Commentary on I Corinthians 13
Today, 1 Corinthians 13 is known to many of God's people as the love chapter. To some, it may appear that this chapter is saying that love is more important than God given gifts such as knowledge, understanding, prophecy, tongues, faith, as well physical acts a Christian may perform. However, the important thing to know is not what we believe about the chapter, but the message God intended to communicate. Now to help clarify that message I will now comment on the first eight verses in the chapter:
Verse 1“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
Comment: Paul's gift of communicating in another language is of no value UNLESS a person is motivated by a Godly type of love to edify other members of the body. What the verse did not say: Tongue speaking is of no value or unimportant – full stop.
Verse 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, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Comment: In this verse, God was explaining the same principle mentioned in the previous verse. Basically, He was explaining that gifts of prophecy, understanding, faith, are of no value unless they are used to edify other members of the body, and express a Godly type of love – expanded upon further down in the chapter. In I Corinthians14:12, God shows that gifts are very important because they are for peoples spiritual edification: “ Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.“ (NKJV).
Verse 3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
Comment: In the above verse, God continues the same theme, but applies it to various physical acts. In other words, the motivation behind all our actions should be the type of Godly love that is described in the next three verses of the chapter under discussion. Also, taking into account the context of the whole chapter so far and the strict meaning of the original Greek, the later part of the above verse would probably be translated better, “… but have not love I am of no spiritual value” [in Gods eyes].
Verse 4-7 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”
Comment: In the above verses 4-7, God goes on to explain the type of love He is talking about throughout the previous verses that all gifts and acts should express.
Verse 8 “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
Comment: In verse 8, God goes on to explain that the principle of Godly love discussed throughout the chapter will continue on long after certain physical acts and gifts have no more use or application (in fact, Godly love will continue well beyond our physical existence and be applied when we are spirit beings). However, the verse is NOT saying that physical acts and gifts are not important while we are living in this physical world. They do have important value. However, they need to always express the type of Godly love described in verses 4-7.
The central message contained in 1 Corinthians is: physical actions as well as Gods gifts of knowledge, understanding, prophecy, tongues, faith, are useless and of no value in Gods eyes unless they express a Godly type of love and are used to edify other members of the body. This principle also applies to various actions. In other words, the motivation should be Godly love. The verse is not saying that gifts and actions are of no value full stop.