1 Corinthians 13:1
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.…
The word rendered "charity" in the Old Version, and "love" in the Revised Version of our New Testament, is not a classical substantive. It is emphatically a Christian term. And this need not be wondered at; for as the virtue itself is one, if not created, yet developed by Christianity, it is what might have been expected to find that the thing gave rise to the name. This chapter has been called a psalm of love, and is admired both for its elevated thinking and its melodious diction, whilst to such as are imbued with the true Christian spirit it is especially congenial and delightful.
I. MISCONCEPTIONS HAVE TO BE REMOVED. E.g.:
1. The use of the word "charity" is ambiguous. It is often used as equivalent to tolerance, as in the phrase, "the judgment of charity;" and often as synonymous with "almsgiving," as in the sad proverb, "Cold as charity." Neither of these uses meets the requirements of the text.
2. "Love" is also an ambiguous word, being commonly applied to the feeling of attraction and attachment between young people of opposite sexes - a usage which evidently has no applicability here.
II. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE HAS TO BE EXPLAINED.
1. It is between one human being and another. The question is not of reverent love to God, but of the mutual feelings of those endowed with the same spiritual nature.
2. It is a sentiment, and there is no love where there is simply a principle of action, cold and unimpassioned.
3. It is a sentiment which governs conduct, restraining men from injuring or slandering one another, and impelling them to mutual assistance.
III. THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE HAS TO BE TRACED.
1. Its true and ultimate origin is in the nature of God, who is love.
2. Its introduction among men is chiefly owing to the Lord Jesus, who was the gift of the Father's love, whose whole ministry to earth was a revelation of love, and whose benevolent conduct and sacrificial death were the fruit of love.
3. Its individual power and social efficacy are owing to the presence and operation of the Spirit of God. Not without significance is love mentioned first in the inventory of the fruits of the Spirit, which are these: love, joy, peace, etc.
IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRISTIAN LOVE HAS TO BE EXHIBITED. This is done in this chapter, systematically, in several ways.
1. It is superior to the supernatural gifts generously bestowed upon the Church in the first age.
2. It is the motive to dispositions and actions of the highest degree of moral beauty.
3. It will survive all that is most prized by man as intellectually precious and desirable.
4. It is superior even to gifts, or rather graces, so lovely and admirable as are faith and hope. - T.
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.