1 Corinthians 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.
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(8) Charity never faileth.—From the positive and negative qualities of love described and enumerated in the preceding passage, the Apostle now turns to contrast the imperishable character of love and other graces with the ephemeral nature of gifts. The Corinthians held an exaggerated estimate of the value of gifts such as tongues and prophecy, and under-valued the graces of faith and love. Now the Apostle shows that they were thereby preferring the things which are for a time to the graces which are for ever. One faction, indeed, exalted to the highest place a gift—that of tongues—which was the most ephemeral of all Christian gifts. On the “tongues,” see Note on 1Corinthians 14:2. “Prophecies,” in the plural, intimates the varied gradations of power possessed by the preachers, in some cases including that deep spiritual insight into the realities of the present which enabled the preacher to foretell distant events.

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 13:8
, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

We discern the run of the Apostle’s thought best by thus omitting the intervening verses and connecting these two. The part omitted is but a buttress of what has been stated in the former of our two verses; and when we thus unite them there is disclosed plainly the Apostle’s intention of contrasting two sets of things, three in each set. The one set is ‘prophecies, tongues, knowledge’; the other, ‘faith, hope, charity.’ There also comes out distinctly that the point mainly intended by the contrast is the transiency of the one and the permanence of the other. Now, that contrast has been obscured and weakened by two mistakes, about which I must say a word.

With regard to the former statement, ‘Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease,’ that has been misunderstood as if it amounted to a declaration that the miraculous gifts in the early Church were intended to be of brief duration. However true that may be, it is not what Paul means here. The cessation to which he refers is their cessation in the light of the perfect Future. With regard to the other statement, the abiding of faith, hope, charity, that, too, has been misapprehended as if it indicated that faith and hope belonged to this state of things only, and that love was the greatest of the three, because it was permanent. The reason for that misconception has mainly lain in the misunderstanding of the force of ‘Now,’ which has been taken to mean ‘for the present,’ as an implied contrast to an unspoken ‘then’; just as in the previous verse we have, ‘Now we see through a glass, then face to face.’ But the ‘now’ in this text is not, as the grammarians say, temporal, but logical. That is, it does not refer to time, but to the sequence of the Apostle’s thought, and is equivalent to ‘so then.’ ‘So then abideth faith, hope, charity.’

The scope of the whole, then, is to contrast the transient with the permanent, in Christian experience. If we firmly grasped the truth involved, our estimates would be rectified and our practice revolutionised.

I. I ask this question-What will drop away?

Paul answers, ‘prophecies, tongues, knowledge.’ Now these three were all extraordinary gifts belonging to the present phase of the Christian life. But inasmuch as these gifts were the heightening of natural capacities and faculties, it is perfectly legitimate to enlarge the declaration and to use these three words in their widest signification. So understood, they come to this, that all our present modes of apprehension and of utterance are transient, and will be left behind.

‘Knowledge, it shall cease,’ and as the Apostle goes on to explain, in the verses which I have passed over for my present purpose, it shall cease because the perfect will absorb into itself the imperfect, as the inrushing tide will obliterate the little pools in the rocks on the seashore. For another reason, the knowledge, the mode of apprehension belonging to the present, will pass-because here it is indirect, and there it will be immediate. ‘We shall know face to face,’ which is what philosophers mean by intuition. Here our knowledge ‘creeps from point to point,’ painfully amassing facts, and thence, with many hesitations and errors, groping its way towards principles and laws. Here it is imperfect, with many a gap in the circumference; or like the thin red line on a map which shows the traveller’s route across a prairie, or like the spider’s thread in the telescope, stretched athwart the blazing disc of the sun-’but then face to face.’ Incomplete knowledge shall be done away; and many of its objects will drop, and much of what makes the science of earth will be antiquated and effete. What would the hand-loom weaver’s knowledge of how to throw his shuttle be worth in a weaving-shed with a thousand looms? Just so much will the knowledges of earth be when we get yonder.

Modes of utterance will cease. With new experiences will come new methods of communication. As a man can speak, and a beast can only growl or bark, so a man in heaven, with new experiences, will have new methods of communication. The comparison between that mode of utterance which we now have, and that which we shall then possess, will be like the difference between the old-fashioned semaphore, that used to wave about clumsy wooden arms in order to convey intelligence, and the telegraph.

Think, then, of a man going into that future life, and saying ‘I knew more about Sanscrit than anybody that ever lived in Europe’; ‘I sang sweet songs’; ‘I was a past master in philology, grammars, and lexicons’; ‘I was a great orator.’ ‘Tongues shall cease’; and the modes of utterance that belonged to earth, and all that holds of them, will drop away, and be of no more use.

If these things are true, brethren, with regard even to the highest form of these high and noble things, how much more and more solemnly true are they with regard to the aims and objects which most of us have in view? They will all drop away, and we shall be left, stripped of what, for most of us, has made the whole interest and activity of our lives.

II. What will last?

‘So then, abideth these three, faith, hope, love.’ When Paul takes three nouns and couples them with a verb in the singular, he is not making a slip of the pen, or committing a grammatical blunder which a child could correct. But there is a great truth in that piece of apparent grammatical irregularity; for the faith, the hope, and the love, for which he can only afford a singular verb, are thereby declared to be in their depth and essence one thing, and it, the triple star, abides, and continues to shine. The three primitive colours are unified in the white beam of light. Do not correct the grammar, and spoil the sense, but discern what he means when he says, ‘Now, abideth faith, hope, love.’ For this is what he means, that the two latter come out of the former, and that without it they are nought, and that it without them is dead.

Faith breeds Hope. There is the difference between earthly hopes and Christian people’s hopes. Our hopes, apart from the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, are but the balancing of probabilities, and the scale is often dragged down by the clutch of eager desires. But all is baseless and uncertain, unless our hopes are the outcome of our faith. Which, being translated into other words, is just this, that the one basis on which men can rest-ay! even for the immediate future, and the contingencies of life, as well as for the solemnities and certainties of heaven-any legitimate and substantial hope is trust in Jesus Christ, His word, His love, His power, and for the heavenly future, in His Resurrection and present glory. A man who believes these things, and only that man, has a rock foundation on which he can build his hope.

Faith, in like manner, is the parent of Love. Paul and John, diverse as they are in the whole cast of their minds, the one being speculative and the other mystical, the one argumentative and the other simply gazing and telling what he sees, are precisely agreed in regard to this matter. For, to the Apostle of Love, the foundation of all human love towards God is, ‘We have known and believed the love that God hath to us,’ and ‘We love Him because He first loved us,’ and to Paul the first step is the trusting reception of the love of God, ‘commended to us’ by the fact that ‘whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us,’ and from that necessarily flows, if the faith be genuine, the love that answers the sacrifice and obeys the Beloved. So faith, hope, love, these three are a trinity in unity, and it abideth. That is the main point of our last text. Let me say a word or two about it.

I have said that the words have often been misunderstood as if the ‘now’ referred only to the present order of things, in which faith and hope are supposed to find their only appropriate sphere. But that is clearly not the Apostle’s meaning here, for many reasons with which I need not trouble you. The abiding of all three is eternal abiding, and there is a heavenly as well as an earthly form of faith and hope as well as of love. Just look at these points for a moment.

‘Faith abides,’ says Paul, yonder, as here. Now, there is a common saying, which I suppose ninety out of a hundred people think comes out of the Bible, about faith being lost in sight. There is no such teaching in Scripture. True, in one aspect, faith is the antithesis of sight. True, Paul does say ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ But that antithesis refers only to part of faith’s significance. In so far as it is the opposite of sight, of course it will cease to be in operation when ‘we shall know even as we are known’ and ‘see Him as He is.’ But the essence of faith is not in the absence of the person trusted, but the emotion of trust which goes out to the person, present or absent. And in its deepest meaning of absolute dependence and happy confidence, faith abides through all the glories and the lustres of the heavens, as it burns amidst the dimnesses and the darknesses of earth. For ever and ever, on through the irrevoluble ages of eternity, dependence on God in Christ will be the life of the glorified, as it was the life of the militant, Church. No millenniums of possession, and no imaginable increases in beauty and perfectness and enrichment with the wealth of God, will bring us one inch nearer to casting off the state of filial dependence which is, and ever will be, the condition of our receiving them all. Faith ‘abides.’

Hope ‘abides.’ For it is no more a Scriptural idea that hope is lost in fruition, than it is that faith is lost in sight. Rather that Future presents itself to us as the continual communication of an inexhaustible God to our progressively capacious and capable spirits. In that continual communication there is continual progress. Wherever there is progress there must be hope. And thus the fair form, which has so often danced before us elusive, and has led us into bogs and miry places and then faded away, will move before us through all the long avenues of an endless progress, and will ever and anon come back to tell us of the unseen glories that lie beyond the next turn, and to woo us further into the depths of heaven and the fulness of God. Hope ‘abides.’

Love ‘abides.’ I need not, I suppose, enlarge upon that thought which nobody denies, that love is the eternal form of the human relation to God. It, too, like the mercy which it clasps, ‘endureth for ever.’

But I may remind you of what the Apostle does not explain in our text, that it is greater than its linked sisters, because whilst faith and hope belong only to a creature, and are dependent and expectant of some good to come to themselves, and correspond to something which is in God in Christ, the love which springs from faith and hope not only corresponds to, but resembles, that from which it comes and by which it lives. The fire kindled is cognate with the fire that kindles; and the love that is in man is like the love that is in God. It is the climax of his nature; it is the fulfilling of all duty; it is the crown and jewelled clasp of all perfection. And so ‘abideth faith, hope, love, and the greatest of these is love.’

III. Lastly, what follows from all this?

First, let us be quite sure that we understand what this abiding love is. I dare say you have heard people say ‘Ah! I do not care much about Paul’s theology. Give me the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. That is beautiful; that praise of Love; that comes home to men.’ Yes, very beautiful. Are you quite sure that you know what Paul means by ‘love’ ? I do not use the word charity, because that lovely word, like a glistening meteor that falls upon the earth, has a rust, as it were, upon its surface that dims its brightness very quickly. Charity has come to mean an indulgent estimate of other people’s faults; or, still more degradingly, the giving of money out of your pockets to other people’s necessities. These are what the people who do not care much about Paul’s theology generally suppose that he means here. But these do not exhaust his meaning. Paul’s notion of love is the response of the human love to the divine, which divine is received into the heart by simple faith in Jesus Christ. And his notion of love which never faileth, and endureth all things, and hopeth all things, is love to men, which is but one stream of the great river of love to God. If we rightly understand what he means by love, we shall find that his praise of love is as theological as anything that he ever wrote. We shall never get further than barren admiration of a beautiful piece of writing, unless our love to men has the source and root to which Paul points us.

Again, let us take this great thought of the permanence of faith, hope, and love as being the highest conception that we can form of our future condition. It is very easy to bewilder ourselves with speculations and theories of another life. I do not care much about them. The great gates keep their secret well. Few stray beams of light find their way through their crevices. The less we say the less likely we are to err. It is easy to let ourselves be led away, by turning rhetoric into revelation, and accepting the symbols of the New Testament as if they carried anything more than images of the realities. But far beyond golden pavements, and harps, and crowns, and white robes, lies this one great thought that the elements of the imperfect, Christlike life of earth are the essence of the perfect, Godlike life in heaven. ‘Now abide these three, faith, hope, love.’

Last of all, let us shape our lives in accordance with these certainties. The dropping away of the transient things is no argument for neglecting or despising them; for our handling of them makes our characters, and our characters abide. But it is a very excellent argument for shaping our lives so as to seek first the first things, and to secure the permanent qualities, and so to use the transient as that it shall all help us towards that which does not pass.

What will a Manchester man that knows nothing except goods and office work, and knows these only in their superficial aspect, and not as related to God, what, in the name of common-sense, will he do with himself when he gets into a world where there is not a single ledger, nor a desk, nor a yard of cloth of any sort? What will some of us do when, in like manner, we are stripped of all the things that we have cared about, and worked for, and have made our aims down here? Suppose that you knew that you were under sailing orders to go somewhere or other, and that at any moment a breathless messenger might appear and say, ‘Come along! we are all waiting for you’; and suppose that you never did a single thing towards getting your outfit ready, or preparing yourself in any way for that which might come at any moment, and could not but come before very long. Would you be a wise man? But that is what a great many of us are doing; doing every day, and all day long, and doing that only. ‘He shall leave them in the midst of his days,’ says a grim text, ‘and at his latter end shall be a fool.’

What will drop? Modes of apprehension, modes of utterance, occupations, duties, relationships, loves; and we shall be left standing naked, stripped, as it were, to the very quick, and only as much left as will keep our souls alive. But if we are clothed with faith, hope, love, we shall not be found naked. Cultivate the high things, the permanent things; then death will not wrench you violently from all that you have been and cared for; but it will usher you into the perfect form of all that you have been and done upon earth. All these things will pass, but faith, hope, love, ‘stay not behind nor in the grave are trod,’ but will last as long as Christ, their Object, lives, and as long as we in Him live also.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Love never faileth — It accompanies us to, prepares us for, and adorns us in eternity; nay, it is the very felicity of heaven. In these respects it materially differs from, and has an apparent advantage over, many of those gifts which some are so ready to emulate and pursue, to the neglect and injury of this love. For whether there be prophecies, they shall fail — When all things foretold are accomplished, and God is all in all. Whether there be tongues, they shall cease — For one language shall prevail among all the inhabitants of heaven, and all the low and imperfect languages of earth shall be forgotten. Whether there be knowledge — Such as we now pursue with the greatest eagerness, the knowledge of the fleeting, transitory things of earth, and affairs of men, conducive as it is to our present usefulness; it shall vanish away — As starlight is lost in that of the mid-day sun, so our present knowledge in the light of eternity. For we know in part, we prophesy in part — The wisest of men have here but short, narrow, and imperfect conceptions, even of the things round about them, and much more of the deep things of God. And even the prophecies which men deliver from God are far from taking in the whole of future events, or of that wisdom and knowledge of God which is treasured up in the Scripture revelation. But when that which is perfect is come — As in the heavenly state it shall; then that which is only in part shall be done away — Both that poor, low, imperfect, glimmering light, which is all the knowledge we now can attain to, and these slow and unsatisfactory methods of attaining it, as well as of imparting it to others.

13:8-13 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.Charity never faileth - Paul here proceeds to illustrate the value of love, from its "permanency" as compared with other valued endowments. It is valuable, and is to be sought because it will always abide; may be always exercised; is adapted to all circumstances, and to all worlds in which we may be placed, or in which we may dwell. The word rendered "faileth" (ἐκπίπτει ekpiptei) denotes properly to fall out of, to fall from or off; and may be applied to the stars of heaven falling Mark 13:25, or to flowers that fall or fade James 1:11; 1 Peter 1:24, or to chains falling from the hands, etc.; Acts 12:7. Here it means to fall away, to fail; to be without effect, to cease to be in existence. The expression may mean that it will be adapted to all the situations of life, and is of a nature to be always exercised; or it may mean that it will continue to all eternity, and he exercised in heaven forever. The connection demands that the latter should be regarded as the true interpretation; see 1 Corinthians 13:13. The sense is, that while other endowments of the Holy Spirit must soon cease and he valueless, love would abide, and would always exist. The "argument" is, that we ought to seek that which is of enduring value; and that, therefore, love should be preferred to those endowments of the Spirit on which so high a value had been set by the Corinthians.

But whether there be prophecies - That is, the "gift" of prophecy, or the power of speaking as a prophet; that is, of delivering the truth of God in an intelligible manner under the influence of inspiration; the gift of being a public speaker, of instructing and edifying the church, and foretelling future events; see the note at 1 Corinthians 14:1.

They shall fail - The gift shall cease to be exercised; shall be abolished, come to nothing. There shall be no further use for this gift in the light and glory of the world above, and it shall cease. God shall be the teacher there. And as there will be no need of confirming the truth of religion by the prediction of future events, and no need of warning against impending dangers there, the gift of foretelling future events will be of course unknown. In heaven, also, there will be no need that the faith of God's people shall be encouraged, or their devotions excited, by such exhortations and instructions as are needful now; and the endowment of prophecy will be, therefore, unknown.

There be tongues - The power of speaking foreign languages.

They shall cease - Macknight supposes this means that they shall cease in the church after the gospel shall have been preached to all nations. But the more natural interpretation is, to refer it to the future life; since the main idea which Paul is urging here is the value of love above all other endowments, from the fact that it would be "abiding," or permanent - an idea which is more certainly and fully met by a reference to the future world than by a reference to the state of things in the church on earth. If it refers to heaven, it means that the power of communicating thoughts there will not be by the medium of learned and foreign tongues. What will be the mode is unknown. But as the diversity of tongues is one of the fruits of sin Genesis 11, it is evident that in those who are saved there will be deliverance from all the disadvantages which have resulted from the confusion of tongues. Yet love will not cease to be necessary; and love will live forever.

Whether there be knowledge - See the note at 1 Corinthians 14:8. This refers, I think, to knowledge as "we now possess it." It cannot mean that there will be no knowledge in heaven; for there must be a vast increase of knowledge in that world among all its inhabitants. The idea in the passage here, I think, is, "All the knowledge which we now possess, valuable as it is, will be obscured and lost, and rendered comparatively valueless, in the fuller splendors of the eternal world; as the feeble light of the stars, beautiful and valuable as it is, "vanishes," or is lost in the splendors of the rising sun. The knowledge which we now have is valuable, as the gift of prophecy and the power of speaking foreign languages is valuable, but it will be lost in the brighter visions of the world above." That this is the sense is evident from what Paul says in illustration of the sentiment in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10. "Now" we know in part. What we deem ourselves acquainted with, we imperfectly understand. There are many obscurities and many difficulties. But in that future world we shall know distinctly and clearly 1 Corinthians 13:12; and then the knowledge which we now possess will appear so dim and obscure, that it will seem to have vanished away and disappeared,

"As a dim candle dies at noon."

Macknight and others understand this of the knowledge of the mysteries of the Old Testament, or "the inspired knowledge of the ancient revelations, which should be abolished when the church should have attained its mature state;" a most meagre, jejune, and frigid interpretation. It is true, also, that not only shall our imperfect knowledge seem to have vanished in the superior light and glory of the eternal world but that much of that which here passes for knowledge shall be then unknown. Much of that which is called "science" is "falsely so called;" and much that is connected with literature that has attracted so much attention, will be unknown in the eternal world. It is evident that much that is connected with criticism, and the knowledge of language, with the different systems of mental philosophy which are erroneous; perhaps much that is connected with anatomy, physiology, and geology; and much of the science which now is connected with the arts, and which is of use only as tributary to the arts, will be then unknown. Other subjects may rise into importance which are now unknown; and possibly things connected with science which are now regarded as of the least importance will then become objects of great moment, and ripen and expand into sciences that shall contribute much to the eternal happiness of heaven. The essential idea in this passage is, that all the knowledge which we now possess shall lose its effulgence, be dimmed and lost in the superior light of heaven. But love shall live there; and we should, therefore, seek that which is permanent and eternal.

8. never faileth—never is to be out of use; it always holds its place.

shall fail … vanish away—The same Greek verb is used for both; and that different from the Greek verb for "faileth." Translate, "Shall be done away with," that is, shall be dispensed with at the Lord's coming, being superseded by their more perfect heavenly analogues; for instance, knowledge by intuition. Of "tongues," which are still more temporary, the verb is "shall cease." A primary fulfilment of Paul's statement took place when the Church attained its maturity; then "tongues" entirely "ceased," and "prophesyings" and "knowledge," so far as they were supernatural gifts of the Spirit, were superseded as no longer required when the ordinary preaching of the word, and the Scriptures of the New Testament collected together, had become established institutions.

The apostle, from another argument, commendeth the grace of love, viz. its never failing; it shall go with us into another world, and have its use and exercise there, where there will be no prophesying, no speaking with divers tongues, but there the saints shall love God. And this maketh it evident, that by charity, or love, (before mentioned), the apostle doth not singly mean bounty or beneficence to those that stand in need of those good things of this life, in which we can help them.

Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away: by knowledge, here, some understand the communicating of knowledge to the church by preaching: others, the means we now have by meditating in and study of the Scriptures: others, better, of the imperfect degrees of our knowledge, or the way of our procuring it: the following verses would incline us to interpret it of the former, though it be true also of the latter.

Charity never faileth,.... It may fail as to the exercise of it, as other graces do; it may be left, but not lost; the fervour of it may be remitted and abated; it may wax cold through the prevalence of sin; it may be greatly damped by the growth of error and heresy, which eat as do a canker; and may be much obstructed by an anxious and immoderate care and concern for worldly things; which are very pernicious to all the branches of vital religion and powerful godliness, and particularly love to God, Christ, and the brethren: but this grace never fails as to its principle; it is an immortal and an incorruptible seed; it lives throughout the most violent temptations, as in Peter; and under the greatest desertions and sorest afflictions, still there is an affection for God; Christ is he whom such a soul loves; and the saints are the excellent in the earth, in whom is all his delight: and it also continues as to its use, and will do so, when faith and hope will loose theirs, even in the other world; for faith will be changed into vision, and hope into enjoyment; but love will be the same, only act in a higher sphere, and to a greater degree, and in a perfect manner:

but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; by which are meant, either the predictions of future events, not that they shall fail in their accomplishment, but they shall be no more, because they will all be accomplished; or else the gifts of explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, and of preaching the doctrines of the Gospel, will be no more, because there will be no need of them in a state of perfection:

whether there be tongues they shall cease; not but that, in the resurrection, that member of the body, the tongue, will be restored as the rest, and be everlastingly employed in celebrating the perfections of God, in singing the hallelujahs of the Lamb, and in joining with angels and other saints in songs of praise to the eternal Three; but the gift of speaking with divers tongues will cease, indeed it has already; nor will there be any use for such an extraordinary gift in the other world; when probably, and as it is thought by some, there will be but one language, and that the Hebrew language; as the whole earth was of one language and speech before the confusion at Babel:

whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away; that is, the word of knowledge, peculiarly given by the spirit to some persons only; or that peculiar gift of knowledge of divine things, by which some are qualified to be instructors of others; the present means both of communicating, and of obtaining and increasing knowledge by the preaching and hearing of the word, will be no more used: and besides, imperfect knowledge of every sort will disappear, it will become perfect; that knowledge which is in part will be done away, when perfect knowledge takes place; for so we are taught to explain it by the following words.

{3} Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be {g} knowledge, it shall vanish away.

(3) Again he commends the excellency of charity, in that it will never be abolished in the saints, whereas the other gifts which are necessary for the building up of the church, so long as we live here, will have no place in the world to come.

(g) The getting of knowledge by prophesying.

1 Corinthians 13:8. Up to this point the characteristics of love have been given; now on to 1 Corinthians 13:13 her imperishableness is described, in contrast to the purely temporary destination of the gifts of the Spirit.

οὐδέποτε πίπτει] (see the critical remarks) never does she fall, i.e. she never falls into decay, remains always stedfast (μένει, 1 Corinthians 13:13). The opposite is: καταργηθήσονται, παύσονται. Comp Luke 16:17; Plato, Phil. p. 22 E; Soph. Ant. 474; Polyb. x. 33. 4, i. 35. 5; Dem. 210. 15. The Recept[2081] ἘΚΠΊΠΤΕΙ (Romans 9:6) is to be taken in precisely the same way. Theodoret puts it well: Οὐ ΔΙΑΣΦΆΛΛΕΤΑΙ, ἈΛΛʼ ἈΕῚ ΜΈΝΕΙ ΒΕΒΑΊΑ Κ. ἈΚΊΝΗΤΟς, Ἐς ἈΕῚ ΔΙΑΜΈΝΟΥΣΑ· ΤΟῦΤΟ ΓᾺΡ ΔΙᾺ ΤῶΝ ἘΠΑΓΟΜΈΝΩΝ ἘΔΊΔΑΞΕΝ.

In what follows ΕἼΤΕ opens out in detail the general conception of ΧΑΡΊΣΜΑΤΑ. Be it again (different kinds of) prophesyings, they shall be done away; be it (speaking) tongues, they shall cease, etc. This mode of division and interpunctuation is demanded by δέ (against Luther and others, including Heydenreich). Prophecy, speaking with tongues, and deep knowledge, are only appointed for the good of the church for the time until the Parousia; afterwards these temporary phenomena fall away. Even the gnosis will do so; for then comes in the perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12), and that as the common heritage of all, whereby the deep knowledge of gifted individuals, which is still but imperfect, as it occurs before the Parousia, will necessarily cease to subsist.

[2081] ecepta Textus receptus, or lectio recepta (Elzevir).

1 Corinthians 13:8. Love, that bears, also out-wears everything: “Love never faileth”. That πίπτει denotes “falling” in the sense of cessation, dropping out of existence (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:8, Luke 16:17), not moral failure (as in 1 Corinthians 10:12, etc.), is manifest from the parl, clauses and from 1 Corinthians 13:13. The charisms of chh. 12. and 14. are bestowed on the way and serve the way-faring Church, they cease each of them at a determined point; but the Way of Love leads indefinitely beyond them; οὐ διασφάλλεται, ἀλλʼ ἀεὶ μένει βεβαία καὶ ἀκίνητος (Thd[1992]).—“Prophesyings, tongues, and knowledge”—faculties inspired, ecstatic, intellectual—are the three typical forms of Christian expression. The abolition of Prophecies and Knowledge is explained in 1 Corinthians 13:9 ff. as the superseding of the partial by the perfect; they “will be done away” by a completer realisation of the objects they seek,—viz., by intuition into the now hidden things of God and of man (1 Corinthians 14:24 f.), and by adequate comprehension of the things revealed (see note on 1 Corinthians 13:12). Of the Tongues it is simply said that “they will stop” (παύσονται), having like other miracles a temporary significance (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:22); not giving place to any higher development of the like kind, they lapse and terminate (desinent, Bg[1993]).

[1992] Theodoret, Greek Commentator.

[1993] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

8. Charity never faileth] The Vulgate and some MSS. read falleth. Tyndale renders, falleth never awaye. In the Septuagint (as in Job 15:33, and Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:4) the word is used of a fading flower. In Romans 9:6, it is applied to the Word of God.

whether there be prophecies, they shall fail] Another word is here used in the original for the word translated fail. It should rather be rendered be brought to an end, literally be worked out. It is translated brought to nought in ch. 1 Corinthians 1:28, while in 1 Corinthians 13:10 it is rendered done away, in 1 Corinthians 13:11 put away, and in the latter part of this very verse vanish away. The utterances of the inspired man (see ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1) are, we are here told, no longer of any value to us when we are face to face with the facts of which he was wont to speak.

tongues] Either (1) speaking with tongues, which as a sign (see ch. 1 Corinthians 14:22) will be unnecessary when we are confronted with the reality and need no more signs and wonders to compel our attention to it Or (2) divers languages, which shall cease when the curse of Babel is removed in the ‘holy city, New Jerusalem’ which shall come down from heaven, and in which all things shall be made new.

whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away]. Rather, be brought to an end. See last note but one. Knowledge (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8) as the result of a process, the outcome of observation, argument, balancing of probabilities—for all these form part of our earthly knowledge—is but partial and incomplete (see next verse), and vanishes in a moment before the actual presence of what is. Wisdom, says Estius, will not in like manner vanish, because its perfection consists in the vision of God.

1 Corinthians 13:8. Οὐδέποτε ἐκπίπτει, never faileth) is not destroyed, does not cease, it always holds its place; it is never moved from its position; comp. ἐκπίπτοντες, Mark 13:25, note.—εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, but whether prophecies) viz., there are: so ch. 1 Corinthians 15:11. Prophecies in the plural, because they are multifarious.—καταργηθήσονται, they shall be done away with) This is the expression in the case of prophecies and knowledge; but regarding tongues, παύσονται, they shall cease. Tongues are a most charming thing, but the least lasting; they were the first gift on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, but they did not continue in the primitive church so long as the other miraculous gifts: nor have they anything analogous in a perfect state, as prophecy and knowledge have, to which they ought therefore to yield; whence presently after, respect is shown to those in preference to tongues, when he is speaking of “that which is perfect.”—γλῶσσαι, tongues) These occupy a middle place, because they are the vehicle and appendage of prophecies; but prophecy and knowledge constitute two different genera, 1 Corinthians 13:9; 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Verses 8-13. - The eternal permanence of love. Verse 8. - Never faileth. The word "faileth" (ἐκπίπτει) has two technical meanings between which it is not easy to decide.

1. 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.

2. 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 and in the LXX. (Job 21:43). But the reading may be simply πίπτει (falleth), as in א, A,B,C. 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" (ver. 10), and "put away" (ver. 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 stone word is rightly kept for the four recurrences of the verb. Tongues. Special charisms 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. 1 Corinthians 13:8Faileth (ἐκπίπει)

Falls off (ἐκ) like a leaf or flower, as James 1:11; 1 Peter 1:24. In classical Greek it was used of an actor who was hissed off the stage. But the correct reading is πίπτει falls, in a little more general sense, as Luke 16:17. Love holds its place.

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