Lectionary Calendar
Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors





I. Love Is Indispensable: 13:1-3

II. How Love Manifests Itself: 13:4-8

III. The Permanency of Love: 13:8-13


'What Paul is about to embark on is a description of what he calls "a way that is beyond comparison." (12:31) The way they are going is basically destructive to the church...the way they are being called to is one that seeks the good of others before oneself. It is the way of edifying the church (14:1-5), of seeking the common good (12:7). In that context one will still earnestly desire the things of the Spirit (14:1), but precisely so that others will be edified. Thus it is not "love versus gifts" that Paul has in mind, but "love as the only context for gifts"; for without the former, the latter have no usefulness at all--but then neither does much of anything else in the Christian life.' (Fee p. 625)

'At issue have been opposing views of "spirituality". They speak in tongues, to be sure...But at the same time they tolerate, or endorse, illicit sexuality, greed, and idolatry (5:9-10; illustrated in 5:1-5; 6:1-11; 6:12-20; 8:1-10:22). They spout "wisdom" and "knowledge"; but in the former they stand boldly against Paul and his gospel of a crucified Messiah, and in the latter they are willing to "build up" a brother by destroying him (8:10-11). In short, they have a spirituality that has religious trappings..but has abandoned rather totally genuine Christian ethics, with its supremacy of love..' (Fee p. 627)

Points to Note:

1. More important than the "gifts" of the Spirit (12:7-10), stood the fruit of the Spirit. ( Gal_5:22-23 )

2. As was said previously, this chapter isn't placing love versus the gifts. Rather, while the gifts would remain operational (13:8-13), love was the proper context for such gifts and all religious service. In Chapter 14, Paul will further describe the gifts in a context of love, by using the expression, 'seek to abound for the edification of the church.' (14:12)

3. The ancient world (and the modern) is in desperate need of a proper definition of "love".

W.E. Vine, in his dictionary of N.T. words, said concerning this Greek word which is translated 'love': 'the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown , enquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the N.T.' (p. 20)

The ancient word, as does the modern, had its words for 'love'. There was the word "eros", which was characteristically the word for love between the sexes. Barclay says, 'This word does not appear in the NT at all, not because the NT despises or rejects physical love, but because by NT times this word had come to be connected with lust rather than with love. Eros, as it had been put, is love still unconverted.' [Note: _ Flesh and Spirit. p. 64]

There was the word "philia". The highest word in secular Greek for love. 'It describes a warm, intimate, tender relationship of body, mind and spirit. It includes the physical side of love..And yet even in this word there is something lacking' [Note: _ Flesh and Spirit p. 64]

This love would exist between friends, but it wouldn't be the love you would have for an enemy. Hence, even this form of love (intimacy, friendship) falls short of the love needed. ( Mat_5:46-47 )

There was the word "storge". This had the limited meaning of 'family love'. The love of a parent for a child, or the child for a parent. The love between brothers and sisters and other relatives.

But all the various definitions and concepts of 'love' that the world had, failed to properly describe the type of love needed to serve God and others. Before we move on, consider these comments:

'Ordinary human love is a reaction of the heart; it is something which simply happens. We use the phrase "falling in love"...But agape (the word Paul used for 'love')..is an exercise of the total personality. It is a state not only of the heart but also of the mind ( Mat_22:37 ); it is a state not only of the feelings and the emotions but also of the will. It is not something which simply happens and which we cannot help; it is something into which we have to will ourselves. It is not something with which we have nothing to do...It has indeed been said that in at least one of its aspects apage is the ability and the power and the determination to love the people we do not like. It is certainly true that this ..love is not an easy sentimental thing; it is not an automatic and unsought emotional response. It is a victory won over self .' [Note: _ Flesh and Spirit p. 66]


Verse 1

1Co_13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

Before Paul specifically points out the more excellent way (13:4-8), he must first demonstrate its necessity. Paul had just shown in chapter 12 that all the gifts are necessary, all are honorable in their proper use, and all are given by God. But for the Corinthians a peril surrounded the spiritual gifts. The danger of using them selfishly. The way described in this chapter is also a "way of escape" from misusing the gifts.

'with the tongues of men' -this must be what the gift of "tongues" consisted of in these chapters. (12:30) Paul mentions this gift first, for this is the gift they were tending to elevate above all others and abuse in the process. 'Mentioned first because of the exaggerated importance which the Corinthians attached to this gift.' (Vincent p. 262)

Therefore: The tongues of First Corinthians chapters 12-14, are the same gift as described in Act_2:6-11 ; Act_10:46 . The ability to speak in a human language, which you had never learned. ( Act_2:7 )

'and of angels' -Some have used this phrase to prove that the tongues of chapter 14 were "angelic" languages.

Points to Note:

1. Verse 1 begins with the word "If". 'Paul doesn't suggest that tongue-speakers spoke with the language of angels. He is saying: "even if..".' (McGuiggan p. 174)

This is a supposed case. 'If I can speak the languages of men and even of angels.' (Gspd) Paul's point is, 'Let us supposed that my tongue-speaking ability included every language on the planet (which it didn't-14:18), and even the language of heaven, tongue-speaking at it's most marvellous height, exhausting the languages of earth and heaven...even in such a case, the absence of love on my part, would make even such exalted tongue-speaking pointless. How much more then is loveless limited tongue-speaking (the gift they possessed-14:18), in vain.

2. In each of these illustrations, Paul cites the highest possible degree. (13:2 'know all mysteries..all faith, so as to remove mountains..(13:3)..give all my possessions..')

The point being, that if the highest possible manifestation of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, benevolence and sacrifice are rendered pointless by lovelessness, then so are all lower degrees of the same things.

3. I'm not sure where any one got the idea that angels spoke in ecstatic utterances. When angels spoke in the Bible, they used intelligent speech. ( Luk_1:13 ; Luk_1:26 )

4. Paul heard the type of speaking used in heaven. And it wasn't ecstatic utterances. ( 2Co_12:4 )

5. The logic of Paul's argument would demand, that if one claims they speak in a "heavenly language", then they first must have mastered the languages of men. For speaking in the tongues of angels would constitute the highest degree of tongue-speaking ability.

Therefore: Modern day groups that claim to speak in "heavenly languages" can be tested. If they really are speaking with the "tongues of angels", then they can prove it by first speaking the full range of human languages.

'but have not love' -'all loveless abilities, endowments, sacrifices are, from the Christian point of view, simply good for nothing.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 896)

Point to Note:

1. Loveless acts may benefit someone ( Php_1:15-18 ). But it doesn't benefit the person engaged in it.

2. God is concerned about the "means" behind the end product!

No, the end doesn't justify the means.

3. Jesus taught the same truth in such passages as: ( Mat_6:1-7 ; Mat_16:1-28 ; Mat_17:1-27 ; Mat_18:1-35 )

Fee has something interesting to say at this point, 'Because of the lyrical nature of this section, it is easy to think of love as an abstract quality. That is precisely to miss Paul's concern...Love is not an idea for Paul, not even a "motivating factor" for behavior. It is behavior . To love is to act; anything short of action is not love at all.' (p. 628) ( Joh_14:15 ; 1Jn_3:17-18 )

4. More is under consideration here than just "the right motivation". Rather, not only to these acts need to be motivated by love, but the person doing them, their whole life needs to embrace the biblical ethic of love, in these areas and others. To be motivated to pray to God out of love, is pointless, if I'm treating my brother or spouse in a loveless way. ( Mat_5:23-24 ; 1Pe_3:7 )

'It is not a matter of these things or love, or even these things motivated by love, but these things by a person whose whole life is otherwise also given to love. If not, that person's life before God adds up to zero .' (Fee p. 629)

5. Having a spiritual gift, coming into contact with the Holy Spirit in a miraculous sense, didn't automatically instill love in a person's life. The Corinthians "had the Spirit", but they didn't have true love, in fact, they didn't even have "warm, fuzzy feelings for each other"! Even in the day and age of spiritual gifts, love was learned in the same way it is learned today. God revealed it in His word and Christians were meant to practice and apply it in their lives. God doesn't miraculously impart love!

**There was no spiritual gift called, "the gift of love".

'I am become' -'It is put vividly, "I am already become." (Robertson p. 176)

'sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal' -Now men might still be impressed with a loveless speaker. Many of the Jews had been impressed with the loveless Pharisees. ( Mat_6:2 ) But this is God's view of such a speaker, and in the end, the only view that matters.

'The characteristic of heathen worship, especially the worship of Dionysus and Cybele, was the clashing and the clanging of cymbals and the braying of trumpets. Even the coveted gift of tongues was no better than the uproar of heathen worship if love was absent.' (Barclay p. 131)

'But let's not hear the preacher brag or the loveless speaker, let's not see him strut. He's as offensive as the rattling of garbage-can lids. Without love, the most inspired teaching/speaking is noise! THAT'S GOD'S VIEW OF IT. ' (McGuiggan p. 174)

Verse 2

1Co_13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

'know all mysteries and all knowledge' -'no secret hidden from me, no knowledge too deep for me.' (Knox) 'Prophecy in its widest range.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 897)

'mysteries' - truth, yet revealed. ( Eph_3:3 ) If I could even know the unrevealed things of God. ( Deu_29:29 )

Point to Note:

1. Unlimited knowledge cannot justify or excuse the absence of love in one's life.

2. Man tends to make certain concessions and allowances for the super-smart. Arrogance isn't seen as a sin or flaw in the professor, scholar or philosopher. Our society allows the scientist on the "cutting-edge" of discovery to act like a jerk or heel, because after all, 'he/she is getting things done..they are involved in such important work..their intellect excuses the lovelessness and lack of social skills which they demonstrate..' God disagrees! No matter who you are, or what you know, or how far beyond others in "understanding" you happen to be, you are never excused to become prideful and arrogant!

'The permanent danger of intellectual eminence is intellectual snobbery. The man who is learned runs the grave danger of developing the spirit of contempt.' (Barclay p. 131)

'all faith, so as to remove mountains' -faith connected with miracle working.

Such remarkable wonder-working, that the Rocky Mountains would get up and rumble away at my request to God! Even if God would allow a Christian to work a miracle like that, it would be no substitution for loving God and loving others. ( Mat_22:37-39 )

Note: Even "faith" can be loveless. At times we are guilty of such. We tell people they need to trust God more, 'trust God like I do', but then we conveniently forget about helping them.

'There are times when faith can be a cruel thing. There was a man who visited his doctor and who was informed that his heart was tired and he must rest. He telephoned his employer, who was a notable Christian figure, and told him the news, only to receive the answer, "I have an inward strength which enables me to carry on." These are the words of a ..faith which knew no love.' (Barclay p. 132)

'I am nothing' -in the sight of God. In the sight of men, such people would be "really something." But God isn't impressed with people who have done "great things", but lack character! Character matters to God! ( 1Sa_16:7 )

Verse 3

1Co_13:3 And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

'bestow all my goods to feed the poor' -'Even if I give away all that I have to feed the hungry.' (Beck)

'all' -the highest degree of benevolence. For after you have given all 'your goods', you have nothing left to give (you can't give something to the poor that doesn't belong to you.) 'The verb is aorist; hence, the idea is that of one great act of benevolence in which a man sells everything he owns to assist the ones in need.' (Willis p. 451)

'Those who make sacrifices to benefit others without love, must have some hidden selfish recompense that they count upon.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 898)

Points to Note:

1. People can sacrifice without love. They can fanatically give without love! Remember Ananias and Sapphira. ( Act_5:1-11 )

2. Loveless giving does exist.

'There is nothing in this world more humiliating than this so-called charity without love. To give as a grim duty, to give with a certain contempt, to stand on one's own little eminence and to throw scraps of charity as to a dog ..' (Barclay p. 132)

In a sense we could say, 'charity is no substitute for charity (love).'

3. If the "good deeds" that Christians do (without love), are vain in the sight of God. Then there should be no problem in realizing that the "good deeds" performed by religious people outside of Christ, don't count either. ( Mat_15:9 ; 2Jn_1:9 )

'and if I give my body to be burned' -'death at the stake might be faced in mere fanaticism, in ambition for a reputed sainthood, in stubbornness, or in pride.' (Erdman p. 132)

'If the motive which makes a man even give his life for Christ is the motive of pride and self-display and self-glory, then even martyrdom becomes valueless. It is not cynical to remember that many a deed which looks sacrificial has been the product of pride and not of devotion and of love....There is hardly any passage in scripture which demands such self-examination from the good man as this passage does.' (Barclay p. 132)

'it profiteth me nothing' -'I am not in the least benefited.' (Ber), i.e. benefited spiritually, in the sight of God. 'Lit., I am helped nothing.' (Robertson p. 177)

Points to Note:

1. Nothing can avail in the sight of God without the attitude that Paul will describe in verses 4-8.

2. Dying for Christ, didn't necessarily mean that you were right with God.

'Martyrdom for the sake of ambition was a fact of early occurrence in the Church, if not in Paul's day...some of the confessors who were puffed up with vanity and pride, and seemed to think that the blood of martyrdom would avail them to wash away the stains of flagrant and even recent immoralities..' (Vincent pp. 263-264)

'Willingness to fight and die for Christianity will not take the place of loving obedience to Christ.' (McGarvey p. 129)

3. Often members of the Church of Christ are hit with the argument that such and such a person was a good person, and they did so much for God or their fellowman..surely they must be saved, even though they never were baptized. But the same argument could be used for the religious person that doesn't serve God out of love. It wasn't Paul's fault that the Corinthians weren't exercising the gifts in an unloving manner and he didn't feel guilty for not justifying them. Neither should we feel guilty nor should we attempt to justify the religious person that refuses to be baptized.

4. The same truth, applies to the use of our talents. No talent can be properly used by an unloving person.


'It has been noted by numerous writers how Paul describes love with the church of Corinth and its shortcomings as a background. Where they (we) are impatient and hurtful, love is longsuffering and kind. Where they (we) are wickedly jealous, boastful and arrogant, love is happy for others, self-effacing and humble. Where they..are rude, selfish and irritable, love is courteous, unselfish and emotionally in control. Where they..are CPA's of wrongs they suffer, love dismisses injuries from the mind. Where they..smile at wickedness and are resentful when chastened, love is delighted with truth and hurt at wickedness. Where they..openly scorn another's weakness, love covers it....Where they..are suspicious, disgruntled and quick to flare up, love trusts, continues to optimistically look forward and bears with a grin what comes its way.' [Note: _ McGuiggan pp. 174-175]

Before we move on, Phillips rendering of these verses is worth quoting:

'This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience--it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil nor gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of it's hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that stands when all else has fallen.'

We need to remember, that these verses were not primarily penned for the relationship between husbands and wives (though it certainly applies). Rather this is the type of love that is supposed to be exercised between Christians.

Verse 4

1Co_13:4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

'suffereth long' -'is patient' (NASV) Lit., 'long-tempered'.


1. 'Chrysostom said that it is the word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself and yet will not do it. It describes the man who is slow to anger.' (Barclay p. 133)

Unfortunately, many people define patience as "I can't do anything about it, i.e., I am powerless to change the situation, I guess I must endure it." That is not the patience of the Bible. God expects us to restrain ourselves, even when the "ideal" opportunity for revenge presents itself. ( Rom_12:19-21 )

2. 'Patient towards injurious or provoking persons' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 899)

3. 'It is that self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong; it endures injuries and evil deeds without being provoked to anger or revenge.' (Willis p. 454)

4. Those Corinthians engaged in lawsuits (6:1-8); and the tongue-speakers and prophets who couldn't seem to wait for their turn (14:27-30), needed to hear this.

5. Love is patient with people! ( 1Th_5:14 ) Love is also patient with the scruples of new converts. Love has the time to allow another's conscience to become more correctly educated. ( 1Co_8:1-13 ; 1Co_9:1-27 ; 1Co_10:1-33 )

6. Love doesn't need "ideal" surroundings to flourish or exist in. To Paul love can grow, love must be exercised by members who find themselves in a church torn by strife, envy, worldliness, pride, etc...As faulty as the church in Corinth was, no member there was excused by God to act in an ungodly manner. Those that gave up, even in these undesirable circumstances, still ended up lost. (9:24-27)

'is kind' -'one who renders gracious, well-disposed service to others.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 899) 'Gentle in behavior' (Robertson p. 177) 'Useful, helpful, friendly' (Lenski p. 555)


1. 'Love is not caustic or sharp-tongued.' (Willis p. 455)

2. Exercising patience makes some people resentful, bitter, cynical and angry. Despite all that will happen to you in life, all the let downs, disappointments, etc..If you have love, you can avoid the misery caused when one becomes "soured" with imperfect people.

'envieth not' -'is not jealous' (NASV) 'Love is neither jealous nor envious (both ideas)' (Robertson p. 178)


1. They were envious of the spiritual gifts that others possessed. (12:15-19)

2. 'Love never detracts from the praise that is due another nor tries to make him seem less and self seem more by comparison..Instead of being envious love is satisfied with its own portion and glad of another's greater portion.' (Lenski p. 556)

3. Moses ( Num_11:26-29 ) and John the Baptist ( Joh_3:26-30 ), were both free from envy.

4. 'And if at any time it is being outstripped by competitors, it harbors no irritation, feels no distress. it recognizes no jealousy when a rival receives the prize and praise.' (Fee p. 134)

5. What misery we bring upon ourselves, due to the fact that we can neither enjoy or accept our station in life. Even Christians find themselves caught up in the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome. When we envy others, we can't enjoy our own lives, nor can we really appreciate what God has given to us. Love refuses to live someone else's life. Love is content with the life, talents, opportunities and abilities available to it. Love makes good use of what comes its way. Sound appealing? Sound liberating and refreshing?

'vaunteth not itself' -'love does not brag' (NASV) 'Used of one who sounds his own praises.' (Vincent p. 264) 'It means to play the braggart' (Robertson p. 178) 'Humble not boastful; unostentatious, not anxious to display superior gifts or to attract unmerited admiration.' (Erdman p. 134) 'the emphasis is on boasting which wounds others, causes unrest and discord..' (Willis p. 455) 'is neither anxious to impress.' (Phi); 'love makes no parade.' (Mof)

'Behind boastful bragging there lies conceit, an overestimation of one's own importance, abilities, or achievements' (Lenski p. 556)

'It suggests self-centered actions in which there is an inordinate desire to call attention to oneself.' (Fee p. 637)

Some of the Corinthians were desiring to "show off" their gifts, they wanted the spotlight, and to be the focal point of attention. Rather than using their gift for the good of the congregation.

'is not puffed up' -'is not arrogant' (NASV) We have encountered this word before in this letter. (4:6,18,19; 5:2; 8:1) 'nor conceited' (NEB)

'Napoleon always advocated the sanctity of the home and the obligation of public worship--for others. Of himself he said, "I am not a man like other men. The laws of morality do not apply to me." (Barclay p. 134)

In this letter we have found that such pride can lead to moral blindness. The Corinthians, who considered themselves such "wise and gifted individuals", were tolerating and overlooking much that was unholy and ungodly. (3:1-3; 5:1ff; 6:1-8; 11:17-34)

Verse 5

1Co_13:5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

'doth not behave itself unseemly' -'does not act unbecomingly' (NASV); 'is never rude' (Mof); 'It isn't indecent' (Beck); 'to behave disgracefully, dishonorably, or indecently..love is mannerly; it does not conduct itself in a way which is contrary to the accepted standards of decency.' (Willis p. 456)


1. 'The art of politeness cannot be learned exclusively from books of etiquette; it comes from within; it is inspired by sympathy, and is guided by consideration for the feeling of others. It is commonly a lack of love rather than a lack of knowledge that leads to bad manners, impropriety, and embarrassing rudeness.' (Erdmans p. 134)

2. This phrase reminds us of various Christian women in Corinth who were casting off the veil and shocking the society they lived in. (11:2-16)

3. Obviously, some of the tongue-speakers had been very rude to their fellow Christians. (12:21)

4. Paul practiced such courtesy. ( Act_26:1-3 ; Act_25:1-27 )

'seeketh not its own' -'does not insist on its own way' (RSV); 'does not insist on its rights' (Gspd); 'does not pursue selfish aims.' (Nor)


1. And yet the Corinthians had been insisting on their own rights. (8:1ff)

2. 'It does not seek its own; it does not believe that " finding oneself " is the highest good; it is not enamored with self-gain, self-justification, self-worth.' (Fee p. 638)

3. The Corinthians were caught up in a "legalism" that we often forget about. Insisting that you have the right to do it, simply because it is lawful, is also "legalism". Paul had taught, other things need to be considered, even beyond the lawfulness of the proposed act. (6:12; 10:24,33)

'In the last analysis, there are in the world only two kinds of people--those who are continually thinking of their rights and those who are continually thinking of their duties; those who always insist upon their privileges and those who always remember their responsibilities; those who are always thinking of what life owes them and those who never forget what they owe to life.' (Barclay p. 135)

'Cure selfishness, and you plant a Garden of Eden.' (Lenski p. 557)

'is not provoked' -'not quick to take offence' (NEB); 'it is not irritable' (RSV); 'It is not touchy' (Phi). 'is not embittered or enraged by abuse, wrong, insult, injury.' (Lenski p. 558)


1. 'Intent on one's own advantage, one is incessantly angered to find the world at cross purposes with him.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 899)

2. Anger, bitterness and resentment can never be mastered, until I learn to become an unselfish person. It is a smart man or woman that soon accepts the fact of life, that this world is cursed by sin, and therefore, it's not going to be perfect. In fact, often, the world will seem to be working against us. ( Gen_3:17-19 )

'taketh not account of evil' -'does not take into account a wrong suffered.' (NASV) 'love keeps no score of wrongs.' (NEB)

'account' -'Old verb..to count up, to take account of as in a ledger or note-book.' (Robertson p. 178) 'Storing up the memory of wrongs, of indifference, of contempt, of grievances, of wounds; making a rigorous record of the injuries received from others.' (Erdman p. 135) 'The word we have translated (account) is an accountant's word. It is the word that is used for entering up an item in a ledger so that it will not be forgotten..One of the great arts in life is to learn what to forget.' (Barclay p. 136)


1. Therefore, love refuses to hold a grudge or seek revenge. Love can forgive. ( Mat_18:35 ; Mat_6:14-15 )

2. This section reveals why forgiving others is so hard for some of us. As long as our mind is upon "self", forgiveness will be difficult, if not impossible.

3. It's hard to forgive a debt, when you keep looking at the ledger!

4. Some people can live with their own selfishness and evil deeds, as long as they are able to convince themselves, that others have done worst to them, i.e. that they are still on the credit side of the relationship.

Verse 6

1Co_13:6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

'rejoiceth not in righteousness' -'takes no pleasure in wrongdoing.' (Bas); 'does not gloat over other men's sins' (NEB); 'love is never glad when others go wrong' (Mof)


1. 'It is not so much delight in doing the wrong thing that is meant, as the malicious pleasure which comes to most of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else..It is one of the..traits of human nature that very often we prefer to hear of the misfortune of others rather than of their fortunes..We are much more interested in hearing a spicy story to someone's discredit than a story to someone's praise.' (Barclay p. 136)

2. Again, when we are being selfish, we like to hear about the downfalls of others. Such makes us feel good, we think- 'look how much better I am than them.'

3. Love cannot find any pleasure in hearing about the moral weakness of another, because love realizes that sin "costs". When sin happens people are always hurt. ( Rom_6:23 )

4. Love can never encourage someone in wrong-doing. ( Rom_1:32 )

5. 'Love absolutely rejects the most pernicious form of rejoicing over evil, gossiping about the misdeeds of others.' (Fee p. 639)

'but rejoiceth with the truth' -'rejoices at the victory of truth.' (Knox); 'joyfully sides with the truth.' (Wey); 'But always glad when truth prevails.' (Wms)


1. Love rejoices at the spread of the truth, love rejoices when someone is baptized, or when the unfaithful Christian repents. Love rejoices when two Christians avoid divorce, when reconciliation happens, when a congregation avoids division.

2. The "loving thing to do", is always that which is in harmony with God's truth. ( Joh_14:15 )

3. Love never violates Scripture, love never argues for 'extenuating circumstances, situation ethics, or the end justifies the means'. Love always sides with truth.

'Christian love has no wish to veil the truth; it is brave enough to face the truth.' (Barclay p. 137)

4. Love is never ashamed of the truth. ( Rom_1:16 ) Love with speak the truth, in the most difficult of situations. ( 2Ti_2:2 )

5. Love even rejoices in truth that is hard to listen to.

Verse 7

1Co_13:7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

'beareth all things' -'the verb (bear)..originally meant "to cover, to conceal"' (Willis p. 458)


1. 'There is nothing love cannot face.' (NEB) 'Love has a tenacity in the present, buoyed by its absolute confidence in the future, that enables it to live in every kind of circumstance...Paul's own ministry was a perfect example of such love.' (Fee p. 640) ( 2Co_6:3-10 )

2. In the sense of "cover" ( 1Pe_4:9 ). Love would rather deal with sin privately ( Mat_18:15 ), than immediately drag everything out of public. Love can keep a confidence.

3. When love is in my life, I can handle, I can deal with properly and effectively the sins which fellow Christians happen to find themselves enslaved to. ( Gal_6:1-2 )

'believeth all things' -'always eager to believe the best' (Mof).


1. This doesn't mean that love is gullible, or that love clings stubbornly to a belief, when all the facts contradict it. ( 1Th_5:21-22 ; Act_17:11 ) Neither, does love refuse to accept the fact that someone is in sin, when faced with the clear evidence.

2. 'When love has no evidence to the contrary, it believes the best about its fellowman, it refuses to yield to unfounded suspicions and doubts, it gives people the benefit of the doubt.' (Willis p. 459)

3. Regardless of the circumstances, no matter how bad things get or look, love remains convinced of the truthfulness of God's word and His promises. ( Rom_8:31-39 )

'hopeth all things' -'Does not despair' (Robertson p. 179).


1. This isn't a hope grounded in people or the "good" in all men. Rather it is hope centered in God. Because I believe the Bible, I know people can change, I know people can repent, I know that unity is possible, I know that marriage can work.

2. Since Jesus is Lord (8:6), the Christian is never given the right to despair, become cynical or pessimistic.

3. Jesus died for all men, man is free-willed, the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation--what right do I have to say, 'it's no use'?

4. There needs to be an application here to evangelism. Jesus took time to teach "hopeless" cases. ( Luk_15:1-2 ) If we find ourselves becoming cynical about teaching others, then we have lost our confidence in what God has said about His word ( Rom_1:16 ; Heb_4:12 ) and man.

'endureth all things' -'undaunted, undiscouraged, even to the end. Patient even in moments and days and long, long years when hope is deferred, love grows not weary.' (Erdman p. 136) 'endures without limit.' (Ber)


1. 'but what this word really describes is not the spirit which can sit down and passively bear things, but the spirit which, in bearing them, can conquer and transmute them..."not with dumb resignation but with holy joy; not only with the absence of murmur but with a song of praise."' (Barclay pp. 138-139)

2. Love doesn't run away from problems, troubles, adverse circumstances or situations which would tend to discourage others.

3. 'Paul does not describe love in its greatest works, sacrifices...he goes into the ordinary circumstances of life as we meet them day by day...We find ready excuses when great things are made the goal of our attainment.' (Lenski p. 561)

4. 'Perhaps that point could best be captured by putting one's own name in place of the noun "love" and not neglecting thereafter to find a proper place for repentance and forgiveness.' (Fee p. 640)

5. How shallow is the world's definition of love. Such expressions as 'love means you never have to say your sorry', or, 'if you love me, then your spend the night'..just fall pitifully short. One rock group had a song that said, 'I want to know what love is'. Well, long ago, God informed us.

6. These verses inform us that love has a certain "toughness" to it.


Verse 8

1Co_13:8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

'never faileth' -'Love, that bears, also out-wears everything.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 900) 'Love will never come to an end.' (NEB); 'Love shall never pass away.' (Con)

'faileth' -1601. ekpipto ek-pip'-to; from 1537 and 4098; to drop away; specially, be driven out of one's course; figuratively, to lose, become inefficient:-be cast, fail, fall (away, off), take none effect.

Points to Note:

1. The contrast in verses 8-10 is between that which endures and that which will pass away and cease. Since the spiritual gifts were never intended to be a permanent fixture among Christians, 'life's pursuit mustn't end in gift-seeking. (What a rebuke to those whose life is a tireless quest for God's gifts rather than God's service.' (McGuiggan p. 176)

2. Heaven isn't a cold impersonal existence. As long as we are with God, love will always exist. ( 1Jn_4:16 )

'whether there be prophecies' -i.e. the spiritual gift of inspired preaching and teaching. (12:10)

'done away' -'it will be done with' (TCNT). 'To put out of use, to remove from the sphere of activity.' (Willis p. 460) 'To make idle, inoperative .' (Robertson p. 178)

'whether there be tongues, they shall cease' -'they will stop.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 900)

'knowledge' -knowledge as the result of direct inspiration, the gift of knowledge.

Points to Note:

1. These three spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues, knowledge), stand as representatives for all the gifts. And two of them (tongues/knowledge) the Corinthians took particular pride in.

2. The possession of a spiritual gift wasn't necessary to gain favor with God. But the possession of love was and still is! One could lack spiritual gifts and yet still be on the "most excellent way."

3. Clearly, this verse is teaching that all the spiritual gifts would cease. A point that all concede. The only remaining question is, 'when'?

Most Charismatic and Pentecostal groups would argue that the gifts would cease when Jesus comes again. They claim, "that which is perfect" (13:10), refers to Jesus and His second coming. Problems with this view will be noted in the following verses.

Verse 9

1Co_13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;

'For' -explains the reason why these spiritual gifts will cease. All the spiritual gifts had some relationship to the revelation of the Word of God. Gifts such as prophesy and knowledge revealed truth. Gifts such as tongues, healing, and miracles confirmed the divine origin of what was revealed. ( Heb_2:3-4 ; Act_2:22 )

'know in part' -due to the fact that all truth ( Joh_16:13 ) had not yet been revealed and or recorded. Hence the logical next step.

'we prophesy in part' -the gifts such as prophesy (speaking by divine inspiration) enabled the First Century churches to function, serve God and teach others, and edify it's own members, despite the fact that they didn't possess a N.T., or all the N.T. books. On the one hand they had the OT ( Act_17:11 ; Rom_15:4 ), and whatever letters had been written to them or received from other congregations. ( Col_4:16 ; 1Th_5:27 ) On the other hand, whatever "gaps" in their knowledge existed, the spiritual gifts filled in, giving revelation as needed. ( 1Co_14:30 )

Point to Note:

Know in part and prophesy in part both refer to knowledge of the will of God. The context is dealing with "revelation". Keep this in mind as we approach the next verse.

In addition: The spiritual gifts were "limited" in how much revelation they gave. (a) All revelation wasn't given to one prophet. (b) The gifts only gave a "part" of God's revelation at a time. (See Act_10:1-48 ) (c) No prophet or even Apostle ever revealed the whole of God's truth at once. (d) The possession of a single copy of the N.T., was more valuable than any spiritual gift.

Verse 10

1Co_13:10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

'when' -this verse then is telling us 'when' the gifts would cease. (13:8)

'that which is perfect is come' -5046. teleios tel'-i-os; from 5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with 3588) completeness: -of full age, man, perfect.

Points to Note:

1. While Jesus is 'perfect', this same word is also used in reference to the Word of God. ( Jam_1:25 )

2. The word perfect here refers to something that has reached the end or goal. 'Refers to that which is whole or complete, that beyond which no further advance in excellence can be made; it lacks nothing.' (Willis p. 463)

3. Ultimately, only the context can tell us what the "perfect" is in this passage.

Problems with the "perfect" being the Second Coming of Christ:

(1) If Paul is saying that the gifts will continue until the Second Coming, then logic must force us to conclude that the Church will never have a complete written revelation of God's truth. And if such is the case, then why did the N.T. end at the close of the First Century? If this view is correct, then the NT would or should contain many more books, especially books from other centuries, besides the First Century. (Like the O.T.-books were written from the beginning of prophetic activity, until the end. Mat_23:35 ). If the gift of prophecy has lasted for the last 1900 years, they why didn't any of these "prophets" record their works? Why did N.T. writers consider the written revelation to be complete? ( Jud_1:3 ; 2Pe_1:3 )

(2) Doesn't this view make Jesus' promise in Joh_16:13 look rather meaningless? 'You shall be guided into all truth..and yet, only the generation at the end time will really be in possession of all truth.' ??

(3) Paul places 'faith and hope' also above the gifts. (13:13) And yet, hope will be realized at the Second Coming ( Rom_8:24 ) 'By the time the commentators have finished, they have the gifts lasting just as long as faith and hope .' (Willis p. 460)

(4) When they cease, they cease! Various Pentecost groups have claimed a "second outpouring of the Spirit" (a second Pentecost) in the twentieth century. A rebirth or revival of spiritual gifts. Such contradicts verse 10.

(5) Logically "that which is perfect" must refer to the completeness or perfection IN THE SAME REALM as that referred by the phrase "in part" (13:9). And seeing that "in part" refers to the revelation of God's will, that which is perfect must contextually refer to the complete revelation of the will of God.

(6) When the NT was complete, the means to reveal it (prophecy, knowledge) and confirm it (healing, miracles, tongues, etc..) where not longer needed. Such makes perfect sense. A body of truth would be revealed ( Joh_16:13 ), it wouldn't be a limitless supply (seeing that no man could comprehend or obey such a limitless and never-ending body of truth). Logic demands that eventually all truth was revealed. At which point, the gifts no longer were needed.

In the following verses Paul will give two illustrations to further explain or clarify what he has just said. The gifts gave partial revelation or revelation in parts, in view of finally providing the complete or perfect revelation of God's truth. In like manner, the spiritual gifts were comparable to childlike tendencies that are abandoned when adulthood arrives. Or, looking in a mirror of poor quality compared to seeing someone in person.

Verse 11

1Co_13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

'I spake..I felt..I thought' -the behavior of a child is appropriate to childhood. In like manner, the spiritual gifts were appropriate for the "then" period of time. But a time would come when they would be inappropriate.

'I have put away childish things' -another way of saying "they shall be done away, they shall cease" (13:8); "that which is in part shall be done away." (13:11)

'I have put away' -once and for all. 'The idea of a long extended period during which the spiritual gifts were absent followed by a renewal of them is prohibited by this illustration.' (Willis p. 467)

Point to Note:

Whether Paul intended it or not, one cannot walk away from this illustration, without thinking that God was telling the Corinthians that the spiritual gifts belonged to a "childhood" stage in the church. Hence, spiritual gifts are not a sign of "spiritual elitism", rather they infer that something is missing or not yet complete.

Verse 12

1Co_13:12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

'For now' -during the time when the gifts are operational. When revelation is being given part by part. (13:9)

'see in a mirror' -Corinth was famous as a producer of some of the finest bronze mirrors in antiquity.

'darkly' -'Lit., in an enigma..to express obscurely ' (Robertson p. 179) 'Dimly' (NASV) 'Lit., means "a riddle", and, then, was used figuratively to describe anything that was unclear .' (Willis p. 467)

Points to Note:

1. People in the First Century did have good quality mirrors. But the word "dimly" suggests that Paul is contrasting what is seen in a poor quality mirror with what is seen in a face to face meeting.

'but then' -when the "perfect" revelation (what the gifts aimed at) arrives.

'face to face' -Note: Nothing is said here about seeing God face to face (what most commentators read into the passage). When the complete revelation of the will of God is achieved-- compared to the spiritual gifts that gave revelation in parts, the completed NT will be like seeing someone face to face, instead of looking in a mirror. Access to a complete NT, had the spiritual gifts beaten any day of the week.

'now I know in part' -(13:9) Even the prophets in the O.T. experienced this. ( 1Pe_1:10-12 ; Rom_15:25-26 ; Eph_3:2-5 )

'but then' -again, the "now, then" contrast. Then, when all revelation has been delivered and recorded.

'shall I know fully' -a complete revelation=complete knowledge of God's will. 'This doesn't mean that we shall be omniscient as God is; rather, it means that we shall have His full revelation.' (Willis p. 468)

'even as also I was fully known' -'most likely refers to God's way of knowing . God's knowledge of us is immediate--full and direct.' (Fee p. 649) Instead of knowing "in part", instead of being dependent upon some gift for knowledge, the complete revelation of God's word, will give us unlimited access to all truth.

Again, a complete N.T. gave the individual a freer and more direct access to God's truth. He wouldn't have to wait for inspiration, or for the prophets to speak. God's complete revelation could be opened, and the answers to any question or any number of questions could be immediately investigated.

Verse 13

1Co_13:13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

'But now abideth' -'to remain, last.' (Willis p. 469)

'now' -Paul isn't saying that the gifts had ceased "now" (14:1). Rather, having already told them about the temporary nature of the gifts, he proceeds to restate the truth about love. Love abides! (13:8) But not only does it abide, it is the greatest of all spiritual qualities.

'faith, hope' -'he adds faith and hope to love somewhat automatically, since for him these are what accompany love, not spiritual gifts.' (Fee p. 651)

'and the greatest of these is love' -

Points to Note:

1. Usually it is explained that love is greater than faith or hope, seeing that both faith and hope will be realized. ( Heb_11:1 ; Rom_8:24-25 ) And yet, faith can still be defined as trusting, submission and obedience. Which will always be around.

2. Jesus taught the same thing. ( Mat_22:37-40 )

3. When all is said and done, apparently faith and hope both spring from love, or need love to survive. (13:7)

4. Faith and hope can only properly work by love. ( Gal_5:6 )

'Faith without love is imperfect; it may be merely the cold assent of the mind, or the inactive submission of the will, and it may lack in warmth of devotion of the heart. Hope without love may be self-centered or impure.' (Erdman pp. 140-141)

5. Love expresses the very nature of God. ( Joh_3:16 ; 1Jn_4:16 ) And when we love we are most like God. ( 1Jn_4:7 )

6. Other people can express tremendous amounts of faith and hope (in false ideas). The world can manifest the same degree of faith and hope as the Christian. But only the Christian, only those in Christ can manifest verses 13:4-8. Nobody else but a Christian can do that! Especially considering the fact, that the only people of which it can be truthfully said that they rejoice in the truth, are those who have become Christians.


For those that claim that spiritual gifts still exist today:

1. Then all of them should exist. The gifts were a package deal. (13:8) All would cease at the same time. ( Mar_16:17-18 ) Hence, groups that claim to speak in tongues and heal, should also be able to drink deadly poison, be unaffected by the bites of poisonous snakes, and heal with 100% success.

2. Are forced to admit that the N.T. isn't complete, i.e. we don't possess all truth in written form. And seeing that for the last 1900 years no books have added to the N.T. If makes one think what all the "supposed" and claimed prophets since the days of the apostles have been doing. One someone please show us a "real" prophet since N.T. times? (Whose teaching didn't contradict that of the apostles and Jesus!)

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/1-corinthians-13.html. 1999-2014.
Ads FreeProfile