I Corinthians 13

 

 

                        The Supremely Excellent Way of Christian Love (vs. 1-13)

 

This chapter has been in all ages the object of the special admiration of the Church.

Would that it had received in all ages the loftier and more valuable admiration which

would have been expressed by an acceptance of its lessons! Tertullian says that it is

uttered “with all the force of the Spirit” (totis Spiritus viribus). It is a glorious hymn

or paean in honor of Christian love, in which Paul rises on the wings of inspiration

to the most sunlit heights of Christian eloquence. Like the forty-fifth psalm, it may

be entitled “A Psalm of Love.”  Valcknaer says that the “oratorical figures which 

illuminate the chapter have been born spontaneously in an heroic soul, burning

with the love of Christ, and placing all things lower than this Divine love.” In

vs. 1-3 he shows the absolute necessity for love; in vs. 4-7 its characteristics;

in vs. 8-12 its eternal permanence; in v. 13 its absolute supremacy

 

 

                                    The Absolute Necessity for Love (vs. 1-3)

 

1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have

not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” The case is merely

supposed. The tongues of men are human languages, including, perhaps, the

peculiar utterance of ecstatic inspiration with which he is now dealing. It is,

perhaps, with reference to this latter result of spiritual exultation, at any rate in its

purest and loftiest developments, that he adds the words, “and of angels.” It is

unlikely that he is referring to the rabbinic notion that the angels only understood

Hebrew, and not Aramaic or other languages. The words are meant

to express the greatest possible climax. The most supreme powers of utterance, even

of angelic utterance — if any of the Corinthians had or imagined that they had

attained to such utterance — are nothing in comparison with the universally possible

attainment of Christian love!!!!!!. It is remarkable that here again he places

tongues,” even in their grandest conceivable development, on the lowest step in his

climax.  And have not charity. It is deeply to be regretted that the translators of the

Authorized Version here introduced from the Vulgate a new translation for the sacred

word “love,” which dominates the whole New Testament as its Divine keynote.

Greek possesses two words for “love.” One of these,  έρος - eros - love - implying

as it did the love which springs from sensual passion, was dyed too deeply in pagan

associations to be capable of redemption into holier usage. It is characteristic of the

difference between paganism and Christianity, that Plato’s eulogy in the ‘Symposium’

is in honor of έρος, not of anything resembling ἀγάπη. The apostles, therefore, were

compelled to describe the ideal of the gospel life by another word, which expressed

the love of esteem and reverence and sacred tenderness — the word ἀγάπη - agapae -

love.  This word was not indeed classical. No heathen writer had used it. But the verb

agapao, corresponding to the Latin diligo, and being reserved for this loftier kind

of love, suggested at once the substantive ἀγάπη, which, together with the similar

substantive ἠγάπησά  (Jeremiah 31:3), had already been adopted by the Septuagint

and by Philo and in Wisdom of Solomon 3:9. The word is thus, as Archbishop Trench

says, “born in the bosom of revealed religion” (‘New Testament Synonyms,’ p. 41). 

The Vulgate chose caritas (whence our “charity”) to express this love of reason and

affection, the dearness which reigns between human beings, and between man

and God. This word, like agape, is absolutely unstained with any evil association.

If “charity” had been exclusively used for agape, no objection need have arisen,

although “love” is English  while “charity” is Latin. But it was an unmixed evil that,

by the use of two different words for the same Greek word, English readers should

have been prevented from recognizing the unity of thought on this subject which

prevails among all the books of the New Testament (Matthew 22:37-40; I Peter 1:22;

I John 3:14; 4:7-8).  To argue that the word “love” in English is not unmingled with

unhallowed uses is absurd, because those uses of the word have never been supposed

for a single moment to intrude into multitudes of other passages where love is used

to render agape.  It is, therefore, a great gain that the Revised Version restored to this

passage the word  “love,” which had been used by Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva

Bible. For in modern English usage the word “charity” is almost confined to

“almsgiving,” and that of a kind which is often made an excuse for shirking all real

self denial, and for not acting up to the true spirit of love. Christian love is always

and infinitely blessed, but the almsgiving which has usurped the name of “charity”

often does more harm than good. I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling

cymbal;  more literally, I have become booming brass, or clanging cymbal. My

“tongues” without “love” become a mere discordant, obtrusive, unintelligible

dissonance. The Greek word for “clanging” - ἀλαλάζον alalazon -  is an

onomatopoeia (the imitation of a sound), like the Hebrew name for

cymbals, tseltselim (Psalm 150:5).

 

Here Paul is talking about eloquence without love.  There is a great diversity of

gifts which God has endowed mankind, but without love, the highest kind and

degree of talent is of little worth.  That eloquence of the highest: type without charity

is UTTERLY WORTHLESS. It is as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” The

word ἀλαλάζον alalazon from ἀλαλα alala - a war cry, properly denotes a

loud cry or shout, such as is used in battle. Whilst the sound is anything but pleasant,

the material is comparatively worthless, made of two pieces of common brass. The

idea is worthlessness. Take the speech of a man whose idea of eloquence shall excel

the theory of Quintilian, and whose practice shall excel that of Demesthenes himself;

what is it if it has not charity? Paul would say, “brass,” giving out a mere clanking

sound.  What worth is there in an organism unless it has life? and what worth is

there in sentences, however eloquent, unless they have charity? There is no moral

worth in any act or word apart from charity. In the sight of Heaven all else is mere

rubbish.  Without it, I with all my endowments, services, sacrifices, says Paul, am

“nothing.”  The sounds you get out of the “cymbal” are not musical, and they

produce rather an irritating than an inspiring or calming influence upon the listener.

What moral good can speeches without charity accomplish? They may shed some

light upon the intellect, correct some error, but they have no power to win the soul

of a man. They often irritate, but never soothe. Bigoted partisans are attracted by the

clankings of their brass, but men pass by them as by a Punch and Judy show.

Eloquence without charity is like the roar of a winter’s northeaster, irritating and

destructive; but eloquence with charity is like the quiet southwester in spring,

warming all things into life and touching all things into beauty.  (Does this

describe my teaching for the last 47 years?  We are encouraged to speak

“the truth in love” [Ephesians 4:15] and “the servant of the Lord must not

strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient”[II Timothy 2:24] –

CY – 2018)

 

 

 

Love and Language (v. 1)

 

It would seem that, of all gifts, the gift of speech, and especially that

variety of it known as the gift of tongues, was most prized by the

Christians of Corinth. Probably for this reason the apostle puts this in the

forefront, when he compares other possessions and virtues with the grace

of love.

 

  • IN WHAT THE SUPERIORITY OF LOVE OVER SPEECH

CONSISTS.

 

In the fact that the gift of tongues draws attention to the possessor

himself, whilst charity goes forth from him who cultivates it to others. The

gift in question was one splendid and dazzling. Whether it consisted in a

power to speak intelligibly in foreign languages, or in the pouring forth of

sounds — articulate, indeed, but not corresponding with any language

known to the auditors — in either case it was a brilliant faculty, drawing all

eyes to the speaker and all ears to his voice. On the other hand, the

affectionate ministrant to the wants of his poor or afflicted neighbors

would usually go his way unnoticed and unadmired. It is better that a man

should be drawn out, as it were, from himself, than that his attention

should be, because the attention of others is, concentrated upon himself.

 

  • In the fact that the grace of love is far more serviceable to the Church

and to the world than the gift of tongues. There was a purpose subserved

by this gift — it impressed carnal listeners, it was a proof to the Church

itself of a special Divine presence. But love led men and women to

sympathize with one another, to minister to the wants of the needy, to raise

the fallen, to strengthen the weak, to nurse the sick, to comfort the

bereaved, to rear the orphan. Thus its fruits vindicated its supremacy.

 

  • In the fact that the Lord Jesus loved, but never spake with tongues.

 

  • In the fact that the gift of tongues is but for a season, whilst LOVE is

INDESTRUCTABLE and ETERNAL!

 

  • BY WHAT COMPARISON THE SUPERIORITY OF LOVE IS

ILLUSTRATED. The gift without the grace is likened to the sounding of

brass, to the clashing of a cymbal of bronze. There is noise, but it is vex et

proeterea nihil  (voice and nothing more : sound without substance);

there is no melody and no meaning. On the other hand,

love is like a strain of exquisite music vibrating from the strings, warbling

from a flute, or pealing from the pipes of an organ; or, better still, it is like

the clear bell-like voice of a boy in some cathedral choir, rendering an

immortal passage of sacred poetry to an air sounding like an echo from the

minstrelsy of Paradise. The former arrests attention; the gong when struck

produces a shock; but the latter sweetly satisfies the soul, then soothing

and refreshing the spirit’s longings for a heaven-born strain, and leaving

behind the precious memory of a melting cadence.

 

 2 “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries,

and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove

mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”  And though I have the

gift of prophecy.  The power of lofty utterance belonged to Balaam and

Caiaphas; yet it availed them nothing without love. “Lord, Lord,”

exclaim the troubled souls at the left hand, “have we not prophesied in thy

Name?” Yet He answers them, “I never knew you.”  (Matthew 7:22-23)  And

understand all mysteries.  Though I can speak of the secrets of God once hidden

but now revealed (Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:25-26; ch. 2:7; Ephesians 3:3).  

And all knowledge.  Insight into the deeper meanings of Scripture.  And though I

have all faith.  Not here meaning “justifying faith,” or “saving faith,” which can no

more exist without showing itself in works than light can exist without heat; but

fides miraculosa, reliance on the power to work wonders. Judas, for instance,

must have possessed this kind of faith, and it was exercised by “many” who will

yet be rejected because they also work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).  So that I could

remove mountains. It has been supposed that this must be a reference to Matthew

17:20; 21:21. It is, however, much more probable that, if Paul derived the words

from our Lord, they came to him by oral tradition.  And the inference must in any

case be precarious, for the phrase was so common among the rabbis that “remover

of mountains” was one of their admiring titles for a great teacher.  I am nothing.

No expression could involve a more forcible rebuke to intellectual and spiritual pride.

 

 

Love and Knowledge (v. 2)

 

Different gifts have attractions for different minds. To the Corinthians the

charisms of language seem to have had an especial charm and value. It

might be supposed that those possessions here mentioned — prophecy,

unravelling of mysteries, and knowledge, especially of spiritual things —

would have a deeper interest for such a one as Paul. And that he did prize

these is not to be questioned. Yet such was his appreciation of love, that in

this eulogium of it he sets it above those half intellectual, half spiritual gifts.

 

  • THESE GIFTS ARE IN THEMSELVES VALUABLE. There is

nothing here said to disparage the gifts. On the contrary, they are

introduced in a way which witnesses to their excellence. Prophecy is the

speaking forth of the mind of God — a function the most honorable the

mind can conceive. To understand and reveal mysteries would universally

be acknowledged to be a high distinction. Knowledge ranks high in

connection with a religion which addresses man’s intelligence. All these

are, so to speak, aspects of religion peculiarly congenial to a thoughtful

Christian, and peculiarly advantageous to a Christian community.

 

  • BUT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THESE GIFTS MAY BE OF NO

VALUE TO THE POSSESSOR. That is, in case they be unaccompanied

by love. The purely intellectual character is the unlovely character. The

man may be the vehicle of truth, and yet the truth may pass through him

without affecting his character, his spiritual position. Who does not know

such men — men of Biblical scholarship, sound theology, great teaching

power, yet loveless, and because loveless unlovely? To themselves they

may be great men, and in the view of the Church; but in reality, and before

God, they are nothing!

 

  • IT IS LOVE WHICH MAKES THESE GIFTS VALUABLE TO

THEIR POSSESSOR. How needful love is to impart a spiritual flavor

and quality to these great endowments, is clear enough, i.e. to every

enlightened mind.

 

Ø      Love infuses the spirit in which they are to be used. How differently the

man of intellect or of learning uses his powers when his soul is pervaded by

the spirit of brotherly love, every observer must have noticed. “Let all your

things be done in charity” is an admonition appropriate to all, but especially

so to the man of genius or of ability.

 

Ø      Love controls the purpose to which they are to be applied. Not for self

exaltation, not for the advancement of a great cause, but for the general

welfare, will love inspire the great to consecrate their talents, according to

the mind and method of THE GREAT MASTER HIMSELF!

 

3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I

give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. The five words, “bestow to

feed the poor,” represent the one Greek word ψωμίον,pso-mee’-on; diminutive

from a derivative of the base of  (ψώχω - psocho -  a crumb or morsel (as if rubbed

off), i.e. a mouthful:  a sop.  ψώμιζω -  psomizo; from the base of (ψωμίον); to supply

with bits, i.e. (genitive) to nourish: — (bestow to) feed and after all do not give its

force.  It is derived from ψωμίον, a mouthful, and so means “give away by mouthfuls,”

i.e. dole away.” It occurs in Romans 12:20 for “feed.” Attention to this verse might

have served as a warning against the often useless and sometimes even pernicious

doles of mediaeval monasteries. Much of the “charity” of these days is even more

uncharitable than this, and shows the most complete absence of true charity; as for

instance the dropping of pennies to professional beggars, and so putting a premium

on vice and imposture.  The reading is extremely uncertain. The change of a letter

gives the reading, (καυχήσωμαιkauchaesomai - that I may glory for καυθήσωμαι

kauthaesomai - give my body to be burned -  [the actual word] – CY – 2010) .

Perhaps the scribes thought that “death by burning” was as yet (A.D. 57) an unheard

of form of martyrdom, though it became but too familiar ten or twelve years later in

the Nero’s persecution. Paul was, however, probably referring, not, as some have

supposed, to branding, which would bare been expressed differently, but to the case

of the “three children,” in Daniel 3:23, where the Septuagint has, “They gave their

bodies into the fire;” At the burning of Ridley and Latimer, Dr. Smith chose this

verse for his text. Its applicability is on a par with millions of other instances in

which Scripture has been grossly abused by employing its letter to murder

its spirit, and by taking it from the God of love to give it to the devil of religious

hatred. The burning of a saint was a singular specimen of the Church’s “love.”

And have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Literally, I am nothing benefited.

A consideration of this verse might have shown the Christians of the early centuries

that there was nothing intrinsically redemptive in the martyrdom into which they

often thrust themselves.

 

Apart from God, the greatest thing in the universe is mind. All material systems would

lack completeness and meaning were there no mind to observe, study, and worship the

great Invisible.  The greatest thing in mind is love. Here the apostle teaches that

whatever a human intelligence may be, if it is destitute of love it is nothing. What is this love

without which humanity is nothing? It is not the gregarious sentiment which links

us to and gives us an interest in our species. This is an instinct common to animal existence.

We regard this element as a blessing, not a virtue. Nor is it theological love - the affection

which one has for his own faith and sect, but which will look coldly and hardly on all

besides. This is a demon working under the mask of an angel. It reduces

the gospel to a dogma and man to a bigot. Nor is it sacerdotal love — the love which

speaks from ecclesiastical chairs, consecrated altars and seats of political power, but

whispers no accents of sympathy for the physical and social woes of the race. We call

this priestly selfishness: not manly love. What, then, is love? We may describe it — for

we cannot define it as a generous moral sympathy for the race springing from

love to the Creator. This is, in fact, the love that only can confer real worth on humanity.

We observe:

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to NATURE.

            We say spiritually; for we assume, of course, that the spiritual is the man.

            Whatever does not minister to this, does not minister to him. Nature has

            three kinds of pleasure to, impart — the sensuous, the intellectual, and

            spiritual. The last is the highest in the scale, and arises from a warm and

            living sympathy with the being, character, and purpose of the Creator of

            all. It is nature looked at through the heart, through the self. It is not

            sensation, but inspiration; not philosophy, hut poetry; not the letter of a

            science, but the spirit of life. These are the highest joys of nature and the

            only real joys for man as man. To impart these is nature’s highest function.

            But are they not confined entirely to the children of love? As nature would

            be nothing to the body of a man were his senses sealed up, and nothing to

            the intellect of a man whose reflective faculty was paralyzed, so it is

            nothing to the soul of a man who has not a loving heart. To the sensual

            nature is gratification, to the thinker it is theory, to the loving it is heaven.

            True it is, then, that without love “I am nothing” in relation to the spiritual

            enjoyment of nature.

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the

            PROVIDENCE THAT IS OVER US. If I have not love, I am nothing to

            providence. It ministers no real good to me as a spiritual existent — as a

            man. As the mortally diseased must say, “I am nothing to the health giving

            economy of nature,” so the unloving may truly say, “I am nothing in

            relation to the spiritual blessings of providence.” But love in the heart

            makes providence a minister for good, and for good only. Like the bee, it

            transmutes the bitterest fruit into honey. “All things work together for good.”

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to

            CHRISTIANITY. Love alone can interpret love. Christianity is a

            revelation of love, and none but the loving can rise to its meaning.

            Theology is one thing, Christianity is another, the one is a “letter,” the

            other is a “spirit.” Love is the single eye of the soul, and it fills the whole

            body with the light of life. Still more that which renders us incapable of

            entering into its meaning unfits at the same time from applying its

            provisions. It is a system of great and precious promises. But of all the

            sons of the earth is there one who, uninspired with love, dare apply a single

            promise? They are for the children of love, and them only. Without love,

            then, I am nothing in relation to Christianity.

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the

            COMMUNITY OF THE GOOD. There is a great social system in the

            universe — a city, a Church, a family. There are myriads of beings who

            mingle together as citizens, fellow members of one Church, a family.

            Wherever they exist they have the same bond of union, the same condition

            of friendship, the same principle of inspiration, and the same standard of

            worth. What is that? In the great community of the good love is

            everything. “If I have not love, I am nothing to this community. Thou art

            learned, but though thou shouldst speak with the tongues of men and of

            angels, and have not charity, thou art as sounding brass or a tinkling

            cymbal.” Thou art gifted; prophetic genius is thine; thou art conversant

            with the arcana of science: thou hast faith too, orthodox, vigorous, and

            earnest; but though thou hast the “gift of prophecy” and understandest “all

            mysteries and all knowledge,” and though “thou hast all faith, so that thou

            couldst remove mountains, and hast not love, thou art nothing.” Thou art

            liberal; but “though thou bestowest all thy goods to feed the poor, and

            though thou givest thy body to be burned, and hast not charity, it profiteth

            thee nothing.”

 

 

 

Man-worth (vs. 2-3)

 

“Though I have the gift of prophecy,” etc.

 

1. The greatest thing in the universe is the mind. All material systems would

lack completeness and meaning were there no mind to observe, study, and

worship the great Invisible.

 

2. The greatest thing in mind is LOVE. Here the apostle teaches that

whatever a human intelligence may be, if it is destitute of love it is nothing.

What is this love without which humanity is nothing? It is not the

gregarious sentiment which links us to and gives us an interest in our

species. This is an instinct common to animal existence. We regard this

element as a blessing, not a virtue. Nor is it theological love — the

affection which one has for his own faith and sect, but which will look

coldly and hardly on all besides. This is a demon working under the mask

of an angel. It reduces the gospel to a dogma and man to a bigot. Nor is it

sacerdotal love — the love which speaks from ecclesiastical chairs,

consecrated altars and seats of political power, but whispers no accents of

sympathy for the physical and social woes of the race. We call this priestly

selfishness: not manly love. What, then, is love? We may describe it — for

we cannot define it — as a generous moral sympathy for the race

springing from love to the Creator. This is, in fact, the love that only can

confer real worth on humanity. We observe:

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to NATURE.

We say spiritually; for we assume, of course, that the spiritual is the man.

Whatever does not minister to this, does not minister to him. Nature has

three kinds of pleasure to, impart: 

 

Ø      the sensuous,

Ø      the intellectual, and

Ø      the spiritual.

 

The last is the highest in the scale, and arises from a warm and

living sympathy with the being, character, and purpose of the Creator of

all. It is nature looked at through the heart, through the self. It is not

sensation, but inspiration; not philosophy, but poetry; not the letter of a

science, but the spirit of life. These are the highest joys of nature and the

only real joys for man as man. To impart these is nature’s highest function.

But are they not confined entirely to the children of love? As nature would

be nothing to the body of a man were his senses sealed up, and nothing to

the intellect of a man whose reflective faculty was paralyzed, so it is

nothing to the soul of a man who has not a loving heart.

 

Ø      To the sensual nature is gratification,

Ø      to the thinker it is theory,

Ø      to the loving it is heaven.

 

True it is, then, that without love “I am nothing” in relation to the spiritual

enjoyment of nature.

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the

PROVIDENCE THAT IS OVER US. If I have not love, I am nothing to

providence. It ministers no real good to me as a spiritual existent — as a

man. As the mortally diseased must say, “I am nothing to the health giving

economy of nature,” so the unloving may truly say, “I am nothing in

relation to the spiritual blessings of providence.” But love in the heart

makes providence a minister for good, and for good only. Like the bee, it

transmutes the bitterest fruit into honey. “All things work together for

good.”  (Romans 8:28)

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to

CHRISTIANITY. Love alone can interpret love. Christianity is a

revelation of love, and none but the loving can rise to its meaning.

Theology is one thing, Christianity is another, the one is a “letter,” the

other is a “spirit.” Love is the single eye of the soul, and it fills the whole

body with the light of life. Still more that which renders us incapable of

entering into its meaning unfits at the same time from applying its

provisions. It is a system of great and precious promises. But of all the

sons of the earth is there one who, uninspired with love, dare apply a single

promise? They are for the children of love, and them only. Without love,

then, I am nothing in relation to Christianity.

 

  • That man without this love is nothing spiritually in relation to the

COMMUNITY OF THE GOOD. There is a great social system in the

universe — a city, a Church, a family. There are myriads of beings who

mingle together as citizens, fellow members of one Church, a family.

Wherever they exist they have the same bond of union, the same condition

of friendship, the same principle of inspiration, and the same standard of

worth. What is that? In the great community of the good love is

everything. “If I have not love, I am nothing to this community. Thou art

learned, but though thou shouldst speak with the tongues of men and of

angels, and have not charity, thou art as sounding brass or a tinkling

cymbal.” Thou art gifted; prophetic genius is thine; thou art conversant

with the secrets of science: thou hast faith too, orthodox, vigorous, and

earnest; but though thou hast the “gift of prophecy” and understandest “all

mysteries and all knowledge, “and though “thou hast all faith, so that thou

couldst remove mountains, and hast not love, thou art nothing.” Thou art

liberal; but “though thou bestowest all thy goods to feed the poor, and

though thou givest thy body to be burned, and hast not charity, it profiteth

thee nothing.” (Extracted from Homilist, vol. 8. p. 433.)

 

 

Love and Almsgiving (v. 3)

 

Of all the comparisons between love and other qualities, gifts, or practices,

this is the one which sounds most strange to our ears. For in our minds

charity and almsgiving are so closely associated that it scarcely seems

possible that they should be placed in contrast one with the other. Yet so it

is; and every observer of human nature and society can recognize both the

insight and the foresight of the apostle in this striking, almost startling

comparison.

 

  • ALMSGIVING MAY ORIGINATE IN INFERIOR AND

UNWORTHY MOTIVES. The apostle supposes an extreme case, viz. that

one should give away all his substance in doles to the poor; and he gives

his judgment that such a course of action may be loveless, and, if loveless,

then worthless. For it may proceed from:

 

Ø      Ostentation. That this is the explanation of many of the handsome and

even munificent gifts of the wealthy, we are obliged to believe. A rich man

sometimes likes his name to figure in a subscription list for an amount

which no man of moderate means can afford. The publication of such a gift

gratifies his vanity and self importance. His name may figure side by side

with that of a well known millionaire.

 

Ø      Custom. A commentator has illustrated this passage by reference to the

crowds of beggars who gather in the court of a great bishop’s palace in

Spain or Sicily, to each of whom a coin is given, in so-called charity. Such

pernicious and indiscriminate almsgiving is expected of those in a high

position in the Church, and they give from custom. The same principle

explains probably much of our charitable bestowment.

 

Ø      Love of power. As in the feudal days a great lord had his retinue and his

retainers, multitudes depending upon his bounty, so there can be no

question that individuals and Churches often give generously for the sake

of the hold they thus gain upon the dependent, who become in turn in many

ways their adherents and supporters.

 

  • ALMSGIVING MAY IN SOME CASES BE INJURIOUS. In fact, it

often is so.

 

Ø      To the recipient. The wretch who lives in idleness on rich men’s doles is

degraded in the process, and becomes lost to all self respect, and

habituated to an ignominious and base contentedness with his position.

 

Ø      To society generally. When it is known that the man who begs is as well

supported as the man who works, how can it be otherwise than that

demoralization should ensue? The system of indiscriminate almsgiving is a

wrong to the industrious poor.

 

Ø      To the giver. For such gifts as are supposed, instead of calling forth the

finer qualities of the nature, awaken in the breast of the bestower a cynical

contempt of mankind.

 

  • NEVERTHELESS, TRUE CHARITY MAY EXPRESS ITSELF IN

GIFTS. The man who doles away his substance in almsgiving, and has all

the while no charity, is nothing; but if there be love, that love sanctifieth

both the giver and the gift. For he who loves and gives resembles that

Divine Being whose heart is ever filled with love, whose hands are ever

filled with gifts.

 

 

                                    The Attributes of Love  (vs. 4-7)

 

4 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity

vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,”  Charity suffereth long, and is kind.

 Passively it endures; actively it does good. It endures evils; it confers blessings.

Envieth not.   Its negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy

“one shape of many names” — includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye,

etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations.  (I read somewhere that

“envy shoots at others but wounds herself” – CY – 2010)   Vaunteth not itself.

The meaning would probably be most nearly expressed by the colloquialism,

does not show off.   It does not, for instance, “do its alms before men to be seen

of them” (Matthew 6:1).  The Latin perperus, which is from the same root as this

word, means “a braggart,” or “swaggerer.” Cicero, speaking of a grand oratorical

display of his own before Pompey, says toAtticus, “Good heavens! how I showed

myself off  (ἐνεπερπερευσάμηνevenperpereusamaen) before my new hearer,

Pompeius!” (‘Ad. Art.,’ 1:14).  Is not puffed up.  Has no purse-proud or

inflated arrogance.” Love, therefore, is free from the characteristic vice of

the Corinthian Church (ch. 4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1).

 

5 “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily

provoked, thinketh no evil;”  Doth not behave itself unseemly.  (see chps.12:23;

14:40). Vulgar indecorum is alien from love, as having its root in selfishness and

want of sympathy. “Noble manners” are ever the fruit of “noble minds.” “Be

 courteous” (I Peter 3:8).  Seeketh not her own.” Self seeking is the root of all evil

(ch.10:24,33; Philippians 2:4; Romans 15:1-2)  Is not easily provoked.  (παροξύνεται

paroxunetai -  is being incensed).  The word “easily” is here a gloss.  παροξυσμός

paroxusmoscontention -  whence our “paroxysm”) is used of the sharp contention

between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Love, when it is perfected, rises superior

to all temptations to growing exasperated, although it may often be justly indignant.

But, as St. Chrysostom says, “As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea,

but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished

without disquietude.”  Thinketh no evil.   Literally, doth not reckon (or, impute) the

evil. The phrase seems to be a very comprehensive one, implying that love is neither

suspicious, nor implacable, nor retentive in her memory of evil done. Love writes

our personal wrongs in ashes or in water.

 

 

Love and Self Immolation (vs. 4-5)

 

It would seem that Paul had some anticipation of the approaching

developments of Christian society. There is no ground for believing that, at

the time when he wrote, any member of the Church of Christ had suffered

at the stake for fidelity to principle and to faith. Such martyrdoms had

occurred in Palestine, when the enemies of Jehovah had been triumphant

and had wreaked their vengeance upon the faithful Jews. And even before

Paul’s decease, in Rome itself, Christians came to be the victims of the

infamous Nero’s brutality, and perished in the flames. Stronger language

could not be used to set forth the superiority of love to zeal, fidelity, and

devotion than this of Paul: “Though I give my body to be burned, and

have not love, it profiteth me nothing!”

 

  • THE READINESS TO DIE, AT THE STAKE OR OTHERWISE, FOR

CHRIST’S SAKE, IS GOOD. As the three Hebrew children were content

to be cast into the burning, fiery furnace, as the faithful Jews died at the

stake under the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, as Polycarp at over

four score years of age gave his body to be burned, as the holy Perpetua

suffered this martyrdom with willing mind, as in our own country at the

Reformation many suffered in the fires of Oxford and Smithfield, so have

multitudes counted their lives as not dear to them for the blessed Saviour’s

sake. It cannot but be that such sacrifice of self, such holy martyrdom, ever

has been and is acceptable to Christ, who gave Himself for us. For He

Himself has said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’

sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:10)

 

  • THE ABSENCE OF LOVE TAKES AWAY EVEN FROM THE

VIRTUE OF MARTYRDOM. There is a story of a Christian of Antioch

who, on his way to martyrdom, refused to forgive and be reconciled to a

brother Christian. Such a case is an exact example of the zeal without love

which the apostle here pronounces worthless. If Christian charity be absent

where zeal is present, there seems reason to fear that the motives which

induce to self immolation are pride, self glorification, and an inflexible

obstinacy. If there be not love to Christ’s people, there is no real love to

Christ: “He that loveth God loves his brother also.” It is strange to think

that self delusion may go so far that men may suffer martyrdom without

being truly Christ’s. Yet so it is. And we may be reminded, from the

possibility of this extreme case, how readily men deceive themselves and

suppose that they are influenced by truly religious and distinctly Christian

motives, when all the while SELF is the pivot upon which their whole

conduct revolves. And it may be suggested to us how inexpressibly

essential, in the judgment of our Lord and His Spirit, is that grace of love,

the absence of which cannot be atoned for even by a passage through the

fiery flames of martyrdom.

 

 

 

Love and Our Fellow Men (vs. 4-5)

 

In this tribute of charity, we find:

 

(1) in vs. 1-3, a statement concerning the indispensableness of charity to

the Christian character,

 

(2) in vers. 3-7, a list of the fruits of charity; and

 

(3) in the remainder of the chapter, a declaration of the eternity of charity.

 

The second and third of these divisions contain a very pictorial

personification of this delightful grace; the lovely features and beaming

smile of charity shine upon us, and win our hearts. Several of these clauses

exhibit the effects of the indwelling of Christian love upon the intercourse

of social life.

 

  • LOVE IS LONG SUFFERING AS OPPOSED TO IMPATIENCE.

There is no possibility of mixing with human society without encountering

many occasions of irritation. Human nature is such that conflicts of

disposition and of habits will and must occur. It is so in the family, in civil

life, and even in the Church. Hence impatience and irritability are among

the most common of infirmities. And there is no more sure sign of a

disciplined and morally cultured mind than a habit of forbearance,

tolerance, and patience. But Christianity supplies a motive and power of

long suffering which can act in the case of persons of every variety of

temperament and of every position of life. “Love suffereth long.”

 

  • LOVE IS GRACIOUS AND KIND AS OPPOSED TO MALICE

AND ILL WILL. There is no disposition known to human nature which is

a more awful proof of the enormity of sin than malevolence. And the

religion of the Lord Christ in nothing more signally proves its divinity than

in its power to expel this demoniacal spirit from the breast of humanity. In

fact, benevolence is the admitted “note” of this religion. The sterner

virtues, as fortitude and justice, were admired and practiced among the

heathen, and celebrated by the moralists of antiquity. These and others

were assumed by Christianity, which added to them the softer grace of love

    love which justifies itself in deeds of benignity and loving kindness.

“.....thy loving-kindness is better than life...”  (Psalm 63:3)

 

  • LOVE IS OPPOSED TO ENVY AND JEALOUSY. These are vices

which arise from discontent with one’s own condition as compared with

that of others, and are justly deemed among the meanest and basest of

which man is capable. Christianity proves its power of spiritual

transformation by suppressing, and indeed in many cases by extirpating,

these evil passions from the heart, and by teaching and enabling men to

rejoice in their neighbors’ prosperity.

 

  • LOVE, AS OPPOSED TO ANGER, IS NOT PROVOKED WITH

THE CONDUCT OF OTHERS. This must not be pressed too far, as

though anger in itself were an evil, as though there were no such thing as

righteous indignation. Christ Himself was angry with hypocrites and

deceivers; His indignation and wrath were aroused again and again. But the

moral distinction lies here: to be provoked with those who injure us or pass

a slight upon our dignity and self importance, is unchristian, but it is not so

to cherish indignation with the conduct of God’s willful enemies.  (see

Psalm 139:19-22)

 

  • LOVE KEEPS NO ACCOUNT OF EVIL RENDERED. This trait in

the character of the Christian is very beautiful. It is customary with sinful

men to cherish the memory of wrongs done to them, against a day of

retribution. Love wipes out the record of wrong doing from the memory,

and knows nothing of vindictiveness or ill will.

 

 

 

Love and Self Abnegation (vs. 4-5)

 

Where there is sincere Christian love, that grace will not only affect for

good the interaction of human society, it will exercise a most powerful and

beneficial influence over the nature of which it takes possession; changing:

 

Ø      pride into humility, and

Ø      selfishness into self denial.

 

And this is not to be wondered at by him who considers that for the Christian the

spiritual center of gravity is changed — it is no longer self, BUT CHRIST!

 

  • LOVE DESTROYS BOASTFULNESS. It vaunteth not itself.” In

some characters more than in others there is observable a disposition

towards display. There may be real ability, and yet there may be the vanity

which obtrudes the proofs of that ability; or there may, on the other hand,

be an absence of ability, and yet the fool may not be able to conceal his

folly, but must needs make himself the laughing stock of all. Love delights

not in the display of real power or the assumption of what does not exist.

How can it? When love seeks the good of others, how can it seek their

admiration?

 

  • LOVE IS OPPOSED TO PRIDE. It “is not puffed up.” The expression

is a strong one; it has been rendered, “does not swell and swagger,” “is not

inflated with vanity.” The explanation of this is clear enough. The

pretentious and arrogant man has a mind full of himself, of thoughts of his

own greatness and importance, Now, love is the out-flowing of the heart’s

affection in kindliness and benevolence towards others. He who is always

thinking of the welfare of his fellow men has no time and no inclination for

thoughts of self exaltation, aggrandizement, and ambition. It is plain, then,

how wholesome, purifying, and sweetening an influence Christianity

introduces into human society; and how much it tends to the happiness of

individuals, cooling the fever of restless rivalry and ambition.

 

  • LOVE IS INCONSISTENT WITH ALL UNSEEMLINESS OF

DEPORTMENT. There is an indefiniteness about the language: “Doth not

behave itself unseemly.” Possibly there is a special reference to the

discreditable scenes which were to be witnessed in the Corinthian

congregation, in consequence of their party spirit, rivalry, and discord. But

there is always in every community room for the inculcation of

considerateness, courtesy, self restraint, and dignity. And the apostle points

out, with evident justice, that what NO RULES OR CUSTOM CAN

PRODUCE IS THE SPONTANEOUS AND NATURAL RESULT OF

THE OPERATION OF CHRISTIAN LOVE!

 

  • LOVE IS, IN A WORD, UNSELFISH; i.e. seeketh not her own.”

Here is the broadest basis of the new life of humanity. Love gives, and

does not grasp; has an eye for others’ wants and sorrows, but turns not her

glance towards herself; moves among men with gracious mien (look or

manner) and open hands.  (see how God does it:  Psalms 104:28; 145:16)

 

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

Rejoiceth not in iniquity;- rather, at unrighteousness. The rejoicing at sin, the

taking pleasure in them that commit sin, the exultation over the fall of others

into sin, are among the worst forms of malignity (Romans 1:32; II Thessalonians

2:12). The Greeks had a word, ἐπιχαιρεκακίαepicxhairekakia - , to describe

rejoicing at the evil” (whether sin or misfortune) of others - (Proverbs 24:17 says

“Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when

he stumbleth); Schadenfreude, “malignant joy” (Arist., ‘Eth.,’ 2:7, 15). It is the

detestable feeling indicated by the remark of La Rochefoucald, “that there is

something not altogether disagreeable to us in the misfortunes of our best friends.”

Rejoiceth in the truth; rather, with the truth. There are many who “resist the truth”

(II Timothy 3:8); or who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18);

but love accepts it, keeps it pure, exults in all its triumphs (Acts 11:23; II John 1:4).

 

 

 

The Joy of Love (v. 6)

 

There is, perhaps, no test of character more decisive than this: in what is

the chief pleasure of life placed? Where is satisfaction of the soul? Whence

does joy proceed? If Christianity is indeed a revolutionary religion, it will

effect a change here — in this vital respect. Even in Paul’s time, it

appeared that with Christianity a new force — the force of love — had

been introduced into humanity, a force able to direct human delight into

another and purer and nobler channel than that in which it had been wont

to flow.

 

  • JOY NO LONGER FLOWS FROM THE PRESENCE AND

PREVALENCE OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. It seems to attribute a

fiendish spirit to human beings to suppose that they can anywhere and at

any time be found to rejoice in wrong doing and unrighteousness. Yet it is,

alas! possible for sinful men to take a malignant pleasure in the prevalence

of sin; for it is the proof of the power of the moral forces with which they

have allied themselves, of the victory of their own party. The iniquity of

others serves to support and justify their own iniquity. And it must be

borne in mind that there are cases in which designing men profit by deeds

of unrighteousness, take the very wages of iniquity. (Of which is death –

Romans 6:23 – CY – 2018)  Against such dispositions Christian love must

needs set itself; for when iniquities prevail, happiness and hope take wings

and fly away.

 

  • JOY FLOWS TO THE CHRISTIAN HEART FROM THE

PROGRESS OF TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. Truth is the

intellectual side of righteousness, and righteousness the moral side of truth.

There is, accordingly, a real antithesis between the two clauses of the text.

 

Ø      This joy is akin to the joy of God. The Father rejoices over the repenting

and recovered child, the Shepherd over the restored, once wandering,

sheep. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner

that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)  And they who themselves are enjoying peace

and fellowship with a reconciled God cannot but participate in the satisfaction

with which that holy Being views the progress of truth and religion among

men.

 

Ø      It is sympathetic with the gladness of the Saviour in the accomplishment

of His gracious purposes. As Christ sees of the travail of His soul, He is

satisfied; for the joy set before Him, i.e. in the salvation of men, He endured

the cross. And all who owe salvation to what Jesus did and suffered for

man must needs experience a thrill of gratification when a rebel is changed

into a subject by BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

 

Ø      It springs from the triumph of that cause which of all on earth is the

greatest and most glorious. Every noble soul finds satisfaction in

witnessing the advance of truth from the dim dawn towards the full

meridian day for which he, in common with all God’s people in every age,

is ever toiling, hoping, and praying.

 

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

all things.”  Beareth all things (see ch. 9:12). Endures wrongs and evils, and covers

them with a beautiful reticence. Thus love “covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12;

I Peter 4:8).  Believeth all things.  Takes the best and kindest views of all men and all

circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so. It is the opposite to the common spirit,

which drags everything in deteriorem partem, paints it in the darkest colors, and makes

the worst of it. Love is entirely alien from the spirit of:

 

  • the cynic,
  • the pessimist,
  • the ecclesiastical rival,
  • the anonymous slanderer, and
  • the secret detractor. 

 

Hopeth all things.  Christians seem to have lost sight altogether of the truth that hope

is something more than the result of a sanguine temperament, that it is a gift and a

grace. Hope is averse to sourness and gloom. It takes sunny and cheerful views of

man, of the world, and of God, because it is a sister of love.  Endureth all things.

Whether the “seventy times seven” offences of a brother (Luke 17:4), or the wrongs

of patient merit (II Timothy 2:24), or the sufferings and self-denials and persecutions

of the life spent in doing good (II Timothy 2:10). The reader need hardly be reminded

that in these verses he has a picture of the life and character of Christ.

 

 

 

The Nature and Operation of Love (vs. 4-7)

 

The negative view having been presented, the apostle considers the mature

and operations of this love, And one characteristic of it, he puts in the

foreground of its excellences. It can suffer. A virtue that cannot suffer is

hardly a virtue at all. Certainly it is not a virtue that can lay the least claim

to divineness. Wedded love, parental love, philanthropic and patriotic love,

have to undergo a discipline of pain and sorrow even to symbolize the

higher affection of Divine love. This holy love, of which this chapter is so

laudatory, derives its very essence from the “Man of sorrows.” Short of

realizing, in its measure, the agony in the lonely garden and the yet lonelier

cross, it dare not, it cannot stop, since only there is its test found. A

beautiful aestheticism, moral, perchance semi-spiritual, may follow the

lowly Jesus of Nazareth through the windings of His Galilean and Judaean

journeys, cling reverently to His person, spread the palm branches in His

pathway, and shout its glad hosannas to His Name, and, after all, “forsake

Him and flee” may be the final record of its weakness. Only when He rises

to the sacrificial height of His anointing as the Christ of God’s Law and the

Christ of God’s love, and bears our sins in His own body on the tree —

only here, where Jehovah “lets the lifted thunder drop,” can the human soul

be reconciled first to its own disciplinary sufferings, and learn afterwards,

by many conflicts with self, to glory in the cross. But love not only suffers,

it “suffereth long.” It is patient — patient towards others, and, what is

quite as important, patient with itself. And under all its sufferings, instead

of being irritable, it is kind. Unsanctified suffering is usually morbid. It

broods over its ills; it magnifies its afflictions; often, indeed, it makes us

misanthropic. Sweetness of temper and tender outgoings of sympathy are

not the common results of painful experiences, but the fruits of the Holy

Spirit in them. Fortitude may be shown, and it may be naught but homage

at THE SHRINE OF SELF!  This love is of God. It takes to its heart God’s

thought of suffering as chastening, as correction, as the supreme moral necessity

of a probationary life, through which we must pass to get any deep

knowledge of ourselves. For it is never pleasure, but pain, that holds the

key to the secret chambers, where the latent man awaits the voice of God

bidding him arise and gird himself with immortal strength. Now, what

effect on this love would ensue from suffering that had become habitual

and wrought patience and silent enduringness into character? By

suppressing a morbid regard for self and quickening the sympathies that

give width to the inner life, what would be the specific result on the

relations sustained to others? These Corinthians, as we have frequently

noticed, were pulling down one and putting up another, were

thoroughgoing partisans, were censorious and depreciatory towards those

with whom they were disinclined to affiliate. What change for the better

would love bring about? Paul answers, Love envieth not.” Observe

how quickly he turns again to the negative aspects of this “supremely

excellent way,” and what vigor is imparted to the argument. At every

step, contrast aids him by suggesting what love excludes, while its true

qualities are set in bolder relief. Envy is pain at the sight of superior

excellence in another, and is always a mark of blinding selfishness.

According to one s temperament, it is displeasure or something worse, and

usually contains an element of hatred.

 

“Men, that make

Envy and crooked malice nourishment,

Dare bite the best.”

 

Of course it leads to strife. It is a fruitful cause of schism, and as schism

was a terrible evil in the apostle’s view, he could not fail to show its utter

inconsistency with this cardinal virtue. Along with this he says, Love

vaunteth not” — a similar idea to the foregoing as to its bad temper, but

unlike as to its mood of exhibition. Reference is here made to the foolish

display of self importance after the manner of a swaggerer or braggart.

Next comes the statement, “Is not puffed up,” not inflated or swollen by

self-conceit; this is followed by, “Doth not behave itself unseemlyis

not discourteous, but studies propriety of manner, and shows the instinct of

a right demeanour, from which all good breeding proceeds. The art of

behavior is manifold. It is amenable to circumstances and classes, variable

as to outward manifestations, suiting language and other demonstrations to

the claims of occasion, and, in all this, its root principle is the same if it be

truthful and sincere, since it loses sight of self and ministers to the

happiness of others. Christian manners are the offspring of a CHRISTIAN

MANNER,  the manners are external, the manner is internal; so that here, as in

all else, form is created by spirit. The tones of the voice, the look of the

eye, the muscular play of the countenance, are not physical facts only, but

expressions and languages that have modulation, accent, emphasis, DIRECT

FROM THE SOUL!   Thus attended, our words take on other, fuller, more

inspiriting meanings than those drawn from the dictionary; so that a man’s

face, figure, gesture, attitude, give a personal import to what emanates

from his heart. (i.e. Stephen – Acts 6:15)  If one compares the spiritual expression

in the face of a Madonna by Raphael with the mere sensuous beauty of the face as

depicted by antique art, he sees at once that Christianity has affected art to

such an extent as to modify the laws of representation. “Expression is the

vivid image of the passion that affects the mind; its language, and the

portrait of its situation” (Fuseli). It is not extravagant to claim that

Christianity has so far changed physiological expression as to spiritualize,

and thereby to heighten, its quality and force. But why limit the change to

art? The fact is that Christianity has had its effect — a very distinctive and

appreciable effect — on what may be termed the physiology of manner, in

the intercourse of society. We seldom think of it. We rarely number this

among the myriad advantages Christianity has brought to man. Yet the fact

is indisputable that Christianity has given to the human voice tones of

strength and tenderness never before known, and to the human eye a depth

of power, of stillness, of pathos, that, without its grace, had been

impossible. Nor can we doubt that this is one of the numerous ways it has

adopted to establish a closer relation between MIND and MATTER and

educate the body FOR THE GLORY OF THE RESURRECTION.   Passing

from decorum while yet retaining the general idea in his grasp, Panl now mentions

the unselfishness of love: Seeketh not her own.” If its deportment is never

obtrusive, but always becoming; if it never uses its gifts to remind others of

their inferiority, but orders its manners so as to avoid everything which

might tend to inflame envy; it goes still further, and manifests its

disinterestedness as the soul of the “supremely excellent way.” To pursue

its own honor and aggrandizement, as if it had a sole proprietary interest

in itself and could only exist by existing for its own reputation, influence,

happiness, is forestalled by its nature and operations. The “all things” are

not its, but “yours,” and “ye,” one and all, “are Christ’s.” So he had argued

in the third chapter. (ch. 3:21-23)  The echo of the great truth comes back again

and again, and once more it is heard in this verse. (v. 4)  What Paul has just said

of love as suffering long, and as kind, as not envying and vaunting, nor conceited

and indecorous (improper; not in good taste or propriety), are as so many stepping

stones to seeketh not its own.” Would it have anything in the universe for itself

alone? If so, the very thing itself, the universe itself, would be changed into another

thing and another universe, and be no more a joy and a blessedness, but a

restraint and an evil and a curse. Instead of a palace, a prison; instead of

sublime disinterestedness, sordidness and ceaseless descent in degradation;

instead of an ideal in Christ, the idea of virtues as bare commercial utilities,

and of the soul as a commodity valued by the market place. Have anything

alone? This were loneliness indeed. It were grievous, it were misery, to be

isolated even by goodness and greatness from the heart of humanity. It is

painful to a true man to be reminded of his superiority at the expense of

others, and whenever one welcomes this sort of homage and glorifies

himself, he loses truth of manhood. To thank God that we are “not as other

men are” is sheer Pharisaism, and all such thanksgiving is worship of self.

Love has not a wish, a desire, an aim, an aspiration, bounded by the limits

of itself; and as Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father,

art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21), so is the

prayer of the soul in all its greatest moments, and when the cross is nearest by,

that it may be one with others, as it longs to be one with Christ and the Father.

Every inch that a majestic oak goes upward or spreads laterally, down go

its roots; further and wider they spread themselves out, tree above and tree

below, preserving, each in its way, proportion and symmetry. And so with

love. Reaching that high development indicated by capacity to suffer and

yet be kind, by victory over envy and ostentation, and the transformation of

daily manners into spiritual grace and beauty, it has so enlarged itself as to

afford ample room even for the most generous and magnanimous

emotions. It wants to be good and to be better, but where is the best? And

as the years move on and the soul grows, this thought comes to be

uppermost, “There is a better world;” and not alone in a better nature, and

as a better being, but in a better world, it looks for its perfection. A world

of love is its demand. The negative idea is still further unfolded in the

words, “Is not easily provoked,” or, “Is not provoked” (Revised Version).

Much of peevishness, of anger, of resentment, springs from wounding the

imaginary being whom we call by our name, fondle with our caresses, and

idolize in our vanity. THIS DEFORMED SELF though dressed in gaudy

drapery and lifted to an exalted pedestal, is but too conscious of its

blemishes and flaws, to be tolerant of criticism or amiable under exposure

of its imperfections. It is quick to take umbrage (offense or annoyance

apparently, our culture is full of umbrage, because so many are offended at

this or that, to WHERE SOCIETY IS IN TURMOIL BECAUSE IT HAS

NOT LOVE! – CY – 2018). It is full of suspicion and keenly alive to neglect,

real or supposed. A chronic ailment, this self conceit feels any fluctuation of

circumstances and is acutely sensitive to wind and weather. On the other hand,

love is not provoked; its temper is not quick, nor are its words hasty. How can

it be otherwise, when it thinketh no evil”? By GOVERNING ITS THOUGHTS,

it obtains that rare virtue of intellect which consists in no small degree of a mastery

over associations and suggestions, and that is probably the most signal triumph of

mind  over its physical connections. Imputeth not the evil” (Dr. Kling); “Taketh

not account of evil” (Revised Version); and whereas the “evil” is real and

palpable, IT REFUSES to bear it in mind, and, by fixing attention and keeping

it fixed on the wrong, to aggravate the impression. Here, as everywhere,

mark the unity in our constitution. One cannot have a sore finger, or

toothache, or painful limb, that the affection is not enhanced by directing

thought to it. The blood is inflamed the more, and the nervous

susceptibility augmented. So it is with the mind. Can we wonder, then, that

Paul’s insight detected the relation between thinking of injury orinjustice, and

THE MORAL EFFECT ON CHARACTER? And, finally, as to these

repeated negatives, love rejoiceth not in ininquity,” or, “in

unrighteousness,” but rejoiceth in [or, ‘with’] the truth.” It exults not at

the overthrow and prostration of others. The downfall of another, even if

that other made himself a rival, is no gratification. A human soul, a

redeemed spirit, sank in that fall, and LOVE cannot rejoice in such a calamity.

Rejoiceth in [or, ‘with’] the truth.” Love has been personified all along;

truth is here personified. Love approaches moral truth, offers its

congratulations, enters into its success, shares its joy. So, then, Paul

approaches the close of this paragraph by the beautiful picture of love and

truth side by side, and happy in the purity and glory of their fellowship.

(We are to speak the truth in love - Ephesians 4:15 - CY – 2018).   Looking

back on the course of the argument, we see love as a meek and

gentle sufferer, the traces of pain on its face, yet a sweet and holy

reconciliation to the pangs long borne. We see kindness imprinted on the

countenance. We discover no sign of envy, of pride and vanity, of

overweening self regard, and, wherever the figure moves, its grace and

charms are not blurred by unseemly demeanor. Most of all, its eye has an

outward look, as if offering its heart to the service of others. And while

unpleasant things occur, and wrongs are perpetrated, it is not made angry,

nor does it nurse malice and resentment, nor rejoice at the retributions that

overtake iniquity. Joy, indeed, it has, but its gladdest hours are those when

love clasps hands with TRUTH, and when seeketh not its own finds its highest

realization in FELLOWSHIP WITH THE TRUTH. But the positive side of love

must now be presented. It beareth all things,” that is, “hides to itself and to others”

(Bengel), conceals or covers up the infirmities of others, which envy, pride,

malice, would not only expose, but delight in the exposure. A virtue is most

glorious when it courts silence and prizes it as a beatitude. Unwitnessed

patience and heroism are grandest when the soul asks no recognition, but

abides with its consciousness alone in God. In his four statements in v. 7

this quiet bearing of the imperfections of other people is first mentioned.

And. with what expressiveness of diction! Beareth all things.” That

passive strength which bears life’s burden is no sudden, still less an early,

acquirement. It is a slow growth. Time, as a coworker with grace, has

much to do with its excellence. Years only can give it maturity and years

full of providence. Consider, too, what a co-education of the body is

implied here, what a subduing of recreant nerves, what a check on the

blood, what refusals to obey sensations, before one can learn the art of

silence as to the faults that annoy and often vex. If it is thus that Christian

character is rounded off, we cannot doubt that it is not attainable except

through a tedious and protracted experience. But does this bearing with the

faults of others comply with the requirements of social duty? Nay, says the

apostle, love believeth all things.” It searches for good qualities in men

who are disagreeable and even repulsive, and whatever its diligent scrutiny

can bring to light amid the mass of infirmities overlaying better traits, yields

it genuine pleasure. Color blindness is not confined to the physical eye.

Individuals who are sensitive to the faults of others, and habituated to

criticizing them, are generally more affected by nervous annoyance than by

conscience, and it commonly happens with such that they seldom look for

any redeeming goodness. To estimate the force of circumstances, to study

motives, to make charitable allowances, are alien to their tastes and

temper. (It is good often to give the other person the benefit of the doubt!

or something like that.  A quote by Charles Stanley that I saw on a

calendar in our bath room a couple of years back.  CY – 2018)  On the

contrary, the instinct of love is to believe that others are better, or, at least, may

be better, than they seem. So that while love is an heroic believer, it is also a

wise doubter, and gives the unhappy idiosyncrasies of men the benefit of its doubts.

(At times like this I feel encouragement, because the Spirit in others, I perceive

to be in myself, as I mention the quote from Dr. Stanley above, having no

idea what was coming in the next few lines to back it up!  CY – 2018)

Because of this, it hopeth all things.” Right believing is an expansive force

in the intellect. It is a quickener of imagination. It finds reasons for confidence

unknown to him who has the conceit of skepticism, and cherishes it for its

own sake, and prides himself on it as a sign of intellectual acumen. Faith acts

on the emotions. These two, imagination and sensibility, stimulate hope, that in

turn rises above the senses and comprehends, to some extent, the mighty

forces engaged on the side of goodness. The power of God in Christianity

makes its way slowly to the heart, while Satanic influence is demonstrative

to the eye. Hope is not left to itself, but is taught of Christ, who, in the

days of His flesh, looked beyond humiliation, criticism, verbal abuse, and death,

to the glory waiting to invest Him. So, then, we may say that large views and large

hopes go together, and the grace that “believeth all things” also hopeth all

things.” But is a great hope immediately gratified? Never; if it were it

would lose its greatness. Hope is a beautiful education, and it is this by

holding back its fulfillment and thereby expanding the soul’s capacity for

the fullest gratification. Hope must have time and opportunity to develop

the sense of enjoyability in us BEFORE IT BESTOWS THE REALITY!

(Over twenty years ago, coming back with family from Somerset at

Christmas, I heard over the radio that “Maturity is the ability to postpone

pleasure!”  Something dreadfully lacking at that time and now, in our

culture!  CY – 2018)  Each day of postponement goes onward to the day

of realization, which is thousands of days in one. But it educates us in other forms.

The delay of hope to meet our anticipations tests our strength and patience. Has the

hope a firm hold on our souls? If so, its possessor endureth all things.” Through

doubt and darkness, amidst adversity, despite opposing circumstances, love is

persistent, and its persistency is the measure of its power. When we reach

this ability to endure, waiting in serene patience, submissive to God’s will,

content with today for what it is in itself, anticipating a coming Joy, but

leaving its birth hour to Him who keeps the times and seasons for Himself,

— when we attain this point of experience, we are near the boundary of

earthly growth. Passive excellence, such as that pointed out by the word

endureth,” seems to be the final work of the Holy Ghost in the human

heart. Fitly, therefore, Paul finds the climax of expressions (v. 7) in

endureth all things.” True, beareth,” “believeth,” “hopeth,” are alike

related to “all things” with endureth,” and yet this is obviously the

consummation of the idea pervading the apostle’s mind. Fitly so, we have

said, since men are accustomed to regard endurance as the mark of the

highest power. It is a trained and balanced power. Body, soul, and spirit

are present in the fullness of its strength. There is no disquiet in those

sensibilities that are ever creating ripples on the surface of life. There is no

agitation in those great depths that once heaved under the fury of the

storm. Enduring love has entered into rest, and the repose is GOD-LIKE!

C. Lipscomb

 

 

Love and the Conduct of Life (v. 7)

 

We are born into, and we live in the midst of, a system, vast and

incomprehensible. Man is related to a thousand circumstances, and his

moral life depends upon the principles which govern these relationships. It

is by a sublime and spiritual intuition, itself an evidence of a Divine

commission and apostolate, that Paul discerns the truth that love, when

it takes possession of the Christian’s nature, relates him anew and aright to

“all things,” i.e. to the whole system in which he finds himself, and of

which indeed he forms a part.

 

  • LOVE CONCEALETH ALL THINGS.” The word is one which,

perhaps, cannot be confidently interpreted. But it may and probably does

mean “conceal” or “cover.” (“...love shall cover the multitude of sins.”

I Peter 4:8)  And so rendered, how appropriate is it in this place!

What so characteristic of true charity as the habit of covering up and

concealing the faults and infirmities of our brethren? It is a difficult

exercise, especially to an acute and candid mind; but because we see an

error it is not necessary to publish it. There may be good done and harm

avoided by hiding good men’s infirmities and the human defects which

are to be found even in an excellent cause.

 

  • LOVE “BELIEVETH ALL THINGS.” There is no point at which the

wisdom of this world and the wisdom which is of God come more violently

into conflict than here. To worldly men it seems the height of folly to

proceed in human life upon the principle of believing all things. This is, in

their view, credulity (a tendency to be too ready to believe that something

is real or true) which will make a man the prey of knaves and

impostors. Now, the words of the text must not be taken literally. They

commend a disposition opposed to suspicion. A suspicious man is

wretched himself, and he is universally distrusted and disliked. Where there

is reason to distrust a person, even charity will distrust. But, on the other

hand, charity cultivates that strain of nobleness in character which prefers

to think well of others, and to give credit rather than to question and

disbelieve.  (To give them the benefit of the doubt.  Charles Stanley)

 

  • LOVE “HOPETH ALL THINGS.” Here again we have portrayed a

feature of Christian character which it needs some spiritual discipline and

culture to appreciate. An positive disposition is often distrusted, and not

unjustly. But we may understand that temper of mind which leads us to

hope good things of our fellow men, and to view with confident

expectation the progress of the truth over their nature.

 

  • LOVE “ENDURETH ALL THINGS.” This is to most men the

hardest lesson of all. Many will cheerfully work from love, who find it no

easy matter to suffer calumny, coldness, hatred, persecution, in a loving

spirit and for Christ’s sake. But we need the spirit of Divine charity to

overlook all the assaults of men, and to pray for those who despitefully use

us. (Matthew 5:44)  This can and may be done when the whole nature is

inspired with love to God and love to man.

 

 

                        The Eternal Permanence of Love (vs. 8-13)

 

 

8 “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall

fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be

knowledge, it shall vanish away.”  Never faileth.  The word faileth (ἐκπίπτει

ekpiptei – is lapsing) has two technical meanings between which it is not easy to

decide:

 

  • It means, technically, “is never hissed off the stage like a bad actor,” i.e.

            it has its part to play even on the stage of eternity. This is its meaning in

            classic Greek.

 

  • It means “falls away” like the petals of a withered flower (as in

                        James 1:11; comp. Isaiah 28:4). Here, perhaps, the meaning is not

            technical, but general, as in Romans 9:6. But the reading may be simply

            πίπτει (falleth) – [the actual Greek – CY  - 2010) 

 

They shall fail.  This is not the same word as the one on which we have been

commenting; it means “shall be annulled” or “done away;” and is the same

verb as that rendered in the next clauses by “vanish away,” “be done away”

(v. 10), and “put away” (v. 11). Thus in two verses we have the same word

rendered by four different phrases. No doubt the effect of the change sounds

beautifully to ears accustomed to the “old familiar strain;” but it is the obvious

duty of translators to represent, not to improve upon, the language of their author.

In the Revised Version the same word is rightly kept for the four recurrences of

the verb.  (The root word is  καταργέω  katargeo from κατα and ργέω;

to be (render) entirely idle (useless), literal or figurative: — abolish, cease, cumber,

deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose,

bring (come) to naught, put away (down), vanish  away, make void.  The actual

Greek word here is καταργηθήσονταιkatargaethaesontai -  they shall be being

discarded once and καταργηθήσεταιkatargaethaesetai -  it shall be being

discarded here and also in v. 10.  In v. 11 it is κατήργηκα kataergaeka

I have discarded -  CY – 2010).  Tongues.  Special charisms (gifts) are

enumerated to show the transcendence of love.  Knowledge.  This shall be only

annulled in the sense of earthly knowledge, which shall be a star disappearing

in the light of that heavenly knowledge which shall gradually broaden into the

perfect day.

 

Love is immortal!  Charity never faileth - Amongst the many things which Paul

predicates in this chapter concerning “charity,” or love, is its permanence.

 

  • It will “never fail” as an ELEMENT OF MORAL POWER. Love is the

            strongest force in the soul.

 

ü      It is the strongest sustaining power. Our present state is one of trial

      and sorrow. Burdens press on all, in all grades of society. Godly love

                        is the best sustaining power under all. All Divine promises are made

                        to the loving.

 

ü      It is the strongest resisting power. We have not only burdens to

      oppress, but enemies to conquer and destroy. If love preoccupies the

      soul, temptations are powerless.

 

ü      It is the strongest aggressive power. We have not only to bear up

      with fortitude under trials, and to resist with success temptations, but

      we have battles to fight and victories to win. Love is at once the    

      inspiration and the qualification for the warfare. There is nothing so           

      aggressive in the moral world as love. Man can stand before anything        

      sooner than love. As a sustaining, resisting, aggressive power, love will      

      “never fail.”

 

  • It will “never fail” as a PRINCIPLE OF SOCIAL UNITY. Deep in the

            heart of man is the desire for union with his fellow. He wishes to flow with

            the race as waters with the stream. His ingenuity has been taxed for ages in

            the invention of schemes for union. Love alone can secure this; love only is

            the unifying force. We are only one with those we love with the moral

            affections of our nature. But we can only love the lovable. Love in the

            moral empire is what attraction is in the material. Love “never faileth as a

            principle of social unity.

 

  • It will “never fail” as a SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS.

            Love is joy.

 

ü      It expels from the mind all elements unfavorable to happiness.

ü       It generates in the mind all the elements of spiritual joy.

 

 

                                    Love Never Fails (v. 8)

 

Prophecies, tongues, knowledge, — these were all matters of immense

importance in the Christian community at Corinth, whose members prided

themselves upon their discernment, their intellectuality, their gifts. And

they were not unimportant in the view of that one of the apostles whose

mind was both more highly endowed by nature, and more sedulously and

effectively disciplined by study, than was the case with his brethren. But let

these excellent and beautiful things be brought into comparison with

Christian love, and they vanish as the stars of night when the sun arises in

his splendour and power.

 

  • THE CESSATION AND VANISHING OF INTELLECTUAL GIFTS.

 

Ø      What they were. They seem to have been supernatural gifts, highly

prized by their possessors, and eagerly coveted by the members of the

Christian societies generally. “Prophecy” was the faculty of uttering forth

Divine truth. “Tongues” were supernatural utterances, probably of various

kinds. “Knowledge” is here used in a special sense, equivalent to a peculiar

spiritual illumination. Such were the gifts of which these Corinthians were

wont to boast.

 

Ø      Why it is appointed that these gifts shall cease. Because they were

bestowed to serve a temporary purpose, when the barque of Christianity

had to be launched upon the sea of human society, when Christian doctrine

needed a special introduction and a special authentication. There are

certain parts of a plant which serve to protect it for a season, which

disappear when the plant is mature. A scaffold may be useful for a time;

but when the building is completed, it has done its work, and is taken down

and carried away. So with these gifts; good for a temporary purpose, they

may be dispensed with when that purpose is attained.

 

  • THE UNFAILING LIFE OF LOVE.

 

Ø      Love is the special and permanent characteristic of the Christian

economy. Observe its exemplification in such characters as the apostles

Paul and John. And notice that whilst the special gifts referred to have

passed away, charity remains the distinctive feature of the Church of Christ

in all its varying circumstances and ministrations.

 

Ø      Love is permanent in the heavenly and eternal state. If faith shall then

become trust without misgiving, and hope expectation without uncertainty,

love shall then be adoration without coldness, affection without

interruption. Love shall be supreme, and the great Center of worship and

adoration shall call forth all the affection of the countless host, whilst the

members of that vast and glorious society shall find room for the infinite

exercise of this peerless grace.

 

  • THE EXPLANATION OF THE SUPERIORITY AND

SUPREMACY OF LOVE.

 

Ø      What calls it forth is permanent; there is no limit to the appeal for love

made by the conscious universe and by its Lord.

 

Ø      What fosters and feeds it is permanent; there is no limit to the supply of

the Spirit, the power, the grace, of God.

 

 

The Grace of Charity (vs. 4-8)

 

When we speak of charity (ἀγάπη) it is in the sense attached to the word

in the New Testament. We do not speak of promiscuous and impulsive

almsgiving, in which there is often but the veriest morsel of charity, and

which, in our condition of society, is almost an unmitigated evil, tending as

it does to the maintenance of an indigent and pauperized class. We do not

speak of that kind of natural affection (ἔρος) which binds men together

with the ties of family and friendship. Charity, as a grace of the gospel, is

altogether larger and more comprehensive than these things. It is first the

love of the whole human race, as being the objects of the love of God, our

common Father, and the redeemed of his mercy. Then it is this spirit of

love, ever seeking for us, and ever finding expression in, acts of generous

kindness, thoughtfulness, and good will. In its larger, nobler meaning,

charity is something peculiarly Christian; something that springs up only in

that soul which has felt the love of God in its own redemption.

 

  • CHARITY IS THE GREATEST OF GRACES IN THE WIDTH OF

ITS SPHERE, Other graces have particular things with which they are

more intimately concerned; special parts of our life on which they throw

the light of their charm; special times in which they operate. But charity

covers the whole life and relationships of the Christian; his inner thoughts,

his uttered feelings, his conduct and mien, the associations of the

family and society, and also his relations with the dependent, the poor, and

the suffering., Look at some of the spheres thus irradiated with the golden

light of charity.

 

Ø      The sphere of a brother’s opinions. “Believeth all things.” Many find it

easy to be charitable towards their brethren in almost everything except

their opinions. Think of the bitternesses, separations, and conflicts arising

from differences of political opinion, from differences of denominational

opinion, from differences of theological opinion. In these matters what a

sad worldful of uncharity we have to mourn over. We cannot, indeed, with

the utmost stretch of charity, receive all opinions; it is impossible to delude

ourselves into the acceptance of all forms of doctrine, as though all may be

true. Not in that sense does charity enable us to “believe all things.”

Charity is a grace exercised concerning persons holding opinions, not

concerning opinions separated from the persons holding them. The

religious questionings which agitate the hearts of our fellow men are

altogether too solemn, the yearnings of the human heart everywhere after

the standard of righteousness, the pardon of sin, the peace of God, and

light beyond the grave, are altogether too serious and anxious, to permit us

to speak of any one — of the Catholic, or the Unitarian, or the Hindoo, or

the Mohammedan, or the island savage — save in terms of deepest and

most sincere sympathy.

 

Ø      The sphere of a brother’s failings. Beareth all things.” How ready we

are to push right down a brother who has begun to slip! What strong things

we say about the faintings and errors of others! How loudly we talk about

the imperfections in the character and conduct of others! How easily we

forget our own “beams,” and, with malicious delight, swell out the “motes”

in our brothers’ eyes! (Matthew 7:3)  Charity teaches us to say nothing at all

about our brother if we cannot say something good.

 

Ø      The sphere of a brother’s sorrows. Seeketh not her own.” Perhaps we

may call this the principal sphere of charity, as it is certainly the easiest.

There is so much of natural feeling to help us in this case, while in other

cases our natural feelings may be opposed to our charities. What a

peculiarly earthly and human sphere of charity this is! There are no

sufferers lying on sick beds for us to tend in heaven; no hungry ones for us

to feed; no imprisoned ones for us to visit; no naked ones for us to clothe.

Perhaps the exercises of charity in the midst of worldly sorrows are

intended to prepare us for the yet higher charities of the eternal world.

Charity finds so extensive a sphere for its present operations because so

little of human sorrow is simple, so often it is complicated — complicated

by peculiarly distressing circumstances, complicated by poverty, by mental

anguish, etc. For sorrows pure and simple there may be no more needed

than sympathy; for sorrow complicated with other kinds of trouble there is

needed charity, which takes up sympathy into itself, and goes on to express

itself in generous gifts and kindly deeds.

 

Ø      The sphere of a brother’s sins. Rejoiceth not in iniquity.” If charity

towards a suffering brother is the easiest effort, charity towards a sinning

brother is the hardest. It is very hard to be charitable towards one who has

sinned, when the sin touches others rather than ourselves. It is the Divine

triumph to be charitable when the wrong is done to ourselves.

 

  • CHARITY IS THE GREATEST OF THE GRACES BECAUSE OF

THE DIFFICULTY WITH WHICH IT IS ATTAINED. It is so difficult

because of the separating influence of sin. Sin broke up the fellowship of

the human family, and filled the world with opposing interests. Charity has

to heal up these great wounds, and temper these opposing relations, and

make the human family one again. Charity cannot be won by any of us save

as the issue of a constant, earnest struggle. Charity is only the final result of

a day by day endeavor to think charitably of others, and act charitably

towards them in their opinions, their failings, their sorrows, and their sins.

 

9 “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.”   The expression applies directly

to religious knowledge, and should be a rebuke to the pretence to infallibility and

completeness which is sometimes usurped by religious men.  Partial knowledge is of

four kinds:

 

  • There is a partial knowledge that is a NECESSITY. The knowledge of

            the highest intelligent creature must by the necessity of nature be partial.

            What he knows is as nothing compared with the knowable, still less with

            the unknowable. Who by searching can find out God?”  (Job 11:7)

 

  • There is a partial knowledge that is a CALAMITY. Our necessary

            ignorance is not a calamity; on the contrary, it is a benediction. The

            necessarily unknown acts as a stimulus to our intellectual faculties. But our

            ignorance of things that are really knowable must be ever more or less a

            disadvantage. Ignorance of true ethics, of political economy, agriculture,

            laws of health, beneficent rules of conduct, true religion, entails

            incalculable injuries. Ignorance of these things is the night, the winter, of

            intellect.

 

  • There is a partial knowledge that is SINFUL. A partial knowledge of

            our moral condition, the claims of God, the means of redemption, where a

            fuller knowledge is attainable, is a sin. Ignorance of Christ in a land of

            churches and Bibles, is a sin, and that of no ordinary heinousness. It is a

            calamity to the heathen; it is a crime to us.

 

  • There is a partial knowledge that is BENEFICENT. Our ignorance of

            our future is a blessing. Were the whole of our future to be spread out

            before us, with all its trials and sorrows, and all the circumstances

            connected with our death, life would become intolerable; it is mercy that

            has woven the veil that hides the future.

 

10 “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be

done away.”  It will be lost in perfectness when we have at last attained to “the

 measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 3:13).

 

 

 

The Partial and the Perfect (vs. 9-10)

 

Christianity is an intellectual religion as distinct from religions of ritual and

ceremony. It is propagated and maintained by preaching and by teaching. It

encourages inquiry, study, science. And, accordingly, there is some danger

lest those who seize upon this characteristic of Christianity should give way

to the temptation of spiritual pride. It is well that the infirmity and

imperfection of our knowledge should be brought vividly before our minds,

as it is in this passage. At the same time, provision is made against

discouragement by an assurance that the partial and transitory shall be

succeeded by the perfect and the eternal.

 

  • OUR APPREHENSION AND COMMUNICATION OF TRUTH IS

PARTIAL.

 

Ø      This is a result of the limitation of our powers. This may be a doctrine

humbling to human pride, but it is not to be disputed. It should be observed

that the apostle speaks of himself as well as of private Christians; and from

this we infer that revelation and inspiration are alike conditioned by the

very limited powers of man.

 

Ø      It is a result of the limitation of our opportunities. We can only know

what is brought before us; we cannot create truth. It pleases God that only

glimpses and whisperings of Divine truth should be afforded to us. Our

knowledge is therefore partial, as is the measure of truth which its Author

sets before us.

 

Ø      It is a result of the brevity of our life. Human life is short as compared

with the universe in which it is passed, and which has so many sides of

contact with our understanding. And if nature cannot be known in all its

fullness by even the most diligent student, how shall revelation be mastered

in a lifetime? There is a religious side to every truth of fact, and the man of

science, if a Christian, need never be at a loss for material for religious

contemplation and emotion.

 

  • THAT WHICH IS PARTIAL IS DESTINED TO PERISH. It cannot

be meant that any truth shall cease to be truth, that any aspect of religion

once justified shall so change its character as to be disowned. We have

known Christ, and such knowledge is not transitory, for it is eternal life.

But special gifts, like the variety of prophecy known in the primitive

Church, served their purpose, and were no more. Our systems of theology,

our presentations of doctrine, our modes of homiletic, are adapted, more

or less, to our age and circumstances, but they are only for a season. Partial

knowledge may be useful whilst perfect knowledge is impossible; but only

then.

 

  • FOR THE PERFECT SHALL COME TO ABOLISH THE

PARTIAL. The star shall not disappear because lost in the dense black

cloud, but because it shall melt in the splendor of the day. Our prospect is

not one to inspire melancholy; or if a shade of pensiveness pass over the

soul in the prospect of the disappearance of what is so familiar and so dear,

that pensiveness may well give way to content and hope when we look

forward to the glory which shall be revealed.

 

11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I

thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I understood as a child, I thought as a child, I felt as a child, I reasoned as

a child.   But when I became a man, I put away childish things; now that I am

become a man, I have done away with childish things. No specific time at which

he put away childish things is alluded to, but he means that “manhood” is a state

in which childishness should have become impossible.

 

The subject of the words under our notice is the Christian a child in

time, a man in eternity.

 

  • This is the case in relation to SPEECH. “When I was a child, I spake as

            a child.” Though the word “child” here properly denotes a babe, the

            apostle evidently uses it with no such limitation, for an infant neither

            speaks, thinks, nor understands. He denotes by it the human being in the

            first stages of intelligence and voluntary action. The speech of a child is

            often marked by incoherence and unintelligibility. It is irrelevant,

            disconnected, and broken. So is the speech of the sagest and most eloquent

            Christian here as compared with his language in eternity. The Christian’s

            speech in eternity will be characterized:

 

 

Ø      By clearness. Our speech here, like that of children, is often

                        unintelligible, mere jargon. The reason is that our conceptions are

                        cloudy, half formed, and ill defined. Obscurity of language, either oral

                        or written, is the result of confusion in thought. Clear speech requires

                        a clear head. In heaven thoughts are clear and complete as balls of

                        radiant crystal.

 

Ø      By reality. Our speech here, like that of children, is frequently

      nothing more than the vehicle of mental fantasies and conjecture.

      Words only embody and reveal the unsubstantial dreams of the mind.

      But speech in eternity is the organ of reality. Words there are things.

      They are truths made vocal.

 

Ø      By comprehensiveness. How meager the vocabulary of a child! Our

speech here, like that of children, is limited to a very small range of

things.  When it conveys truth, the truths are but very few; and they

relate to a mere speck in the great universe of intelligence. Not so in

heaven. The soul will range over the whole domain of facts, receive

true impressions of all, and speak them out.

 

Ø      By sublimity. Our speech here, like that of children, is not of the most

exalted and soul-inspiring character. The best only talk of the rudiments

of truths which have become more or less theological platitudes. In

heaven speech will be the vehicle of the most soul-inspiring and soul-

unlifting realities. Every word will be electric, every sentence radiant

and quickening as the sunbeam.

 

  • This is the case in relation to UNDERSTANDING.I understood as a

            child.” The Christian’s understanding here is like that of a child in several

            respects.

 

Ø      In feebleness. The child’s intellect, like his body, gets strength by

nutriment and exercise. In the first stages it is very feeble. It is

incapable of any great effort. It is thus with the Christian here. We

say of such a man, “He has a great intellect.” But in reality the greatest

is very weak. How little the effort that the greatest intellect can make in

search of knowledge!  What a small amount of truth can the most

vigorous hold within his grasp!  In heaven the understanding will be

strong, unencumbered by matter, unchecked by disease, unclouded by

sin. It will grow young with age and strong with exercise,

 

Ø      In sensuousness. A child’s understanding is under the control of the

senses. It judges by appearances; it is taken up with the forms of things.

Is it not so with the Christian. He is prone to “mind earthly things,” “to   

judge after the flesh.” The theology and the ritualism even of the most

spiritual are colored by sensuousness. The hell and heaven of

Christendom are sensuous worlds.

 

Ø      In relativeness. The child judges of all things by their relation to

      himself.  His father may be an author thrilling the intellect of his age,

      or a statesman directing the destinies of a nation, but the child knows        

      nothing of him in those relations, As a father only he knows him. So

      with the understanding of a Christian, His conceptions of God are

      purely relative — Redeemer, Father, Master. Thus only is he regarded.

      Of what He is in Himself, what He is in the universe, what He is in            

      immensity, he understands nothing. In eternity we shall “see Him as

He is.”  (I John 3:2)

 

Ø      In servility. The child yields his understanding up to others, often

allows it to be used as “clay in the hands of a potter.” So it is often with

Christians here. They are not generally independent in their inquiries.

They put themselves in the hands of Churches and priests, and call them

masters, not so in heaven. Each with a full consciousness of his

individuality will be independent in his investigations and conclusions.

 

  • This is the case in relation to REASONING. “I thought as a child.” In

            the margin the word reasoned is put for “thought.” The child reasons.

            Logic is not mere art, it is an instinct in human nature. How does the child

            reason?

 

Ø      From an insufficiency of data. Having neither the power nor the

opportunity of making an adequate observation and comparison, he

draws his conclusions from passing impressions and unfounded

conjectures. Thus it is often with the Christian here. His knowledge of

the facts of God and the universe on which he reasons, is so limited that

his conclusions are often inconclusive and puerile. The grave and

pompous discussions of our most learned theologians on the ways of

God must appear to the ear of an angel as absurd as the prattle of

children on the affairs of kingdoms does to us.

 

Ø      From the impulse of desire. In all cases the wish is the father to the

thought. It is too often so with Christians here. Their likings control

their logic?  Not so in heaven. How sublime the difference between the

Christian in time and the Christian in eternity! How vast the disparity

between the speech, understanding, and reasoning of Saul, the little

Jewish boy, and “Paul, the aged,” the great theologian and sublime

apostle! This is only a faint type of the difference between the

Christian here and the Christian yonder.

 

  • CONCLUSION.  The subject teaches:

 

Ø      The educational character of this life. The true view of this life is that

      it is a school for eternity. Here all souls are in a state of pupilage. Some      

      are deriving the true advantages from the discipline, and some are not.       

      Whilst thousands leave this school from year to year unimproved,  

      incorrigible, utterly unfit for the services of eternity, worthless to God

      and the universe, others are being made “meet for the inheritance of

      the saints in light.”  (Colossians 1:12)  Brother disciples, be reconciled

      to this state. School days are not always the most pleasant. There are          

      restrictions, disciplines, and studies, more or less painful. Struggle on

      till you “put away childish things,” all that is childish in speech and         

      understanding and reasoning. We shall leave this school soon for the          

      family mansion and the grand inheritance.

 

Ø      The organic unity of man through all the scenes and stages of his

being. Though the man here talks and. judges and reasons very

differently to what he did when a child, he is nevertheless the same

being. He is but the child more fully developed. He is but the sapling

grown into the tree. It is so with the Christian in the other world. He is

the same being as he was here, he is but the child grown into the man,

freed from “all childish things.” Man in heaven is but the child matured.

We shall never be greater than men. Whatever is brilliant and great for

us in the future will be but the development of the germs that slumber in   

us now.

 

Ø      The necessity of modesty in the maintenance of our theological views.

In the light of this subject, how preposterous it is for poor frail, fallible

man to set himself up as an authority in theological matters, to assume

the priest, the bishop, the pope! “I do not know,” says Sir Isaac Newton,

 what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only

like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself by now and

then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while

the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

 

 

The Babe and the Man (v. 11)

 

The half informed and the immature in character are sometimes puffed up

with conceit and pride; whilst humility often comes with a higher wisdom

and a riper experience. The Corinthians were crude and unformed; the

apostle was enlightened and inspired; yet they were puffed up with spiritual

pride, whilst he was lowly in heart and free from arrogance. Hence this

language, which is poetry and piety at once.

 

  • THE LITERAL FACT OF HUMAN NATURE AND LIFE. Childhood

has its own speech, its prattle and babble; the babe utters inarticulate

noises, the child speaks words, but with indistinctness and with many

mistakes. Childhood has its own feelings, some of them very deep when

inspired by trivial causes; feelings succeeding one another with rapidity in

striking contrast. Childhood has its own thoughts, sometimes upon the

most mysterious themes, always with little knowledge of the thoughts of

others; thoughts unfounded, unjustifiable; thoughts, too, which may be

developed into a larger and richer experience. Now, he who becomes a

man puts aside these infantile ways. His language is articulate, perhaps

elegant and precise, perhaps copious and poetical. His feelings are less

easily roused, but they are deeper and more lasting. His thoughts range

over heaven and earth, the past and the future; they “wander through

eternity.”

 

  • THE ANALOGY OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE BASED ON THIS

FACT. This the apostle suggests and leaves his readers to work out in

detail. There is an obvious resemblance between the life of the individual

upon earth and the larger, longer life of the soul. As is childhood to

manhood, so is this present state of being to the immortality beyond. This

being so, there is a measure of probability that the resemblance extends

where we cannot follow it. This is the argument of analogy; alike in many

points, alike probably in more.

 

Ø      The future will be a development and expansion of the present. The

speech and the feeling, the thoughts and the judgments, of the man are

based upon those of the child. They are not radically different. Even so our

earthly faith and hope and love, our earthly consecration, obedience, and

praise, are the germ of the experiences and services of the heavenly

sanctuary. Heaven will witness the manhood of that intelligent piety, that

devotion of heart and energy, of which earth has witnessed the infancy and

childhood.

 

Ø      The future will immensely transcend the present. Great as is the

difference between the acquirements of the child and those of the man,

greater will be that between the religious knowledge and experience of

earth, and what is reserved for us hereafter. (I will go so far and say,

for comparison, that the babe in the limited womb, a contrast with

the person developing from a babe to an adult, in the world!  CY -

2018)  It is vain for us to suppose that in this present state we can form

any conception of THE GLORIOUS FUTURE!   We are now God’s

children, and we know not what we shall be, "but we know that, when

He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is."

I John 3:2.   This we also know: “We shall put away childish things.”

                        (v. 12)

 

12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now

I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Through a glass;  rather, through (or, by means of) a mirror.  Our “glasses”

were unknown in that age. The mirrors were of silver or some polished metal,

giving, of course, a far dimmer image than “glasses” do. The rabbis said that

“all the prophets saw through a dark mirror, but Moses through a bright one.” Paul

says that no human eye can see God at all except as an image seen as it were behind the

mirror.  Darkly; rather, in a riddle. God is said to have spoken to Moses “mouth

to mouth”.  Human language, dealing with Divine facts, can only represent them

indirectly, metaphorically, enigmatically, under human images, and as illustrated

by visible phenomena.  God can only be represented under the phrases of

anthropomorphism and anthropopathy; and such phrases can only have a relative,

not an absolute, truth.  Then;  i.e. “when the perfect is come.  Face to face. 

Like the “mouth to mouth” of the Hebrew and the Septuagint. Numbers 12:8.

This is the beatific vision. “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall

be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).  “Now we walk by

faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).  Now I know in part; but then shall I

know even as also I am known.  Rather, then shall I fully know even as also I was

 fully known, viz. when Christ took knowledge of me at my conversion. Now,

we do not so much “know” God, but “rather are known of God” (compare ch. 8:3).

 

“For now we see through a glass, darkly,” -  It needs no illustration to show that

our vision of spiritual things is very dim. The cause of this is our subject — the

medium is dark, that medium is the body. Through the five senses we gather all the

lights that flash on our consciousness and form within us ideas. But why is it dark?

 

  • The body tends to MATERIALIZE THE CONCEPTIONS OF THE

            MIND. We “judge after the flesh.”

 

  • The body tends to SWAY THE DECISIONS OF THE MIND. The

            desires of the flesh often move and master the soul.

 

  • The body tends to CLOG THE OPERATIONS OF THE MIND.

            Business, sleep, refreshment, exercise, disease, — all these interrupt the

            soul. Our visions of spiritual things being so dim:

 

Ø      None should pride themselves in their knowledge.

Ø      None should arrogate infallibility of judgment.

Ø      All should anticipate higher and fuller visions.

 

When the medium is removed, we shall see “face to face.” The Bible

encourages us thus “And there shall be no more curse:  but the throne

of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him:

And they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads.”

(Revelation 22:3-4)

 

 

 

Now, and Then (v. 12)

 

Divine knowledge is the truest riches of the intellect; Divine love, the

dearest wealth of the heart. Love is greater than all gifts; greater than

tongues and than prophecy, which shall pass away; greater even than

knowledge, which here is but partial and progressive. How natural that

Paul, whose mind was eager for knowledge, and whose life was so largely

devoted to communicating it, should linger for a moment and think of

knowledge such as it now is and such as it is destined hereafter to be!

 

  • THE PARTIAL KNOWLEDGE OF THIS PRESENT STATE. “We see

as through a mirror, in an enigma.”

 

Ø      Earth is a mirror dimly reflecting God’s attributes. The glory, beauty,

adaptations of nature, all speak of God. There is a reflection, and the

wisdom, the power, the goodness, of the Creator may be recognized. Yet it

is a dim reflection; lightning, tempest, and earthquake, sickness, anguish,

and death, perplex the mind of the reflective observer. There is no

complete and adequate solution here.

 

Ø      Life is a mirror dimly reflecting God’s government. No careful,

observant mind can fail to trace an overruling Providence in human life, in

the life of the individual, and in the life of the nation. Yet the reflection of a

perfectly wise and righteous government, it must be admitted, is dim. We

cannot always “justify the ways of God to men;” the heart often sinks at

the sight of prosperous wickedness, of the slow progress made by truth

and righteousness. The kingdom of God seems near us; but we ask, “Is it

here?”

 

Ø      Revelation is a mirror dimly reflecting God’s purposes. There has been

doubtless a progressive removal of the veil which hides God from us. Yet

this revelation has been chiefly for practical purposes. We look into

revelation to satisfy our inquiries concerning the Divine nature, concerning

the eternal life, and there meets our view a dim manifestation. We see, but

we see “in an enigma.”

 

  • WHY THE FUTURE STATE IS ONE OF CLEARER, FULLER

KNOWLEDGE.

 

Ø      There may be a reason in ourselves. Spiritual childhood will develop

into manhood; the imperfections of the body, the infirmities of human

nature, the prejudices of the earthly life, will disappear, and our vision will

be purged.

 

Ø      A reason in the character of our knowledge. The processes here and

now are slow, hesitating, inferential. Hereafter it would seem that we shall

know by intuition much which now we learn mediately and with much

liability to error.

 

Ø      A reason in the manifestation itself. More material will be offered to our

faculties; clearer light will beam upon us. In the vaster dominion then

accessible, of which only a province is now within our reach, there will

open up to the glorified as in a blaze, a sphere of Divine knowledge.

 

Ø      A reason in the circumstances and the society of heaven. Here

opportunities are restricted; there they will be illimitable. Here fellowship is

imperfect; there the society of glorified saints and blessed angels will be

fitted to stimulate and encourage the soul by sympathy with all its lofty

quests and aspirations.

 

Ø      A reason in the prolonged opportunity of eternity. The reflection often

forces itself upon us: “Art is long, and time is fleeting.” There is no time

for the dirtiness to pass off the mirror upon which, as we gaze, we breathe.

Yonder infinite opportunity invites the ardent spirit to intermeddle with all

knowledge; we feel that we can but lose ourselves in a prospect so vast,

illimitable, and glorious.

 

  • WHAT IT MAY BE EXPECTED WILL HEREAFTER BE

CLEARLY KNOWN.

 

Ø      The past of our existence will then be seen in due perspective, and will

be plain to the mind looking back upon it.

 

Ø      Light shall be cast upon the mysteries of earth and time. What has been

perplexing and inexplicable when beheld so near at hand shall be clear and

unmistakable as the appointment of Divine wisdom and love, when looked

down upon from yonder heights.

 

Ø      Christ Himself shall be then seen “as He is” (I John 3:2), so as even

His dearest and most congenial friends cannot know Him now. “Then

face to face,” to be “changed into the same image, from glory to glory.”

                        (II Corinthians 3:18)

 

13 “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest

of these is charity.”  And now.  The “now” is not temporal (as opposed to the

“then” of the previous verse), but logical. It sums up the paragraph -  Abideth.

These three graces are fundamental and permanent; not transient, like the charisms

gifts, on which the Corinthians were priding themselves, but which should all be

“annulled.”   Faith, hope, charity.  It might be difficult to see how “hope” should

be permanent. But if the future state be progressive throughout eternity and infinitude,

hope will never quite be lost in fruition.  Even “within the veil,” it will still remain as

“an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19)  The greatest of

these is charity;  more literally, greater than these is love. Paul does not explain

why love is the greatest and best of the three. Various reasons may be given.

 

  • Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; we believe

            only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.

 

  • And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbors; faith and

            hope mainly for ourselves.

 

  • And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is

            love.

 

  • And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love,

            and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection

            of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one color, as a

            ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the

            chapter, is a diamond of many facets.

 

Paul was not the man to disparage faith, which holds so high a place in his

writings, nor hope, which was so prominent a feature of his character. But

the higher the estimation in which he held these virtues, the loftier was the

position to which he raised the grace of love when he pronounced it the

greatest and the most enduring of all virtues.

 

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity,”  Love is here brought into comparison with

two other great things in mind — faith and hope.

 

  • The CORRESPONDENCE between these three. The words imply:

 

Ø      That they are all great. The apostle speaks of the “greatest.”

      “Faith” is a great thing. It implies reason, truth, and. the investigation

      of evidence. It is a great thing in business, in science, in society, as well

      as in religion.  “Hope” is a great thing, too. It implies the recognition of     

      good, a desire for good, and an expectation of good. It makes the

      greatest trials of the present bearable by bringing into the spirit the

      blessedness of the future.

 

Ø      That they are all permanent. There abideth faith and hope. In

      virtuous souls they are as lasting as life, as lasting as mind itself.

 

  • The SUPERIORITY of one over the others. “The greatest of these is

            charity.” Why is it the greatest?

 

Ø      It is a virtue in itself. There is no moral virtue in faith and hope.

      They are, under certain conditions, necessary states of mind. But love –

      disinterested, godly love — is in itself a virtue.

 

Ø      It is that quality which alone gives virtue to all other states of mind.

                        Where this love is not, faith and hope are morally worthless.

 

Ø      It is that state of mind by which the soul subordinates the universe to

                        itself. The loving soul alone can interpret the universe.

 

Ø      It is that state of mind which links the spirit to all holy intelligences.

                        Love is the attractive power that binds all holy spirits together.

 

Ø      It is that state of mind which includes the highest faith and hope. Love

                        implies the both.

Ø      It is that state of mind which is in itself happiness. Love is happiness.

                        We cannot say so of either faith or hope.

 

Ø      Love is the most God-like state of the soul. God is not faith or hope;

                        God is love.” (I John 4:8)  The Eternal does not believe or anticipate,

                        but He does love — He is love. Love is the life of the soul. It warms

                        every vein and beats in every pulse.

 

 

Permanence of Love (vs.  8-13)

 

Why is it that the numerous objects around us are transient? On every side

they appeal to us, connect themselves with hope and fear, enter into our

business, awaken enterprise and ambition, and even inspire ardent love; yet

they are ever passing away. Now, there must be a discipline in all this, and

Christianity assures us what it means. It is that we may be trained in the

midst of evanescence for that which is permanent. And this presupposes

that there is not only an immortal soul in man, but that, by reason of his

present organization and its relations, certain of his functions and

acquirements are purely temporary, while others are to live forever. In fact,

there are functions and acquirements which do not wait for the death of the

body. They fulfil their purpose and expire long before age overtakes us.

Yet, says Wordsworth:

 

‘‘Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts

Have followed, for such loss, I would believe

Abundant recompense.”

 

It is in the spirit of a true and noble Christian philosophy that this great

moral poet of the century sees no cause to “mourn nor murmur” because

our nature has a rejecting instinct, which, as God ordains, throws off and

leaves behind it tastes and habits that were once very useful as well as

precious. Keeping in mind, then, that this rejecting instinct is an organic

part of our constitution and has its allotted functions to discharge, we can

appreciate all the more St. Paul’s line of thought in the closing verses of

this chapter. “Love never faileth.” Its existence, activity, manifestation,

will be perpetuated. The wonderful spiritual gifts of which he had said so

much — prophecy, the ability to speak with tongues, knowledge — these

should cease to exist. Although they proceeded from the Holy Ghost and

were mightily instrumental for good in the incipient work of the Church,

yet, nevertheless, they were to terminate. Scaffoldings were they all, useful

as such, subserving most important ends, but mere scaffoldings, that could

no longer remain when the edifice had been finished. What, then, is the

ideal of the Church? it is not splendid endowments, for they are doomed to

extinction, but the love “that never faileth.” Whether the passing away of

these gifts refers to the apostolic age or to “the age to come,” matters

nothing, since the idea of their discontinuation, rather than of the time it

should occur, is foremost in St. Paul’s mind. Imagine, then, his conception

of love, when he could contemplate the Church as a vast body laying off

these mighty accompaniments of its career, and yet, so far from being

weakened, would be girded afresh with a power more resplendent and

display it in a form infinitely more majestic. Disrobed of these habiliments,

its contour would appear in the perfection of sublimity; its anatomy as an

organism would be, as it were, transparent; the whole framework, the

various parts, the ligaments binding them together, the circulating

lifeblood, would disclose the single animating principle of love. Would it

startle the Corinthians to learn that even knowledge should vanish away?

“We know in part, and we prophesy in part.” All knowledge cannot be

meant, for love itself includes much knowledge, and, in its absence, would

be simply emotional intensity. To possess the mere faculty of knowing

would be worthless, if the mind could not retain the contents of knowledge

and make them a portion integrally of itself. What the apostle teaches is

that such knowledge as stands related to the present state and time, and

grows directly out of imperfect human development, and shares the

condition of all things earthly, is short lived and must terminate. Tongues

shall cease, but the gift of speech shall not be lost. And he explains himself

by saying that the gifts relating to prophecy and tongues were only partial,

were exclusively adapted to a preliminary state of experience and activity,

and completed their purpose in a temporary spiritual economy. We are here

under specific, no less than general limitations, and, in certain directions,

we are restrained more than in others. What the Spirit looks to is not

knowledge alone, but to its moral aspects as well; to humility, meekness,

self abasement, when the intellect is strongest, freest, and boldest; nor will

he expand the understanding and its expressional force for their own sakes,

but develop them only so far as subservient to an object higher than their

immediate ends. Partial information, partial command of our mental

faculties, partial uses of even the wisdom we possess — this is the law of

limitation and restraint, under which the complex probation of intellect,

sensibility, volition, aspiration, and outward activity, works out

immeasurable results. Therefore, he argues, we now know and prophesy

“in part;” at the best, we are fragmentary and incomplete; and yet this

imperfection is connected with a perfect system and leads up to it. The

perfection will come; the existing economy is its foreshadowing; nor could

knowledge give any rational account of itself, nor could prophecy and

tongues vindicate their worth, if the fuller splendours, of which these are

faint escapes of light, were not absolute certainties of the future. Only

when the “perfect is come” shall that which is “in part” be “done away.”

Institutions founded in providence and upheld by the Spirit are left to no

chance or accident as to continuance, decay, extinction. God comes into

them, abides, departs, according to the counsel of his will. If he numbers

our days as living men, and keeps our times in his hand; if only his voice

says, “Return, ye children of men;” — this is equally true of institutions.

For the dead dust, man makes a grave; but the life of individuals,

institutions, government, society, even the Church, is in God’s keeping,

and he alone says, “Return.” How shall St. Paul set forth the relation of the

partial to the perfect? A truth lacks something if it cannot be illustrated,

and a teacher is very defective in ability when he cannot find a resemblance

or an analogy to make his meaning more perspicuous and vivid. Truth and

teacher have met in this magnificent chapter on ground reserved, we may

venture to say, for their special occupancy and companionship. The great

teacher sees the sublimest of truths in a glowing light, and most unlike Paul

would he be if no illustration came to hand spontaneously. Is there

something in the more hallowed moments of the soul that suddenly

reinstates the sense of childhood? “When I was a child” in the heathen city

of Tarsus, the capital of a Roman province; the mountains of Taurus and

the luxuriant plain and the flowing Cydnus near by; the crowded streets

and gay population and excited groups of talkers pressing on eye and ear;

the festivals of paganism; the strange contrasts of these with the life in his

Jewish home; his training under the parental roof; the daily reminders of

the Law and the traditions of the Pharisees; what thoughts were they? Only

those of a child, understood and spoken as a child. No ordinary child could

he have been. Providence was shaping him then for an apostle, so that

while the holy child Jesus was growing “in wisdom and stature” amid the

hills of Nazareth and in the nursery of the virgin mother’s heart, there was

far away in Cilicia a boy not much younger, who was in rearing there,

under very unlike circumstances, to be his chosen apostle to the Gentile

world. Yet the boy Saul was but a child, and thought and spake “as a

child.” But is childhood disallowed and set off in sharp contrast with

manhood? Nay; childhood is of God no less than manhood as to quality of

being. What is contrasted is the childishness in the one case and the

perfected manhood in the other. So that we suppose the apostle to mean

that whatsoever is initial, immature, provisional, in the child, has been put

away to make room for something better. The better implies the good, a

childish good, indeed, and yet a good from the hand of God however

mixed with earthly imperfections. Another movement occurs in the leading

thought. Can one think of knowledge without an involuntary recurrence of

the symbol of light? The symbol has quite supplanted the thing signified,

and the enlightened man is more honoured than the knowing man. St. Paul

proceeds to say, “Now we see through a glass, darkly;” the revealed Word

of God is conveyed to us “in symbols and words which but imperfectly

express them” (Hodge, Delitzsch); and yet, while there is a “glass” or

mirror, and the knowledge or vision of Divine things is “darkly” given,

there is a real knowledge, a true and blessed knowledge, for “we see.”

Enough is made intelligible for all the purposes of the spiritual mind, for all

spiritual uses, in all spiritual relationships of comprehension, conscience,

volition, affection, brotherhood; enough for probation, responsibility,

culture, and lifetime growth. What in us is denied? Only curiosity,

excessive appetencies of the faculties, habits of perception and judging

superinduced in the intellect by the sensational portion of our nature, —

these are denied their morbid gratification. A plethora of evidence is

denied that faith may have its sphere. Over strength and over constraint of

motive are denied that the will may be left free. Violent impulses of feeling

are denied that the heart may be intense without wild and erratic

enthusiasm, treasuring its life of peaceful blessedness in unfathomable

depths like the ocean, that keeps its mass of waters in the vast hollows of

the globe and uses the hills and mountains only to shape its shores. On the

other hand, what is granted to the mind in the revelation of Divine truth?

Such views of God in Christ as the soul can realize in its present condition

and thereby form the one master habit of a probationary being, viz. How to

see God in Christ. At present, we can only begin to see as by reflection in a

mirror; and, as in the education of the senses to the finer work of earthly

life the cultivation of the eye is the slowest and most exacting, the longest,

the most difficult, and that too because the eye is the noblest of the special

senses, so learn we, and not without much patient exertion, and oft

repeated efforts to see God in Christ as made known in his gospel and

providence and Holy Spirit. Yet the mirror trains the eye and prepares it to

see God through no such intervening medium. The promised vision is

open, full, immediate. We shall see him “face to face,” says St. Paul. “We

shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” declares St. John. And then

partial knowledge shall expand into perfect knowledge, and we shall know

after a new and Divine manner, for nothing less than this is the assurance:

Know as we are known. “Glorious hymn to Christian love,” as Dr. Farrar

calls this chapter, what shall be its closing strain? “And now abideth

(remains or continues) — the same duration as compared with the

evanescence of extraordinary gifts being ascribed to the three — “and now

abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Who can doubt it after reading this chapter? Here it stands beside the great

gifts of the “tongues of men and of angels,” and of the prophetic insight,

and of miracle working, and of philanthropy and martyrdom, and, amid this

splendid array, love is greatest. In what it does, it is greatest. In what it is,

it is greatest. Here, finally, it is grouped with faith and hope, and yet the

light that irradiates its form and features from the glory of God in the face

or’ Jesus Christ is a lustre beyond that of the other two, because the

“greatest of these is love.”

 

 

 

The Immortality of All Graces (v. 13)

 

“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” The word abideth is

significant, as applied to each of the three great graces. While so much

must “pass away,” why may faith, hope, and charity be said to abide?

Because they are the dress of souls, not of bodies. They are things

belonging to character, not merely to conduct. Souls pass through into new

spheres of existence, taking with them all that is peculiar to them. We shall

step into the eternal world with just the clothing of character the

garments of faith, love, and hope — which we had put on our spirit in our

mortal sphere. More or less distinctly we all have an idea that faith and

hope are powers peculiar to our present mortal and earthly condition. We

think we shall no longer need them when we have reached to heaven.

(“for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?” – Romans 8:24) We

think that only love, charity, will go with us there. Yet can it be that we

shall ever get past “faith”? Is “sight” anything more than another and a

higher form of “faith”? Shall we ever lose “hope”? As long as we remain

creatures, not creators, we shall surely have to believe and hope and love.

 

  • THE IMMORTALITY OF LOVE. We may infer this from the abiding

character of love in this life. All kinds of love tend to abide; they even

strive to increase and grow. Life may greatly change with us, multiplied

sorrows may come to us, but there are some who love us, whose love

keeps on, and can neither change nor pass. True mother love abideth. True

wifely love abideth. True friendship love abideth. We go out into the

eternal world with such love folded like holy robes about our spirits. And

that kind of love which we call Christian love — charity — has the same

power of abiding. Let it but be gained in the early days of our Christian life,

and it wilt stay and grow, widening and adorning the Christian spirit down

to its time of passing through. If love thus abides in Christian life, can it be

possible that death, which is but the servant of Christ — Christ’s hall

porter or gate keeper — should be able to master it, overcome it, and finish

it? But we may further argue the immortality of love from every view of

the heavenly state that is presented to us, and every conception we can

form of it. It is the place of union; the uniting bond must be love. It is a

home; the one sanctifying power in a home is love. It is the place where

God is ALL IN ALL, and “God is love.” Those whom God teaches to

love He teaches to love forever.

 

  • THE IMMORTALITY OF FAITH. What is the proper idea of faith? It

is the relation in which we ought to stand to things above us, higher than

we are. It is our “evidence of things not seen.” As long as there is anybody

in the world wiser than ourselves, we shall have to believe what they say.

Get the very wisest man that ever lived on earth, if there is in heaven one

spirit wiser than he, he will have to believe — to take on trust — what the

wiser spirit may say. And the holiest archangel must believe what the all

wise God may say. Change them as we may, know as we are known, grow

with giant strides as the eternal hours pass by, still we can never overtake

or outgrow God. As long as we are creatures we shall be, in knowledge as

well as in power, below our Creator. While we keep our being we shall

have to believe — we shall have to trust. If we have the true spirit wrought

in us, we shall never want to get beyond faith. For the creature it is the

highest blessedness that he is found willing to trust. To wish to see is to

rebel. It is to wish to be God, and take the place of God. Enough for us to

be forever the children of God, and it is a very foolish child who wants to

get beyond trust. Heaven is so beautiful, because we shall there be children

at home forever; perfected in faith, in childlike trust, and safe in the

protection and the shadow of the eternal Father. We are learning to believe

by the experiences of our human lives, but it would be a sad thing if we

were only learning something which we should lose when we came to die,

even if we exchanged it for something better. Of this we may rest assured,

that in learning to trust we are learning for the heavenly and immortal

spheres.

 

  • THE IMMORTALITY OF HOPE. In this life hope seems to change,

but in reality it abides, only changing its objects. The old man hopes quite

as truly as the young man, though not with the same passionate intensity.

The change into the eternal spheres is more evident to the senses, (I, like

all mankind, have spent my life subject to the fear of death.  [Hebrews 2:15]

I am 74 years old and since I have turned 70 I have come to realize anew

my own mortality.  CY – 2018)  But it is not more real, than the change from

the boy to the man; surely in his second, glorified, manhood man will keep

his power of hoping, only setting it on new and higher and eternal things.

If we are still to grow in the eternal world, we must have something ever

before us and above us to hope for. If we know that we may become wiser,

truer, stronger, holier than we are, we cannot keep from hoping that we may

become such. And heaven cannot possibly be a mere stereotyping of the

sanctifying that is wrought through our Christian life on earth, In seeking,

then, for faith, hope, and charity, we are seeking the heavenly treasures,

the things that are abiding and eternal.  They are the “treasure in the

heavens, which faileth not.”   (Luke 12:23)

 

 

 

The Greatest of These is Love (v. 13)

 

  • BECAUSE OF ITS NATIVE SOURCE AND ORIGIN. God cannot

exercise faith or cherish hope; but He not only has love, HE IS LOVE!

Our virtues are largely creature virtues; this is the great attribute of the

Creator Himself!

 

  • BECAUSE OF ITS SUPREME MANIFESTATION TO MANKIND

IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST. The Lord Jesus brought

down the love of the Father to this world of ignorance, error, and sin. He

revealed Divine love, which was indeed the motive of His advent, but which

was also the prevailing and undeniable characteristic of His ministry, and

the secret explanation of His willing and sacrificial death.

 

  • BECAUSE IT IS THE SPECIAL LAW OF THE LORD JESUS. His

new commandment’’ was this: “Love one another.” (John 13:34) And He

made obedience to this commandment the great test of discipleship: “By

this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to

another.” (ibid. v. 35)  What takes so pre-eminent a place in the mind of

the Monarch, what stands so obviously supreme among his laws, must

necessarily be regarded by his loyal subjects with an especial reverence.

 

  • BECAUSE IT IS THE END TO WHICH THE OTHER VIRTUES

ARE MEANS. Faith is not an end; it is faith in a Divine Deliverer and in

His promise of salvation; it is the means towards life eternal. Hope is not an

end; it is hope of final and eternal fellowship with God; it is the means to

steadfastness and to heaven. But love is an end in itself. Charity is the bond

of perfection; beyond this even Christianity cannot carry us. As the grace

of faith and the grace of hope realize their purpose when they produce the

grace of Christian love, it is obvious that the virtue which is their final

purpose is greater than they. And this conviction is confirmed when we

consider that, of all virtues, love is usually the most difficult and the last to

be acquired. There have been confessors and martyrs Whose faith was firm

and whose hope was bright, who yet did not arrive at the acme of perfect

love. This is the test and the crown of spiritual maturity.

 

  • BECAUSE OF ITS SUPREME UTILITY. Society needs above all

things to be penetrated with the spirit of charity, sympathy, and brotherly

kindness. This is the radical cure for all its ills — this, and only this. What

gravitation is in the physical realm, that is love in the moral Without it, all

is disorder and chaos; with it, all is regularity and beauty. It represses

hatred, malice, envy, and uncharitableness; it cultivates considerateness,

pity, gentleness, self denial, and generous help.

 

  • BECAUSE IT IS THE PECULIAR ELEMENT OF HEAVENLY

BLESSEDNESS. Disputes have arisen as to whether or not faith and hope

are found in heaven. But there is no difference of opinion as to the

prevalence and eternity of the grace of love. For:

 

“Love is heaven, and heaven is love!”

 

 

 

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