1. To speak the languages. The Corinthians thought the ability to speak in strange tongues was God’s greatest gift to them, If Paul can speak every human language and even speak the language of angels, but has no love, this is worthless! Without love, the strange tongues are only senseless noise (such as the gong and bell which did not make a musical tone), Compare 1 Corinthians 14:6-11; 1 Corinthians 14:23; 1 Corinthians 14:27-28.
2. Inspired preaching = prophecy, See note on 1 Corinthians 12:10. All knowledge. The secrets of the Old Testament. See note on 1 Corinthians 12:8. Faith. See note on 1 Corinthians 12:9. But if I have not love. Then I am nothing, either in the sight of God or man!
3. I may give away. [The NIV adds: to the poor – which is implied.] Even give up my body. To be burned for my religion. The language of this comes from Daniel 3:28. It points to those Christians who would die rather than turn away from Christ But If I have not love. “If I am not motivated by love in this action, it does me no good, because I will be only a hypocrite!”
4. Love is patient and kind. Love is the grace which makes men most like (similar to) God. Love best prepares men to live with God in Eternity. Milton writes: “[love is] The golden key which opes [opens] the palace of eternity.” Compare 1 John 4:17-18. One who loves, will be patient and kind to those who do him wrong! Love is not jealous. It does not envy the success or blessings which others receive. Or conceited. It does not show off. Or proud. One who envies others, often is arrogantly proud and boastful as a defence. Love does not act this way!
5. Love is not ill-mannered. Does not behave in such a way as to shock good manners and morals. Love is polite. Or selfish. Selfishness causes irritability. One who centers all his thoughts on himself, will find no place for God. Or irritable. Love is not exasperated (does not “fly off the handle”) at every little thing! Does not keep a record. This means: (1) does not hold grudges; (2) does not take revenge; (3) does not read evil motives into everything that people do.
6. Not happy with evil. Love is not pleased with the evil others do, even when it results in an advantage to itself. Is happy with the truth. Love is pleased by the good which others do, even when it results in a lost opportunity to itself.
7. Love never gives up. Even though others fail, or are weak, love does not give up, and also works to help the others. The symbolism in this verse is a stout-hearted soldier who helps his buddies toward the common goal. Faith. Here it means faith in others. Love looks for the best in others, and does not expect the worst. Hope. Hopes for the best, rather than fears the worst. Patience. Love puts up with whatever comes its way and stands firm. Never fail. Like a good soldier or a successful athlete, Love doesn’t quit until the prize is in hand!
8. Love is eternal. That is, love does not terminate at some predetermined point. Paul shows us the gifts from the Spirit will terminate at some time. Inspired messages (prophecies) are temporary. Gifts of speaking (tongues) will cease. Knowledge (gifts of knowledge) will pass.
9. Are only partial. Our gifts are limited by the limitations placed on them. Compare 1 Peter 1:10-11for an example of this.
10. But when what is perfect comes. Most scholars believe the perfect will come with the Second Coming of Christ and our entrance into that eternal world. So Johnson, MacKnight, Expositor’s Greek Testament, et. al. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:12points to this. But Lipscomb, et. al, take the completion of the New Testament (or the coming to maturity of the church) as the time when the partial will disappear. Some think the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) was the cut-off point for the gifts from the Spirit.
11. When I was a child. This verse illustrates the partial disappearing as the perfect comes. As a child, his thinking, feelings, and speech were all childishly imperfect. With manhood, his need or use of the childish terminates. [The childish is needed, because it involves growth.]
12. Like the dim image in a mirror. This is another example. Mirrors then were polished metal, and gave only a dim reflection. The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: “Divine revelation opens up fresh mysteries; advanced knowledge raises vaster problems. With our defective earthly powers, this is inevitable.” Then we shall see face to face. MacKnight says: “but in the life to come we shall see them face to face, clearly. But Lipscomb says: “While in the state of childhood, with only the partial knowledge made known through the spiritually gifted, they saw as in a mirror darkly; but when the perfect revelation should be made known, they would know the things revealed through all. So that the knowledge we possess through the completed will of God is greatly more than any one of the gifted or inspired ones possessed, since the revelations made to and through all are given in the Scriptures.” What I know now is only partial. Since Paul is an inspired apostle as he says this (John 14:26; Galatians 1:15-17), he would already know all the Truth taught in the New Testament, even though he does not understand everything. Then it will be complete. When the curtain of our humanity is taken away, and the full revelation has come in the presence of Christ. As God’s knowledge of me. There are no limitations on God’s knowledge!!! Compare what Paul says in Galatians 4:9. In all this Paul shows us that the gifts from the Spirit, although very valuable, are temporary and will not survive this present world. But love is permanent, and will never terminate!!! Love is BEST OF ALL (1 Corinthians 12:31).
13. Meanwhile thesethree remain. These three are eternal. They, along with the church, will never terminate, but will extend on into eternity. The greatest of these is love. It is the greatest because it is the one quality that is divine. “God is love.” It authenticates both faith and hope. [MacKnight thinks that faith, hope, and love are necessary for our present existence, but that only love will survive this world. He sees faith terminating as it becomes sight, and hope terminating as it is fulfilled. Therefore, love is greatest because it alone will exist in eternity.]
These files are public domain.
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany