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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1Co 13:1. This chapter continues the same general subject that Paul has been considering, namely, the proper estimate to be placed on spiritual gifts. The Corinthians were so devoted to them that they had fallen to wrangling against each toher. This spirit of dissension had caused them to slight the "more excellent way," which is prompted by charity or love. The apostle will devote this chapter to showing the emptiness of all their boasted gifts without having this greatest of all virtues, love for each other. Sounding brass and tinkling cymbals were used in both religious and military exercises. Smith's Bible Dictionary says they were used "as an accompaniment to other instruments." They would therefore not express any distinct note or other useful term in themselves. Paul compares that fact with the use of spiritual gifts when not connected with love.

Verse 2

1Co 13:2. Some of the most outstanding spiritual gifts are named in this verse for specimens, and even they are nothing in the absence of love for the brethren.

Verse 3

1Co 13:3. Bestowing goods upon the poor is possible even in the absence of what the King James translation calls charity, which shows the word does not mean what is commonly called "liberality." The word is from AGAPE, and the common version renders it "love" in 86 places. For further information, see the comments at Mat 5:43, volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary.

Verse 4

1Co 13:4. This and a number of verses following will show some things that charity (or love) will do, and also what it will not do. Suffereth tong means it will cause a man to be patient and kind. Envieth not denotes that one man will not be grieved because some other one has a gift that he does not have. This teaching especially was needed by many of the Corinthians, because they were contending over the respective gifts of each other. To vaunt means to make a vain display, and it would be caused by being puffed up.

Verse 5

1Co 13:5. Unseemly means unbecomingly, and the Corinthians had certainly been guilty of such behaviour. Seeketh not her own signifies that one is not selfish. Not easily provoked denotes one who does not become angered at every little provocation. Thinketh no evil. If a man loves his brother, he will not hold him guilty of any evil if he has only his personal opinion as an evidence.

Verse 6

1Co 13:6. Iniquity is placed as an opposite of truth, which shows that one does not have to commit some outward act of wrongdoing to be guilty of iniquity; his rejoicing in it makes him guilty. Paul taught the same principle in Rom 1:32.

Verse 7

1Co 13:7. Beareth means to cover or hide the faults of others as far as possible without encouraging sin. Believ- eth and hopeth must be understood in the light of other passages. Heb 11:1 tells us that hone is based on faith, and Rom 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. The present phrase means that a man who has the love of God and the brethren in his heart, will believe all that God declares. Endureth denotes a willingness to remain faithful throughout all trials.

Verse 8

1Co 13:8. Charity (or love) never faileth. A part of Thayer's definition of the original for faileth is, "to perish," which means that it will cease to be. That is not true of love, for it will never cease to be, even after the spiritual gifts mentioned in this verse cease to be.

Verse 9

1Co 13:9. In part is said in view of the temporary use and purpose of the spiritual gifts. While the church had such helps only, the knowledge of spiritual things was but partial.

Verse 10

1Co 13:10. That which is perfect (complete) means the completed New Testament, called "the perfect law of liberty" in Jas 1:25. When that was given to the church, the temporary and partial information derived through the spiritual gifts was to be no longer necessary.

Verse 11

1Co 13:11. The illustrations in this and the next verse are to show the difference between the time when the church had to depend on spiritual gifts, and when it would have the complete New Testament. The contrast is likened to the immature activities of a child as against those of a man.

Verse 12

1Co 13:12. The glass means a mirror which was made of polished metal in old times. Seeing a thing as it is reflected against one of these plates is compared to the knowledge attained through spiritual gifts. Seeing the things directly or face to face, is compared to the full and direct knowledge to be attained through the New Testament. Know as I am known. This is the text usually cited by advocates of "future recognition," meaning that we shall "know each other in Heaven." Of course that has to mean knowing others as we know them now; and that requires that we will be "as" we are now, or the "recognition" will be impossible. The theory is Sadducean, infidel, and a debasing of Heaven. It is Sadducean in that it implies a continuance of marriage as the Sadducees contended. It is infidel in that it contradicts 1Co 15:50, which says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, yet which must occur if we are going to be "as we are now." It debases Heaven in that it puts the joys of that eternal place on the basis of fleshly relationship. We know such is the motive for the theory, for its advocates will say, "I would not be happy in Heaven if I did not know my loved ones." Such remarks mean that human beings know better what will be necessary for happiness in that world than does the Lord. This passage has nothing to do with conditions after this world is ended. It is an item in the same argument Paul has been making since the beginning of chapter 12, namely, the use and comparative importance of spiritual gifts. Before the New Te-tament was completed, the church had to rely on the spiritually-gifted men and their gifts for information to a great extent. These men could not always be speaking, nor could they be in evidence in every place, due to the many handicaps of human life. As a consequence, some disciples would have knowledge of spiritual matters that others would not. "But when that which was perfect was come" (the complete New Testament), all would have equal chance for such knowledge. The words know and known are from EPIGINOSKO, which Thayer defines, "to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly; to know accurately, know well." Of course this knowledge pertains to our spiritual relationship in the church. On that subject we may "know as we are known," since all members of the body have equal access to the full information offered in the New Testament. Personal recognition is not being considered.

Verse 13

1Co 13:13. Now abideth signifies that after the complete New Testament has been produced after the spiritual gifts have ceased, there will still be faith, hope and charity (or love). That is because the Christian life will always need such graces. Faith (which is produced by hearing the word of God) will be necessary to guide the disciple of the Lord aright, and hope will be needed to urge him that through perseverance he may gain the reward at last. Charity is the greatest of these three, because faith will be changed to sight, and hope will give place to actual possession, after this life is ended. But love is eternal and will exist on into the life with God in Heaven.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-corinthians-13.html. 1952.
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