1 Corinthians 13:1
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal.
Drummond -- the Greatest Thing in the WorldVarious1 Corinthians 13:1
LoveJ.R. Thomson 1 Corinthians 13:1
Love and LanguageJ.R. Thomson 1 Corinthians 13:1
Charity Puts the Acceptableness on All Gifts and WorksR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Life Without LoveE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Negative View of LoveC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
CharityF. W. Robertson, M.A.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
CharityA. F. Barfield.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
CharityJ. Garbett, M.A.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Charity Difficult of AttainmentDr. Duff.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Charity, Emblem Of1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Charity, Regard ForJ. Thomson.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Charity, Want Of, not Confined to Theological CirclesJ. Parker1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Charity, Worthlessness of Gifts WithoutJ. B. Wilkinson, M.A.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Christian CharityJ. Parsons.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Christian Charity1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Christian LoveD. C. Hughes, A.M.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Christian LoveW. M. Blackburn, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Eloquence Without CharityD. Thomas, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Far, But not Far EnoughBp. Ryle.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love is God-LikeE. H. Bradby, M. A.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love, Charm OfW. Jay.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love, Comprehensiveness OfJ. Cross, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love, the Essence of Christianity1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love, the Essence of ReligionJohn Wesley.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Extent OfBaldwin Brown, B.A.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: from God the SourceJ. Cross, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Gifts Compared WithJ. Lyth, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Growth and Power OfH. W. Beecher.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Importance OfJ. Lyth, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Indispensableness OfU. R. Thomas.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: no Gift Like ItM. Dods, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: Power and Office OfPrincipal Edwards.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: the Gauge of True ManhoodH. W. Beecher.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: the Importance OfTryon Edwards, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: the Life of the SoulR. South, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: the Sum of All VirtueJonathan Edwards1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Love: the Test of ReligionJ. Lyth, D.D.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Apostolic Doctrine of LoveDean Stanley.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Importance of CharityR. Watson.1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Unreality of Religion Without LoveF. St. John Corbett.1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Again and again, in St. Paul's writings, we have an epistle within the Epistle. Thus, the summation of practical duties (Romans 12.), the argument on the resurrection (ch. 14.), and the portraiture of love in this chapter. By this means we get a well defined view of the object without losing its connections. It is not as if we were looking at the Peak of Teneriffe rising out of the loneliness of the sea, but rather a Mont Blanc, one with the Alps, and yet a solitary form of majesty. Grandeur, as distinct from beauty and sublimity, requires some degree of isolation so as to produce an adequate impression. Here, then, the apostle makes a space for this grand delineation, every feature of which may be seen in concentrated light, and not a thing allowed to distract the eye. This is in itself a call to attention, a summons to the activity of our whole nature, and, in accordance herewith, he presents something more than a mere sketch or profile of love. It is a complete portrait. The features are individually given, and, at the same time, the expression which combines them in a most striking unity. First, then, we have the supreme excellence of love in contrast with the worthlessness of other gifts unaccompanied by its presence. Great stress was laid at that time on the gift of tongues. We are all 'Relined to set a high value on an exceptional endowment of speech. Eloquence passes for much even in a rude age; the North American Indian and the barbarous tribes of Asia acknowledge its power, while cultivated society is never stinted in admiration of its influence. And the possessor of it seldom fails to exaggerate its worth. Stated roughly, eloquent men appear to have a peculiar intensity of consciousness as respects this gift. They are singularly open to the seductions of popular applause, so much so, indeed, that the public approval which a scientific man, or a statesman, or a military hero would he unharmed by, is often ruinous to an orator. Not the common air, but the breath of the multitude, fragrant with adulation, feeds his lungs. This it is that arterializes his blood and sends it hot and poisonous to his brain. Of course, these Corinthians were the very persons to overvalue the gift of tongues. It was in the channel of their tastes and traditions. But the apostle teaches them that this wonderful power holds a subordinate rank. He does not depreciate it; no, he appreciates it to the full: "tongues of men" are associated with "the tongues of angels;" and yet, without love, the endowment is as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." What is it but mere noise, an idle tumult of the air? Unless love to God and man attend the gift, restrain its selfishness, destroy its vanity making tendency, and sanctify it to the welfare of others, it is worthless. But the second verse enlarges the thought. One may have the gift of prophecy and use his intellect with amazing skill and force so as to excite and captivate his hearers, and this, too, under the teachings of revelation, and, further, one may have insight into Divine secrets, and "understand all mysteries," and have them at command as "knowledge;" yet what is he without love? Can it be possible that this resplendent power could exist, and that other light kindled by love be utterly wanting? Observe, it is "all" mysteries and knowledge; the man explores every height and depth, and he has the freedom of the universe. Nay, superadd all faith, so that material nature falls in homage at your feet and the "mountains "remove in obedience to your will; but of what avail this expenditure of mighty energy, where the holiness of love is lacking? If, then, the man endowed with universality of utterance - "tongues of men and of angels;" and if the prophet with his clear and broad insight into the counsels of God, and before whose eye the panorama of distant events moves as a spectacle of today; if the miracle worker who transcends all natural capacities and exercises the delegated power of Jehovah in producing supernatural phenomena; - if these men and their gifts are compared to "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal," and verily are "nothing;" and though they are known as apostles, prophets, miracle workers, heroes of faith, instruments of the supernatural: if all these are nothingness itself without love, can anything more be said to intensify the excellence of love as a Divine principle and sentiment and impulse? The third verse answers this question. Charity, almsgiving, philanthropy, even self sacrifice at the stake, here come into view. How far may one go in the benevolent appropriation of earthly property and yet fall below the highest motive? St. Paul replies that he may "dole out" all he owns, do it gradually, do it cautiously, do it to the exhaustion of his resources, yet do it unmindful of that sovereign law which gathers into itself all other laws and imparts to them a virtue that makes them Divine. Nor is this all. One may have the philanthropic idea and sensibility so largely developed as to accept martyrdom, have the courage to face it unblenched, and to endure it with fortitude; but he may surrender life without the highest love. Love may be there - love of a truth, love of a cause, love of humanity - not necessarily the love, however, here under discussion; and hence, this distinctive Christian love, which includes the Divine and the human, being absent, the martyrdom is not for Christ's sake, and consequently is nugatory as to its Christian character. "It profiteth me nothing." If, now, such a doctrine as this rested on a ground solely ethical, we confess our inability to see how it could be accepted as a trustworthy view of human nature. Logic in itself has no fundamental principle from which it can be deduced. Philosophy as such, and as confined to what it finds in our constitution, would be compelled to reject a conclusion so alien to its spirit. On the other hand, the doctrine may be easily and heartily received On the score of Christian logic and philosophy. For, in the scheme of Christianity, human nature is a revelation from God. It is the Divine thought of this nature which we are to embrace, to cherish, to act upon. And if we admit, as we ought to do in the presence of such satisfactory evidence, that God has spoken to man of man, and disclosed to him the once hidden mystery of himself, as well as that other and infinitely greater "hidden mystery" of his redeeming purpose in Christ - if we acknowledge this, then we cannot impeach the wisdom, the justness, the stern truthfulness, of St, Paul's argument. The argument assumes that Christianity is of God, and, as such, advances to this point, namely, Christianity alone gives a full and complete view of our nature. Its ethical teachings, their reasons and motives and ends, are founded in Christ and in his relations to us. Our relations to him and to one another are subsequent considerations, and take their quality and bearings simply, solely, altogether, from him, the "Image of the invisible God," and the "Firstborn of every creature." Inasmuch, then, as the ideal of our nature is not as we see it in and by our own unaided consciousness, but in and by a consciousness illuminated and guided by the Holy Ghost, how could it be otherwise than that new intuitions occur, and that demands are made on us never imagined before? On this foundation St. Paul stands when he affirms that those endowments which charm, those splendid gifts that win enthusiastic admiration, even self sacrifice itself at the bidding of earth-born instincts, are nothing without that love which is purely a responsive affection, or, as St. John expresses it, "We love him because he first loved us. - L.

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.
Each of the apostles had a predominant feature of character. Paul's was faith; John's love. And yet it was not to John that the office was assigned of expounding his own especial grace. The reason for this is, if Paul had exalted faith only, and John love only, we might have conceived that the judgment of each was guided by his peculiarities of temperament. But when the gifted apostle counts gifts as nothing in comparison of love, no doubt remains.

I. THE DESCRIPTION of this grace (ver. 4-7).

1. This is needed, because no single word can express its fulness. Many of these qualities are what we should assign to other graces, e.g., patience, "suffereth long"; generosity, "envieth not"; humility, "vaunteth not herself"; dignified demeanour, "doth not behave itself unseemly," etc. But it is in the co-existence of all that the real life of the under-root of love was shown.

2. The apostle here describes a Christian gentleman. The difference between high-breeding or courtesy, i.e., manners of the court, the characteristic of the high-born, and Christian courtesy is, that the former gracefully insists upon its own rights; the latter gracefully remembers the rights of others. The Spirit of Christ does really what high-breeding only does outwardly. A high-bred man is urbane even to persons whom he is inwardly cursing; and hence the only true deep refinement comes from Christian love. And hence, too, we understand what is meant by elevating and refining the poorer classes. Christianity desires to make them all gentlemen. Only read this description of Christian charity, and conceive it existing in a peasant's breast. Could he be rude, selfish, and inconsiderate? Would he not be a gentleman in heart?


1. Its permanence — "Charity never faileth."(1) Prophecy — the power of interpreting Scripture, is a precious gift, but a time will come "when they shall not teach every man his neighbour, saying, Know the Lord, but all shall know Him from the least to the greatest."(2) Tongues, also, shall pass away. Suppose a man had known fifty languages in the days of St. Paul, how few would be of use now!(3) Knowledge also "shall vanish away," for it is but a temporary state of the human mind, e.g., —(a) That of the physician, which arises out of the existence of disease: were there no disease, his knowledge would disappear.(b) It is the same with gifts of healing: when the time comes in which "they shall hunger no more, and thirst no more," when sickness and death shall cease, this power shall be needless.(c) So also with the knowledge of the lawyer. Were there no wrongs done, the necessity of legal knowledge would be at an end.(d) The same with science, which is ever shifting and becoming obsolete. The science of St. Paul's day is only curious now.

2. Its completeness. Gifts are only means to an end. Love remains, the perfection of our human being, just as stem, flower, bud, and leaf in the tree are all subservient to the fruit. St. Paul uses two illustrations to make this plain (ver. 11, 12).(1) Just what childhood is to manhood, the most advanced manhood is to our heavenly being. There are many things now which subserve a high purpose, but do not belong to the highest state. Patriotism, ambition, exclusive friendship, will then disappear, and be succeeded by higher impulses.(2) Just what the going out of a room lighted through horn windows into the clear daylight would be to us now, will be the entrance of the purified spirit into God's realities out of this world of shadows — of things half seen — of restless dreams (1 John 3:2).

(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

There is no royal road to learning, but there is one to heaven — charity. To love is to be in possession of eternal blessedness.

I. ALL GIFTS ARE OF LITTLE WORTH IF NOT DIRECTED AND CONTROLLED BY LOVE (vers. 1-3) Paul takes the gifts upon which the Corinthians prided themselves, and affirms that all these are useless if love does not regulate their operations.

1. One man noted for his eloquence. But suppose he uses his gift for his own advantage, or to stir up the passions of his audience!

2. Another has vast knowledge, but what is the use of it if he has not love to communicate it, and that in the best way? It is one of the most dangerous gifts a man can possess.

3. Faith is nothing without love.

4. Liberality is nothing without love (ver. 3). You gave five pounds to a charitable restitution; why? Because you wanted to get rid of the collector, or because you thought it would bring custom?

5. Zeal without love is nothing. Paul says, "I can conceive of a man being burned through obstinacy or a false notion of heroism, but it will avail nothing if there is no love in his heart." And so, now, it is possible to be zealously affected in a good cause from the worst of all motives, viz., self-exaltation.

II. A DESCRIPTION OF LOVE (vers. 4-8). The man who has real love in his heart is —

1. Long-suffering and generous.

2. Contented. "Charity envieth not." Not that we should never strive for anything higher and better; but we should always be thankful for our position, and not constantly grumbling because some one else is a little ahead of us.

3. Humble. "Charity vaunteth not herself, is not puffed up." Nothing is more offensive than that spirit of assumption which "pats one on the back," and patronises as though it were an embodiment of the wisdom of all the ages.

4. Considerate of another's feelings. "Doth not behave itself unseemly."

5. Unselfish. "Charity seeketh not her own." The motto of most is, "Take care of number one."

6. Calm. "Is not easily provoked." Love has power to command all the other faculties, and to make them obey.

7. Unsuspicious. "Thinketh no evil," and with this may be put purity. "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." The best construction possible is put upon everything; on the other hand, where sin is really shown, love does not spare the sinner.

8. Magnanimous. "Beareth all things," or "covereth all things." The tendency of love is to hide rather than expose the faults of others instead of blazoning them abroad.

9. Trustful. "Believeth all things." Not that the charitable man is credulous, but he "thinketh no evil," i.e., when the conduct of others is concerned he always believes the best report.

10. Hopes for the best. "Hopeth all things." When an investigation is going on Love says, "I hope that man will come out clear."

11. Endures all things. Does not murmur or repine in times of sorrow — will bear anything for the welfare of another. Put all these characteristics together, and you have Jesus Christ, for in Him only do they all meet. Why, then, did Paul put such a high ideal before us? In order that we may try to reach it.


1. Gifts are transient. Those special gifts of tongues, etc., have long since passed away, and others have come in their place — eloquence, knowledge. These, however, are fleeting; but when these shall fail, Faith, Hope, and Charity will remain.

2. Love — it includes all.

3. Love is the perfection of knowledge (vers. 9, 10). This is illustrated by his personal experience (ver. 11).

(A. F. Barfield.)

This chapter is a noble hymn; scarce anywhere else does Paul seem so wholly possessed with his subject. The very words themselves have something about them of the grace which they describe. They sound like angelic harmonies.


1. What a noble thing it is to have the power of speech to move men's souls! No wonder that men put such a price upon eloquence. However, so long as it is employed in mere worldly interests, whose soul is the better for it? If charity breathe into it and give it life, it is well. But if you substitute fine talking, dressed out with the names of God and Christ, it is not a blessing to you, but a curse. Learn to love, and away with the ready tongue and fluent profession.

2. Even in worldly matters, and, specially, in God's works, knowledge is a great and noble thing, and much more so when conversant with things Divine. But men are led to fancy that this is religion itself. But though your minds were so enlarged that they could contain all mysteries and all knowledge, yet if charity be not there, not only is all this knowledge cold and dead, majestic like some great building, but with no soul in it; but it profits nothing, it will not bring you on one step to heaven!

3. But to come to better things, e,g., faith. Great is the might that lies within it. Yet faith without love is no better than the belief of the evil angels, though it works miracles.

4. The apostle waxes bolder and denies the seal of salvation, even to beneficence, if it could exist alone. Nay, to that sublimest effort of faith, by which the martyrs gave their very bodies to the flames, he refuses the assurance of God's love if charity be absent. An admirable thing, if you please; so great as, perhaps, to be beyond the comprehension of most men in our age, when too many Christians would not sacrifice a finger to Christ, much less give the body to be burned! yet, in the lack of love as the source of it, it is not capable of profiting any of us at the great day of the Lord!


1. As charity is not the mere giving to the poor, though that is a duty, so still less has the thing which counts all religion the same anything to do with this Divine grace. If the world's notion of charity be right, it is the easiest thing that can be; and you have only to be an infidel to have it.

2. Measure your charity, and frame your standard of it, by Him who is perfect truth and perfect love. You, then, who profess yourselves Christians, are you impatient to affronts and injuries, unable to bear anything that opposes your own will? if so, ye have not charity; for charity "suffereth long and is kind." Are you jealous of other men's praises and possessions, looking on them with an evil eye? if so, charity dwelleth not in you; for charity envieth not, etc.

2. This charity, which surpasses all other graces, does in deed and in truth contain them all. That it is no other than the Christian life; a manifestation in daily and hourly action of a Divine principle within, which testifies to its own heavenly origin. Christ is this living charity, and hath left an example that we should follow His steps. Aye, and He is still among you, not only stirring within the soul, but speaking oftentimes, and acting in the form of charity. Whenever you see a gentle and long-suffering spirit, there you see Christ! Whenever you see an earnest love for men's souls, and labour for them, there you see Christ. Christ is in His disciples, and His disciples in Him! They are one with Him, and He one with them, in a Divine and unspeakable unity!

(J. Garbett, M.A.)

I. ITS NATURE. Charity means love. As to its properties, it comprises complacency, gratitude and benevolence. Its objects are —

1. God. This constitutes the first great commandment of the moral law; God is the object of love, as it comprises complacency in the contemplation of His perfections, and gratitude in the contemplation of His blessings.

2. Man. This is the second great commandment — the love required not excluding complacency and gratitude, but consisting principally in benevolence.(1) To those who share the same spiritual privileges and are therefore in the highest sense brethren.(2) To men simply as men. It is impossible for any one to be a Christian without being a philanthropist.


1. Toward God.(1) Belief of His truth. Faith produces love, but love in return lends a higher and more powerful energy to faith.(2) The study of His character. We cannot conceive of love but as meditating upon its object.(3) Obedience to His commandments. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words," etc.(4) Activity in His cause. They who are thus animated will desire that others may love Him also.(5) Anticipation of His kingdom. Here it blends with hope.

2. To man. These manifestations are presented in the verses directly succeeding the text. Note the importance of these manifestations, in relation —(1) To the Church. All that love can think and do, in forbearance, forgiveness, humility, sympathy, and benevolence, is demanded on behalf of those who are united in the same community with ourselves; and not only to these, but to all who own the Christian name. The whole Church must cultivate this towards the whole Church, ere it can ever approximate to the fulfilment of its responsibility, both in relation to the glory of God and the happiness of man.(2) To the world. Beyond the manifestations presented here there is one which the present state of the unconverted world does most solemnly demand, viz., pity. Christianity calls on us to be almoners of the Divine bounty to the souls of men, and we have to carry to them the gospel. This will purify their pollution and redress their wrongs.

III. ITS PRE-EMINENCE. Passing by the superiority of love to miraculous gifts or natural amiable dispositions, note two facts in which its pre-eminence consists.

1. Love partakes of the Divine nature. This cannot be stated of a large proportion of the other graces, viz., repentance, faith, hope, etc. But "God is love" (1 John 4:7, 12, 16).

2. Love is perfected and perpetuated in the celestial state. Other graces prepare for heaven, but do not enter it, e.g., repentance, faith, etc. But love is there; and love is all.

(J. Parsons.)

Nothing is more dangerous in religion than unreality. It may pass muster, and be undetected, in secular things, but it is soon discovered in people who profess and call themselves Christians. St. Paul had in the previous chapter rebuked the Corinthians for their mistaken view of spiritual things. He had done his utmost to lead them up to the realisation that they were then "as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" — mere voice, and nothing more. He had also promised to show them a more excellent way. It is the way of charity, or perfect love.

I. A GREAT FACT. All things are valueless without love. Bishop Wordsworth describes this love (ἀγάπη) as "love to God and to man in God and for God" (1 Corinthians 8:1). The life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ show us the power of love over human hearts. He used no artifice, no violence, no ostentation. The great secret of His power was that His was the acme of love (John 15:13).

II. A GREAT MOTIVE. St. Paul would have us look to our motives (1 Samuel 16:7). That is not always charity which seems so, just as "all is not gold that glitters." The great motive is wanting. Even martyrdom, without love, is a hollow and useless sham. It is as worthless as a great sounding of brass and a tinkling of cymbals. It is a thing "without life, giving sound" (1 Corinthians 14:7).

III. A GREAT CHARACTERISTIC. How are we to know, then, what is truly charity and what is not? We must test it. The genuineness of everything is discovered by tests.

1. That which looks like a sovereign is often discovered to be of base metal by its ring upon the counter, or by the application of an acid.

2. A house sometimes looks well built and habitable, but when the rain descends and the floods come, and beat upon it, the fall thereof is great (Matthew 7:27).

3. Those who seem to be our best friends are often actuated by the most selfish motives, and would be the last to give us help if we needed it. In all these cases the test brings out the true characteristics. The great characteristic of true charity is unselfishness. Wherever it is found, that quality will be at the root of all its actions.

IV. A GREAT CONSOLATION. All men long for something that will last. We live in a world of change. St. Paul answers, "Charity never faileth." In love we have something which will not be old-fashioned in time or eternity. It will never wear out.

(F. St. John Corbett.)

It is the aim of religion to lift men out of their natural unregenerate selves, and, so far as their human nature is capable of such exaltation, to make them more like God: to produce and increase in them some feeble counterpart of that moral goodness which we worship in the perfection of the Divine Being. Now charity is the road which alone brings us on this heavenly journey, and each one of the several exhibitions of the same blessed spirit, which are detailed for us by St. Paul in the chapter now before us, is one more added to the golden steps that carry the Christian higher and higher towards the throne of God. I said that by the practice of charity men are made more like God, for, if we take those parts of the description of it which are applicable to the case, we shall find that they are a description not only of what man ought to aspire to be, but of what God Himself is, so far as He reveals Himself in His dealings with men. I do not mean that the picture was so intended, but that so it is. "Charity suffereth long and is kind" — and do not we find by daily experience that this benign long-suffering is one of the attributes of the Most High? If it were not so, where should we sinners be to-day? "Charity envieth not." Of course the Creator cannot envy His creature, but it is conceivable that He might grudge him good: the heathen often surmise this of their gods: but our God "giveth to every man liberally' and upbraideth not." Charity "is not easily provoked." "God is a righteous Judge," says the Psalmist, "strong and patient, and God is provoked every day," and yet, as he implies, still withholds the chastisement, "if a man will not turn," then, and then only, "He will whet His sword." Charity "thinketh," or better, "imputeth not the evil": and so our Father, instead of saddling us with our sins the instant we commit them, is ever ready to help us out of them, to rid us of them if only we will be rid, not to impute them to us, but to forgive and forget them for His dear Son's sake. Charity "never faileth." It is the very spirit of God's treatment of man. It is because His love fails not, and never can fail, that we dare either enjoy the present or look forward to the future. Now the more excellent a way is, the harder it is to reach it and to walk in it: and if the principle of charity be at the root of God's dealings with us, it need not surprise us that we find much difficulty in producing any genuine copy of the Divine pattern in our dealings with one another. And yet we must do so, or fail altogether in godliness. It may therefore be of service to take some three or four of the chief aspects of our many-sided life in which the exercise of charity is called for, and ask ourselves how far we exhibit or fail to exhibit it in them.

1. Take first our religion. If there be any subject in which our charity should be deep-seated and unquestionable, one would think it should be this. The solemn nature of the matter treated of, the deep importance of the issues, the sense of human feebleness and ignorance in face of the infinite and the unseen, the consciousness of our own personal failures and inconsistencies — these things, one would think, should make us very tender, both in judgment and act, towards other "seekers after God." And yet nowhere is charity more starved and stunted than it is among the differing professors of a common faith. Imagine a number of travellers all bound for the same distant and as yet unvisited country, each furnished with a map of the road. The maps agree as to the main direction, and indeed have most of their chief features in common, but they vary often in minor particulars. Will they all fall to quarrelling and hate one another because of these differences? What hard thoughts, what harsh unsympathising judgments, the staunch Churchman often forms of his Dissenting brother, and his Dissenting brother forms of him! How suspicious and antagonistic is the attitude of Protestant to Catholic! But it may be urged, How can I look lovingly on my neighbour, and tolerate his ways and his opinions, when I believe them to be thoroughly mischievous? Am I to stand by and see error triumph unopposed? Certainly not; it is our duty to oppose it: but there are two ways of opposing it. The one is dogmatic, dictatorial, pugnacious. It will admit no possibility of weakness or imperfection in its own position, no element of good in that of the adversary. It hates compromise. It struggles for triumph, not for truth. The other is based on meekness and moderation. It believes that it has possession of a truth, but it claims no exclusive patent for proclaiming it. It sees, and cheerfully pays honour to, the truth and goodness which are mixed up with the error of an opposite party. It yearns not for triumph, but for harmony. Certainly, a man whose opposition is animated by this spirit is a very dangerous and effective combatant. He is not indifferent to truth: he is its devotee. What he is indifferent to is the triumph of a faction. The character looks fair and noble, surely, when thus sketched in the general, but when we come to try to work something of the pattern of it into the texture of our own daily lives, it will not harmonise with the stuff already there, and the business bristles with difficulties. Pride has to be overcome, dislike reasonable or unreasonable, ancient prejudices, our own self-esteem. This person or this party, whom you or I dislike, does not seem like other persons or parties.

2. We will turn now to another wide field of action-politics. The more deeply men feel, the more impatient of opposition are they apt to be, and the more angry at anything that runs counter to their own persuasions. Next to religion there is nothing of a public kind about which men feel more deeply than politics, and hence the frequent need in this sphere also of the blessed influences of a Christian charity. Difference of opinion has too often culminated in personal animosity, and it has seemed more hard than ever for political opponents to see any good in each other's views, or any nobleness in their aims. If this be so, it becomes the special duty of the preacher to assert aloud the claims of charity to be reverenced and practised in the political arena. She would not stop the strife, but she would moderate it. It is as unchristian as it is foolish to impute bad or low motives to an opponent where there is any hope that we may be mistaken.

3. The next field over which we will cast a glance is that of literature. Surely in the great republic of letters, if nowhere else, every citizen will be candid and courteous towards his fellows! But it is not always so. Even great and good men have yielded to the temptation to be uncharitable here. It is a noble saying of Aristotle's, when he is about to canvass Plato's Theory of Ideas, that both being dear to him, it is a sacred duty to prefer the truth to Plato. Let us have the truth, here as in all other subjects, before all things; that of itself never can harm us, but let us have it spoken in love. The exclusive pursuit of truth is not inconsistent with the purest charity. The calm and patient examination of another's arguments, the respectful consideration of his position, the readiness to be convinced of error where it can be shown to exist, the reluctance to impute ignorance or stupidity, the absence of all tinge of personality, the scorn of snatching a momentary victory at the expense of truth, which we mark in some great controversialist — how much more noble and powerful they are than whole reams of brilliant but insincere invective.

4. The relations which we have so far looked at have been all more or less of a public character: before concluding let us give our thoughts for a while to the demands of charity in the private region of domestic life. It is an old and a true saying that "Charity begins at home." Here if anywhere the Christian should exhibit that spirit of forbearance, of unselfishness, of unwearying, uncalculating kindness, of optimism in judging of the characters, motives, actions of those about him, which are the parts of charity. The occasions for its exercise are as numerous as the hours of the day. Happy the family where this sweetest and wholesomest of influences reigns supreme, and is shared in by all its members. Such a household becomes the nursery of true public virtues. How unhappy are that man and woman who have linked their lot for life together, and yet have made no preparation to carry out the Divine behests of charity in the insignificant things of daily life. They may bear a brave face to the world, but what profit is that to them, if the simple sweetness of the domestic hearth be marred by peevishness, or hardness, or a cutting tongue, or wilfulness, or mere want of sympathy? We have thus traversed, in however cursory a manner, some of the great fields in which charity works. There are other fields on which we have not entered, nor is there much need to do so, for though "there be diversities of operations it is the same Spirit which worketh all in all." If it be true that he that offends in one point of the law is guilty of all, no less is it true that he that has grasped what the genuine spirit of charity is in any one great relation of life will be able to understand it in all.

(E. H. Bradby, M. A.)

William Tyndale, the translator of the Scriptures, had many enemies, who persecuted him with cruel hatred, but to whom he bore the tenderest charity. It is recorded that to some of them he said one day, "Take away my goods, take away my good name! — yet so long as Christ dwelleth in my heart, so long shall I love you not a whit the less."

A Brahman on hearing this chapter read, exclaimed, "Who can act up to that?"

(Dr. Duff.)

Two introductory truths are suggested by the context —

1. That there is great diversity in the talents with which heaven has endowed mankind. Some men are distinguished by one faculty and some by another. Some by the faculty of creating, some by the faculty of combining, some by the faculty of oratorically presenting, thought. These faculties exist in various degrees of strength; in some they are dwarfish, in some gigantic.

2. That without charity the highest kind and degree of talent is of little worth. Note —


1. In party politics. Many party speeches, fashioned after the highest models and delivered with all the graces of the art, beat with selfish ambition and burn with envious spleen.

2. In party theology. Some of the discourses on polemic theology are, in all the attributes of true eloquence, unexcelled, but they are all aglow with acrimonious zeal for certain dogmas.

3. In party Churchism.

II. THAT ELOQUENCE OF THE HIGHEST TYPE WITHOUT CHARITY IS UTTERLY WORTHLESS — "brass," giving out a mere clanking sound. It is worthless —

1. In itself. What would you give for two pieces of brass forming a cymbal. Whatever their marketable value may be, for musical purposes they are not worth a "penny whistle." What worth is there in an organism unless it has life? and what worth is there in sentences, however eloquent, unless they have charity?

2. In its influence. The sounds you get out of the cymbal produce rather an irritating than an inspiring or calming influence upon the listener. What moral good can speeches without charity accomplish? Eloquence without charity is like the roar of a winter's north-easter, irritating and destructive; but eloquence with charity is like the quiet south-wester in spring, rearming all things into life and touching all things into beauty.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

The Egyptian hieroglyphic representing charity is a naked child, with a heart in his hand, giving honey to a bee without wings. The child represents the humility of charity; the heart in its hand, the cheerfulness of charity; giving honey to the bee without wings, the worthiness and helplessness of the object of charity.

Consider —


1. Negatively.(1) Not mere almsgiving.(2) Nor that kindly disposition which naturally distinguishes some persons without any religious principle.(3) Nor any affection which by human skill and labour can be produced in human nature. Education and example do much to restrain the outward expression of the malevolent passions; nay, it is a part of courtesy to hide them, but they are still there.

2. Positively. Charity, as described here, is a grace only of regenerated human nature. It springs only from love to God. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Here the apostle speaks of this principle chiefly, as his subject required, in its acting towards men.


1. Above all miraculous gifts. He does not depreciate them, but he exalts charity.

2. Above the most profuse almsgiving and the loftiest zeal.

3. Above knowledge.

4. Above faith and hope.Conclusion:

1. We see the tendency of men to mistake the external circumstances of religion for religion itself.

2. Let us elevate our views to the true character of the religion of Christ. Love is its principle, its vital flame.

3. Let us mark how much of religion exists in temper.

4. Rejoice in the prospect of a future state, which this chapter opens.

(R. Watson.)

It is recorded of the excellent Bishop Ken, that when his copy of the Bible was examined after his death, it opened spontaneously at Paul's great chapter of the Corinthians on charity.

(J. Thomson.)

One doctor says bolus, and another says globule. Globule calls Bolus a butcher, and Bolus calls Globule a quack, and the hydropathist says, "Beware of pick-pockets." And Bolus will not speak to Globule, though Globule says, "Let us make it up, and begin again"; and Bolus says, "Never; as long as I live I will leech and blister and cup and bleed and do things with scientific vigour."

(J. Parker, D.D.)

All gifts, all graces, all talents, natural or acquired, are ungraceful, or wanting in that one essential, which is the complement or the supplement of them all, without this charity. Take it as of a circle, and it is wanting in that which makes it round. The lines from its centre do not go straight to its circumference. They are disproportioned; they are not equi-distant. Take it as of a building, and there is want of symmetry. The thing is deformed. It may have due length, but not due breadth. It may have breadth and length, but no depth. It may have due breadth, but not due height. It may have all these, but have no foundation. Such is any or every work without charity.

(J. B. Wilkinson, M.A.)


1. The apostle contrasts it with the highest and richest endowments possible to man.

(1)The mastery of all languages.

(2)To voice forth God's purposes.

(3)To interpret all secret things and comprehend all truth.

(4)To be inspired with the highest supernatural faith.

(5)To be moved with the noblest philanthropy and by the spirit of martyrdom.

2. Though possessing all these highest gifts, the apostle declares that without love to God the Christian is nothing. Nothing —(1) In view of God's purpose of grace, to make His children to be "conformed to the image of His Son."(2) In view of the highest characteristic of the Divine nature. "For God is love."(3) In view of the essential attribute of Christian character — "He that loveth, not knoweth not God." "This is life eternal to know Thee," etc.


1. Long-suffering.

2. Tender-hearted.

3. Unenvious.

4. Meek.

5. Modest.

6. Not arrogant.

7. Unselfish.

8. Unresentful.

9. Unsuspecting.

10. Has no sympathy with sin.

11. Loves the truth.

12. Hides faults.

13. Charitable.

14. Sanguine.

15. Firm in trials.


1. In permanence —

(1)To prophecies.

(2)To tongues.

(3)To knowledge.

2. In nature. Superior —(1) To faith, because faith expresses helpless dependence on God, and love expresses the exercise of the most exalted attribute of God.(2) To hope, because hope expresses desire for the good of ourselves, and love expresses desire for the highest good of others.Practical lessons:

1. How opposite the Divine and human estimates of true glory.

2. How equal is God's plan for human good. All cannot speak with tongues; all cannot master science and knowledge, but all can love.

3. Do we believe the testimony which the Holy Spirit bears in this chapter?

(D. C. Hughes, A.M.)

I. GIFTS ARE OF LESS VALUE THAN GRACES. Still they are of great value. Do the best with all you have. Eloquence is useful in proclaiming truth. Insight is helpful to the teacher. Knowledge is needful: we cannot love an unknown person. Faith works wonders (Hebrews 6.). Almsgiving and faithfulness unto death are required. But all these without love are worthless in God's sight. Yet, how often intellect, genius, and learning win the higher praises! A bright lad may be a bad boy. Without love teachers may fail.

II. CHRISTIAN LOVE IS THE CHIEF GRACE. It is very different from natural love to kindred and to the world. It comes from God (Romans 5:5). It is to be shown to men. God requires it; His children need it; we are better, holier, happier for manifesting it. Love to men shows our love to God, as stars reflect the light of the sun. Love is here personified, for no Christian is yet so perfect as to sit for the portrait (ver. 4). Love did not write the old proverb, "Forbearance ceases to be a virtue." Kindness makes real gentlemen. Envy leads to unfairness and cruelty. Jealousy gives the eye a wrong cast. Love hushes boasting, reduces self-display, and takes the wind out of puffing pride. It imparts magnanimity, meekness, and a true estimate of one's self (Romans 12:16-18; ver. 5). In the school of love good behaviour and unselfishness are taught. Her pupils do not take mean advantage of each other, nor quick offence at trifles, nor keep a note-book of evil things. They learn politeness, fairness, self-possession, purity, and candour (ver. 6). Love gives joy. Iniquity brings sorrow. We must hate sin (Romans 12:9) while loving the sinner. A loving heart is a home for truth. Falsehood knocks there in vain. Love and truth are boon companions (ver. 7). It is hard to say, "Let the righteous smite me" (Psalm 141:5), and to bear a rebuke; it is harder to believe in the justice of it, to hope well of people who injure us, and to wait patiently for God to bring good out of our troubles (Genesis 45:5; Genesis 1:20). Love makes us docile, tolerant, trustful and trustworthy, hopeful, patient. It beareth — roofs over — things which should not be exposed. It is the ivy growing over castles once noisy with crimes (1 Peter 4:8).

III. LOVE IS THE CEASELESS GRACE (ver. 8). It is "a flower whose petals never fall off." In heaven we shall not need the special uses of gifts which are now meant for the Church on earth. These uses shall cease (vers. 9, 10). The partial loses itself in the complete. Dawn passes into day. Steps to heaven will be put away when we get there, and have all things that are promised. We are here to grow in knowledge in childhood and employ our gifts till we come to the full stature of Christian manhood (ver. 11; Ephesians 4:11-13). Faith now helps us to see images of heavenly things; but it will end in sight. Still there will always be knowledge and trust. Hope will result in possession, and still there will be expectation (vers. 12, 13).

(W. M. Blackburn, D.D.)

1. This passage stands alone in the writings of St. Paul, both in its subject and its style. It is the climax of the Epistle. The evil tendencies of the Corinthian Church met their true correction in this gift, without which the Christian society would fall to pieces — just as the civil society had appeared to philosophers and statesmen to be doomed to dissolution without φιλία or mutual harmony. Unlike mere rhetorical panegyrics on particular virtues every word tells with double force because aimed against a real enemy. It is as though wearied with discussion against the sins of this Church, Paul had at last found the spell by which they could be overcome, and uttered sentence after sentence with the triumphant "Eureka."

2. But the very style shows that it rises above any immediate or local occasion. On each side of this chapter argument and remonstrance still rage; but within it all is calm; the sentences move in almost rhythmical melody; the imagery unfolds itself in almost dramatic propriety; the language arranges itself with almost rhetorical accuracy. We can imagine how the apostle's amanuensis must have paused, to look up into his master's face at the sudden change in his style, and seen it as it had been the face of an angel, as this vision of Divine perfection passed before him.

I. THE WORD Αγάπη, IS PECULIAR TO THE NEW TESTAMENT. The verb is used in classical Greek, but only in the lower sense of acquiescence, esteem, or caressing. It is in the LXX we first find it employed to designate what we call "love"; and it is there introduced (probably from its likeness in sound to the Hebrew words to represent ahab and agab, both expressive of passionate affection, drawn from the idea of panting after a desired object. The Greek world exhibited in a high degree the virtue of personal friendship, which was so highly esteemed as to give its name (φιλία) to affection generally. Domestic and conjugal affection, strictly speaking, there was not. The word which most nearly approaches to the modern notion of love (ἐρος) expressed either a merely sensual admiration of physical, or an intellectual admiration of ideal beauty. The Alexandrians expressed benevolence to man by the word "philanthropy" which was, however, an abstraction to be panegyrised, not a powerful motive to be acted upon. In contradistinction to all these, and yet the crown and completion of them all, is the "love" of the New Testament. It is not religion evaporated into benevolence, but benevolence taken up into religion — love of man for the sake of love to God; love to God showing itself in love to man.

II. ITS ORIGIN. It is perhaps not too much to say that it was derived expressly from "the revelations of the Lord." It is, in all probability, from the great example of the self-sacrificing love shown in the life and death of Christ, that love to man for the sake of love to God is the one great end of existence (John 13:34; John 15:13). Until Christ had lived and died this virtue was almost impossible. The fact of its having come into existence, the urgency with which the apostle dwells upon it, is itself a proof that He had lived and died as none other had lived and died. This is confirmed by observing that the word and idea which thus first appear in the writings of St. Paul receive their full meaning and development in those of St. John, who, without doubt, received them from the example and teaching of Christ.


1. Usually it is employed for almsgiving, yet this is the very sense with which the apostle expressly contrasts his own employment of the word (ver. 3).

2. Sometimes it is used for "toleration" or "forbearance," as when we speak of a "charitable construction," in "charity with our neighbours." But this sense, though founded on "charity thinketh no evil," and "is not easily provoked," is inadequate. As there may be almsgiving without love, so there may be toleration without love. Here our conceptions of charity soon come to an end, but this new commandment of Christ and His apostle is exceeding broad.

(Dean Stanley.)

When Dr. Doddridge asked his little daughter, who died so early, why everybody seemed to love her, she answered, "I cannot tell, unless if is because I love everybody." This was not only a striking but very judicious reply. It accords with the sentiment of Seneca, who gives us a lovecharm. And what do you suppose the secret is? "Love," says he, "in order to be loved." No being ever yet drew another by the use of terror and authority.

(W. Jay.)

Love is the brightest star in the Christian firmament, and the fairest flower in the garden of God. It comprehends all virtue, honour, goodness, purity, sincerity, magnanimity, and whatever else can adorn the human character. For what is holiness but love supreme? and what is heaven but love perfected? and what are all the Christian virtues and graces but so many modifications of the same Divine principle? Mercy is love sparing the guilty; kindness, love blessing the needy; pity, love sympathising with the sufferer; justice, love rendering to all their due; beneficence, love distributing its bounty; gratitude, love reciprocating its favours; fortitude, love sustaining its burdens; penitence, love bewailing its sinfulness; fidelity, but love performing its promises. And what is faith but love confiding? zeal, but love contending? peace, but love reposing? joy, but love exulting? hope, but love expecting? patience, but love enduring? meekness, but love forbearing? And worship is love adoring the Divine Excellence; prayer, love supplicating its heavenly Father; praise, love pouring its glad melody into the ear of God; preaching, love proclaiming the riches of the love that passeth knowledge; the holy eucharist, love celebrating love's sublimest mystery and transcending triumph; and all Christian work is love bringing its best sacrifice to the altar of the Love eternal, and laying its richest tribute at the nail-pierced feet.

(J. Cross, D.D.)

Gustave Dore said to the Rev. Frederick Harford one day, "My friend, I am a Roman Catholic. a professed Roman Catholic. I was baptized in that Church, and I stick to it: but if you wish to know my real religion I will tell it to you. It is contained in the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians." Then he recited it through from the beginning to the end, without hesitation or missing one word. When he had finished he turned to Canon Harford and said, "Have I made any mistakes? and — and, believing in that chapter as I do, might I be considered a Christian?" Canon Harford's reply was, "Any man living up to that chapter might be called not only Christian, but Christianissimus."

Nothing is more common than to find even those who deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures, yet affirming, "This is my religion." Nay, even a Jew, a Spanish physician, then settled at Savannah, used to say with great earnestness, "Paul of Tarsus is one of the finest writers I have ever read. I wish the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians were written in letters of gold; and I wish every Jew were to carry it with him wherever he went." He judged (and herein he certainly judged right) that this single chapter contained the whole of true religion.

(John Wesley.)

As the water exhaled from the sea falls in refreshing rains and reviving dews upon field and forest, meadow and mountain, thirsty soil and withered herbage, and then by a thousand channels flows back again to the sea; so charity, coming forth from God, scatters its blessings among the children of men, and with its gathered revenue of love and praise returns to the bosom of God. God is its Alpha and Omega — the fountain whence it issues, and the ocean where it empties. Love to God is the tree; love to man is the delicious fruit it bears. Love to God is the mountain spring; love to man is the fertilising stream it sends singing through the landscape. We love God for His own sake, man for God's sake; the child, because we love the Father.

(J. Cross, D.D.)

Gifts —

I. HAVE NO VALUE IN THEMSELVES; may occasion mischief; love is intrinsically excellent; gives value to everything.

II. DO NOT NECESSARILY MAKE A MAN USEFUL; love makes him active and self-sacrificing.

III. CANNOT SAVE; love is salvation already begun.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

We know that in this world, love, like all the other of the higher emotions, is the weakest when we are young, and that it grows in power with exercise and age. We have to ripen in love as well as in all other things. A youth does not love as a middle-aged person can. Love is a thing first of leaves, then of blossoms, and at last of fruit. We sometimes connect together the manifestations of it which we see in this life, to get a large view of what it will be in the future life. In this world we occasionally see, in parents and brothers and sisters, or experience in ourselves, that which gives us a somewhat accurate conception of the Divine power of love which we shall possess in the world to come. There is nothing which love cannot do. It is the only thing that walks without touching the ground. It never grows weary. Nothing in the soul is superior to it. Let love be an active feeling there, and all the other faculties come eagerly before it, and willingly lay down their crowns and coronets at its feet. It governs without command. All other feelings open to it as flowers to the sun. There are ten thousand things in life from which we gain some idea of what this supereal nature is. What if every soul was affected by every other soul, as some are affected by those who have the mysterious power of sympathy, so that every chord in their nature quivers at the touch, as the chords of a piano quiver when the keys are touched? What if every soul were so royal with this spirit that each word, and look, and posture, and gesture, radiated joy and gladness upon every other soul? How blessed will be the time when there is this commerce, this freedom, this universality of this wonderful heart-power! How doth this Divine emotion cleanse both those who exercise it and those who receive its benefactions! By it God maintains the household. From its secret springs He nourishes the new generations of men. Even afar off from its source it shines with power enough to guide the world and lead men up the ways of civilisation. What, then, shall be its redemptive and educating power in heaven?

(H. W. Beecher.)

I do not distinguish men one from another merely by the difference of their thought-power. Still less do I distinguish them by the difference of their executive power. There must be a deeper gauge than these. Still less do I distinguish them by their external differences, as where one is high and another is low; where one is rich and another is poor; where one is wise and another is unwise. The point where true manhood resides is in the neighbourhood of love. In the copiousness, the variety, the endlessness, the sweetness, and the purity of the element of love, you shall find the measure that God applies discriminating between one and another.

(H. W. Beecher.)


1. They are inefficient.

2. Confer no real honour.

3. Profit us nothing before God.


1. The tongue is touched with fire.

2. The intellect is filled with spiritual light.

3. Faith triumphs over sin.

4. Good works are a sacrifice well pleasing to God.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Love is the first outgoing of the renewed soul to God — "We love Him, because He first loved us." It is the sure evidence of a saving work of grace in the soul — "The fruit of the Spirit is love." It lies at the very foundation of Christian character; we are "rooted and grounded in love." It is the path in which all the true children of God are found; they "walk in love" — the bond of their mutual union; their hearts are "knit together in love" — their protection in the spiritual warfare; they are to put on "the breastplate of love" — the fulness and completeness of their Christian character; they are "made perfect in love" — the spirit through which they may fulfil all the Divine acquirements; for "love is the fulfilling of the law"; that by which they may become like their Father in heaven, and fitted for His presence; for "God is love," and heaven is a world of love.

(Tryon Edwards, D.D.)


1. Great gifts of speech.

2. Great grasp of understanding.

3. Great fulness of faith.

4. Great almsgiving.

5. Great martyr enthusiasm — yet with all this if a man has not love he is a spiritual "nothing," a moral "nobody," a nonentity in the great realm of being, where whosoever dwells in love dwells in God and God in him.

II. BECAUSE IT INSPIRES, ENSURES, AND ENERGISES ALL SUCH VIRTUES. The virtues described are desirable. "Covet them." But they are only ensured by love, and are certain to be found, and to be found in their fulness, where love is. It is the true inspiration and energiser. Without love such virtues are —

1. Mere sound.

2. Mere appearance "I am nothing" — only the semblance of moral manhood.

3. Mere abortive effort, "it profiteth me nothing" — it is labour in vain. Whereas not one of these virtues but will flourish where love is. St. 's great saying, "Love, and do what thou wilt" is warranted by "Love is the fulfilling of the law."

(U. R. Thomas.)

Clever men can tell to a nicety the exact distance between the earth on which we live and the moon; they can even tell just how far the sun is from us. They can even measure how far it is from one of the twinkling stars that shine in the sky at night to another; they know the size of the stars, and their weight. But not even the cleverest of all the clever men that ever lived can say how far one single little loving deed can go, or say where its influence will end. Love is infinite and everlasting. When the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, he that loveth and "doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

(Baldwin Brown, B.A.)

The soul may sooner leave off to subsist than to love; and, like the vine, it withers and dies if it has nothing to embrace.

(R. South, D.D.)

This is one of the passages of Scripture which an expositor scruples to touch. The bloom and delicacy passes from the flower in handling. But although this eulogium is its own best interpreter, there are points in it which require explanation and enforcement. Note —


1. The extraordinary gifts of which the Corinthians were so proud may profit the Church, but they are no evidence of the ripe Christian manhood of their possessor.(1) Suppose I speak all possible languages, and have not love, I am but a mere instrument played upon by another — sounding brass, etc.(2) Take the gifts of prophecy, miracles, etc. Without love, however, they may profit others, they neither bring me into closer connection with Christ nor give assurance of my sound spiritual condition.(3) Take almsgiving. The young ruler lacked but one thing: to sell his property and give to the poor. But, says Paul, "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor," etc., I may do this from a love of display, or from an uneasy sense of duty.(4) But martyrdom? Well, at one period martyrdom became fashionable, just as suicide once became fashionable.

2. Too often it is a man's snare to judge himself by what he does rather than by what he is. But no eye to advantage or to public opinion can enable a man to love. Love must be spontaneous from the soul's self, the unconstrained, natural outcome of the real man. Love cannot be got up. It is the result of God entering and possessing the soul. "He that loveth is born of God." And therefore it is that where love is absent all is absent. And yet how the mistake of the Corinthians is perpetuated from age to age. The Church is smitten with a genuine admiration of talent. Do parents sufficiently impress on their children that all successes at school and in early life are as nothing compared to the more obscure but much more substantial acquisition of a thoroughly unselfish spirit?


1. It is possible that Paul may have read the eulogium pronounced on love by the greatest of Greek writers five hundred years before: "Love is our lord, supplying kindness and banishing unkindness, giving friendship and forgiving enmity, the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the gods; desired by those who have no part in him, and precious to those who have the better part in him; parent of delicacy, luxury, desire, fondness, softness, grace; careful of the good, uncareful of the evil. In every word, work, wish, fear — pilot, helper, defender, saviour; glory of gods and men, leader best and brightest; in whose foot steps let every man follow, chanting a hymn and joining in that fair strain with which love charms the souls of gods and men." Five hundred years after Paul another eulogium was pronounced on love by Mohammed: "Every good act is charity; your smiling in your brother's face; your putting a wanderer in the right road; your giving water to the thirsty, or exhortations to others to do right. A man's true wealth hereafter is the good he has done in this world to his fellowman. When he dies, people will ask, What property has he left behind him? but the angels will ask what good deeds he has sent before him." Thomas a Kempis dwells on its varied capacity. "Love," he says, " feels no burden, regards not labours, would willingly do more than it is able, pleads not impossibilities, because it feels sure that it can and may do all things. Love is swift, sincere, pious, pleasant, and delightful; strong, patient, faithful, prudent, longsuffering, manly, and never seeking itself; it is circumspect, humble, and upright; sober, chaste, steadfast, quiet, and guarded in all its senses."

2. Paul's description of the behaviour of love is drawn as a contrast to the unseemly and unbrotherly conduct of the Corinthians.


1. As compared with gifts of which the Corinthians were so proud (ver. 8). These gifts were for the temporary benefit of the Church. They were the scaffolding which no one thinks of when the building is finished, the school-books which become rubbish when the boy is educated, the prop which the forester removes when the sapling has become a tree. But knowledge? The knowledge of God and of Divine things — is not this permanent? No, says Paul.(1) When a boy begins the study of Euclid, the first proposition he learns is absolutely accurate and true; he may add to it, but he can never improve upon it. His knowledge is imperfect in amount, but so far as it goes it is absolutely reliable. But when we are walking on a misty morning and see an object at a distance, our knowledge is imperfect in the sense of being dim, uncertain, inaccurate. We see that there is something before us, but whether a man or a gatepost we cannot say. A little nearer we see it is a man, but whether old or young, friend or no friend, we cannot say. Here the growth of our knowledge is from dimness to accuracy. Both the figures used by Paul imply that our knowledge of Divine things is of this latter kind. They loom, as it were, through a mist. We are at present in the state of childhood, which cherishes many notions destined to be exlploded by maturer knowledge.(2) The other figure is still more precise. The word here rendered "glass" was a common figure among the rabbis to illustrate dimness of vision. If they wished to denote direct and clear vision, they spoke of seeing a thing face to face. They had a common saying, "All other prophets saw as through nine glasses, Moses as through one." The rabbis, too, bad another saving, "Even as a king, who with common people talks through a veil, so that he sees them, but they do not see him, but when his friend comes to speak to him he removes this veil, so that he might see him face to face, even so did God speak to Moses apparently, and not darkly."

2. Paul's crowning testimony to the worth of love is given in ver.13. He does not mean that love abides while faith becomes sight and hope fruition. For faith and hope pass away only in one aspect of their exercise. If by faith be meant belief in things unseen, this passes away when the unseen is seen. If hope be taken as referring only to the future state in general, then when that state is reached hope passes away. But faith and hope are really permanent elements of human life, faith being the confidence we have in God, and hope the ever-renewed expectancy of future good. But while faith maintains us in connection with God, love is the enjoyment of God and the partaking of His nature; and while hope renews our energy and guides our aims, it can bring us to no better thing than love.

(M. Dods, D.D.)

Love confers on the gifts of the Spirit their proper character and work.

1. It renders the unintelligent utterance of ecstasy significant (ver. 1).

2. It raises the gifts which are significant and powerful, such as prophecies and faith to the rank of moral virtues (ver. 2).

3. It ensures for those gifts which are themselves moral virtues such as kindness to the poor or the sacrifice of one's life for others; their fitting reward.

(Principal Edwards.)

I. THE NATURE OF A TRULY CHRISTIAN LOVE. All true Christian love is one and the same in its principle, whatever the objects toward which it may flow.

1. It is all from the same Spirit influencing the heart. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of love, and when He enters the soul love also enters (Romans 15:30; Colossians 1:8; Philippians 2:1; Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:23, 24. 4:12, 13). 2, It is from the same motives. Both are loved for God's sake.


1. From what reason teaches of the nature of love.(1) Love will dispose to all proper acts of respect to both God and man.

(a)Love to God will dispose a man to honour, worship, obey, put confidence in, submit to, and walk humbly with Him.

(b)Love to man disposes men to all duties towards their neighbours (Romans 13:10).(2) Whatever performances or seeming virtues there are without love are unsound and hypocritical. If there be no love in what men do, then there is no true respect to God or men in their conduct; and if so, then certainly there is no sincerity.

2. From what the Scriptures teach us.(1) Of the law and word of God in general (Romans 13:8; 1 Timothy 1:5; Matthew 22:40).(2) Of each table of the law in particular (Matthew 22:38; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

3. From what the apostle teaches us viz., that "faith works by love" (Galatians 5:6). By this it is evident —(1) That true love is an ingredient in true and living faith, and is what is most essential and distinguishing in it. A practical or saving faith is light and heat together, while that which is only a speculative faith is light only.(2) That all Christian exercises of the heart and works of the life are from love; for we are abundantly taught in the New Testament that all Christian holiness begins with faith in Jesus Christ.Conclusion: We may use this subject in the way of —

1. Self-examination. From love to God springs love to man (1 John 5:1). Have we this love to the children of God? This love leads those who possess it to desire and endeavour to do good to their fellow-men (1 John 3:16-19). Is this spirit, which dwelt in Jesus Christ, in our hearts and lives?

2. Instruction. This doctrine shows us —(1) What is the right Christian spirit (Luke 9:55). This may, by way of eminence, be called the Christian spirit; for it is much more insisted on in the New Testament than anything else.(2) What is real Christian experience? Love is the sum and substance of it. When persons experience true comfort and spiritual joy, their joy is the joy of faith and love.(3) The amiableness of a Christian spirit.(4) The pleasantness of a Christian life (Proverbs 3:13-17).(5) The reason why contention tends so much to the ruin of religion (James 3:16).(6) What a watch and guard should Christians keep against envy and bitterness of spirit! For these things are the very reverse of the real essence of Christianity.(7) Hence it is no wonder that Christianity so strongly requires us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

3. Exhortation. To seek a spirit of love; to grow in it more and more; and very much to abound in the works of love.

(Jonathan Edwards)

Is your religion the religion of —







(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Note —


1. We may speak well on religion, and yet be nothing. Beyond all doubt Judas had the power of speaking; and to all appearance there was no difference between his speaking and the speaking of every other of the twelve.

2. We may have knowledge, and be nothing. Had not Balaam great knowledge? Yet he never had the saving grace of God.

3. We may do miracles, and yet be nothing. Did not the magicians in Moses' time do many wonderful things? Did not our Lord tell us that many in the last day shall say, "Lord, Lord, have we not in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you".

4. We may give all our substance, and yet be nothing in the sight of God. Many in the Middle Ages did so; many an old cathedral or religious house shows still what men did from false principles in the matter of giving money. It is not the quantity of our gifts, but the quality that God regards.

5. We may even die for our opinions, and yet be nothing. Has not many and many an one laid down his life before Juggernaut, and thus showed the sincerity of his belief in his poor, miserable, false idol? There is a zeal that is taught by the Spirit of God, and a zeal also that is "not according to knowledge." These are solemn things. Let us not be content with a little religion. Remember Lot's wife — how far she went; remember Demas, Judas Iscariot, the sixth of Hebrews.

II. WHAT IS THIS GRACE OF CHARITY, WITHOUT WHICH WE ARE NOTHING ? I know no more simple definition of charity than this: "the mind that was in Christ Jesus" towards His fellow-men.

(Bp. Ryle.)

1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
1 Corinthians 13:1 NLT
1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
1 Corinthians 13:1 NASB
1 Corinthians 13:1 KJV

1 Corinthians 13:1 Bible Apps
1 Corinthians 13:1 Parallel
1 Corinthians 13:1 Biblia Paralela
1 Corinthians 13:1 Chinese Bible
1 Corinthians 13:1 French Bible
1 Corinthians 13:1 German Bible

1 Corinthians 13:1 Commentaries

Bible Hub
1 Corinthians 12:31
Top of Page
Top of Page