1 Corinthians
Chapter 13

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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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

Commentary for 1 Corinthians 13

The necessity and advantage of the grace of love. (1-3) Its excellency represented by its properties and effects; (4-7) and by its abiding, and its superiority. (8-13)1-3 The excellent way had in view in the close of the former chapter, is not what is meant by charity in our common use of the word, almsgiving, but love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart. There may be an open and lavish hand, where there is not a liberal and charitable heart. Doing good to others will do none to us, if it be not done from love to God, and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!

4-7 Some of the effects of charity are stated, that we may know whether we have this grace; and that if we have not, we may not rest till we have it. This love is a clear proof of regeneration, and is a touchstone of our professed faith in Christ. In this beautiful description of the nature and effects of love, it is meant to show the Corinthians that their conduct had, in many respects, been a contrast to it. Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Not that charity destroys all regard to ourselves, or that the charitable man should neglect himself and all his interests. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It ever prefers the welfare of others to its private advantage. How good-natured and amiable is Christian charity! How excellent would Christianity appear to the world, if those who profess it were more under this Divine principle, and paid due regard to the command on which its blessed Author laid the chief stress! Let us ask whether this Divine love dwells in our hearts. Has this principle guided us into becoming behaviour to all men? Are we willing to lay aside selfish objects and aims? Here is a call to watchfulness, diligence, and prayer.

8-13 Charity is much to be preferred to the gifts on which the Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It is a grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused notions of things, have children when compared with grown men! Thus shall we think of our most valued gifts of this world, when we come to heaven. All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us. To sum up the excellences of charity, it is preferred not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope. Faith fixes on the Divine revelation, and assents thereto, relying on the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens on future happiness, and waits for that; but in heaven, faith will be swallowed up in actual sight, and hope in enjoyment. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But there, love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing the best below! God is love, #1Jo 4:8,16|. Where God is to be seen as he is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height; there only will it be perfected.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Discussion for 1 Corinthians 13

  • Lilian
    When we were a child we speak like a child understand like a child and thought like a child when we became woman and a man we put our childish things away . In life This is how Jesus will brought us higher into a new level but Jesus wants us to behave like a child to him coz he loves us we are the apple of his eyes thank you Jesus for giving us life in abundance for your mercy love and grace
  • BSP
    This verse explains how we should grow. When we were children we could only take in so much information, but as we grow older we are expected to take in deeper things. Our Bible study should be deeper over the years as we grow.
  • Dennis L
    Joanne stern, I completely agree with you. I love the King James Bible translation. It grieves me to hear any number of versions being used by preachers who in all other respects are solid and conservative. I also believe it is confusing to have different versions being used from the pulpit and the church body trying to follow the reading in their own Bibles which are not the same.
  • Christy
    I 1st read this verse in NKJV Bible where love is used not charity. Reading the KJV I found it very confusing. I researched further to find that the word came from agape which means more of unconditional love. I think the two words together would make a better translation. When reading how it says charity it makes me think of Jesus preaching in Mathew 7:22-23 how works won't get you into heaven.
  • Joanne stern
    Besides all the great meaning in the scripture, it is so beautifully spoken in the king james version. I just don't see how anyone can be vain enough to think they can improve upon it
  • Irene123
    He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God, Micah 6:8.

    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, Eccl. 12:13. If ye love me, keep my commandments, Jn.14:15.

    I remembered Mic., Jn by heart, cont.
  • Jake
    Love is easily understood on a very surface, conceptual level, but I think it is important not just to see compassion as a thing to implement,but rather to rediscover it as the intrinsic aspect of humanity that throughout our lives we have a tendency to build walls around in the interest of self preservation. It is important to work on removing our walls so our childlike love can shine through.
  • Bre
    I was taught a valuable lesson about love this weekend. A family member and I had a disagreement about money we was still speaking with one another. But out of no where that family member passed away . I'm so glad that we still continued to love each other.

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Bible Trivia

If you don't have this attribute, your words are like a tinkling cymbal...
  • Hope
  • Charity
  • Peace
  • Forgiveness