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1Corinthians 13 (web)

The Attitude in Exercising One's Spiritual Gifts

13:1 If I speak with the languages of men and of angels,
but don't have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don't have love, I am nothing.

13:3 If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned,
but don't have love, it profits me nothing.

13:4 Love is patient and is kind; love doesn't envy.
Love doesn't brag, is not proud,
13:5 doesn't behave itself inappropriately,
doesn't seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil;
13:6 doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
13:7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with.
Where there are various languages, they will cease.
Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with.
13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
13:10 but when that which is complete has come,
then that which is partial will be done away with.
13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child.
Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.
13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.
13:13 But now faith, hope, and love remain--these three.
The greatest of these is love.

Discussion Questions

In the church and society what different things has the word "love" come to mean?
How would you summarize what he is trying to say about spiritual gifts in this section?
What do you consider to be the most outstanding characteristic of Biblical love?
What conflicts might arise between "love" and "holiness"?
What is God's primary example of love? (Rom 5:8)
And what other specific character qualities are revealed in that example?
Why will the spiritual gifts pass away?
Have they passed away already?


Resources are Ineffective without Love

1Cor 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, b ut have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Attitudes of the heart, the predispositions of the soul, these are more important than one's gifts, resources and abilities. There are those who make much of what God has given them, but don't realize that all gifts are merely resources of which we will be held accountable to utilize in His service. Spiritual gifts and resouces are not virtues. There are those who are adept at speaking in non-native languages. My question is - so what have you done with it? There are those who can sit back in their armchair and fathom great mysteries of the Christian faith. My question is - so what have you do with it? Just as the Pharisees missed the point of the Law, which is love, let not the Church miss the point of spiritual gifts. Gifts are not an end in themselves. A person's power, giftedness, abilities, resources are not a measure of their love. Even if one gives all he has to the poor, that is not a measure of his love.

Love vs. an Enlightened Self-Interest

Now Jesus often motivated people to do good and right out of an enlightened self-interest rather than out of love. Like there will be those who take the lowest seat so that people will respond to them giving them the highest seat. But such false humility is of a selfish motivation. He promises rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior. But love never asks, "What do I get out of it?" Nor is loved concerned of condemnation for "there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1John 4:18  In fact notice even these verses speak to a person with self-interest. "I am notthing", "I gain nothing". But Jesus "made himself nothing" Php 2:7a to benefit others.

A truly righeous person does the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do. Jesus said with regards to rewards, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’" Luke 17:10 Though he graciously gives rewards anyhow, not out of obligation but from love.

A person who loves acts on behalf of  others to their benefit regardless of the consequences to oneself. But few achieve such a level of maturity. And thus much of the rhetoric of the Bible motivates us to act at least out of our own benefit. Indeed even saving faith is characterized by self-interest. "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Heb 11:6 But we're really nothing special until we learn to act out of love.

Love is Long-suffering

1Cor 13:4a  Love is patient

Patience here is also "longsuffering" as the NKJV has it "Love suffers long" And "bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation" 2Peter 3:15a  A person who loves is a person who will suffer long for the bad behavior of others. Now there are those who tolerate bad behavoir because it does not offend them. These are not long-suffering. They're not suffering at all. But you take someone like "Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men" 2Peter 2:7 And Jesus said, "O unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?"Mt 17:17  The patience Christians practice and which God extends to the world is not generally recognized nor appreciated by the world. But to the world it says, "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" Rom 2:4

 Patience requires a perspective born of wisdom. "A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."Pr 19:11 Wisdom gained either by experience or through the Word helps one to identify with those who are the object of our patience. Patience also wins for us influence. For "through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone." Pr 25:15

Now patience also is revealed in meekness with regards to circumstances. Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. To be patient with God is to be meek.

Love Eases Others Burdens

1Cor 13:4b Love is kind

While this is only place where the Greek word for "kind" (chresteuomai) is used in the New Testament, we may learn further of its meaning from the usage of its root "chrestos" as in Jesus saying, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mt 11:30 To be kind is to be hard on yourself and easy on others - to bear others burdens, which in contrast to the attitude of the religious elite of Jesus' day where, "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Mt 23:4

It is born of graciousness such as Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount, "Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35 and thus "God’s kindness leads you toward repentance" Rom 2:4b However, don't be too intimate with sinners, for "Bad company corrupts good(kind) character." 1Cor 15:33 Forgiveness is an application of kindness. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other"Eph 4:32b All these are usages of the root word "chrestos".

Love does not Covet

1Cor 13:4c It does not envy

While there is a positive usage of this Greek word, as in fact Paul uses a number of times in 1Corinthians, such as at the end of the previous chapter (eagerly desire the greater gifts), the sense of  envy he is speaking of here is to covet. At times the word is also translated "jealousy" as in2Cor 11:2  "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy." which is a positive connotation, but of course implies there is conversely an ungodly type of jealousy. We should beware not to allow our sinful nature to cause us to confuse the two. "You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."Deut 5:21 When you love someone, you do not covet their possessions.

Love does not Parade Itself

1Cor 13:4d it does not boast

"boast" is perpereuomai, used only here and means "a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively" The NKJV has it as "love does not parade itself" And again the religious elite of Jesus day serve as an example, who in "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" Mt 23:5-7 So beware not to unnecessarily call attention to yourself.

If one has love, they don't obesses over what others think of them - good or bad. This includes not only the proud, but also those with a "poor self-image", which is just to say they're obsessed over their own image. In either case such people will either overly embellish themselves physically so as to stand out or verbally boast of their possessions or accomplishments. Such are signs that they are yet immature with regards to embracing love as a character quality.

Love imparts a Realistic view of Oneself and Others

1Cor 13:4e it is not proud.

Not only is it not proud of oneself, but such a person also doesn't chase after celebrities. For earlier Paul spoke on this, "so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another." 1Cor 4b

The word is literally to be "puffed up". The educated often fall into such an attitude as "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." 1Cor 8:1b And there are those Christians who claim special knowlege or special revelation from angels Paul warns of, "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." Col 2:18  Even Paul himself had to suffer humiliation so as to regulate his sinful nature from infecting him with pride, as he said, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." 2Cor 12:7

However don't confuse pride with confidence. A humble person is not one who is insecure and lacks confidence. In fact the faith that saves is characterized by confidence. "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." Heb 10:35 But it is the object of such confidence or lack thereof which is the issue.

Love doesn't behave Rudely

1Cor 13:5a It is not rude

Love is polite and courteous, tasteful, dignified. Don't be gross. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Eph 4:29 "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Eph 5:4 And dress appropriately. "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." 1Tim 2:9,10

Love is not Self-Seeking

1Cor 13:5b It is not self-seeking

This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. (Seems nothing changes!) Love is unselfish and is elevated above even an enlightened self-interest. A person who loves does not act soley for one's own personal benefits, but looks to the benefits of others. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Php 2:3,4 Review the parable of the good samaritan as an example of a love which is not self-seeking. Consider in your own life examples of when you served others without regard for the cost or  personal benefits to you.

Love is not Easily Angered

1Cor 13:5c it is not easily angered

This goes along with love being patient and long-suffering. Getting easily angered is contagious. It plays on the sinful nature common to all of us. So "do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared." Pr 22:24,25 It can become an addication. "A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again." Pr 19:19 How easily provoked are you? "An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins." Pr 29:22

In contrast "The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion" Nu 14:18a

Love Plots no Evil

1Cor 13:5d  plots no evil.

Literally the Greek is "thinks (or reckons) no evil" as the NKJV translates it.
The NASB interprets this as "does not take into account a wrong suffered"
And the NIV "keeps no record of wrongs"

While these two words (thinks (logizomai) and evil (kakos)) only appear together here in the New Testament there are a number of places they appear together in the LXX (the Septuagint - a Greek Translation of the Old Testament often quoted in the New Testament) For example at the end of Ps 35:4 they appear as "Who plot my hurt" And likewise in Ps 41:7, Jer 48:2. And in Mic 2:1 they're found in the phrase "who plot evil on their beds!"  These are all the cross-references where such a phrase is used in the Bible. So while there may be something to be said about love not keeping a record of wrongs, it appears 1Cor 13:5d is more likely saying that love does not plot to hurt people. Thus "plots no evil" I believe to be a more accurate rendering of the verse.

Furthermore the other rendering "keeps no record of wrongs" is not theologically sound, seeing as God does keep a record of wrongs, else there would be no basis for him exercising judgement or wrath. This would make God's nature of love incompatible with his judicial nature. But they are not incompatible. However having satisfied his judicial nature, his  forgiveness of sins is comprehensive. "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." Heb 10:17 "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Ps 103:12 "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." Is 1:18 Likewise we are exhorted, watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." Lu 17:3

Love Hates Evil but Enjoys Truth

1Cor 13:6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

This is somewhat poetic in the Greek as evil is "adikia" and truth is "aletheia". It's interesting that :evil or unrighteousness is not contrasted with goodness or righteousness here, but with truth. For these go hand in hand. "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart." Ps 15:1,2 And in confessing his sin, David says, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Ps 51:6

In fact this one of main applications of rejoicing in truth - namely confessing our sins. Much as there were a number of alleged "theological" reasons why many rejected Christ, the real issue was largely the fact that they were offended at his dealing with them as sinners. But "if I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" Ps 66:18 For "surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Is 59:1,2 Of the wicked David writes, "You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth." Ps 52:3

But "to fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."  Pr 8:13  "The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence ("adikia") his soul hates." Ps 11:5

Love Perseveres in Faith and Hope

1Cor 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

More literally this is rendered "bears all things". ("stego") This goes along with the patient, long-suffering nature of love. Bearing all things may involve giving up personal rights, entitlements and freedom to serve better, as Paul says in 1Cor 9:12 "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up ("stego") with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ." And Gal 6:2 says, "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (which is love)

"Trusts" is "believes" ("pisteuo"), and with hope also mentioned, love goes hand in hand with faith and hope. But the kind of faith and hope that perseveres to the end. But with love this is not only the case with regards to gospel truth, but with regards to interpersonal relationships. The Lord's dealing with Paul is an example as Paul says, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." 1Tim 1:15,16 For here's a man who no doubt had heard and not only rejected the gospel but persecuted the saints. And yet the Lord persisted to goad him to the faith and in the end assigned him his most unlikely role - that of apostleship, entrusting him with the gospel.

In view of Paul's conversion, do not give up hope with regards to any of your non-Christian relationships, but continue to persevere in leading them to Christ. And likewise with regards to the maturing of immature believers, or perhaps with regards to your institutional church if it seems hopelessly entrenched in an immature perspective.

Love will not Pass Away

1Cor 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

This chapter on love is really a digression of Paul's dealing with the Corinthian's obsession over spiritual gifts. Often we Christians can lose perspective on the big picture when making too much over smaller issues, be they minor points of theology, rituals, or giftedness. Resources are not an end in themselves. It's what you do with them. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Gal 5:6b

Consider without regards to your gifts, abilities and resources, what aspects of love described in this chapter characterizes you? In other words, consider not simply what knowledge, resources or giftedness  you have, but the attitude with which you apply them.

Love is Mature

1Cor 13:9-12  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

To reason as a child is to have a myopic, self-centered, materialistic view of life. As Christians such a view affects the sense in which we read and apply the scriptures. Let us become mature in our perspective and in our attitudes, with the big picture and the principles of Christian living in mind. For how many of us still talk like children and reason like children? Let us put behind us childish things.

The writer of Hebrews notes of his readers, "though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity." Heb 5:12-6:1 Having been established in the fundamental doctrines of the faith, let us go on to application in living a righteous lifestyle. "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." Php 3:15a Let not our maturity be hindered by the worries, riches or pleasures in life. For "the seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." Luke 8:14

Reflect upon this.

Love is the Greatest

1Cor 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

These three are often found together.

Col 1:5  the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel

1Th 1:3  We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Heb 10:22-24  let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

These three are attitudes of the heart. Faith speaks of our trust. Hope speaks of our expectation. Love speaks of our motivation. Why is love the greatest? Because it most closely reflects what we have become, faith and hope being servants to bring us to that point.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 15,2020