear children, (he will say) there are differences of administration, but only one Lord!
There are also diversities of operation, but the same God which worketh all in all!
Yes, the whole preceding chapter speaks of these differences and diversities that are wrought by the one Lord, and the one Holy Spirit, and the one glorious God operates in them all.
Corinth’s church should be one. Even with all the differences and variety of gifts and talents.
Yes, they may be zealous unto the obtaining of the best gifts that are showered on the church, but Paul will show them the only way, the better and excelling way to receive and employ them.
And that way is the way of love!
Paul means to make them conscious of the root from which all real gifts grow, without which the gifts will work nothing but discord.
It is the love of God! If that love motivates me and my gifts, I am unto His praises forever. And that, after all, is the only purpose of the universe, mankind, the world and those that live therein, time, space, eternity, everything! Even the wrath of man shall praise Him! Even the devil shall be to the everlasting glory of God. If that were not true, there would be no devil, you may be very certain about that. God has created everything for His own honor and pleasure, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Oh yes, it makes a world of difference whether I am to His honor and praises positively or negatively. It makes a terrible lot of difference whether I am to His praise in heaven or in hell!
But when I name the name of Christ I must be divorced from evil. I must praise Him positively, that is, I must sing my song of harmony and beauty. I must speak the language of love.
And that was not found at Corinth. That is, it was not manifested. But Paul will rebuke them and teach them so that haply they may return and begin to seek and to find one another in a symphony of praise of God in Christ.
If I speak the tongues of men and of angels. . . .
What mighty concepts!
The tongues of men!
That includes the spoken, the sung, the written and printed word of man. But also the music of man. Oh, there is a world of speech in the world.
And it does not sound as though it were a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
Much of it sounds so beautiful, so smooth, so soothing! Think of the world of literature, of the many arts and sciences, of the world of music!
Do you still remember that wonderful voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? I would sometimes forget what he was saying, just so I could hear that voice, that mighty voice!
Especially now, since we all have the radio in our homes, we hear much music which is so near to perfection, I mean, formal perfection.
How can the Holy Ghost call all this speech as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal?
A sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal are mentioned in order to tell Corinth that all speech that has not its root in the love of God, is discordant, ugly, abominable in the ear of a perfect God!
How are these things to be explained?
It will become plain to you, beloved reader, if you know God!
If you know not God, I despair of convincing you of the truth of my text. But if you know and love Him, you will live this text every day.
There are only two fundamental principles of the life of man. The one is the principle of the love of God; and the other is the principle of the hatred against God and His anointed, and that is Christ.
Now Paul means that if you speak from the principle of the hatred against God, you are a discordant note in the universe. In such case it is abomination to listen to you. And if that is the case you will be muzzled bye and bye. There will be a time that all the speechmaking, writing, singing and music-making will be stopped. At such time the whole world will stand silent and every mouth will be stopped. God will not suffer discordant speech unto all eternity! Perish the thought!
I hear voices that will defend the beauteous speech and the wonderful song and music of the world. They will say, Yes, but they do not even think of God; how can they act from the principle of hatred?
Oh, but they do. Every one, always, either acts from the love of God or the hatred of God. There is no neutrality at all.
Let us take the case that was advanced: they do not even think of God! Is that not terrible? Not to think of God? Horrors! He is so near to us that we move in Him and have our being in Him! And He formed us for but one purpose: to speak and to sing and to write to His praises! And if we do not, there is only one other answer: we hate Him!
Sometimes that hatred is conscious: that is bitterness indeed. Sometimes it is not. What of if? When God is utterly ignored and negated by modern man, so that they never even curse Him anymore, that is the worst manifestation of hatred ever. Horrible!
Ah, if only we love God! And then listen to your crooners, baritones, tenors, soprano’s, and singers of melting loves. Or listen to mellow talkers, spoke they ever so sweetly, or the man with the golden throat and the admirable accent, and then you will grow angry, for they forget God. They use their throat which is a gift of God. They use and employ the “laws” of music and the vocal cords which He made, but they will never think on Him. It calls for the judgment day!
And this is true of the whole world of speech of man.
If the love of God is in it, well and good: you will enjoy the speech that is pious and pregnant with God’s praises. But if that love is absent from your production, you better be afraid for the consequences. There is only one kind of vibration that will abide forever: it is the sound of adoration of God!
If we would cast the text of Paul into a positive form, we would read this: If I speak with the tongue of man, motivated by the love of God, I shall be as the sound of a sweet melody in the ears of God!
The answer is easy: because I shall be an echo of His own song of eternal covenant love!
Love: what is it?
The keyword in the text is love. Improperly translated charity.
Love: what is it?
Love is God, and God is love! I John 4:8.
Paul has given us some sort of definition of love. You will find it in Col. 3:14. There he says: “And above all these things put on charity (that must be translated: love) which is the bond of perfectness.”
Therefore, we may say, first of all, that love, the love of God, is the bond of perfectness. If you are perfect you are bound to the perfect God.
The same Paul tells us in Col. 2:2 that love is the action that knits us together as brethren of Christ.
The same language is used when the love of David and Jonathan is described. They were knit together in love.
I think that we may say that the love of God, in Himself, is that virtue where He is bound together, knit together in His own glorious eternal being. God is one in Himself, because He is love. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are knit together in the sphere of infinite perfection, the perfection of their covenant life.
That life of God’s love is manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life! There you have the manifestation of the love of God.
God wanted to show to you and me how utterly lovely He was and is and shall be unto all eternity. Therefore: the world, the fall, the redemption and the glorification of all things.
And the end will show that being “knit together” and that “bond of perfectness”!
You will see that all things shall be united in Christ, of things that are in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth. And in and through Christ that new, glorious, lovely world shall be united to God, so that God may be all and in all.
Now then, if you have that love of God in you, you better speak with the tongue of man. And it will be well. You may not say it with so many words, but I assure you that your speech will be an expression of that world and life view of which we spoke just now. You will search and find the connection between all things and the God who created them, and who is rushing all things to their rebirth.
They warble in the world: Speak to me of love!
Indeed, that is exactly what God is singing to His saints!
And He has a wonderful Right to sing that song and demand that you speak with the tongue of man of that eternal love.
He has done it! Did He not do it?
Go to the place of a skull! It is a little way from the old Jerusalem. And there the Lord God has sung (His song of love! Have you not heard it? I assure you that the sound of it has gone out over all the earth. You have heard of that song of love from your earliest infancy.
And He wants to hear the echo from out of your heart.
They tell me that when man is smitten with a great love, he will hear nothing but of that love and bring all things in connection with it. It is well. Only God has the right to demand just that, and He does. He wants you to always speak to Him of love, and to connect all things in heaven and on earth with that central story of Jesus and His love!
Listen to the heavenly scene in the revelation of John the divine.
Everything you hear in heaven is about that wonderful Lamb of God, the gift of His heart. Everything you hear is about the love of God. And with faces that are beaming with love they turn themselves to the heart of heaven, to the throne of God, and they tell Him in a great variety of voices and of music that they love Him in their turn. And that turn is eternal.
So: speak to Him of love, and you shall not be a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
I would beg of you not to divorce the creation and its fullness from the central story of time and of eternity. For that is what the world is doing. No, they do not speak of God anymore. They neither curse, nor do they bless. They do something that is worse still. They have taken the world over and have placed God outside the door of the Universe. And they speak no more of Him.
Oh yes, they speak. With tongues of men, and sometimes it sounds as though the angels are singing, so beautiful, so sweetly melodious!
But let us not be deceived. They know not God, neither will they know Him. They hate Him. But they will use His “laws” and creation material. And they have made their compositions. They speak and they do sing. They will also sing of love, but it is not the love of God in Jesus Christ.
But their speech and their music shall damn them forever!
But thou? Speak thou to Him of love! Speak of it in accents sweet. Sing, oh sing, of your Redeemer!
No, you may not be able to sing and to speak as fluently and as sweetly, as to form, as the world speaks and sings. It is well. We must wait a while. Continue to sing and to speak of His love. The time will come that your song and your speech will be more beautiful than the speech and the song of the angels in the night of Bethlehem.
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia!
It is the echo, the everlasting echo, of God’s song of love!
Rev. Gerrit Vos was born in Sassenheim, the Netherlands on November 1, 1894. He died in Hudsonville, Michigan on July 23, 1968.
Rev. G. Vos received instruction in the PR Seminary and was ordained into the ministry in September 1927. He served churches in Sioux Center, Iowa (1927-1929); Hudsonville, Michigan (1929-1932) and again in 1948-1966. He was pastor at Redlands, California (1932-1943) and in Edgerton, Minnesota (1943-1948). He retired in 1966.
The Rev. G. Vos was very eloquent in preaching and extremely descriptive in his writings. One sermon remembered well at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church was that preached the Sunday after a devastating tornado roared through the city in 1956. That sermon was later presented in the Standard Bearer as a meditation.
Three books of his meditations have been printed by the Men's Society of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and later reprinted by the Reformed Book Outlet of Hudsonville, Michigan.