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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

The Power of Love

Being able to speak the languages of men, or even angels, produced nothing but a hollow sound without meaning if love was absent, according to Paul. It should be remembered that angels are spiritual beings ( Heb_1:7 ) and do not speak in the same manner as men ( Luk_24:39 ). This was a hypothetical situation Paul used to show even the most impressive abilities would be empty without love.

Lipscomb says, "Love denies self for the good of object. Passion seeks its own gratification." The Corinthians had taken pride in spiritual gifts, yet, apparently, lacked the necessary love for those who could be benefitted by them. Instead of being concerned with how impressive these gifts made them appear which made them nothing, they should have been concerned with how others might learn the truth. Lipscomb noted even Judas Iscariot had the ability to work miracles ( Mat_10:1 ), yet he betrayed the Lord!

Providing for the needs of others is a work of Christianity, but is meaningless without love as its root cause. Even martyrdom loses its effect without love. As McGarvey says, "Willingness to fight and die for Christianity will not take the place of loving obedience to Christ" ( 1Co_13:1-3 ).

Verses 4-7

The Nature of Love

Love will cause one to endure wrong for a long time as Christ did ( 1Pe_2:23 ). Love is good to all. Love is not jealous over another's good fortune, nor does it seek to impress others with its position and accomplishments. Love is well-mannered toward others. It does not seek to fulfill its own desires. Violent tempers are not the product of loving hearts. Love does not allow grudge holding or keeping record of wrongs committed against oneself.

True love does not feel good because others sin or suffer sin's consequences. It enjoys the truth's successes. It would not cover-up for others' wrongs. It quietly suffers the wrong of others. Love looks for the best in all it sees. It longs for the time the sinful will repent. Love withstands the assaults of evil with patience ( 1Co_13:4-7 ).

Verses 8-9

The Temporary Nature of Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts were needed to aid in the growth and development of the early church. The need for those gifts came to an end when God's will was completely revealed. In contrast, love is always a part of the church and its development. The prophecies of which the apostle spoke would be the inspired speaking of God's message ( 1Co_14:3 ). This comes from the Greek word Katargeo, which means they would be abolished. Roy H. Lanier, Sr. says this is the same word used in Eph_2:15 ; 2Ti_1:10 ; Heb_2:14 (destroy); and 2Co_3:11 . Thus, one could learn from such speaking (the written record of), but the continued use of Spirit guided speaking would be brought to an end by God's decree. In the same way, Paul said the Spirit given knowledge would be abolished ( 1Co_12:8 ).

Concerning tongues, Paul used the Greek word pauo. This would usually denote a willing cessation in contrast to a forced end. Tongues were used to confirm the fact that the revealed message was from God. When men stopped delivering Spirit inspired messages, as Paul has said they would do at God's command; then the use of tongues would stop of itself, or naturally. Remember that Jesus promised the apostles that the Spirit would guide them into "all truth" ( Joh_16:13 ). Thus, we could safely say the inspired message would cease to be delivered at least by the time of the death of the last apostle ( Jud_1:3 ). These things were temporary, lasting only until the whole faith was delivered to man ( 1Co_13:8-9 ).

Verses 10-13

The Permanence of Love

There is a strong parallel between 1Co_13:8-10 and Eph_4:7-15 . Thus, it seems the "perfect" is the "unity of the faith." The parts of verse 9 were used to confirm and reveal God's will for man, so the "perfect", or we might say the complete or whole, is God's revealed word, the Bible ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ). The use of spiritual gifts was compared by the apostle to childhood, or immaturity, and the time of God's completed message to manhood, or maturity. The perfect word will supplant the partial spiritual gifts. Similarly, there is a difference in seeing someone in the mirror and seeing them face to face. Before revelation was complete, there was only partial knowledge of God, now we know God completely ( 1Co_13:10-12 ).

Paul plainly said gifts would pass away. However, he also said faith, hope and love will stand until the earth's end. Love is that which caused God to send his Son ( Joh_3:16 ) and causes us to obey ( 1Jn_4:19 ). It will be experienced in the fullest possible sense in eternity when all God's faithful are at last able to worship him around the throne and experience the joys of the prepared place ( 1Co_13:13 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/1-corinthians-13.html. 2014.
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