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1 Corinthians 13

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Verse 1

1Co 13:1

THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY

The more excellent way is the way of love, to which this chapter is devoted in its entirety. And not only is the way more excellent, the expression of it here is most excellent - the highest and grandest statement of Christian love ever spoken or written in human language. Here is seen the necessity of it (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), the meaning of it (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), and the duration of it (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). It is therefore obvious that if we are to understand this chapter we must have, at least to some degree, an adequate conception of NT love. To obtain this conception, perhaps it would help to look at the four Greek words for love (there are several other words that ex­ press various nuances of love but these are basic and are sufficient to illustrate the point): (1) Storge, or natural love, such as the love of family. It is natural for parents to love their children and for children to love their parents. While the word is not limited to family love, the love of family illustrates its nature. This word does not appear in the NT except in a negative form (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3), where it is translated "without natural affections." (2) Eros. This is pas­ sionate, romantic, or sexual love. While the idea is not absent from the Bible, the word itself is not used by any inspired writer. (3) Philia. This may be described as friendship love, often love in which one is emotionally involved with the object and derives pleasure and delight from it. The word, in one form or another, appears about 45 times in the NT. (4) Agape or Christian love, love not conditioned upon natural ties, passionate desires, or emotional involve­ ment. It is love with no strings attached - love not conditioned upon the status, response, or lovability of the object, love the nature of which is affectionate con­ cern rather than mental or emotional attachment or attractiveness. In short, it is willed love. The word, in all of its forms, appears about 320 times in the NT, and is the word used in this chapter and translated by the KJV by charity. We are not to understand that the sharp distinction between the Greek words made here obtains in all cases. It does not, and I have given only enough to illustrate the nature of the love each word expresses. But they are often, especially in the case of philia and agape, overlapping in meaning and may occasionally be used synonymously or nearly so. But we are to understand that Christian love, while they may also be involved, rises above natural ties, passionate desires, and emotional involvement. Natural love is the result of nature (the nature of the case); passionate love results from God-given instincts; emotional love rises or falls with the feelings; concerned love is an act of the will - it is love by deliberate choice, a love that prizes the object because of its worth, a love with no conditions attached.

Verses 1-3

1Co 13:1-3

THE NECESSITY OF LOVE

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men--The language of men. That if he were endowed by the Spirit to speak in every language known to men. This positively indicates that Paul throughout this section (12-14) has known languages in mind when he speaks of tongues rather than some mysterious language of ecstasy. and of angels, Angelic language (BV) or the tongues of angels. This has reference to the means by which heavenly beings communicate one with another. The point is that if he could speak in all the languages of both heaven and earth, in the absence of love he would be nothing all his services would be futile. and have not charity, But do not have love (NASV), the unconditional concern which seeks the welfare and benefit of its object, not because of the pleasure one finds in it but because of its value or worth. In a Bible class where I was speaking on our obligation as Christians to love everyone throughout the whole world enough to make whatever sacrifice possible to take the saving gospel to them, someone spoke up and asked, "How can we love someone in a foreign country we have never seen?" We cannot if we think only in terms of natural, passionate, or emotional love, but we can with the kind of love with which Paul is here con­ cerned, the kind which is concerned for the welfare of all, even one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). The nature of this love is to prize highly the worth and value of the object even when there is no personal pleasure or delight in view for the lover. It is love for the sake of value and not for the sake of what one may receive in return (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. - I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (NASV). Without love, regardless of how many tongues with which one may have been endowed to speak, he would be no better than a noise that has no value beyond the sound itself, a noise that soon dies out on the air and leaves nothing behind.

1 Corinthians 13:2 --And though I have the gift of prophecy, --The gift to receive the will of God by revelation and to deliver it to man by inspiration (see notes on 1 Corinthians 11:4; Romans 12:6). As examples of how one might prophesy and still be of no value to the true Israel of God, consider Balaam (Numbers 22-24; Numbers 31:16) and Caiaphas John 11:49-52). and understand all mysteries, And know every kind of hidden truth (Beck), that is, know all the secret or unrevealed things of God (Deuteronomy 29:29). See note on 2:7, and all knowledge; Referring to supernatural knowledge, and probably that gift of knowledge mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8. and though I have all faith, - Miraculous faith (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:9), that kind of faith that manifests itself in the working of wonders. so that I could remove mountains, - Move them by the power and gift of God (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21). and have not charity, - Love. I am nothing. - Have no spiritual value nor lasting worth; or as Robertson (WP) says, "An absolute zero," vain and useless, not serving any purpose of God.

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, - Dole out or distribute all his possessions for benevolent purposes. To share with those in need is a virtue prescribed throughout the Bible (Leviticus 23:22; Psalms 112:9; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 28:27; Daniel 4:27), and especially the NT (Matthew 19:21; Ephesians 4:28; James 1:27). But Paul here supposes a case where he goes beyond sharing: he gives all, everything he has, gives until there is nothing left either for himself or others. "The poor" are supplied words but they, or a similar thought, are undoubtedly implied. and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, - If he made the supreme self-sacrifice, that is, if he delivered his body up to be burned at the stake as a martyr. Life is the greatest gift that can be made - it is the ultimate sacrifice. Surely if anything could merit man’s salvation (or favor with God) or make him worthwhile, this could. But not so. Without love the greatest sacrifice man can make has no eternal benefits. it profiteth me nothing. - I get from it no good at all (Williams). It would not be counted as righteousness (see note on Romans 4:3), and would thus be of no value at all in eternal matters. Love must be the foundation, the underlying motive, of every action. Without it all deeds, regardless of the sacrifice they may entail, are worthless and profitless.

Verse 2

1Co 13:2

1 Corinthians 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.—Though he should have all these greater gifts and have not love, or fail to perform the commands of God toward God and man, he would be a spiritual bankrupt before heaven and earth.

Verse 3

1Co 13:3

1 Corinthians 13:3

And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,—The giv­ing of goods to feed the poor is considered by many to be the very essence of love. When done from a proper motive, it is a fruit of love, but if it is done for any other motive than to honor God, and to bless man in the name of God, it is not love.

and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.— [A willingness to suffer for one’s faith is not in every case a guarantee of the existence of a heart transformed from selfishness to love. Gifts and conduct which bring men prominently before the eyes of men are often no index to the character; and if they be not rooted in and guided by love to God and man, their possessor has but little reason to congratulate himself. Too often it is a snare to judge himself by what he does rather than by what he is. At one period martyrdom became fashionable, and Christian teachers were compelled to remonstrate with those who fanat­ically rushed to the stake and the arena. It is possible that many suffered through vainglory rather than the love of Christ.]

Verse 4

1Co 13:4

1 Corinthians 13:4

Love suffereth long,—This longsuffering is the pro­tracted endurance of wrong, such as is fitted to provoke re­sentment. [It is that command over natural impulse which keeps just displeasure from breaking forth into action. Moses had more of this than any other in his day, yet to his cost he once failed in it. Indeed, Jesus Christ was the only one who possessed it in the fullest sense: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.” (1 Peter 2:23; see also Colossians 3:12-13).

and is kind;—It is kind to those who do evil. [It is good- natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. It is not sour, harsh, morose, ill-natured. It is active in doing good things to as many as possible, moved by the conviction: “I shall pass through this world but once, any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.”]

love envieth not;—[Envy is chagrin, mortification, discon­tent, or uneasiness at the sight of another’s excellence or good fortune, accompanied with some degree of hatred and a desire to possess equal advantages; malicious grudging. Love does not envy the happiness and prosperity others enjoy; but de­lights in their welfare, and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their reputation, their health, their domestic comforts, and their learning, it rejoices in it all and would not diminish it, and would not detract from that happiness.] love vaunteth not itself,—It does not thrust itself forward, nor take the highest seats in the synagogue. [Does not osten­tatiously parade its superiority to others, whether real or sup­posed, priding itself on it. This quality is the exact opposite of envy; the one envying in another what is not possessed by ourselves, the other looking down on another for the want of something which we possess.]

is not puffed up,—[It does not indulge in inflated opinions of itself; the words imply an instinctive aversion from all false glitter, pompous bluster, strutting in borrowed plumes, from extravagant words, looks, tones, styles, in short, a deep hatred of seeming to be more than one is.]

Verses 4-7

1Co 13:4-7

THE MEANING OF LOVE

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 --In this section Paul is not so much defining love as telling us what it is or giving its fundamental nature. He personifies it by describing the kind of person it would be. Thus its nature is to be longsuffering and kind. Its nature does not permit it to envy, or boast, to be puffed up, to behave itself unseemly, to seek its own, to be easily provoked, or think evil. It is its nature to rejoice in truth, not in iniquity, and to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things. Henry Drummond, in his famous address on "The Greatest Thing in the World" divided 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 into nine ingredients of love, as follows:

Patience ... "Love suffereth long."

Kindness ... "And is kind."

Generosity ... "Love envieth not."

Humility ... "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."

Courtesy ... "Doth not behave itself unseemly."

Unselfishness ... "Seeketh not her own."

Good Temper ... "Is not provoked."

Guilelessness ... "Thinketh no evil."

Sincerity ... "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."

To this I would add a tenth, from 1 Corinthians 13:7 : Tolerance ... It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Another meaningful way to see the force of the description here is to read it in the KJV as it appears. Then read it again substituting the word love for charity. Since Christ is a perfect personification of love, read it a third time substituting Christ for love. Now since a Christian is a follower of Christ, con­ formed to His image (Romans 8:28-30), we can justly read it a fourth time inserting in the place of love a Christian. But do not stop here (even though it may cause a little shiver to run up and down your spine), let each Christian read his own name in the place of love. While all of us will fall far short of depicting love as it ought to be, it ought to help us see its vitality - it will help us see what we would be if we loved as we should love.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, Love endures long (BV). When wrong is heaped upon it by others, it endures with much patience and meekness (1 Peter 2:23). That is, it is long on endurance. and is kind; -It is always considerate, good natured, courteous, and quick to lend a helping hand. charity envieth not; Love is not jealous (RSV). It has no desire to possess another’s posses­ sions nor to deprive him of what is his. It is not hurt when another is honored or succeeds. charity vaunteth not itself, - Love does not brag (NASV). It does not demand the place of honor nor does it show off by parading its virtues before others. is not puffed up, It is not filled with pride, conceit, or ar­ rogance - "It does not put on airs" (Goodspeed). In short, it does not look down on others as inferiors.

1 Corinthians 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, - Does not act unbecomingly (NASV) or with rudeness (Williams). It makes no obscene, haughty, or riotous gestures; rather it acts becomingly on all occasions. seeketh not her own, ­ It is not self-serving (NIV). It does not seek its own interest and desires alone. Forgetting self, it looks to the welfare of others. It respects the feelings, and possessions of its object. is not easily provoked, - Is not provoked (ASV), irritable (RSV), or angered (NIV). It does not fly into a rage but rather holds its temper. It does not seek revenge. thinketh no evil; - Taketh no ac­ count of evil (ASV). It keeps no records - that is, it does not keep books in order to repay evil for evil. Vincent (WS) quotes Godet as saying, "Love, instead of entering evil as a debt in an account book, voluntarily passes the sponge over what it endures."

1 Corinthians 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, - Does not delight in evil (NIV). Is never glad when wrong is done (Williams). It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing; it finds no joy in unrighteousness. It is the opposite of having pleasure in the wicked (Romans 1:32). but rejoiceth in the truth; - But rejoiceth with truth (ASV). It takes pleasure with standing side side with truth in what is right. Both love and truth are personified and love shares with truth in all that is right and against all that is false. Truth is the or saving truth (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), that which makes men free (John 8:32), is in Christ (John 14:6), and is revealed in the word of John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:15). To rejoice with truth is to delight in all that is good, pure, holy, and right in the sight of God.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Beareth all things, - It bears up under anything (Williams). It suffers any affliction or persecution with which it is faced without seeking revenge (Romans 12:20). The word may mean to bear (in the sense of suffer without complaint, as in 1 Corinthians 9:12) or to cover (in the sense that love covers the multitude of sins, Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8). While either will fit the context well, it seems to me that the former is more likely the case. believeth all things, --Always eager to believe the best (Moffett). This does not mean gullible but rather eager to put the best construction on all words, deeds, or dispositions in others. This is the exact opposite of what most of us do: when we have a choice, we usually believe the worst instead of the best. But not so with love. hopeth all things, - Hopes under all circumstances (BV). That is, it does not lose hope when things seem hopeless. It is an eternal optimist and sees the silver lining on every cloud. endureth all things. - It perseveres regardless of how perverse the circumstances may become - no hardship or discouragement can cause it to flee in defeat. This seems to be an advance on "beareth all things." By the power of endurance it is able to bear up (or hold out) under any kind of injury, insult, or pain (2 Timothy 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:24).

Verse 5

1Co 13:5

1 Corinthians 13:5

doth not behave itself unseemly,—It behaves not haugh­tily; but is kind, gentle, loving in character, defers to the wishes and rights of others, and in honor prefers others. [It seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances in which we are placed. It prompts to that which is becoming in life; it saves from all that is unfit and unbecoming. It prompts to due respect for superiors; to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their poverty, their dress, their dwell­ings; it prompts to the due performance of all the duties growing out of the relations of life, as those of husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, and procures proper deportment in all these relations.]

seeketh not its own,—Seeks not its own selfish desires and ends, but looks to the good and happiness of all. [And who so eminent in this as Paul himself—next to “our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich”—who so often inculcated this grace. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 2 Corinthians 7:3; Romans 15:2). And yet, even then, rarely found noticeably among Christians. (Philippians 2:21). The love here commended will prompt us to seek the welfare of others with self-denial, personal sacrifice, and toil. If all Christians would make it their grand object not to seek their own but the good of oth­ers; then true love would occupy its appropriate place in the heart, of every professed child of God; then there would be no lack of funds to carry forward the glorious gospel; then there would be no lack of men willing to devote their lives to the glorious work; then there would be no lack of prayer to im­plore aid from God to live up to the fullest measure of duty.] is not provoked,—It does not readily take offense, nor is it easily excited to anger, or provoked to resent evils. [The one who is under the influence of love is not prone to violent anger or exasperation; it is not his character to be hasty, ex­cited, or passionate. He is serious, calm, and patient. He looks soberly at things; and though he may be injured, yet he governs his temper, restrains and subdues his feelings.]

taketh not account of evil;—It does not surmise evil and put the worst construction on the acts of others. [It makes no memorandum of evil done to itself, but allows it to pass unnoticed. It does not attribute evil motives to others, nei­ther is it suspicious. It desires to think well of those whom it loves, and will not think ill of their motives, or conduct until it is compelled to do so by the most irrefragable evidence.]

Verse 6

1Co 13:6

1 Corinthians 13:6

rejoiceth not in unrighteousness,—It does not rejoice in the wrongdoing committed by others. (Romans 1:32). It can­not sympathize with what is evil, neither can it share the glee of the successful transgressor.

but rejoiceth with the truth;—Rejoices when the truth re­joices; sympathizes with it in its triumphs: “I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father.” (2 John 1:4). The truth is the gospel truth, the inseparable ally of love. (Ephesians 4:15; 3 John 1:12). The false love which compromises the truth by glossing over iniquity or unrighteousness is thus tacitly condemned. (Proverbs 17:15).

Verse 7

1Co 13:7

1 Corinthians 13:7

beareth all things,—”Love covereth a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). It does not lay bare and expose to public gaze the infirmities and wrongs of the erring and those led into sin. It covers them up and tries to deliver from them.

believeth all things,—It believes all the good which it can of any one as long as it is possible to do so without betraying the truth of God.

hopeth all things,—Works for all, even the worst, hoping they will repent.

endureth all things.—It suffers, endures, bears all evils, and is not driven from the true course by the wrongs and injuries of the wicked. These qualities seem to be successive steps in the treatment of the erring. They manifest true Christian for­titude.

Verse 8

1Co 13:8

1 Corinthians 13:8

Love never faileth:—He now shows that spiritual gifts were temporary, and must pass away; while love, the doing of God’s will to all, as a principle of action and a means of justi­fication, would never pass away. Love is the ruling principle in heaven, and is eternal.

but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away;—Prophecy, the foretelling of future events and the teaching by inspiration the will of God after it had been given by the apostles, would be done away.

whether there be tongues, they shall cease;—The speaking with tongues they had never learned would cease.

whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.—The time would come when miraculously bestowed knowledge would be known no more. All those spiritual gifts pertained to the introductory age of the church. These powers were given to help men do what they could not do without the power, as the New Testament had not been completed.

Verses 8-13

1Co 13:8-13

THE PERMANENCY OF LOVE

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 This section contrast the temporary with the permanent - the temporary being the miraculous as it relates to the incomplete (incomplete because all God’s will had not been revealed and the Christian system was therefore known only in part) and the permanent being love as it relates to the full or perfect Christian system when it would be revealed in its completeness, when the revelation would furnish the man of God unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17), as it did when it was once for all delivered unto the saints (Judges 1:3). Paul’s purpose is to demonstrate to the Corinthians why love is the more excellent way: it belongs to the permanent while the miraculous belongs only to the temporary. The Corinthians were spiritual gifts (which was not wrong per se, 1 Corinthians 14:1) and obviously them as the most important aspect of Christianity. But in this they were in serious error. The gifts (three of which are named as representatives of all, prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) belonged to a temporary aspect of Christianity. They were given to reveal, confirm, and deliver the truth, the will of God to man. But once the full revelation was given, as it was when revelation was completed, the temporary, the miraculous, would be removed. The temporary might be thought of as molds into which concrete is poured. Once the concrete is set, once the structure is perfected, the molds have served their purpose and are no longer needed. They are then removed ­ in the words of this section, they cease or fail. So it was with spiritual gifts. If the Corinthians succeeded in obtaining them (and they were overly fond of the gift of tongues) they would have succeeded only in obtaining the temporary molds, something that was not an essential part of the perfected Christian structure. But not so with love. That is something entirely different. While the temporary (the miraculous) was to be removed when the perfect came, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, love was to remain - that is, it was a permanent part of the structure. The structure is the completed or perfect Christian system (which depended upon the completed revelation) and the contrast here pertains to that which is only a temporary part of that structure (the miraculous) and that which is a permanent part (love). He who misses this point misses Paul’s teaching absolutely.

1 Corinthians 13:8 Charity never faileth: - Love never ends (RSV), fails (NIV), or perishes. It, unlike the spiritual gifts, is not temporary and will thus never become obsolete. The gifts were a part of the temporary arrangement and would pass away with it, but love would remain an integral part of the perma­ nent, the perfect (v. 10). but whether there be prophecies, - But where there are prophecies (NIV) or the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10; see notes on 1 Corinthians 11:4; Romans 12:6). they shall fail; - They will be brought to an end. The gift of prophecy would serve its purpose, would cease to exist, and be superseded by the completed revelation. A prophet received the revelation from God (through the Spirit) and delivered that revelation by inspiration (of the Spirit). Once the revelation was completed and delivered (which it now is in the NT) there was no further need for prophets and prophecy because no further message can be added to the perfect, the complete. Today, as DeHoff says, "No preacher or teacher has any message from God unless he gets it from the Bible." There are therefore no prophets today and have not been since the completed revelation was delivered. One should not confuse the gift of prophecy with the message spoken or the event foretold by the prophets. No prophecy from God ever failed to come to pass. Once the true prophet spoke, the fulfillment of his prophecy was as certain as if it had already happened (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). It is the gift of prophecy and not prophecy itself that would cease or fail. whether there be tongues, - Where there are tongues (NIV) or the gift of language, the type which characterized the apostles on the day of Pentecost (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:10). they shall cease; - They will stop (Beck). They will come to an end because they will have, as the other gifts, served their purpose. That is, they will run their course and stop (make themselves cease) because their end has been reached, their purpose has been served. Or as Robertson (WP) says, "They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves." whether there be knowledge, Where there is the gift of knowledge (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:8). it shall vanish away. It will soon be set aside (Williams) or be brought to an end. Identical expression with that said of prophecies. The contrast here is between love, which belongs to the mature, the complete, the permanent, and the miraculous gifts, which belong to the temporary or partial (v. 9). Love will remain with the permanent and the miraculous will pass away with the temporary. That is to say, love will hold its place but the gifts will give way to (be superseded by) the perfect, mature, or complete.

1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know For our knowledge (RSV). Paul has in view here the gift of knowledge, called the word of knowledge in 1 Corinthians 12:8. The context mandates that it be so understood. in part, - Is imperfect (RSV). The knowledge (derived from the gift) is incomplete or partial in contrast with that which is perfect (v. 10) or complete. This necessarily implies that those with the gift of knowledge did not possess the full revelation their knowledge was fragmentary and incomplete. The whole body of truth (which would make possible the completed Christian system) had not yet been given. Moffett translates it, "For we only know bit by bit." This can be illustrated by the fact that the church existed from Pentecost to Cornelius (Acts 10) before the full revelation was that the gospel was for Gentiles as well as for Jews. The matter of circumcision was not settled until Acts 15. Some things pertaining to marriage had not been revealed (at least to the Corinthians) until Paul wrote this epistle (1 Corinthians 7:1-39). During the age of miracles the church survived on revelation bit by bit, but that would change when revelation was given in its totality, which it now is (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). and we prophesy in part. Each one who had the gift of prophecy revealed only a part of the total body of truth. Thus the gift of prophecy (the receiving and delivering revelation), as is seen in v. 8, belonged to the time when God’s will was still being revealed, before the parts formed the complete, perfect, or whole system. It is a mistake to conclude that Paul is here contrasting the Christian age with heaven or the age to come. His contrast continues to be between the temporary and the permanent.

1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, - The Christian system when it is mature, complete, and full grown because revelation has been given in its totality when the temporary has been removed and the structure stands complete. The temporary (of which miracles were a part) was the operation of the system as it was being built on the bit-by-bit revelation the early disciples had delivered to them by the prophets; the permanent (the perfect) was the mature, complete, or full-grown system which would have the full revelation of God at its disposal. Contrary to popular belief, Paul is not looking to the second coming of Christ, the end of the present order, and the perfection of heaven. His contrast is between the temporary and the permanent in Christianity. The perfect then is the time when revelation would be complete and the man of God would be thoroughly furnished unto every good work - perfectly equipped with everything necessary to be saved from sin, to live the Christian life, and to go to heaven. The best commentary on the perfect here is Ephesians 4:11-14. There Paul shows that miraculous functions were given till (up to the time of) all would come together in the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ so that henceforth (after the perfect came) they would not be led about with every wind of doctrine and by cunning craftiness. That time was coming when the permanent would replace the temporary, the time when the Christian system would cease to be under construction and would stand as a completed structure. The complete revelation would be the material (the concrete) out of which the system was built. For this reason one is not wrong when he says that the perfect is the full revelation. But this is true only because the completed structure (the Christian system) depends upon the full and complete revelation. The perfect is the whole scheme of God for the salvation of souls when it is completely revealed, and that scheme was completely revealed only when revelation was completed (1:18-2:16). then that which is in part shall be done away. - What is imperfect will be set aside (Williams) or superseded (Moffett). When the structure is completed, the builders (the apostles and prophets and others with spiritual gifts) and their tools (miracles) will vanish from the scene. They will have served their purpose, finished their job, and will go away. The builders are temporary; the building is permanent.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12Here we have two illustrations of the principle discussed in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. The temporary is illustrated by childhood and seeing through a glass darkly and the permanent by manhood and seeing face to face. The child is in contrast with the man and seeing through a glass darkly is in contrast with seeing face to face. The contrast continues to be between the now (while the in­ complete system is being supported by the miraculous) and the then (when the perfect will supersede the partial).

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: - When he was a child he had all the characteristics of childhood. So the Christian system in its infancy had some characteristics which would not be a part of its permanent structure. but when I became a man, Now that I am become a man (ASV). I put away childish things. I’ve given up the ways of a child (Beck).--When he reached adulthood the characteristics of childhood were left behind. So it is with the Christian system. This fact is perfectly summarized by the period of incomplete revelation (characterized by the temporary) and the period of complete revelation (characterized by the permanent).

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now During the period of the incomplete or partial. we see through a glass, darkly; We see in a mirror dimly (NASV) or indistinctly (BV). In the illustration he sees only a reflection, not the real person (not face to face), and that reflection illustrates the difference in the Christian system when it was under construction and the completed structure (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23-24). but then When the perfect comes v. 10). face to face: Not just the reflection but the real person. This is in contrast with seeing in a mirror darkly. now I know in part; - At present I am learning bit by bit (Moffett). See notes on 1 Corinthians 13:9-10. but then shall I know But then shall I know fully (ASV), but then shall I understand (Moffett). Then, when the revelation is com­ plete, the partial will be superseded by the whole. even as also I am known.--As all along I have myself been understood (Moffett). The point is that when the perfect comes they would no longer be confined to the bit-by-bit revelation. They would then have the perfect or completed revelation. That we now have in the NT.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now-- And so (Williams) or there remains (BV). The now here is not in contrast with the then (as in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, but rather spans both the time when Paul wrote [the time of the partial, v. 12]) and the time (when the perfect would come) which would supersede it (and of course love will continue beyond time into eternity, but that goes beyond Paul’s point here). Faith, hope, and love were a permanent part of the Christian system, both when the system was revealed in part and after the revelation was complete. abideth - Remain. That is, they are permanent. faith, - Confidence and conviction derived from credible testimony John 20:30-31; Romans 10:17). hope,--A combination of eager anticipation and confident expectation. charity,--Love. these three; Faith, hope, and love. but the greatest of these is charity. - Love is greater than either faith or hope. How is this so? Paul does not say, but probably because it is divine in nature and permanent in duration. Perhaps we could paraphrase it: These three are permanent (in the Christian system), but the most permanent of these is love (because it will endure in eternity). All three would continue as a permanent part of the Christian system, but in the world to come faith (as we now know it) will be absorbed in sight (in reality) and hope in absolute fruition (Romans 8:24-25), but love will continue forever. This makes it more permanent, more lasting, eternal in nature and thus greater than either faith or hope (Matthew 22:37-40). Those who hold that the now of 1 Corinthians 13:10-13 is the present and the then eternity have expanded an amazing amount of ingenuity on trying to show how faith and hope will continue in heaven, but all their effort avails them nothing because it misses Paul’s point. While I do not question the fact that in some specialized sense faith and hope will continue in eternity (certainly we will not be hopeless unbelievers), but it will not be true of faith as the belief of testimony (2 Corinthians 7:5) or of the hope which when seen is no more hope (Romans 8:24-25). The commentators could have saved all their effort simply by recognizing the context of the passage and giving their exegesis in keeping with it (as I have done). Paul did not have in view the present time and eternity to come (regardless of how attractive and appealing that might be) but rather the temporary nature of the miraculous and the permanent nature of love--that which belonged to the Christian system while it was under construction and that which would remain a permanent part of it after the construction was completed.

Verse 9

1Co 13:9

1 Corinthians 13:9

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;—At the time this was written, some things were unknown, had not been revealed. For the knowledge of God’s will they were de­pendent upon those possessing the gift of prophecy. Most ex­positors think this refers to the partial knowledge of divine things we possess in this world, compared with the clear vi­sion we shall possess when we shall have passed into the fu­ture; but this is wholly outside the scope of the apostle’s writ­ing here. He is contrasting the spiritual gifts, their teachings and blessings, with the service of love under the completed and perfect law.

Verse 10

1Co 13:10

1 Corinthians 13:10

but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.—These gifts were to continue in the church to guide and instruct it until the completed will of God was made known. They were to serve a temporary purpose; then when their office was fulfilled, they were to pass away and give place to it.

That perfection was completed, so far as God’s work of the revealing work of the Spirit is concerned, when the full will of God should be revealed, or made known, and his provisions for saving men should be set in operation, as is set forth in the following: “And he gave some to be apostles; and some, proph­ets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doc­trine, by the sleight of men in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-15). In this passage Paul explains the whole matter: showing that these miraculous gifts were to serve till the full knowledge was received to make them one in faith and to bring them to the fullness of men and women in Christ. That knowledge is given in the New Testament.

There are two reasons why the gifts of the Spirit are not now imparted. These gifts were miraculous powers. First, there are no apostles now to impart gifts. The apostles were inspired men; so they knew all truth through inspiration, and they had seen and heard Jesus. Secondly, having revealed all truth needed to make men perfect, and thoroughly furnish them to all good works, having put in operation all the pro­visions of God for instructing and blessing men, there is no further need for miraculous revelations. Men can now learn all truth needed for present and eternal well-being from his will revealed and recorded in the Bible, and it will lead him into all the blessings of God in this world and in that to come, if he will study it to know and do the will of God. What man can learn himself, God will not work miracles to make known to him.

Again, to all creations and orders of God there have been creative and procreative ages. The creative age is that in which new creatures and a new order of things are brought into being; the procreative age is that in which these beings are multiplied and developed and the order is continued. In the creative age, the age of miracles, things are miraculously formed and created, afterwards they multiply and grow through the workings of law. Life was imparted to Adam and Eve by miracle; life, the same life that was given to them, has been passed on to their children through all the generations from them to us by law. No miracle has been needed to impart physical life since they were made alive. A miracle giving physical life would be a violation of the order of God. The same is true in the spiritual world. In the beginning spiritual life was imparted miraculously. Jesus Christ came into the world; through his teaching in precept and example; his suffering, death, burial; his struggle in the grave with the power of death and hell (in the grave the battle for man was fought and the victory won); his resurrection and ascension to his Father’s throne, he created the material for the new spiritual kingdom. The apostles and their fellow disciples constituted the nucleus. Christ completed his work and left them with the words ringing in their ears: “Behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit came, imparted unto them spiritual life miraculously, organized them, gave laws to guide in the operation and development in the spiritual realm. The same spiritual life bestowed on them through miracle has been per­petuated and multiplied through “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2), so that all Christians now enjoy that life without miracle. It was given by miracle; it is per­petuated by law.

Verse 11

1Co 13:11

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child:—He compares this time of partial gifts in the church to childhood; that, when the perfect law is com­pleted, to manhood. While the gifts last, he would use and speak by them as he spoke when a child.

now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.—When the perfect law is come, he will put away these partial gifts bestowed as helps for the childhood of the church and use the perfect law given to guide its manhood.

Verse 12

1Co 13:12

1 Corinthians 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.—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.

Verse 13

1Co 13:13

1 Corinthians 13:13

But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three;—While these miraculous gifts must pass away, faith, hope, and love remain as the permanent and abiding fruits of the word of God. Without these no one can be a child of God; with them and the perfect law of liberty, gifts are no longer needed. The word of God as the seed of the kingdom received into the heart produces faith. Faith, in the promises contained in the word of God, produces hope. The end of faith and hope is to bring man into perfect harmony with the will of God. Complete harmony with the will of God is perfect love to every being in the universe.

and the greatest of these is love.—Love is the filling of all requirements, duties, and obligations contained in the law of God toward God and to all the creatures of heaven and earth. Love is the great underlying and all-pervading principle of the universe. God is love, and the laws of the universe are the manifestations and outgrowth of his love; and to love is to conform to the laws of God, to bring ourselves into harmony with them, and through these to work good to every being in the universe. This love will only be perfected in the state of glory, when we shall see him as he is and be like him, and it will be eternal.

[Faith is not an end; it is faith in a Divine Deliverer and in his promise of salvation; it is the means toward eternal life. Hope is not an end; it is hope of final and eternal fellowship with God; it is the means to steadfastness and to heaven. But love is an end in itself. It is the bond of perfectness; be­yond this even Christianity cannot carry us. As faith and hope realize their purpose when they produce love, it is obvi­ous that the virtue which is their final purpose is greater than they. And this conviction is confirmed when we consider that, of all virtues, love is usually the most difficult and the last to be acquired. Love is the test and the crown of spiri­tual maturity. Society needs above all things to be penetrated with the spirit of love to God, sympathy and brotherly kind­ness to man. This is the radical cure for all its ills—this, and only this. Without it, all is disorder and chaos; with it, all is regularity and beauty. It represses hatred, malice, envy; and it cultivates considerateness, pity, gentleness, self-denial, and generous help.]

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/1-corinthians-13.html.
 
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