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Bible Commentaries

Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible
1 Corinthians 13

 

 

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Introduction

The Greatest Gift Is Love
- First Corinthians Thirteen -

First Corinthians chapter thirteen describes the more excellent gifts. They are faith, hope and love. Paul wrote, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Corinthians 13:13) The word "charity" in our King James Bible is the word "love" in many other translations. Anything you do without love is meaningless. If a person could speak with angelic tongues or understand all of life"s mysteries or had mountain moving faith without love it would still be nothing.

God inspired Paul to give us this beautiful description of love. "Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love is not selfish or quick tempered. It does not keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Love never fails or ends. This is unlike the gifts of prophecy, tongues and all of the miraculous gifts that ended with the completion of the New Testament. We must not search for that which is temporary and imperfect, like miraculous gifts, but rather we should search for that love that is very permanent, now and in eternity. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."


Verses 1-3

The importance of love - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 : The Corinthian brethren were having problems dealing with spiritual gifts. Paul said the solution to the problem would be that they should pursue love, "the more excellent gift." The church is many members (1 Corinthians 12:12-26) but it is "one body." There were a number of spiritual miraculous gifts given in the early church. But the "more excellent gift" or the "better" gift is love. Without love nothing that a Christian does has any true and lasting value. The gifts of tongues, knowledge, faith or even great personal sacrifice are meaningless without love. Love should be pursued by Christians everywhere.

Love takes precedence over (a) eloquence in speech, (b) prophecy, (c) understanding mysteries, (d) knowledge, (e) faith, (f) giving, and (g) self sacrifice. Without love these things are nothing. In God"s word we are taught to love one another. "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." (1 Thessalonians 4:9) We are also taught to speak the truth in love. "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." (Ephesians 4:15) God taught us to love by sending his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) Love is "the more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31)


Verses 4-8

The description of love - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 : These verses provide a brief description of love in action. God approaches love from both a negative and a positive point of view. "Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn"t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn"t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!" The Corinthians were not using their spiritual gifts wisely because of a lack of love.

Love is an edifying thing. (1 Corinthians 8:1) The spiritual gifts, also given for edification, were being misused by the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5) The characteristics of love, when applied in our lives will make us Christ-like and godly people. Peter wrote. "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) Charity or love covers a multitude of sins. Many of the qualities of love are also a part of that list called the "Fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."


Verses 8-10

The unperishable nature of love - 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 : Love is said to "never fail," though the miraculous spiritual gifts were to be made "null" or "useless" in time. "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." (1 Corinthians 13:8) Love will never cease to be even after the spiritual gifts have long ago passed away.

Paul said that prophecies would fail. To fail," means "to render idle, inactive, inoperative, no further efficiency, to cause to cease." The miraculous gift of prophecy would pass away after the New Testament was completed because at that point there would be no more need for those spiritual gifts. Tongues would "cease or "leave off" for the same reason. The sign of tongues is no longer needed now that we have our completed Bible. What is called "tongues" today is nothing akin to the miraculous gift of tongues described in the New Testament. The miraculous gift of knowledge would also vanish away. This is the same word as for "fail." These in part things were to vanish away when "that which is perfect is come." We are not left to guess what "the perfect" is describing. James wrote, "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:25) The completed Bible is the only perfect thing that we have in the world today.


Verses 11-13

The permanence of love - 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 : The miraculous spiritual gifts were not signs of maturity in Christ. Those gifts were only a means by which that maturity was pursued. The miraculous spiritual gifts were temporary like the things of childhood. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Those miraculous spiritual gifts were temporary and are longer needed today. "Prophecy, and tongues only allowed them to see through a glass darkly. When the perfect Word of God was completed, then all Christians would have the opportunity to see clearly."

The chapter concluded with one of the truly great Bible statements, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Corinthians 13:13) Hebrews 11:1 shows us why faith would abide. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Hope abides because it is the anticipation of what faith expects. Love abides forever because it is the very nature of the new life.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4". "Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/box/1-corinthians-13.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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