1 Corinthians 13:1-13
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.…
There is no royal road to learning, but there is one to heaven — charity. To love is to be in possession of eternal blessedness.
I. ALL GIFTS ARE OF LITTLE WORTH IF NOT DIRECTED AND CONTROLLED BY LOVE (vers. 1-3) Paul takes the gifts upon which the Corinthians prided themselves, and affirms that all these are useless if love does not regulate their operations.
1. One man noted for his eloquence. But suppose he uses his gift for his own advantage, or to stir up the passions of his audience!
2. Another has vast knowledge, but what is the use of it if he has not love to communicate it, and that in the best way? It is one of the most dangerous gifts a man can possess.
3. Faith is nothing without love.
4. Liberality is nothing without love (ver. 3). You gave five pounds to a charitable restitution; why? Because you wanted to get rid of the collector, or because you thought it would bring custom?
5. Zeal without love is nothing. Paul says, "I can conceive of a man being burned through obstinacy or a false notion of heroism, but it will avail nothing if there is no love in his heart." And so, now, it is possible to be zealously affected in a good cause from the worst of all motives, viz., self-exaltation.
II. A DESCRIPTION OF LOVE (vers. 4-8). The man who has real love in his heart is —
1. Long-suffering and generous.
2. Contented. "Charity envieth not." Not that we should never strive for anything higher and better; but we should always be thankful for our position, and not constantly grumbling because some one else is a little ahead of us.
3. Humble. "Charity vaunteth not herself, is not puffed up." Nothing is more offensive than that spirit of assumption which "pats one on the back," and patronises as though it were an embodiment of the wisdom of all the ages.
4. Considerate of another's feelings. "Doth not behave itself unseemly."
5. Unselfish. "Charity seeketh not her own." The motto of most is, "Take care of number one."
6. Calm. "Is not easily provoked." Love has power to command all the other faculties, and to make them obey.
7. Unsuspicious. "Thinketh no evil," and with this may be put purity. "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." The best construction possible is put upon everything; on the other hand, where sin is really shown, love does not spare the sinner.
8. Magnanimous. "Beareth all things," or "covereth all things." The tendency of love is to hide rather than expose the faults of others instead of blazoning them abroad.
9. Trustful. "Believeth all things." Not that the charitable man is credulous, but he "thinketh no evil," i.e., when the conduct of others is concerned he always believes the best report.
10. Hopes for the best. "Hopeth all things." When an investigation is going on Love says, "I hope that man will come out clear."
11. Endures all things. Does not murmur or repine in times of sorrow — will bear anything for the welfare of another. Put all these characteristics together, and you have Jesus Christ, for in Him only do they all meet. Why, then, did Paul put such a high ideal before us? In order that we may try to reach it.
III. THE GREATNESS OF LOVE.
1. Gifts are transient. Those special gifts of tongues, etc., have long since passed away, and others have come in their place — eloquence, knowledge. These, however, are fleeting; but when these shall fail, Faith, Hope, and Charity will remain.
2. Love — it includes all.
3. Love is the perfection of knowledge (vers. 9, 10). This is illustrated by his personal experience (ver. 11).
(A. F. Barfield.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.