Friday, November 27, 2015




Chapter  13  is  so  fine  a  chapter  for  the  nuts  and  bolts  of  true  Christianity; some  emphasis  from  myself  here  and  there.

1  Corinthians


This chapter is a continuation of the subject commenced in chap. 12. In that chapter Paul had introduced the subject of the various endowments which the Holy Spirit confers on Christians, and had shown that these endowments, however various they were, were conferred in such a manner as best to promote the edification and welfare of the church. In the close of that chapter (ver. 31) he had said that it was lawful for them to desire the most eminent of the gifts conferred by the Spirit; and yet says that there was one endowment that was more valuable than all others, and that might be obtained by all, and that he proposed to recommend to them. That was love; and to illustrate its nature, excellency, and power, is the design of this exquisitely beautiful and tender chapter. 

In doing this, he dwells particularly on three points or views of the excellency of love; and the chapter may be regarded as consisting of three portions.

I. The excellency of love above the power of speaking the languages of men and of angels; above the power of understanding all mysteries; above all faith, even of the highest kind ; and above the virtue of giving all one's goods to feed the poor, or one's body to be burned. All these endowments would be valueless without love, ver. 1—3.

II. A statement of the characteristics of love; or its happy influences on the mind and heart, ver. 4—7.

III. A comparison of love with the gift of prophecy, and with the power of speaking foreign languages, and with knowledge, ver. 8—13. 

In this portion of the chapter, Paul shows that love is superior to them all.….

1. Though I speak with the tongues of men. Though I should be able to speak all the languages which are spoken by men. To speak foreign languages was regarded then, as it is now, as a rare and valuable endowment….The word "I" here is used in a popular sense, and the apostle designs to illustrate, as he often does, his idea by a reference to himself, which, it is evident, he wishes to be understood as applying to those whom he addressed. It is evident that among the Corinthians the power of speaking a foreign language was regarded as a signally valuable endowment; and there can be no doubt that some of the leaders in that church valued themselves especially on it; see chap. 14. To correct this, and to show them that all this would be vain without love, and to induce them, therefore, to seek for love as a more valuable endowment, was the design of the apostle in this passage….And of angels. The language of angels; such as they speak. Were I endowed with the faculty of eloquence and persuasion which we attribute to them; and the power of speaking to any of the human family with the power which they have. The language of angels here seems to be used to denote the highest power of using language, or of the most elevated faculty of eloquence and speech. It is evidently derived from the idea that the angels are superior in all respects to men ; that they must have endowments in advance of all which man can have. It may possibly have reference to the idea that they must have some mode of communicating their ideas one to another, and that this dialect or mode must be far superior to that which is employed by man. Man is imperfect. All his modes of communication are defective. We attribute to the angels the idea of perfection; and the idea here is, that even though a man had a far higher faculty of speaking languages than would be included in the endowment of speaking all the languages of men as men speak them, and even had the higher and more perfect mode of utterance which the angels have, and yet were destitute of love, all would be nothing…..And have not charity. And have not love. This is the proper and usual meaning of the Greek word. The English word charity is used in a great variety of senses ; and some of them cannot be included in the meaning of the word here. It means, (1.) In a general sense, love, benevolence, good-will; (2.) In theology, it includes supreme love to God and universal good-will to men; (3.) In a more particular sense, it denotes the love and kindness which springs from the natural relations, as the charities of father, son, brother; (4.) Liberality to the poor, to the needy, and to objects of beneficence, as we speak commonly of charity, meaning almsgiving, and of charitable societies; (5.) Candour liberality in judging of men's actions indulgence to their opinions; attributing to them good motives and intentions; a disposition to judge of them favourably, and to put on their words and actions the best construction. This is a very common signification of the word in our language now, and this is one modification of the word love, as all such charity is supposed to proceed from love to our neighbour, and a desire that he should have a right to his opinions as well as we to ours. The Greek word means properly love, affection, regard, good-will, benevolence. It is applied, (a) To love in general; (b) To the love of God and of Christ; (c) The love which God or Christ exercises towards Christians, (Rom. 5. 5; Eph. 2:4; 2 Thess. 3:5); (d) The effect, or proof of beneficence, favour conferred; Eph. 1:15; 2 Thess. 2:10; 1 John 3:1…. The love which is referred to in this chapter, and illustrated, is mainly love to man (ver. 4—7); though there is no reason to doubt that the apostle meant also to include in the general term love to God, or love in general. His illustrations, however, are chiefly drawn from the effects of love towards men. It properly means love, to the whole church, love to the whole world; love to all creatures which arises from true piety, and which centres ultimately in God.—Doddridge. 

It is this love whose importance Paul, in this beautiful chapter, illustrates as being more valuable than the highest possible endowments without it. It is not necessary to suppose that any one had these endowments, or had the power of speaking with the tongues of men and angels; or had the gift of prophecy, or had the highest degree of faith, who had no love. The apostle supposes a case; and says that if it were so, if all these were possessed without love, they would be comparatively valueless; or that love was a more valuable endowment than all the others would be without it. I am become. I am. I shall be. As sounding brass. Probably a trumpet. The word properly means brass; then that which is made of brass; a trumpet, or wind instrument of any kind made of brass or copper. The sense is that of a sounding or resounding instrument, making a great noise, apparently of great importance, and yet without vitality; a mere instrument; a base metal that merely makes a sound. Thus noisy, valueless, empty, and without vitality would be the power of speaking all languages without love. Or a tinkling cymbal. A cymbal giving a clanging, clattering sound. The word rendered "tinkling" …. properly denotes a loud cry, or shout, such as is used in battle; and then also a loud cry or mourning, cries of lamentation or grief; the loud shriek of sorrow, Mark v, 38, "Them that wept and wailed greatly." It then means a clanging or clattering sound, such as was made on a cymbal. The cymbal is a well-known instrument, made of two pieces of brass or other metal, which, being struck together, gives a tinkling or clattering sound. Cymbals are commonly used in connection with other music. They make a tinkling, or clanging, with very little variety of sound.  The music is little adapted to produce emotion, or to excite feeling. There is no melody and no harmony. They were, therefore, well adapted to express the idea which the apostle wished to convey. The sense is, "If I could speak all languages, yet if I had not love, the faculty would be like the clattering, clanging sound of the cymbal, that contributes nothing to the welfare of others. It would all be hollow, vain, useless. It could neither save me nor others, any more than the notes of the trumpet, or the jingling of the cymbal, would promote salvation. Love is the vital principle; it is that without which all other endowments are useless and vain."

2. And though I have the gift of prophecy. And understand all mysteries…. This passage proves that it was one part of the prophetic office, as referred to here, to be able to understand and explain the mysteries of religion; that is, the things that were before unknown, or unrevealed. It does not refer to the prediction of future events, but to the great and deep truths connected with religion; the things that were unexplained in the old economy, the meaning of types and emblems ; and the obscure portions of the plan of redemption. All these might be plain enough if they were revealed; but there were many things connected with religion which God had not chosen to reveal to men. And all knowledge…. Though I knew every thing. Though I were acquainted fully with all the doctrines of religion; and were with all sciences and arts. And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains. Thould I should have the highest kind of faith. This is referred to by the Saviour (Mat. xvii. 20,) as the highest kind of faith; and Paul here had this fact doubtless in his eye; am nothing. All would be of no value.  It  would  not  save me. I should still be an unredeemed, unpardoned sinner. I should do good to no one; I should answer none of the great purposes which God has designed; I should not by all this secure my salvation. All would be in vain in regard to the great purpose of my existence. None of these things could be placed before God as a ground of acceptance in the day of judgment. Unless I should have love, I should still be lost. 

A somewhat similar idea is expressed by the Saviour, in regard to the day of judgment, in Mat. 7: 22, 23, "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity."


3. And though I bestow. The Greek word here …. meant properly to break off, and distribute in small portions; to feed by morsels; and may be applicable here to distributing one's property in small portions. Charity or alms to the poor, was usually distributed at one's gate (Luke 26:20,) or in some public place. Of course, if property was distributed in this manner, many more would be benefitted than if all were given to one person. There would be many more to be thankful, and to celebrate one's praises. This was regarded as a great virtue; and was often performed in a most ostentatious manner. It was a gratification to wealthy men who desired the praise of being benevolent, that many of the poor flocked daily to their houses to be fed; and against this desire of distinction, the Saviour directed some of his severest reproofs; see Mat. 6:1—4. To make the case as strong as possible, Paul says that if all that a man had were dealt out in this way, in small portions, so as to benefit as many as possible, and yet were not attended with true love towards God and towards man, it would be all false, hollow, hypocritical, and really of no value in regard to his own salvation. It would profit nothing. It would not be such an act as God would approve; it would be no evidence that the soul would be saved. Though good might be done to others, yet where the motive was wrong, it could not meet with the divine approbation, or be connected with his favour. And though I give my body to be burned. Evidently as a martyr, or a witness to the truth of religion. Though I should be willing to lay down my life in the most painful manner, and have not charity, it would profit me nothing. Many of the ancient prophets were called to suffer martyrdom, though there is no evidence that any of them were burned to death as martyrs. Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego were indeed thrown into a fiery furnace, because they were worshippers of the true God; but they were not consumed in the flame, Dan. 3:19—26; comp. Heb. 11:34. Though Christians were early persecuted, yet there is no evidence that they were burned as martyrs as early as this epistle was written. Nero is the first who is believed to have committed this horrible act; and under his reign, and during the persecution which he excited, Christians were covered with pitch, and set on fire to illuminate his gardens. It is possible that some Christians had been put to death in this manner when Paul wrote this epistle; but it is more probable that he refers to this as the most awful kind of death, rather than as any thing which had really happened. Subsequently, however, as all know, this was often done, and thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of Christians have been called to evince their attachment to religion in the flames. And have not charity. Have no love to God, or to men; have no true piety. If I do it from any selfish or sinister motive; if I do it from fanaticism, obstinacy, or vain-glory; if I am deceived in regard to my character …. It is not necessary to an explanation of this passage to suppose that this ever had been done, for the apostle only puts a supposable case. There is reason, however, to think that it has been done frequently; and that when the desire of martyrdom became the popular passion, and was believed to be connected infallibly with heaven, not a few have been willing to give themselves to the flames who never knew any thing of love to God or true piety. Grotius mentions the instance of Calanus, and of Peregrinus the philosopher, who did it. Although this was not the common mode of martyrdom in the time of Paul, and although it was then perhaps unknown, it is remarkable that he should have referred to that which in subsequent times became the common mode of death on account of religion. In his time, and before, the common mode was by stoning, by the sword, or by crucifixion. Subsequently, however, all these were laid aside, and burning became the common way in which martyrs suffered. So it was, extensively, under Nero: and so it was, exclusively, under the Inquisition; and so it was in the persecutions in England in the time of Mary. Paul seems to have been directed to specify this rather than stoning, the sword, or crucifixion, in order that, in subsequent times, martyrs might be led to examine themselves, and to see whether they were actuated by true love to God in being willing to be consumed in the flames. It profiteth me nothing. If there is no true piety, there can be no benefit in this to my soul. It will not save me. If I have no true love to God, I must perish, after all. Love, therefore, is more valuable and precious than all these endowments. Nothing can supply its place; nothing can be connected with salvation without it.

4. Charity suffers long. Paul now proceeds to illustrate the nature of love, or to show how it is exemplified. His illustrations are all drawn from its effect in regulating our conduct towards others, or our intercourse with them. The reason why he made use of this illustration, rather than its nature as evinced towards God, was, probably, because it was especially necessary for them to understand in what way it should be manifested towards each other. There were contentions and strifes among them; there were of course suspicions, and jealousies, and heart-burnings; there would be unkind judging, the imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there were envy, and pride, and boasting, all of which were inconsistent with love; and Paul therefore evidently designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state of things by showing them what would be produced by the exercise of love. The word here used…. denotes longanimity, slowness to anger or passion; long-suffering, patient endurance, forbearance. It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can bear long- when oppressed, provoked, calumniated, and when one seeks to injure us; comp. Rom. 2: 4; 9:22; 2 Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:10; 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:15. And is kind. The word here used denotes to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. Love is benignant. It wishes well. It is not harsh, sour, morose, ill-natured. Tindal renders it, "is courteous." The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. Hatred prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be gentle, not severe and harsh; will be courteous because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings. And as religion is love, and prompts to love, so it follows that it requires courtesy or true politeness, and will secure it; see 1 Pet. 3:8. If all men were under the influence of true religion, they would always be truly polite and courteous; for true politeness is nothing more than an expression of benignity, or a desire to promote the happiness of all around us. Envieth not. This word properly means to be zealous for or against any person or thing; i. e. to be eager for, or anxious for or against any one. It is used often in a good sense (1 Cor. 12:31; Note, 14:1,39; 2 Cor. 11:2, etc. ); but it may be used in a bad sense—to be zealous against a person; to be jealous of; to envy. Acts 7:9; 17:5; James 4:2,  "Ye kill and envy." It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here, —as denoting zeal, or ardent desire against any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy ; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning - those who are influenced by love rejoice in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not murmur or repine that they themselves are not so highly favoured.—To envy is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; and to fret oneself on account of his real or fancied superiority. Of course, it may be excited by any thing in which another excels, or in which he is more favoured than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honoured with office, while we are overlooked. He may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skilful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank. We do not usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are aspiring to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster, or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself. The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer, another lawyer; the clergyman, another clergyman. The fashionable female, who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty, envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet; and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is love. If we loved others; if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. They are not to blame for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should be thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have…. 

It Vaunteth not itself … (a boaster, braggart. Robinson.) The idea is that of boasting, bragging, vaunting. The word occurs no where else in the New Testament. Bloomfield supposes that it has the idea of acting precipitously, inconsiderately, incautiously; and this idea our translators have placed in the margin, "he is not rash." But most expositors suppose that it has the notion of boasting, or vaunting of one's own excellencies or endowments. This spirit proceeds from the idea of superiority over others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them. Love would correct this, because it would produce a desire that they should be happy—and to treat a man with contempt is not the way to make him happy; love would regard others with esteem—and to boast over them is not to treat them with esteem; it would teach us to treat them with affectionate regard—and no man who has affectionate regard for others is disposed to boast of his own qualities over them. Besides, love produces a state of mind just the opposite of a disposition to boast. It receives its endowments with gratitude; regards them as the gift of God; and is disposed to employ them not in vain boasting, but in purposes of utility, in doing good to all others on as wide a scale as possible. The boaster is not a man who does good. To boast of talents is not to employ them to advantage to others. It will be of no account in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and afflicted, or in saving the world. Accordingly, the man who does the most good is the least accustomed to boast; the man who boasts may be regarded as doing nothing else. Is not puffed up… This word means to blow, to puff, to pant; then to inflate with pride, and vanity, and self-esteem. See the word explained in the Note on chap, 8:1. It perhaps differs from the preceding word, inasmuch as that word denotes the expression of the feelings of pride, vanity, etc. and this word the feeling itself. A man may be very proud and vain, and not express it in the form of boasting. That state is indicated by this word. If he gives expression to this feeling, and boasts of his endowments, that is indicated by the previous word. Love would prevent this, as it would the former. It would destroy the feeling, as well as the expression of it. It would teach a man that others had good qualities as well as he; that they had high endowments as well as he; and would dispose him to concede to them full credit for all that they have, and  not  to be vain-glorious of his own. Besides, it is not the nature of love to fill the mind in this manner. Pride, vanity, and even knowledge (chap. 8:1), may swell the mind with the conviction of self-importance; but love is humble, meek, modest, unobtrusive. A brother that loves a sister is not filled with pride or vanity on account of it; a man that loves the whole world, and desires its salvation, is not filled with pride and vanity on account of it. Hence the Saviour, who had most love for the human race, was at the farthest possible remove from pride and vanity.

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