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1 Corinthians Chapter Thirteen


1 Corinthians 13

Nevertheless there was something more excellent than all gifts. They were the manifestations of the power of God and of the mysteries of His wisdom; love, that of His nature itself.

They might speak with all tongues; they might have prophecy, the knowledge of mysteries, the faith which can remove mountains; they might give all their possessions to feed the poor, and their bodies to be tortured: if they had not love, it was nothing. Love was conformity to the nature of God, the living expression of what He was, the manifestation of having been made partakers of His nature: it was the acting and feeling according to His likeness. This love is developed in reference to others; but others are not the motive, although they are the object. It has its source within; its strength is independent of the objects with which it is occupied. Thus it can act where circumstances might produce irritation or jealousy in the human heart. It acts according to its own nature in the circumstances; and by judging them according to that nature, they do not act upon the man who is full of love, except so far as they supply occasion for its activity, and direct its form. Love is its own motive. In us participation in the divine nature is its only source. Communion with God Himself alone sustains it through all the difficulties it has to surmount in its path. This love is the opposite of selfishness and of self-seeking, and shuts it out, seeking the good of others, even (as to its principle) as God has sought us in grace (see Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 2). What a power to avoid evil in oneself, to forget all in order to do good!

It is worthy of note that the qualities of divine love are almost entirely of a passive character.

The first eight qualities pointed out by the Spirit are the expression of this renunciation of self. The three that follow, mark that joy in good which sets the heart free also from that readiness to suppose evil, which is so natural to human nature, on account of its own depth of evil, and that which it also experiences in the world. The last four shew its positive energy, which-the source of every kind thought-by the powerful spring of its divine nature, presumes good when it does not see it, and bears with evil when it sees it, covering it by longsuffering and patience; not bringing it to light, but burying it in its own depth-a depth which is unfathomable, because love never changes. One finds nothing but love where it is real; for circumstances are but an occasion for it to act and shew itself. Love is always itself, and it is love which is exercised and displayed. It is that which fills the mind: everything else is but a means of awakening the soul that dwells in love to its exercise. This is the divine character. No doubt the time of judgment will come; but our relationships with God are in grace. Love is His nature. It is now the time of its exercise. We represent Him on earth in testimony.

In that which is said of love in this chapter we find the reproduction of the divine nature, except that what is said is but the negative of the selfishness of the flesh in us. Now the divine nature changes not and never ceases; love therefore abides ever. Communications from God; the means by which they are made; knowledge, as attained here below, according to which we apprehend the truth in part only, although the whole truth is revealed to us (for we apprehend it in detail, so that we have never the whole at once, the character of our knowledge being to lay hold of different truths singly); all that is characterised by being in part-passes away. Love will not pass away. A child learns; he rejoices too in things that amuse him; when he becomes a man, he requires things in accordance with his intelligence as a man. It was thus with tongues and the edification of the assembly. The time however was coming when they should know even as they were known, not by communications of truths to a capacity that apprehended the truth in its different parts, but they should understand it as a whole in its unity.

Now love subsists already; there are faith and hope also. Not only shall these pass away, but even now, here below, that which is of the nature of God is more excellent than that which is connected with the capacity of human nature, even though enlightened by God, and having for its object the revealed glory of God.

Believers therefore were to follow after and seek for love, while desiring gifts, especially that they might prophesy, because thus they would edify the assembly, and that was the thing to aim at; it was that which love desired and sought, it was that which intelligence required, the two marks of a man in Christ, of one to whom Christ is all.

── John DarbySynopsis of 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 13

Chapter Contents

The necessity and advantage of the grace of love. (1-3) Its excellency represented by its properties and effects; (4-7) and by its abiding, and its superiority. (8-13)

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

(Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The excellent way had in view in the close of the former chapter, is not what is meant by charity in our common use of the word, almsgiving, but love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart. There may be an open and lavish hand, where there is not a liberal and charitable heart. Doing good to others will do none to us, if it be not done from love to God, and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

(Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Some of the effects of charity are stated, that we may know whether we have this grace; and that if we have not, we may not rest till we have it. This love is a clear proof of regeneration, and is a touchstone of our professed faith in Christ. In this beautiful description of the nature and effects of love, it is meant to show the Corinthians that their conduct had, in many respects, been a contrast to it. Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Not that charity destroys all regard to ourselves, or that the charitable man should neglect himself and all his interests. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It ever prefers the welfare of others to its private advantage. How good-natured and amiable is Christian charity! How excellent would Christianity appear to the world, if those who profess it were more under this Divine principle, and paid due regard to the command on which its blessed Author laid the chief stress! Let us ask whether this Divine love dwells in our hearts. Has this principle guided us into becoming behaviour to all men? Are we willing to lay aside selfish objects and aims? Here is a call to watchfulness, diligence, and prayer.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

(Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Charity is much to be preferred to the gifts on which the Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It is a grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused notions of things, have children when compared with grown men! Thus shall we think of our most valued gifts of this world, when we come to heaven. All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us. To sum up the excellences of charity, it is preferred not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope. Faith fixes on the Divine revelation, and assents thereto, relying on the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens on future happiness, and waits for that; but in heaven, faith will be swallowed up in actual sight, and hope in enjoyment. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But there, love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing the best below! God is love, 1 John 4:8,16. Where God is to be seen as he is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height; there only will it be perfected.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 13

Verse 2

[2] And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I have the gift of prophecy — Of foretelling future events.

And understand all the mysteries — Both of God's word and providence.

And all knowledge — Of things divine and human, that ever any mortal attained to. And though I have the highest degree of miracle working faith, and have not this love, I am nothing.

Verse 3

[3] And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

And though I — Deliberately, piece by piece. Give all my goods to feed the poor, yea, though I deliver up my body to be burned - Rather than I would renounce my religion.

And have not the love — Hereafter described.

It profiteth me nothing — Without this, whatever I speak, whatever I have, whatever I know, whatever I do, whatever I suffer, is nothing.

Verse 4

[4] Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

The love of God, and of our neighbour for God's sake, is patient toward, all men. It, suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end. And in every step toward overcoming evil with good, it is kind, soft, mild, benign. It inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection.

Love acteth not rashly — Does not hastily condemn any one; never passes a severe sentence on a slight or sudden view of things. Nor does it ever act or behave in a violent, headstrong, or precipitate manner.

Is not puffed up — Yea, humbles the soul to the dust.

Verse 5

[5] Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

It doth not behave indecently — Is not rude, or willingly offensive, to any. It renders to all their due - Suitable to time, person, and all other circumstances.

Seeketh not her own — Ease, pleasure, honour, or temporal advantage. Nay, sometimes the lover of mankind seeketh not, in some sense, even his own spiritual advantage; does not think of himself, so long as a zeal for the glory of God and the souls of men swallows him up. But, though he is all on fire for these ends, yet he is not provoked to sharpness or unkindness toward any one. Outward provocations indeed will frequently occur; but he triumphs over all. Love thinketh no evil - Indeed it cannot but see and hear evil things, and know that they are so; but it does not willingly think evil of any; neither infer evil where it does not appear. It tears up, root and branch, all imagining of what we have not proof. It casts out all jealousies, all evil surmises, all readiness to believe evil.

Verse 6

[6] Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity — Yea, weeps at either the sin or folly of even an enemy; takes no pleasure in hearing or in repeating it, but desires it may be forgotten for ever.

But rejoiceth in the truth — Bringing forth its proper fruit, holiness of heart and life. Good in general is its glory and joy, wherever diffused in all the world.

Verse 7

[7] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love covereth all things - Whatever evil the lover of mankind sees, hears, or knows of any one, he mentions it to none; it never goes out of his lips, unless where absolute duty constrains to speak.

Believeth all things — Puts the most favourable construction on everything, and is ever ready to believe whatever may tend to the advantage of any one character. And when it can no longer believe well, it hopes whatever may excuse or extenuate the fault which cannot be denied. Where it cannot even excuse, it hopes God will at length give repentance unto life.

Meantime it endureth all things — Whatever the injustice, the malice, the cruelty of men can inflict. He can not only do, but likewise suffer, all things, through Christ who strengtheneth him.

Verse 8

[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Love never faileth — It accompanies to, and adorns us in, eternity; it prepares us for, and constitutes, heaven.

But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail — When all things are fulfilled, and God is all in all.

Whether there be tongues, they shall cease — One language shall prevail among all the inhabitants of heaven, and the low and imperfect languages of earth be forgotten. The knowledge likewise which we now so eagerly pursue, shall then vanish away - As starlight is lost in that of the midday sun, so our present knowledge in the light of eternity.

Verse 9

[9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part — The wisest of men have here but short, narrow, imperfect conceptions, even of the things round about them, and much more of the deep things of God. And even the prophecies which men deliver from God are far from taking in the whole of future events, or of that wisdom and knowledge of God which is treasured up in the scripture revelation.

Verse 10

[10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

But when that which is perfect is come — At death and in the last day.

That which is in part shall vanish away — Both that poor, low, imperfect, glimmering light, which is all the knowledge we now can attain to; and these slow and unsatisfactory methods of attaining, as well as of imparting it to others.

Verse 11

[11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

In our present state we are mere infants in point of knowledge, compared to what we shall be hereafter.

I put away childish things — Of my own accord, willingly, without trouble.

Verse 12

[12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Now we see — Even the things that surround us. But by means of a glass - Or mirror, which reflects only their imperfect forms, in a dim, faint, obscure manner; so that our thoughts about them are puzzling and intricate, and everything is a kind of riddle to us.

But then — We shall see, not a faint reflection, but the objects themselves.

Face to face — Distinctly.

Now I know in part — Even when God himself reveals things to me, great part of them is still kept under the veil.

But then I shall know even as also I am known — In a clear, full, comprehensive manner; in some measure like God, who penetrates the centre of every object, and sees at one glance through my soul and all things.

Verse 13

[13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Faith, hope, love — Are the sum of perfection on earth; love alone is the sum of perfection in heaven.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Corinthians


1 Cor. 13:8~10

The important criterion in determining whether or not a particular spiritual gift will endure is its purpose. The purpose of a mercury vapor light is to illuminate the highway at night. When the sun rises, the highway becomes illuminated by a greater and more perfect light. The mercury vapor light then goes out because it has served its purpose. In a similar way, spiritual gifts—whether knowledge, prophecy, or tongues—will cease to function when a state of perfect spiritual maturity is attained. Their “light” will no longer be required then.


Chapter 13. The Interpretation of Love

Gifts Will End
Love Remains Forever

I. The Importance of Exercising Gifts In Love

  1. Eight Talents
  2. Without Love
  3. Gain Nothing

II. Various Expression of Love

  1. Eight Negatives
  2. Four Positives
  3. Never Fail

III. The Greatest Is Love

  1. Faith Is the Foundation
  2. Hope Is the Goal
  3. Love Is the Supply
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter Thirteen General Review
1) To see the value of love in our service to the Lord
2) To understand the scriptural definition of "love"
3) To determine when spiritual gifts would cease
In the middle of his discussion on spiritual gifts, Paul describes the 
"more excellent way" of love.  After first emphasizing the importance 
of love (1-3), he then defines love by what it is and what it does 
(4-8a).  Ending with love's quality of "permanence", Paul contrasts it 
with the temporary nature of spiritual gifts.  Though such gifts 
fulfilled an important function, the time would come when they would 
cease, while qualities like faith, hope, and love would remain (8-13).
      1. Even if one spoke with tongues of men and of angels...
      2. Without love, the person would be like sounding brass or a
         clanging cymbal
      1. Even if one had the gift of prophecy to understand all
         mysteries and all knowledge...
      2. Even if one had the gift of faith sufficient to remove
      3. Without love, such a person is nothing
      1. Even if one gave all their goods to the poor...
      2. Even if one were willing to be burned at the stake...
      3. Without love, it profits the person nothing
      1. Suffers long
      2. Is kind
      1. Does not envy; does not parade itself, is not puffed up
      2. Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not
         provoked, thinks no evil
      3. Does not rejoice in iniquity
      1. Rejoices in the truth
      2. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
         endures all things
      3. Never fails
      1. Love never fails, but spiritual gifts will cease (8)
      2. Spiritual gifts to cease when that which is perfect is comes 
      3. Spiritual gifts equated with "childish things", which are put
         away at maturity (11)
      4. Spiritual gifts necessary when knowledge (revelation?) is
         partial (12)
      1. What will abide (remain) is faith, hope, love
      2. The greatest being love
1) List the main points of this chapter
   - The "Importance" Of Love (1-3)
   - The "Definition" Of Love (4-8a)
   - The "Permanency" Of Love (8-13)
2) What is necessary for any service that we may render to be of value?
   - Love
3) What is the main difference between love and spiritual gifts? (8)
   - Love never fails, but spiritual gifts will cease
4) What does "that which is in part" refer to in verse ten? (9)
   - Knowing in part, prophesying in part (i.e., partial knowledge,
     partial revelation)
5) What does "that which is perfect" refer to in verse ten? (10)
   - Complete knowledge, complete revelation (see question nine below)
6) What two illustrations does Paul use to show the temporary nature of
   spiritual gifts (11-12)
   - A man putting away childish things
   - Seeing clearly after a period of viewing in a dim mirror
7) In verse twelve, what word is being modified by the expressions
   "in part" and "fully"?
   - Know (or knowledge)
8) What will remain after spiritual gifts cease? (13)
   - Faith, hope, and love
9) Why is it unlikely that the expression "that which is perfect is
   come" in verse ten refers to Christ, or to heaven?
   - Paul speaks of faith, hope and love abiding (remaining) after
     spiritual gifts have ceased (13)
   - Because of the nature of faith (Hebrews 11:1) and hope (Romans
     8:24-25), they will cease to exist when Christ or heaven comes
   - If "that which is perfect is come" refers to Christ or heaven, and
     spiritual gifts were to last till then, verse thirteen would be
   - For this reason it is more in keeping with the context to 
     understand "that which is perfect is come" to refer to the
     complete knowledge or revelation of God's Will

--《Executable Outlines


The Interpretation of Love

Gifts Will End

Love Remains Forever


I.  The Importance of Exercising Gifts In Love

1.    Eight Talents

2.    Without Love

3.    Gain Nothing

II.Various Expression of Love

1.    Eight Negatives

2.    Four Positives

3.    Never Fail

III.       The Greatest Is Love

1.    Faith Is the Foundation

2.    Hope Is the Goal

3.    Love Is the Supply

-- Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament