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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


1) "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angel " (ean tais glossais ton anthropon kai ton angelon lalo) " If in the tongues or languages of men and angels I should speak." Paul asserted that,

hypothetically, if he should speak in or with all of the tongues or languages of a plurality of men and all of the tongue’s or languages of a plurality of angels - including Gabriel and Michael’s realm, Hebrews 1:14.

2) "And have not charity," (agapen de me echo) But I have not love (of the highest order)." Yet, however, or certainly, these powers or gifts of diverse language or tongues, void of the highest order of love - Divine love.

3) “I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbol.” (gegora chalkos echon he kumpalon alalazon) "I have become (as or like) reverberating or echoing brass or as a tinkling cymbal." His state or condition would be profitless - empty - hollow and ineffective in edifying the church or assembly of Christ. He thus begins a build toward emphasis on Love as the Supreme of all spiritual gifts, 1Co


Verse 2

1) "And though I have the gift of prophecy," (kai ean echo propheteian) "And if I have (the gift of) prophecy." Even the gift of foretelling or forthtelling, void of divine, high, holy, or spiritual love would be of little real value,

2) "And understand all mysteries" (kai eido ta musterian panta) "And perceive all the mysteries" -Hypothetically, Paul suggests that possible perception of all the mysteries of life, creation, death, and the hereafter, apart from or void of the controlling gift of Love would leave one empty.

3) "And all knowledge;" (kai pasan ten gnosin) "And (perceive) all (the areas of) knowledge." Knowledge of all the sciences, arts, mysteries, and revelations of all realms of accumulated and organized knowledge of all times, without love, is unprofitable. All true love emanates from the love of God, John 3:16; John 13:34-35.

4) "And though I have all faith," (kan echo pasan ten pistin) "And if I have or hold all the faith - the system of Divine teachings." The term "the faith" used in the original language comprehends both the gift of faith and the entire system of teachings of Jesus Christ Important as the gift of faith is, without love, it would be nothing.

5) "So that I could remove mountains," (hoste hore methistanai) "So much as to remove mountains." The gift of faith and even the system of teachings of Christ, without Divine love, would never enable one to remove literal mountains or figurative mountains - mountains of difficulty.

6) "And have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (agapen de me echo, outhen eimi) "But I have or hold not Divine love, I am nothing - not a thing." Paul not only exalts the charismatic gift of Divine love, one of the six major attributes of God, but also emphasizes that fleshly clamor for other gifts is without divine sanction or approval.

Verse 3

1) "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor." (kan psomiso panta ta huparchonta mou) "And if I should dole out (give to the needy) all my goods, earthly possessions." One cannot acquire or retain salvation by giving away material things, Isaiah 64:6. Spiritual manifestations, verse 1; influence, verse 2; or material help , void of love, count nothing.

2) "And though I give my body to be burned." (kai ean parado to soma mou hina kauthesomai) "And if I should surrender or turn my body in order that I shall be voluntarily burned." God does not want dead, burnt sacrifices, but living ones today -sacrifices of service, motivated by Love, the Supreme spiritual gift, Romans 12:1-2.

3) "And have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (agapen de me echo ouden opeloumai) "But I have or hold not love, I am not profited one thing." The first three verses of this chapter emphasize the necessity of love. The next ten verses emphasize the nature and work of high, holy, spiritual love. Romans 13:1-14; Ephesians 6:24; Galatians 5:2; Mark 8:37-38.

Verse 4

1) "Charity suffereth long, and is kind." (agape makrothumei, chresteuetai) "Charity suffers long (and) is kind." The Hebrew rhythm of repetition, of parallelism in structure, is used reflecting deep emotionalism of reality in the remainder of this chapter. Love’s charity causes the mother to sit long hours by the sick bed of her child, the father tirelessly to labor for food and shelter for his family, and the minister to empathize with the cares of his flock, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-11.

2) "Charity envieth not” - (he agape ou zeloi) "Charity is not jealous." True charity endures wrong, is not envious or suspicious, is patient toward evil.

3) "Charity vaunteth not itself," (he agape ou perpereuetai) "The love (of God) does not attempt an outward show," or worldly display of cheap emotional showmanship, nor does it puff up itself like a puff-adder. True love bears the two marks of patience and goodness.

4) "Is not puffed up." (ou phusioutai) "Is not puffed up," like the puff-adder or blowfish; reflecting selfishness for having its own way; This charismatic gift of Love excels all others in reflecting Christian forbearance toward evil and diligence in doing good, Romans 13:10.

Verse 5

1) "Doth not behave itself unseemly " (ouk aschemonei) "Does not ’act in an unbecoming manner." True love is uncovetous, unselfish, one of the attributes of God’s perfection. It never excites or motivates one to behave immorally or unethically -unbecoming behavior is motivated by covetousness, selfishness, or lust, not love.

2) "Seeketh not her own." (ou zelei ta heautes) "Love) does not seek its own - (selfish welfare)." Negatively, this Spiritual gift does not seek its own preeminence. It motivates the one controlled by it to care for, and share in, and provide for the welfare of others, Matthew 23:37; John 3:16.

3) "Is not easily provoked," (ou paroksunetai) "is not provoked." God is not easily, hastily, or impulsively provoked, yet His patience forebears not judgment or chastisement always - and His love is as surely present in judgment for wrong as in blessings and rewards for right, Exodus 19:4.

4) "Thinketh no evil;" (ou logizetai to kakon) "Does not reckon, calculate, compute, or reason of its own interest or accord regarding evil of a worldly kind." Love, true love, does not design to do deeds of outward evil. Paul later declares, "it works no evil to its neighbor," Romans 13:10.

Verse 6

1) "Rejoiceth not in iniquity," (ou chairei epi te adikia) "Does not rejoice over unrighteousness or wrong." Where love abounds there resides no basis for boasting or bragging about supposed success or victories in immorality, lying, stealing, cheating, or questionable goals wrongly attained.

2) "But rejoiceth in the truth " (sugchairei de te aletheia) "But (love) rejoices in colleague or close association with the truth," If in moral truth (separation, sanctification, and holy living) or in matters of doctrine or practices of doctrine, one rejoices, such rejoicing may be done scripturally only in. the light of truth, the Word of God, and its standards, on any and all matters. This is the very nature of the Supreme charismatic gift of love.

"MYSELF" by Edgar A. Guest

I have to live with myself, and so I want to be fit for myself to know; I want to be able as days go by Always to look myself straight in the eye; I don’t want to stand with the setting sun And hate myself for the things I’ve done.

I don’t want to keep on a closet shelf A lot of secrets about myself, And fool myself as I come and go Into thinking that nobody else will know The kind of man I really am; I don’t want to dress myself up in sham.

I want to go out with my head erect, I want to deserve all men’s respect; But here in the struggle for fame and pelf, I want to be able to like myself. I don’t want to think as I come and go That I’m bluster and bluff and empty show.

I never can hide myself from me, I see what others may never see, I know what others may never know, I never can fool myself - and so, Whatever happens, I want to be Self-respecting and conscience free.

Verse 7

1) "Beareth all things," (panta stegei) "Love covers all (kinds) of things.” True love covers or bears up under all things in the sense of "all kinds of things," Proverbs 10:12. The nature of true love is one of forbearance, longsuffering, and patience with wrongs of others, Ephesians 3:19; Galatians 6:1-2.

2) "Believeth all things," (panta pisteuei) "Believes all things." The belief of all (Gk. neuter) "kinds of things" simply reveals that, whatever the nature of thing declared by revealed truth, may be accepted, and love helps one to bear up under it, Romans 8:28.

3) "Hopeth all things” (panta elpizei) "Hopes all things." Love for matters revealed in the Word of truth, motivates, sustains, and supports future hope of help, triumph, and victory in life and in death for every child of God, Hebrews 6:17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Peter 3:15.

4) "Endureth all things;” (panta hupomenei) "Endures all (kinds of) things." Psalms 52:1; Psalms 100:5. The person who through love endures all kinds of temptations, matures in love, after the attribute of God, James 1:12; James 5:11.

Verse 8


1) "Charity never faileth:" (he agape oudepote piptei) "The love, (of the more excellent way) never falls out, or fails" - as a spiritual gift. The gift of charity or love, theme of this chapter, is the greatest of all spiritual gifts for it alone, of them is, in essence of being, the very nature of the eternal God.

2) "But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;" (eite de propheteiai, katargethesontai) "But wherever there exist prophecies (the gift of prophecies) they will be abolished;" To give way for the "more excellent way," 1 Corinthians 12:31, which alone shall never fail. This alludes to the passing of the gift of prophecy, imparted before the Bible was finished, for which no need would remain after it was finished, Ephesians 4:11-16.

3) "Whether there be tongues they shall cease;" (eite glossai pausontai) "Or wherever there exist (the gift of) tongues or languages, they will ’ cease." As they came by special gift, for a special purpose, to a special people, even so this gift was to last of short duration, as certain others - only until the Bible was completed; Acts 2:1-4; Deuteronomy 28:49; 1 Corinthians 14:21-22.

4) "Whether there be knowledge; it shall vanish away ." (eite gnosis katargethesetai) "Or wherever there be or exist knowledge (the gift of knowledge) it will be abolished." Prophecies were not to fail to come true; people were not to become dumb, no longer able to talk; nor were people to become ignoramuses in the future of Paul’s declarations. This simply asserts that the charismatic gifts, doled out by the Holy Spirit to various members of the church, would cease to be given when the Bible, the perfect Law of liberty, was completed; James 1:25; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Verse 9

1) "For we know in part," (ek merous gar ginoskomen) "For (in firm knowledge) we know fragmentarily, in part." Paul and the Corinth brethren knew the will of God fragmentarily, as He wrote - 1) part from the Old Testament, as inspired, written, 2) part from Jesus and the twelve apostles, and 3) part by spiritual gifts; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Peter 3:15.

2) "And we prophesy in part." (kai ek merous propheteuomen) and in fragments, or fragmentarily, (here a little, there a little). We prophecy." (through the gift of prophecy). The term "Prophesy" means "to speak forth," not merely to foretell matters. One may speak forth fervently, by divine sanction, the prophecies (fortellings) of the Scriptures. One may prophecy (speak forth) pre-inspired prophecies today, but the charismatic gift of foretelling has ceased.

Verse 10

1) "But when that which is perfect is come," (hotan de elthe to teleion) "But when comes the perfect thing" (That which is complete, finished, or perfect), the Holy Bible, the finished written revelation of God. This speaks of a "thing" to come, not a person, not Jesus, as some suppose. Had Paul here alluded to the coming of Jesus he would have said when "He who is perfect" (a person), not "that which," (a thing). The "that which is perfect," refers to the completion of the Bible. See James 1:25; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 3:15; Revelation 22:16-19.

2) "Then that which is in part shall be done away ." (to ek merous kataargethesetai) "The thing (or things-gifts) out of parts, fragments, (having been given) shall be abolished, abrogated, or set aside," as aids or credentials in edifying the church, the Corinth assembly, and any and all other like assemblies forever; except the three gifts of 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Charity, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

The "unity of the faith," the teachings of Jesus Christ, were first spoken by Him, and second recorded by the charismatic gift of inspiration, imparted to bring to the mind of His disciples and apostles all things He had spoken to them, and to guide or buoy them along in writing His will and knowledge, until the Bible was completed, after which it - "true from the beginning," to the end, was to be the rule and guide for them and the world to the end of time. When the Bible was completed the need and purpose for which the multiple number and kinds of charismatic gifts were given ceased. Read Ephesians 4:12-13; John 16:13-14; Revelation 22:16-19; Psalms 119:160.

Verse 11

1) "When I was a child" (hote emen nepios) "When I was an infant," (a mentally and physically immature person). Infancy, childhood, and youth are compared with Christian maturity in membership development of the Corinth church, according to one’s own charismatic gift.

a) "I spake as a child," (helaloun hos nepios) "I palavered, jabbered, spoke as an infant." This speaks of the "at will" chatter of the young child. with limited respect for the speech or rights of others.

b) "I understood as a child " (ephronoun hos nepios) " I thought as an infant." Infant understanding and comprehension is slow, gradual, at first little beyond instinctive understanding of beasts.

c) "I thought as a child:" (elogizomen hos nepios) I reckoned or calculated as an infant." Comprehension span of words and ideas, with unity and coherence, are limited and of gradual increase in the child.

2) "But when I became a man " (hote gegona aner) "Since, however, I have become a mature man." The term (aner) means a mature human male or man. Christian infancy must be outgrown – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14.

3) "I put away childish things." (katergeka ta tou nepiou) "I have abolished, or put aside infantile things, or the things of the infant-the immature." Paul asserted that he had put away or laid aside, like outgrown old clothes, soiled garments, or child-play-things, his former childlike speech, temperaments, thoughts, and manner of understanding.

Verse 12

1) "For now we see through a glass, darkIy" (blepomen gar arti di esoptrou en ainigmati) "For now (at this moment) we (all) see through a glass enigmatically, not clearly comprehending. " The we" referred to members of the Corinth church and members of each church of like kind during the era of multiple charismatic gifts, before the Bible was finished.

2) "But then face to face;" (tote de prosopon pros prosopon) "But then (when "that which is perfect is come," of 1 Corinthians 13:10, the Bible is completed) face to face." Upon completion of the Bible men became confronted (face to face) with the written, enduring, continuing Word and will of God. Men should live by its instructions now, always, and shall be judged one day by it, whether or not they respect and give heed to it in this life. Psalms 119:160; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-3; Revelation 20:12.

3) "Now I know in part;" (arti) "At this moment, (ginosko ek merous) I know out of part, parcel, or in a fragmentary manner." Paul had part of the written will of God, and knew and understood by reading it, he received part by direct revelation and spiritual gifts, including the gift of inspiration, but the whole of God’s Word and will for the ages had not been yet recorded and revealed in the Bible.

4) "But then shall I know even as also I am known." (tote de epignosomai kathos kai epegnosthen) "But then shall I know fully, or of my own accord, or in my own behalf, just as even I was fully known (of God)." The (Gk. tote) "then" refers to the time when the "that which is perfect" - the completed Bible, written and revealed Word and law of God should be completed, which, like a building, was then nearing completion, James 1:25; Revelation 22:16-19.

Verse 13

1) "And now abideth" (nuni) The future, progressive, unending Greek now is here used meaning "now and henceforth forevermore, irrevocably, world without end." (de menei) moreover remains, continues, or abides unceasingly" - Three specific charismatic gifts doled out to each and all children of God.

a) "Faith" (pistis) By it men may please God, be saved, justified, receive a pure heart, become a child of God, receive peace from God, Hebrews 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 13:39; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1. By it men must serve God to be recognized as justified before men –Romans 4:1-5; James 2:14-24; Ephesians 2:10.

b) "Hope" (elpis) This hope is a lively hope that removes shame from the Christian conscience, and is an anchor stabilizer of the soul, sure, certain. 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 5:5; Hebrews 6:18-19; Titus 2:13.

c) "Charity" (agape) It is more than a state of care, concern, and compassion for persons, principles, and things. Love involves unselfish, uncovetous giving of self, things, and service to God and men.

d) "These three" (ta tris tauta) "These three" or the trio" (of spiritual or charismatic gifts). Let it be recalled that the specific theme of 1 Corinthians 12:1 to 1 Corinthians 14:40 is CHARISMATIC GIFTS; and some were given to members for church edification of the church body for a limited time only, until the Bible was completed - thereafter only three gifts remained; any person who can count to or spell "three" should understand. Ephesians 4:11-13.

2) "But the greatest of these is charity." (meizon de touton he agape) "But the supreme (greatest) one of these - the abiding two of spiritual gifts, remaining, continuing, and unceasingly abiding in the church (is, exists as) Love." This gift bears one of the six primary attributes of the essence of God’s nature to every child of God - love, so noble, so divine -heavenly treasure for earthly use, for God’s glory. On it was suspended all the law and the prophets and in its exercise is the greatest good achieved - love for the church, the Word, and a lost world is the motor, the motivating source and origin of all that is honorably done. May each cultivate it in his life.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-corinthians-13.html. 1985.
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