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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-10

13 The body of Jesus, or of the Lord, denotes His physical frame. The body of Christ, however, is quite a distinct thought. Christ, or the Anointed, is a title rather than a name. It suggests official position. We are not united to Him by physical ties, as Israel was, but by purely spiritual relationships. This is forcibly suggested by the two figures used, baptism, or dipping, and drinking. One spirit, within and without, binds us together and unites us to Christ.

The true ecclesia, or "church", today is not to be seen in the multitudinous organizations of

Christendom with their many heads, but in the one spiritual, invisible unity, composed of all who have God's Spirit, by which they are vitally joined to the living organism of which Christ Himself is Head. All the members of this spiritual body are mutually dependent on one another. Some perform one function, some another, but none can be dispensed with. No one can choose his own place in the body, for God reserves this entirely within His own power. It is futile to usurp some function for which we are not divinely endowed. It is failure when we do not exercise the function for which the Spirit of God has fitted us. Each one should be deeply exercised to discover his own place in the body, whether high or low, respectable or mean, and seek, by God's grace, to fill it. None can be apostles or prophets now, for their work has been accomplished. Few can be teachers, but the work of a pastor, who shepherds the saints, or an evangelist, who proclaims the evangel, is, in measure, open to all in a private, if not in a public way.

25 It is the privilege of all who love God to cooperate with Him in avoiding schism in the body of Christ, by cultivating a due sense of their dependence on all other members, and a godly solicitude and sympathetic regard for their welfare; and this, too, even when fellow members despise and oppose them and persecute them. The body is one. We need only act accordingly. Christ is its Head. We need only accord Him His place.

28 In the later revelation ( Eph_4:11 ) "suited to transcendence" ( 1Co_12:31 ), we have a revised list of the gifts. There the lesser graces, such as powers, healing, and languages are omitted. That this would be the case is predicted in the next chapter ( 1Co_13:8 ), where we are told of a time when the gift of languages would cease. The revised list given in Ephesians, however, looks backward as well as forward. Apostles and prophets are no longer necessary to the edifying of the body of Christ. We are distinctly told that prophecies will be abrogated ( 1Co_13:8 ) when maturity arrives. They were needed only so long as God's written revelation was incomplete. So that, today, the special gifts have narrowed down to three: evangelists, pastors and teachers.

31 Most of the graces were transient, suited to immaturity, hence the apostle seeks to lead them up to those which will remain in the impending transcendent administration, in which we find ourselves today.

1 The "gift of tongues", even when it was a reality, was nothing but a noise unless impelled by the power of love. Even those high endowments, such as prophecy and knowledge, amount to nothing unless love regulates their exercise. Yes, and every personal sacrifice, even martyrdom itself is without value apart from the spirit of love.

8 It would seem that a few were already mature ( 1Co_2:6 ), but the secret wisdom into which they were initiated was not made public until Paul wrote his Perfection Epistles, Ephesians ( Eph_4:13 ), Philippians ( Php_3:15 ), and Colossians ( Col_1:28 ; Col_4:12 ). The writing of these epistles was the signal for the abrogation of the gift of prophecy, as they completed the word of God ( Col_1:25 ), for the cessation of the gift of languages, as it was a sign of earthly powers in the coming eon, and we are blessed among the celestials ( Eph_1:3 ), and for the abrogation of the gift of knowledge (directly revealed), as there was a final written revelation.

9 These gifts belonged to the time of transition, when the full orb of truth was not revealed. When it was, there came the necessity of withdrawing much which did not accord with its final form.

Verses 11-13

11 The time came when the apostle admonished and taught in order that he should present every man mature in Christ ( Col_1:28 ). Epaphras struggled in prayers that they should stand mature and complete in all the will of God ( Col_4:12 ). It is evident that maturity came with the last ministry of Paul, when he was a prisoner at Rome. Till then the saints, as a whole, were in a state corresponding to a man who has not yet attained his majority. But then, as was the case when a boy assumed the duties of manhood, there was a vast revolution. As a man discards the toys of his childhood, so they discarded the marks of minority. Chief among these were the gifts, especially prophecy and languages. Those who claim these now cannot avoid marking themselves as immature.

12 At this time the present secret administration ( Eph_3:9 ) had not been publicly revealed. The destiny of the saints who had received Paul's evangel was clouded in mystery. Only a little was known. Their celestial allotment was still concealed. Israel's fate was still in the balance. It was not till their final rejection at the close of the book of Acts, that the secret was revealed that the ecclesia which is His body, to which Paul ministered, was not to have a place on earth subordinate to Israel, but was to be blessed with transcendent spiritual blessings among the celestials. Now that maturity has come, we no longer are in an enigma, but realize something of the unutterable grace which is ours in Christ Jesus.

13 Faith, expectation, and love are the abiding trinity in this administration of God's grace. Neither faith nor expectation will remain in the glory. Love alone will abide His coming. Let us believe God. Let us glory in expectation. But, above all, let us charge our hearts to love Him and His with a fervency which His love alone can inspire. These graces will not abide in heaven, to which they are usually relegated. Hope will then be past, faith unnecessary. This is the time of "perfection" or maturity.

1 Prophecy prepared them for further unfoldings and maturity. Languages tended to draw them back to the kingdom proclamation and its attendant signs.

10 Though without any manuscript evidence, it may be that the original reading of "nothing is soundless" was "none of them is senseless ". This seems to be demanded by the context, which insists on sense as well as sound. A single letter P (which is the equivalent of our R) would change aphonon , soundless, to aphronon , senseless. As our Version is founded on facts, rather than the judgment of its editor, he could not make this alteration, however much it may appeal to him.

12 The gifts were given for mutual edification, not for entertainment or vain display. The misuse of the gift of languages was a clear indication of the childish immaturity of the Corinthians, for they were eager to display the possession of the gift without any regard for the edification of others. A foreign language is a mere babel of sounds to those who do not understand it. And even if it should be interpreted, of what real gain is it to use such a circuitous method when the same things could be told just as well without the need of interpretation? Such was not the divine intention in giving this gift. On the day of Pentecost this gift was used in a useful and rational way, for it was a sign that Jehovah was speaking to His people. Moreover, this sign is not for believers, or even to reach unbelievers, for it is written "neither thus will they be hearkening to Me" ( 1Co_14:21 , Isa_28:12 ). Surely it is far better to speak five instructive words in the vernacular than any number in an unknown language, even if it be the exhibition of a spiritual endowment. The same argument applies with even more force to the use of a foreign language, which no one understands, in a church ritual. It may be imposing and spectacular but it fails utterly in edifying the saints.

22 Paul's high regard for the gift of prophecy is founded on the fact that it was the chief means used to bring the saints to that maturity which he earnestly desired they should attain. The gift of teaching, the exposition of the Scriptures, now takes the place of prophecy, for God has fully revealed His will in His word.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/1-corinthians-13.html. 1968.
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