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Study Notes on 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13

The great chapter on love! At the end of the last chapter Paul points the Corinthians towards a “more excellent way”, away from their bickering and misuse of tongues, which is love.

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

In these first three verses Paul points out the exceeding superiority of LOVE over the other Spiritual gifts that were present in the early church. While the Corinthians were fighting over “speaking in tongues”, they should have been working on being more loving. The exact same issue exists today where people covet these miraculous Spiritual gifts that have long since ceased, and neglect love.

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.

Again, the supreme importance of love. Gift of prophecy here means to receive revelation from God of future events. The last of this was John the Apostle when he wrote the book of Revelation.

Hypothetically, if one had all these gifts and blessings it would be meaningless without love.

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.

Giving all to the poor, showing all manner of outward righteousness, and dying as a martyr but without love it is profitable for nothing.

Garner-Howes: “The first three verses of this chapter emphasize the necessity of love. The next ten verses emphasize the nature and work of high, holy, spiritual love.”

These three verses remind me of Luke 16:15, “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” The Corinthians were highly esteeming the wrong things.

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

Qualities of love. Romans 13:10, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Love is patient, is kind, isn’t jealous, isn’t boastful, isn’t arrogant. How well do we exhibit this qualities in our life? With our spouse? With other believers? How well do we maintain these qualities during disagreements?

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

Unseemly means to have improper or disgraceful conduct. Love isn’t rude.

Love isn’t selfish. Adam Clarke: “Love is never satisfied but in the welfare, comfort, and salvation of all. That man is no Christian who is solicitous for his own happiness alone; and cares not how the world goes, so that himself be comfortable.”

Love is not provoked to anger. Get thicker skin. Don’t think evil towards anyone and give people the benefit of the doubt.

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

Does not rejoice in wrongdoing, or in hearing of others fall into sin. Rejoice in virtue, in goodness, in spread of the Gospel.

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

The sense of “beareth” is to cover. Cover the sins of others by not making things public, Galatians 6:1-3. Don’t hold grudges.

1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Believe all things that are to be believed. All things in God’s Word, His promises, His teachings.

Hope on all things to be hoped for. The Second Coming is called “the blessed hope” in Titus 2:13. Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Through love endure temptations, endure hardships, endure persecution, without complaint. Maybe this could be applied to things like marriage as well? Because of love, endure the faults of your mate.

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.

“In this Verse four things are spoken of; three will come to an end, and one will remain.” – Max Younce

Love will never fail because God is love. We are commanded to love.

Garner-Howes: “One may prophecy (speak forth) pre-inspired prophecies today, but the charismatic gift of foretelling has ceased.” Prophecies won’t fail to come to pass, but the giving of new prophecy will be abolished. The Revelation of John was the last prophecy given.

The miraculous gift of tongues was given for a short duration for a specific purpose. “It means ‘to cease or to stop completely.’ It is used in the perfect tense. This means that when tongues do cease, the action of ceasing will never be interrupted, but will continue forever. In plain words, once tongues cease they will never be reactivated again at anytime in the future.” – Max Younce

God gave special knowledge of spiritual things but that stopped once the bible was completed. There are absolutely no new additions to God’s Word after Revelation.

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

We know and prophesy in part because not all of the Word of God had yet been written and shared.

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

Those that desire for tongues to still be in effect would have to concede that new knowledge and prophecy from God would still be coming, which of course is nonsense.

“That which is perfect” is the bible, the completed Word of God that has been once delivered, Jude 3. The word “perfect” refers to the end of a process and is a neuter noun. The word perfect is never used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, or the Eternal State.

"The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul" Psalm 19:7

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.

The idea here is that what we have in part at that time compared to what we will have when the Word of God is all set down, is like a child’s understanding compared with an adult’s understanding.

Also, in other words, “Grow up, guys!” They were seeking the gift of tongues and ignoring the greatest gift, which is love (like many do today).

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.

Verses 11 & 12 are two illustrations of “in part” and “perfect.”

Now (at that time) we see just part of the picture, but once Scripture is completed we will see face to face with the entire Word of God. We will have full instruction of things pertaining to this life and to eternity.

We will know the Word of God in full as God in full knows us.

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

The three gifts that will remain are these. The greatest is Charity and should be seen in every Christian’s life. A major lesson for the church at Corinth in particular.


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