1 Corinthians Chapter 13: Fruits of the Spirit, The Greatest is LoveNov 10th, 2009 | By admin | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
1 Corinthians Chapter 13: Fruits of the Spirit, The Greatest is Love
1 Cor. 13:1 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.
1 Cor. 13:2 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.
1 Cor. 13:3 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.
Chapter 13 is a practical way of pointing out what “charity” (love) is. Many Christians are apt to look at these categories and conclude they have love, yet the categories could be a false indicator. This love is not that easy to get, and it is not what is commonly perceived to be love.
The Corinthian brethren put speaking in tongues and oratory on a very high level. The Greeks were known for their ability to speak. They could express themselves in a fluid way and arouse the emotions of their audience to a high pitch. Moreover, they esteemed knowledge.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and [the tongues] of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” “Tongues of men” would be known languages such as Hebrew or Greek. For example, the apostles spoke to those gathered at Pentecost in their native tongues (Acts 2:7,8).
Paul then went to the highest extreme—the tongues of angels—to show that even if that level could be reached, love is far superior. Paul was contrasting men with literal angels. He also said, “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains.” Such a literal act is impossible for us to accomplish by faith. Jesus made a similar statement with regard to faith that can move a literal mountain—something that is impossible for us to do. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain [he pointed to it], Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove” (Matt. 17:20). Jesus also said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6). Paul was using the utmost extreme to offset or contrast the importance of love. In other words, even if he could speak with the tongues of angels and even if he had faith to move mountains, those acts would not be commensurate with the importance of love.
“And though I … understand all mysteries.” Actually, it would be impossible for one to know even some of God’s mysteries without having some love, but it is impossible for one to know all mysteries, for the Lord does not disclose all of them. Again Paul used the extreme to point out the importance of love. Many take just one little facet of love to downplay knowledge. And some try to minimize the ministry of others by pointing out that love is more important than knowledge. That is true from the apostle’s standpoint, but those who use that argument as a yardstick are putting themselves in the position of judging. To judge that others do not have enough love is not the prerogative of the Christian in the present life.
Generosity, faith, and knowledge are looked upon as evidences of love. It is true that they can be indicators, but they are not reliable proofs. A Manna comment states that the Lord gives intimate knowledge only to those who are faithful to Him. However, we cannot necessarily judge by that general rule. The subject of love is very deep. As brethren, we are inclined to think we know, by nature, what love is, but love must be studied over a lifetime.
Even if one gives all of his goods to feed the poor or gives his body to be burned, that is not a proof of love. In the latter case, consider that down through history, far more than 144,000 were martyred, and not all were Christians. Bro. Magnuson explained that there are two ways of dying in the Lord. One way is to die for Christ. The much superior way is to die with Christ.
Some die just for a principle of truth, for what they believe is right, which has nothing to do with being a follower of Jesus. Therefore, to die as a martyr is not necessarily a proof of the possession of love, but to die in doing God’s will could be an evidence of love for the Lord. Verses 1-3 show the primacy of the importance of love. The gifts enumerated—speaking, prophesying, unraveling all mysteries, having all (encyclopedia-type) knowledge, and having all faith—do not usually come about except through much diligence. But with all such effort, love—God’s love, a principled love—should always be kept in mind. Love has to be according to the rules and regulations laid down in the Word. If that love is lacking, one is “nothing” as far as the high calling is concerned. Certainly the individual will not be given the divine nature and be made a priest and a king in the next age.
“Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing [as regards the high calling].” In the Smyrna, or second, period of the Church, Christians looked upon the extent of persecution as a sign of God’s favor. Having a chip on their shoulder, they confronted even kings and were then executed for their bravado. Dying through persecution was considered being faithful unto death, but faithfulness depended on other factors such as the development of principled love. Paul was trying to counteract false conceptions of love.
Paul used a form of hyperbole to get his point across. True faith is exercised in harmony with God’s principles and is based on the understanding of Scripture. Faith is more than just confidence or belief; it is the exercise of obedience and hope with regard to the promises in God’s Word. Paul did not expect one to have faith that could move mountains or to have all knowledge. He used extremes to illustrate the importance and superiority of love.
What made the Pastor so unusual is not that he was the wisest man on the planet but that he was a faithful servant in the United States during the last period of the Church, ready and willing to spend all that he had to preach the gospel at a time when it was due to go out with great force into the international arena. He was the right man at the right time. The gift of speaking with the “tongues … of angels”—a sort of supernatural understanding—attended his message. For instance, when the Pastor began to preach the Harvest message, he spoke on the secret presence of Christ. Isn’t that a startling “angelic” message—that Christ could be present yet invisible? It is almost unbelievable that Jesus could be here in earth’s atmosphere with no one knowing unless instructed through the Word. However, the invisible presence of Christ makes sense when we realize that Satan, the “god of this world,” is invisible, yet his influence can be seen (2 Cor. 4:4). The Lord introduced this wonderful truth of the secret presence through a specially selected human agency, opening up an arena of knowledge that is very much needed for the last stage of the Church.
“Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries.” The Pastor opened up many different “mystery” areas. God’s people can have the gift of understanding prophecy in either or both of two ways: (1) understanding future events already recorded in the Word and (2) predicting or interpreting future events not recorded in the Word. The gift of prophecy in the latter sense was given primarily in the early Church before the Bible was fully written.
The Pastor was a pioneer in bringing forth primary doctrines that were needed to open up the Word. Those who follow up may do greater works than the pioneers, but the pioneer broaches new “old” truths. Luther and Wycliffe were pioneers in the past who opened up the Word of truth. There existed in Germany people who could expound more than Luther, but it took Luther to open the door (Rev. 3:8).
“Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand … all knowledge.” The understanding of knowledge applies to teachers in the Church on a more local level, elders or otherwise, who have the ability to explain truths. Their influence is very important—and hopefully for the good. Chapter 12 discussed the different functions of the various members of the body, but chapter 13 puts the functions in the format of their usefulness to the Church. Paul was implying that while these gifts were mechanically supplied to the early Church in the first 150 years, to some extent these artificial gifts have subsequently become natural talents and capabilities that the body members possessed down through the Gospel Age. While the tongues, etc., ceased as given artificially in the early Church, they continue in a much subtler, more modified sense.
Paul was now, in chapter 13, giving instruction that has been helpful, primarily, ever since the first period of the Church down to our day.
“Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Paul continued to state these matters in hyperbolic form, giving a starkly unrealistic scenario—”all mysteries,” “all knowledge,” and “all faith”—to emphasize the importance of love. When 12 spies were sent to view the Promised Land, ten came back with the discouraging report that the cities were walled up to heaven and the inhabitants were giants (Deut. 1:28; Num. 13:33). Only Joshua and Caleb said, “Do not be concerned. If we obey the Lord, He will subdue the enemy.” In other words, the Scriptures sometimes use hyperbole to indicate not a reality but that nothing is impossible for God or with us if we are in the proper attitude of heart, mind, and obedience to receive grace to help from the Holy Spirit to overcome.
Many who disparage knowledge because they are satisfied with what they already have, will use verse 2 to support their thinking. However, verse 2 teaches the opposite lesson. To understand prophecy is not a proof that one does not have love. Paul was saying that there were gifted speakers who were not sound in the truth. They had the eloquence to overwhelm and overawe hearers who, not grounded in prophetic understanding, concluded the speakers must know what they were talking about because of their confidence. The Lord’s people are like guileless sheep that are looking for leadership. They appreciate Jesus as their Shepherd, for they want someone to lead them with counsel. Although it is good for the Lord’s people to have sheeplike qualities, the danger is that they can be easily led astray by a false shepherd. The point, in the final analysis, is not to deprecate those who have speaking capabilities but to analyze and soberly weigh what is said. Most people are emotionally swayed at the time, but if they are asked an hour later what they heard, they can scarcely remember two sentences.
Brethren should be like the noble Bereans, who listened with open and receptive minds but later tried to see if the Scriptures substantiated what they had heard. Although speaking qualities are wonderful gifts, we should always have a little reserve as receivers of the spirit that comes out of the mouth of a speaker until we have opportunity to square it with Scripture.
Comment: We can see why all except the very elect will be deceived (Matt. 24:24).
Reply: Yes, that will be true at the end of the age. We believe one of the leading deceptions at that time will be the false understanding of love. Love is repeatedly preached in the nominal system and on television. Everyone is supposed to be able to do what he or she wants, as long as it is identified with Jesus or God and the Trinity. When belief in the Trinity is used as the identification mark, however, that love will turn to real hatred for the opposers. Where this false love exists, there is a great euphoria, a mass hysteria, in receiving what are considered wonderful blessings. However, doing God’s will and following His instruction should be the supreme object of our consecration rather than being swayed by emotion, no matter how beautiful the words might sound.
How many people give all their goods to feed the poor? Certainly the Apostle Paul figuratively bestowed all his goods to feed the poor, for he lived from hand to mouth, earned his own living, and even supported those who followed him from place to place as he preached the gospel. Like Jesus, Paul did not have a place to lay his head, and he had principled love for God, supreme love, as well as Godlike love for the brethren.
How many give their “body to be burned [at the stake]”? Many were burned not because they were so faithful but because they were identified as believing the gospel and they did not deny Christ. In other words, they died for principle—they died for Christ but not necessarily with Christ. On the one hand, they lacked the necessary understanding to make their calling and election sure, but on the other hand, the thought is not that one must have a lot of knowledge.
Much has to do with whether the suffering is based on faithfulness and a freewill serving of the truth. Many serve the truth because of the way they were raised. They believe like their father and/or mother but not for themselves per se, that is, not to the extent that the Lord would commend and honor them as members of the Little Flock. We believe that the great majority of those who were burned at the stake will get spirit life but will not make the Little Flock.
These circumstances—losing all of our goods and giving our body to be burned—are what we should be prepared to accept as God’s will should they occur. Job lost everything, but what did he say? “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). God is looking for that type of spirit in us. He knows our frame. As we gradually grow stronger in the truth, we will get testings, and our reward will be proportionate to what we do. The Lord will honor and reward us according to our faithfulness, so we should not be intimidated but should want His strength. All we can rely on is the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Spirit and His Word to support us, plus His love.
1 Cor. 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Verses 4-8 give a partial description of the characteristics of love. Other Scriptures supplement this listing. Here Paul gave the positive actions of love, which are even recognized as loving righteousness. In other words, these verses are slanted in an optimistic and instructive sense.
“Charity suffereth long”; that is, love patiently endures and suffers long with regard to others.
Patient endurance is developed slowly over a period of time and through many experiences.
In this chapter, the characteristics of love are not in sequential order. In contrast, Peter gave a sequence where he said, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Paul was just describing the different aspects of the fruitage of love.
“Charity … is kind” in various ways. Hospitality is one example.
Comment: Some brethren think that everything should be done with a sweet attitude, but there are times when doing someone a kindness might involve more sternness—like a child who is being disciplined. The experience may be a hard one, but the Heavenly Father is doing a kindness in the final analysis.
Reply: Where this chapter is treated in the Sixth Volume, the emphasis is on kindness toward the sinner. The thought is that we should be very merciful to the sinner as Jesus was, almost to the extent of condoning the sin. We question the expression “condoning,” but the emphasis was on leaning over backwards in hope and expectation. In the world, there are some truly kind people who do not know either God or His Word. This is an innate, natural kindness, but even atheists can be kind. This kind of love is a deception both to the individual and to others who draw wrong conclusions. The point is that God’s love is an educated kindness in harmony with the principles of His Word.
“Charity envieth not.” One translation has “love is generous,” but this would not be generosity in material possessions because the Apostle Paul had just said, “Though I bestow [give] all my goods to feed the poor … and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing [with regard to the high calling]” (1 Cor. 13:3). One could not be more generous, but even in such a case, the motive is important and must be based on the fruitage of God’s Holy Spirit. Some are kind, polite, and generous because of ulterior motives such as a business strategy or technique.
Jesus asked the rich, young ruler to sell all of his goods, give the money to feed the poor, and then follow him (Luke 18:18-24). Why did Jesus say this, especially since he did not ask all of his disciples to do likewise? He knew that the request would accentuate the problem with the rich, young ruler; that is, although the ruler had many good qualities, his love or interest was centered on the acquisition of goods and wealth.
The love of money is the root of much evil b ecause many envy those who have more (1 Tim.6:10). Envy is an evil influence along any line. If the Lord advances another person and we see that he is prospering spiritually according to scriptural reasoning, we should not envy his promotion. In fact, we should rejoice in seeing that the Lord is using him and wish him well.
Comment: An incident in the Book of Numbers illustrates the point that love “envieth not.” “And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the LORD … took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, … Eldad, and … Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; … but [they] went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun … answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:24-29).
Reply: Yes, Moses showed a spirit of not being jealous. Jealousy is usually behind envy.
Comment: Jonathan’s attitude toward David is another example of not being envious.
Love “vaunteth not itself”; it is not boastful. In this same epistle, Paul proved his love for God by listing the things he suffered. This method was not boastfulness on Paul’s part, for he knew that if the brethren recognized him as a true teacher, they would listen, and they needed God’s instruction. To have a little doubt about an individual prevents one from receiving the full benefit of instruction. Therefore, Paul humbled himself to prove his apostleship in an effort to wake up the brethren.
Love “is not puffed up,” is not heady, does not have a big head. Worldly honors and degrees are not proofs or evidences of Christianity. Some translations combine this quality of love with not being boastful, implying that being puffed up causes the condition. Other translations combine the two thoughts and say, “Love is humble.” The point is that the Christian should not exalt himself at the expense of another; he should not put one down to elevate himself.
Comment: In verses 4-7, the Revised Standard breaks down love into ten ingredients: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Reply: In analyzing these different ingredients, we tend to use dictionary definitions. Later we will try to use practical examples.
With regard to being “puffed up,” sometimes a person who gets a position of recognition, influence, or wealth undergoes a character and disposition change almost overnight. Being suddenly thrust from the position of worker to that of boss, or from poverty to wealth, an individual can become overbearing in his superior role and/or lifestyle. A similar character change can also occur in one who is made an elder too soon. Then unseen weaknesses, which formerly were opposed by the new creature, become exaggerated and are manifested in wrong attitudes. Paul’s analysis of love requires introspection on the part of a Christian.
1 Cor. 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Love “doth not behave itself unseemly [in an unbecoming way].” It is not rude but courteous.
Some evangelists exhibit inordinate behavior on the street in order to attract the attention of passersby. They may tell a joke, for example, and then preach Christ to those who stop.
Love “seeketh not her own [way]”; in other words, love is unselfish. Some preachers have mansions and luxurious cars. Such temporal means add to their personal aggrandizement. Being “puffed up” pertains to areas such as teaching, whereas seeking one’s “own” would be the inordinate acquisition of material possessions.
Comment: Abraham gave Lot the first choice of land (Gen. 13:8-11).
Reply: How grand the personalities of the Ancient Worthies were!
Love “is not easily provoked,” is not irritable, does not anger easily. Stated another way, love is good-tempered. Being good-natured is the general disposition.
Love “thinketh no evil,” does not impute evil to others, thinks generously as far as possible, overlooks faults, and is without guile.
1 Cor. 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity.” We should not rejoice to hear that one fell away from his consecration and deflected but should sorrow instead (1 Cor. 5:2). Love “rejoiceth in the truth.”
There is happiness in getting a deeper understanding and appreciation of God, Jesus, the apostles, and others. We rejoice more and more as our depth of understanding increases.
Love is sincere. It does not rejoice in the disclosure of a fault in another person, nor is it disposed to find fault. To the contrary, love is glad when something good about a person is made manifest. It sincerely loves another person and is not fickle.
When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy some Samaritans who would not receive Jesus, he rebuked the two disciples; that is, he did not rejoice in the destruction of others (Luke 9:51-56). The Heavenly Father desires all to choose life because He does not delight in seeing death, but the choice is up to each individual.
We rejoice when sin is eradicated, but we do not rejoice in the sinner. In other words, we should make a distinction between the sin and the sinner. Where possible, we make allowances for the sinner but only in harmony with God’s Word, for we are not to be more loving than God.
When circumstances force us to see that a brother or sister in Christ is adhering to gross sin, we must take action, for tolerating the misdeed does not help the sinner. The principle is shown with Jesus. Because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity, God anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows (Psa. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). Unfortunately, many do not see that they should hate iniquity because they are fearful of misjudging or imputing evil to someone. As a result, the eye is winked at unrighteousness. However, love rejoices in righteousness and hates iniquity (unrighteousness).
“The end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good [undefiled] conscience [void of offense toward God and toward man], and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5; Acts 24:16). Hence love is an objective—what we should be striving for. We would not have consecrated and given our heart to God unless we had natural love for Him, but that love was not the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Many mistakenly think that we have the fruit of love to start with and that we just get a larger vessel as we go along. However, love has to be developed with understanding—it must be educated, disciplined, and refined.
Comment: “He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Strong words and even disfellowship, which some would not consider love, may be needed to “convert” the sinner.
Reply: The same principle applies along another line. A person considering suicide might ask, “Can a person who commits suicide be a member of the Little Flock?” To commiserate with that individual and give the idea that he could do so and still get the reward would be to mislead him. Some brethren are flattered when one comes to them for advice, but we must not have a “mother” instinct that is so overwhelmed by someone’s confidence in us that we sympathize with and improperly encourage the individual with wrong advice. Some are afraid that if they speak harshly, they will lose that close fellowship. Such an attitude is not real love, for love does not fear to speak sharply in accordance with God’s Word in order to help another. Love is predicated upon the doing of God’s will.
If we desire to be taught of God and pray for understanding, He will instruct us. His arm is not short no matter what our circumstance, but we must keep hungering and thirsting and not feel satisfied and content with the present level of attainment of what we feel is loyalty to truth and service. Otherwise, there will not be much opportunity for growth. We are in a marathon race and must keep running to win the prize, and not just stay at one level.
1 Cor. 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love “beareth all things.” The Christian bears up under the severe experiences and heavy trials of the narrow way. Instead of giving up, he clings to the Lord and the Lord’s leadings. Along another line, those who “are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak [the burdens of others to the extent possible], and not to please [themselves]” (Rom. 15:1). Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry Jesus’ cross, is an example.
Bearing all things is a form of endurance from the standpoint of being introspective, whereas the patient endurance or long-suffering of verse 4 pertains to others. Now Paul was coming to the individual himself. The Christian is to bear, believe, hope, and endure with regard to himself. He is to accept his own circumstances and experiences in life. Disappointments in regard to himself or others are not to hopelessly discourage him, for he accepts the hardships of the narrow way.
Love “believeth all things” that are of value. The Christian should not be suspicious but should give credit to others in their Christian walk and endeavors. The exception would be when spiritual sickness is obvious and self-evident.
The term “all things” is used in a modified sense throughout verse 7. One does not literally bear, believe, hope, and endure everything but is reasonable. In other words, love has a disposition to believe good about others and their profession, giving the benefit of the doubt.
And with regard to self, the Christian believes that God is dealing with him and working in his life. All four qualities—bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring—work both ways.
Love “hopeth all things”; that is, love is hopeful. If another Christian is in a difficult trial or character testing, we hope he will come out favorably in the final result. We hope one who is struggling to do the Lord’s will and to overcome evil will be successful—and we hope the same for ourself and our own weaknesses. We hope the Lord will strengthen our character and influence us to do His will so that we will overcome.
For Christians now, the exercise of this love, patience, and kindness is primarily to the household of faith, who are separated, alienated, from the world. Of course the world will get the opportunity for restitution in the next age, and we hope and want individuals to gain life, even if there seems little likelihood at the present time.
These categories become more pointed if we look at Jesus’ life. We can better understand the different aspects of love by seeing what he did under various circumstances. For example, with the statement love “is not easily provoked,” some emphasize that the word “easily” is not in the Greek. It is true that the word is supplied, but to state unequivocally that love is not (or is never) provoked does not make sense, for God was provoked on certain occasions and so was Jesus. Thus the word “easily,” inserted by the translators, is in harmony with the Scriptures.
The Christian should have a disposition that is not easily provoked, but that does not mean he should never be provoked. Love is kind, but there are times when “kindness” requires a spanking and severe discipline. Hence the general disposition is to kindness, but to manifest kindness to one who is doing wrong would do more injury than good. In fact, it would strengthen and encourage the individual in his wrong course. Without reproof, he would be confirmed in his evil ways.
Jesus issued a reproof on several occasions, the following being two examples. (1) In the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he said to the disciples, “O ye of little faith” (Matt. 8:26). This was constructive criticism. (2) When Peter did not want Jesus to go to Jerusalem, the Master said, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23). Supposedly Peter was being kind to Jesus and looking out for his welfare, but Jesus rebuked him, for he saw that Satan was using this strategy as a deterrent from the narrow way. Instead of overlooking the situation and saying nothing, Jesus recognized the opportunity to teach a lesson. In rebuking Peter, Jesus showed that sometimes the Lord’s people give wrong advice in spite of having good intentions.
Love is courteous, yet Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, whited sepulchers, a generation of vipers, etc., and he reproved his own disciples at times. When Philip said, “Show us the Father,” Jesus replied, “I have been with you for a long time, yet do you not know me?”
(John 14:8,9 paraphrase). When Thomas said he would not believe Jesus had been resurrected unless he could put his finger in the nail prints and his hand in the wounded side, the answer was a gentle reproof: “You requested tangible evidence of my resurrection. More blessed are those who do not make that request and have not seen yet have believed” (John 20:24-29 paraphrase). Many Christians put the Lord on the judging block numerous times by making propositions that the Lord do this and that for them.
Some reason, “Well, that was the Lord,” but Jesus reproved and he has love. Therefore, it is wrong to say that love is never unkind or discourteous. Paul was merely saying that, generally speaking, love is kind and generous, but there are mitigating circumstances as to how love operates. The thinking, words, and actions of God, Jesus, and the apostles help us to know how to apply the principles of love.
Jesus was kind to his disciples in that he took time to deal with them. They were poor and unlearned fishermen, yet he laid down his life for them for 3 1/2 years and patiently instructed them for long hours at a time, even though they could not think at his level. He was always careful to obey his Father’s will and hence was not subject to the whims and fancies of others, even the disciples, who loved God and His Word but were not in Jesus’ category of knowledge.
Nevertheless, he was patient with them. For example, he patiently gave a long sermon to the woman of Samaria when he was tired. Imagine, the great Logos giving a sermon to one person! In fact, his whole earthly ministry was dedicated to serving a relative handful of people. His ministry manifested patience and kindness, but he also instructed and corrected them. He told the woman of Samaria that she had had five husbands and that the one she was currently living with was not her husband (John 4:18). He reproved the scribes and Pharisees strongly and his disciples gently, getting across the message or lesson each time.
Thus the “all things” of verse 7 have to be modified. Paul was showing how love would react under normal circumstances, but evil must be pointed out when it is of sufficient importance to cause more far-reaching damage.
If we have love, then when we are reproved, we will not turn against, ignore, or be offended by the reprover. The disciples could see that Jesus was rebuking them in love, even though he spoke with a somewhat strong tongue and in a straightforward manner. Realizing that this great person was humble to deal with, talk to, and share his thoughts with them, and not with the mighty ones of Israel, brought them to their senses.
Comment: Jesus might have said some things to the disciples with a sting in his voice in order to get his point across, but knowing his disposition, his rounded-out attitude, surmounted any tendency of the rebuke to crush them for the moment. They knew the ultimate purpose was to keep them on the right track.
Reply: If a person has a sharp tongue, but we see the next minute that he has no resentment and does not harbor a grudge or have a nasty, ill-tempered, hypercritical disposition, then we know the remark was meant to be constructive, not destructive. That is how the apostles reacted. They stayed with the Master, even when he said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). Under the Law, drinking blood incurred the death penalty, yet the one they so much admired suddenly made such a shocking statement. When Jesus asked the apostles why they did not leave, even though they were bewildered, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68,69).
Knowing Jesus’ normal life and realizing he had the message of life from the Father, they waited. Then Jesus explained that he was the Bread from heaven, that his flesh, his body, was the Bread of life, which he would give on behalf of the world. Although they did not fully understand until later, when they were begotten of the Holy Spirit, they knew he was not talking along literal lines but was discussing something figurative or symbolic. After Pentecost, they realized he had sacrificed his right to life, his flesh, to redeem mankind.
Love is not boastful, yet in this very epistle, Paul built himself up as an apostle, stating what he had suffered for Christ. He put himself forward as being superior to the other teachers in the church at Corinth, but that was not his normal disposition (1 Cor. 4:15). Paul had a proper purpose in mind; namely, if the brethren could see that he was an apostle appointed by Christ and that the others were just teachers, they would give more heed to his words. In this instance, it was necessary for Paul to call attention to his love and sufferings for Christ and his joy in sacrificing, but if this attitude were his habit of life, then he would have been exalting self instead of getting brethren to come to their senses.
Of necessity, Jesus called attention to the fact that he is the Son of God and that no man can come unto the Father except through him. If he had not exalted himself in this manner, we would not know what to believe. It was necessary for him to point out his headship and that he is the only way to salvation. From time to time, he had to declare the truth of his preeminence as Head of the Church, but most of his teaching was along other lines.
In verses 4-7, Paul said that love suffers long, is kind, is not envious, does not vaunt self, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, does not seek her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
However, all of these qualities can be seen in or copied by people who are not consecrated. Thus the qualities of love, as enumerated, are not a proof that one has God’s love, for there are noble unconsecrated individuals with these qualities. They are interested in other people, they are not easily provoked, they are humble, they bear great burdens, etc., but verse 6 points out a quality that the unconsecrated do not have; namely, rejoicing not in iniquity but in the truth.
To have the other qualities does not prove that a person has Godlike love, for one must have the truth as well and rejoice in it. That means witnessing, visiting the sick, praying for those in need, etc. One could easily mistake outward seeming manifestations of love for Godlike love.
With regard to hope, for example, there are optimistic worldly people. Don’t we like to be in the company of those who have a vivacious, cheerful attitude? Isn’t that attitude contagious?
But when one is fully consecrated, the added ingredient that changes the perspective is a love according to God’s instruction.
Comment: Many get the wrong impression from these qualities, forgetting or not realizing that God gets angry at times and is a jealous God (Exod. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24).
Reply: That is true. “God is love,” but He punishes, rebukes, and gets angry—and so does Jesus (1 John 4:8). Articles on love usually emphasize that love is always kind and never gets angry, whereas the King James translation properly inserts a qualification by saying that love is not easily provoked. Love does get provoked but not easily. Paul’s statement needs to be mentally modified to harmonize with love as exemplified by God Himself.
Comment: Even a loving parent will reprimand a disobedient child.
Reply: To withhold the rod from a disobedient child in order to get his affection is not real love. In fact, it is a form of selfishness. If the child disobeys, he should be punished for his own welfare. The discipline may be strong, but the parent administers it in love. Even with brethren, the tendency is to condone a wrong action by silence rather than to offend the individual. That attitude not only shows weakness but also hurts both the wrongdoer and the one who fails to correct the wrongdoer.
Comment: The purpose of punishing a disobedient child is to raise his appreciation to the higher level of the Heavenly Father.
Reply: One needs God’s mind, or Spirit, in order to understand. If Jesus were here to instruct us audibly, he would not say all smooth things. Some statements would be hard to take.
Comment: Anyone who has a child realizes how much love is behind the discipline and how it hurts the parent to administer the punishment.
Reply: Sometimes a child never really appreciates the level of the discipline and how the parent sacrificed in his interest. Instead he develops a feeling of alienation. It is pitiful to see in later years a lack of love and respect for elderly parents who scrounged, suffered, and slaved for a child.
Comment: Paul gave the proper balance: “Watch ye, stand fast [firm] in the faith, quit you like men [be manly], be strong. Let all your things be done with charity [in love]” (1 Cor. 16:13,14).
1 Cor. 13:8 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 abides; it never fails or becomes obsolete, whereas prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will all cease in one form or another. True prophecies “fail” when they are fulfilled; they then become past history—like the Flood of Noah’s day—and are of relatively little value. Prophecy, which pertains to history, is written in advance of fulfillment. When the fulfillment comes, it is no longer prophecy. A good Reprint article is No. 471, entitled “Foretold and Fulfilled.”
Comment: God is love (1 John 4:8).
Reply: Yes. Even though God possesses other qualities or attributes in the superlative degree, the Scriptures do not say that God is power or wisdom because the characteristic of love is His normal behavior. In other words, God does get angry, but that is not His normal disposition.
When all things are perfect beyond the Kingdom Age, there will be no sin or opposition to incur God’s wrath. Of all the attributes, love is the most pleasant one to live under.
God’s love is from eternity to eternity, nonending, but the manifestation of that love upon others will occur way down the road. At present, we are in the middle of eternity, if there is such a thing. The nearest we can show in a diagram is a spot on the circumference of a circle. No matter where the spot is put on the rim, it is in the middle.
Q: Does the statement “prophecies … shall fail” apply to the Gospel Age and not the Kingdom Age because Joel 2:28 says that God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and that Israel’s sons and daughters shall prophesy, their old men shall dream dreams, and their young men shall see visions?
A: Paul was talking to the Church, so he was particularly referring to prophecy and knowledge in the Gospel Age. In the beginning of the Kingdom, there will be a sudden supernatural manifestation on the Holy Remnant similar to what happened at Pentecost, when the apostles spoke in tongues. The Lord characteristically uses signs and types as a method of teaching.
After the apostles fell asleep in death, tongues died out for the most part because the Word of God became available. The written Word was compiled in the second century and all codified in the third century. Therefore, the need for tongues greatly decreased in the second century. As the Apostle Peter said of the recorded Word, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Pet. 1:19). Tongues will utterly cease in time, for in the Kingdom Age, all will learn a new universal language. However, when the Kingdom is first set up, miraculous manifestations will take place, especially in Israel. “Sons and … daughters shall prophesy,” almost like speaking in tongues (Acts 2:17).
In verse 8, Paul was emphasizing that tongues will not be needed after the Christian finishes his course. Tongues are only for the present life and will not be needed on the other side of the veil. The Harvest illustrates the principle. The general Harvest is over but not the entire Harvest, for a gleaning work is going on. We cannot go above the Word of God, which does not say that tongues had to cease at a specific year such as AD 212, for example.
Q: Is there any scriptural proof that Christians in our day will have the gift of tongues, being miraculously able to speak in another language to give a witness?
A: With regard to persecution down through the Gospel Age—for example, the Inquisition— Jesus said, “When they deliver you up [to prison], take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you [by the Holy Spirit] in that same hour what ye shall speak” (Matt. 10:19). Christians are to study and meditate on God’s Word during their normal life, but when they are imprisoned, they are not to premeditate what they will say but are to let God do the talking. At the end of the Gospel Age in the near future, in connection with the final witness, the Lord will speak with power out of the mouth of His people. For that reason, we do not want to say absolutely that tongues ceased in the second century, although from a practical, numerical, or obvious standpoint, they did cease there. God may give the feet members another language in order to have a strong witness at that time. Both in the Dark Ages and at the end of the age, the Holy Spirit enables faithful Christians to speak with power, or “tongues.”
Comment: In the Kingdom, God will “turn to the people a pure language” (Zeph. 3:9).
Reply: The thought of the “pure language” is that all will know the Lord God, from the least unto the greatest (Jer. 31:34). Originally, all people spoke the same common language, but when the Tower of Babel was built several hundred years after the Flood, God sent a confusion of tongues on the people. That diversity of tongues in the days of Nimrod and Peleg was inherently divisive.
Q: What will the one universal language be in the Kingdom?
A: It will probably be similar to the language Adam spoke, which was akin to Hebrew or Arabic. No doubt the language will be very beautiful.
“[Qualified] knowledge … shall vanish away.” In the Kingdom, all will know God, and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). But what knowledge was Paul talking about to the Corinthians? It was the knowledge of what is only partly understood in the present life, as referred to in verses 9-12.
Comment: Examples of imperfect knowledge are the differences among brethren today in understanding the details of truth. Some think the image was smitten in 1914; some think the smiting is future. Some think Jesus has begun his reign; some think the reign over the world is future. Some think Satan is being bound; some think the binding is future. The imperfect knowledge in the present life will pass away when “that which is perfect is come” (verse 10).
Imperfect understanding of prophecy, imperfect speaking in tongues, and imperfect knowledge will pass away. Paul did not say all prophecies, knowledge, and tongues would fail, for certain prophecies will be fulfilled in the Kingdom Age, for example. Therefore, all of these statements are qualified. From the Biblical standpoint, that which is now uncertain and known only in part will be fully understood—the true interpretation will be known.
1 Cor. 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
1 Cor. 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Paul said “in part” with regard to both “knowing” and “prophesying” because not everything had been revealed. As an ecclesia, the Corinthians had only about half of the New Testament. Although the Old Testament had been fully written years earlier, it was not available to them as individuals except through the miraculous remembrance of the text by one of the brethren who had this gift. Therefore, the phrase “in part” applied to the current situation in the Corinthian church. Despite the miraculous gifts, they had only fragmentary information. Of course if they “knew” only in part, they could not prophesy more than “in part.”
“When that which is perfect is come [when the Bible is available in written form], then that which is [now known only] in part shall be done away.” And until the Corinthians had the Bible in a language they could understand, the gift of prophesying in tongues would continue to be available. In other words, there would be a gradual phasing out of the miraculous mechanical gifts as teachers and expounders were able to instruct the Church through the written Word.
Q: Will the Bible always exist?
A: It will probably always exist as a witness. The Mosaic Law was inscribed on two witness tables, representing the Old and New Testaments (Exod. 31:18; 34:29). In principle, that Law of God will be exercised forever.
The New Covenant will go into effect at the time of the establishment of the Kingdom, when Christ is reigning, but the implementing of that covenant will be a process with Jesus as a Mediator between two estranged parties. The purpose of the New Covenant is to bring the two estranged parties—the world of mankind and God—into perfect harmony and alignment, a work that will require the entire Kingdom Age. When that age ends and all enemies have been brought under Jesus’ feet, God will be all in all, the New Covenant having been fulfilled.
The human race will live on into the ages of ages being everlastingly “at one” with God. Paul reasoned that if God speaks about the Law Covenant of the past under Moses and is going to make a New Covenant, then the (Old) Law Covenant is aging and will cease, but the New (Law) Covenant will be forever.
1 Cor. 13:11 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.
When Paul was literally a child, he spoke, understood, and thought as a child, so he now used natural logic to say that the same principle applies in the spirit realm. Spiritually speaking, Paul was a child when first converted. All Christians start as babies and then grow and mature to whatever their final age and status are at the time of death. Paul used a practical illustration to demonstrate what happens with new creatures. They are begotten, are born as an infant, grow to adolescence, and develop (hopefully) to maturity as one of the Little Flock. (Of course other Scriptures show Spirit begettal occupying the whole present life and birth occurring beyond the veil.) Incidentally, the gospel was miraculously imparted to Paul in a short span of time.
Comment: The King James margin has “I reasoned as a child” instead of “I thought as a child.”
Reply: Yes, a child does not reason deeply.
Comment: Verse 11 teaches that the Christian should not stay very long on the milk as a babe but should grow into manhood.
Reply: We are to desire the sincere milk of the Word so that we may “grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).
When did Paul put away childish things, and what were those childish things? Speaking in tongues was childlike compared to prophecy. However, Paul did not mean that tongues were of no value but was saying that other things became more important to him. A child’s teething ring and rattle serve a purpose for that state of development, and they are equally beneficial to another child. In other words, they have a value in their place.
As a child, Paul thought and acted on a child’s level, but as he matured, he went from milk to meat. A baby tends to choke on meat and thus needs the milk of the Word, although under certain circumstances, it is necessary to give meat even to a babe. Many confuse milk (such as the doctrine of restitution) with meat, whereas in reality, the drinking and the exercise with regard to milk should help one go on to the next category. The majority of Christians continue to drink milk from the bottle and never mature. Stated another way, the Great Company far outnumber and predominate over the Little Flock. The Great Company are not developed from either a doctrinal or a character standpoint. Paul said, “Therefore leaving [behind] the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection [maturity]; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1,2). The milk doctrines should not be discarded, but the Christian should go on to further development.
Q: Were the gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc., childishness compared to the spirit of love?
A: Yes. Faith, hope, and love are considered more mature, for they are fruits. Because they are cultivated, they are to be more desired than mechanical gifts. When Paul ended chapter 12, he said, “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” Since all cannot be apostles or prophets or teachers, he was saying that each Christian should covet the highest and the best gift it is possible for him to have. Back there in Paul’s day, gifts such as healing and tongues were given mechanically and instantaneously, but we are to desire to develop the spiritual counterpart. For example, presentday “knowledge” is familiarity with and interpretation of Scripture. Some of the gifts are still available today and are still practiced—but with different garments. However, the fruits of the Spirit are available to all. Every Christian can get the “more excellent way”—faith, hope, and love. The gifts are “childish,” whereas the fruits of faith, hope, and love are most to be desired.
1 Cor. 13:12 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.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly [obscurely].” We see through translucent (not clear) glass, as it were. Through such glass, we can see form but not detail.
Comment: A footnote in the Diaglott states, “The [Greek word] esoptrou is to be understood as some of those transparent substances, which the ancients, in the then imperfect state of the arts, used in their windows; such as, thin plates of horn, transparent stone, ill-prepared glass, and such like; through which they saw, indeed, the objects without, but obscurely.”
Reply: Years ago many windows were of isinglass, which discolored and crumbled with age.
The Diaglott explanation fits the context of the lesson. In Paul’s day, glass was not manufactured as it is today, and all sorts of materials used for windows lacked transparency. The “glass” of verse 12 was not a reflective mirror, for it was seen through obscurely.
How interesting that the Word of God is likened to glass! Sometimes we see through the Scriptures as through a microscope or a telescope. At other times, the Scriptures are like a mirror that reflects. Thus God’s Word has a dual function. (1) It is a glass through which the Christian can see, to a reasonable extent, that which is necessary. (2) It has a reflective quality for the Christian to inspect his own life and see whether he is living in conformity to the Word.
In the reflective sense, two images are in the Word: (1) Christ and his life, and (2) the individual himself and how he is living up to the image of Christ. The quality of seeing through the “glass,” the Holy Word, as well as its reflective quality, persists to the present day.
Before the four Gospels were available, Jesus’ earthly ministry could not be seen with any completeness, nor could the parables, etc., be understood. Thus “in part” is developmental both in the way the Scriptures became available and in the sense that they became understandable. The Bible has become understandable not only in a progressive sense but also in a progressive dispensational sense. With the passage of time down through the Gospel Age, hindsight becomes clearer and clearer, especially as the end of the age draws near. Thus the knowing and the prophesying “in part” are true on this side of the veil.
“Now I know in part [with regard to the Word of God].” If the Apostle Paul knew only “in part” with all of his visions, education, and knowledge, where does that put us? He was even “caught up to the third heaven,” the Kingdom Age (2 Cor. 12:2). The first “heaven” was the age before the Flood, the second “heaven” is the present evil world, and the third “heaven” is the next age, which leads into an age without end.
Comment: If Paul, who was vastly superior to any Christian then or now, saw only “in part,” then no one should claim that we have all the truth we need through the seventh messenger.
Reply: Such a claim is inappropriate.
Paul was speaking low-key when he said he knew “in part.” Although it is true that he knew only in part, his level of understanding was far, far superior to ours. Therefore, he was speaking to the ordinary Christian. Whether we realize it or not, all of us read the Bible through “glass”; that is, the imperfect lens through which we study the true, pure, and perfect Word of God is our own prejudices and limited understanding. We use the Word as both a telescope and a microscope.
Comment: “But then [in the future, we will see] face to face.” At that time, the obstruction will be removed, and we will be able to see clearly and perfectly.
“But then shall I know even as also I am known [and recognized by God now].” We know we are new creatures when we have certain evidences, but these evidences do not indicate where we stand with God, that is, if we will ultimately be of the Little Flock, the Great Company, or not get life at all. Not until we go beyond the veil will we know with certainty where we actually stand in God’s grace. In the present life, many think, speak, and act as if they are members of the Little Flock, but when raised from death, they may be in the Great Company.
Then they will know in full, even as they were known previously by God. Probably most of the Little Flock will be delighted and surprised to find they have made their calling and election sure.
In verse 12, Paul brought knowledge down to the nitty-gritty of self and was not just speaking of prophetic knowledge. In the present life, Christians either overestimate or underestimate themselves, but in the future, on the other side of the veil, knowledge of self will be fully understood.
1 Cor. 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Verse 13 is a well-known verse. Faith, hope, and love all abide now, but love alone will never cease. Earlier verses showed that prophecy, tongues, knowledge, etc., will cease, but even with faith, hope, and love, all will cease except love. Faith will be supplanted by sight (reality), and hope will pass away when fulfillment comes—but love is everlasting and can always be developed further.
Comment: Those who get spirit life in either the Little Flock or the Great Company will have an ever increasing appreciation for the Heavenly Father and Jesus.
Reply: In the present life, we know about God, His character, and His principles only as they are revealed in His Word. For those who are faithful to really know God will take an eternity because His greatness can never be fully apprehended. There will always be room for improvement.
Of the three qualities we most value now, even faith and hope will cease. Faith will be replaced by sight, and hope by the fruition of our desires. Love will continue to grow beyond the veil, for then those who are faithful will see Jesus and learn more about God and love them even more. The objective of love is a lifetime study. Whether that love is attained can be seen only in God’s final analysis and His approval or disapproval of each individual Christian. Generally speaking, the concept of love that most of us have is superficial.
People will still need faith in the Kingdom Age in the sense of having trust in God, His character, His memory, and His interest in them as individuals. In the Gospel Age, that type of faith and hope will cease when that which is perfect comes, for then it will be known who are the more-than-overcomers, who are the overcomers, and who failed to get life. In the next age, there will be faith, but sight will take a more leading role, somewhat like in the Jewish Age.
When men prophesied mechanically back there, the people could determine the true prophets from the false prophets by whether what was predicted came to pass. The mechanical operation of the Holy Spirit put the Ancient Worthies, the prophets of the Old Testament, on a par with the apostles. The words of both were truth. In contrast, Christians in the Gospel Age have to reason, for they do not have the same capability.
Romans 8:24 shows that hope will cease as far as the Christian in the Gospel Age is concerned. “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” In the Kingdom Age, the people will have a different kind of hope.
Q: With regard to the ceasing of gifts with the death of the apostles, would a mechanical gift ever be given subsequently on an individual basis in a special circumstance?
A: Yes, for Paul was speaking of the ceasing of gifts in broad-brush terms.
In summary, fruits are more mature than mechanical gifts, for they are cultivated and developed over time by the Holy Spirit. Today there are counterparts to the mechanical gifts that were imparted in the early Church. The gifts in the early Church were more rudimentary and obvious because they were suddenly and mechanically received. However, by observing the brethren today, we should be able to recognize counterpart developments. And we can all develop the fruits of faith, hope, and love through the instruction of the Holy Spirit and obedience. The “more excellent way” is available to all Christians (1 Cor. 12:31).
This “charity” is God’s love, Godlikeness and Christlikeness in character, in a mature sense. The ideal is for each of us to grow up according to our ability. The more inherent talents a person has, the more he is expected and required to develop. The details of love in this chapter— suffering long, being kind, not vaunting itself, not being puffed up, not being easily provoked, thinking no evil, etc.—are the positive and beneficial qualities that are pleasant to observe. And of course it is more enjoyable to be in the company of those who have this fruitage of the Holy Spirit. Although Paul’s definition of love is by no means a complete description, it was a complete description of the love that the Corinthians needed because their sectarian and argumentative spirit of choosing sides was bringing contention and breaking up the ecclesia.
They were especially in need of advice on the quality of love because the pendulum was in the critical position. They were finding fault by saying, “I am of Christ,” “I am of Paul,” etc. Thus Paul gave advice to counteract the particular situation in Corinth, but if everything had been lovey-dovey in the class, if the brethren had been embracing one another on all issues, then he would have given the other side of love, namely, that which the Christian should hate. In other words, God loves those who have a similar attitude of hatred toward the things He hates. It was said of Jesus, “[Because] Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Heb. 1:9). The nearest chapter 13 comes to this quality is the softer explanation in verse 6—love does not rejoice in iniquity or evil but rejoices in the truth.
1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies