Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
The New Testament psalm of love, as the forty-fifth Psalm (see
title) and the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament.
1. tongues--from these he ascends to "prophecy"
then, to "faith"; then to benevolent and self-sacrificing deeds: a
climax. He does not except even himself, and so passes from addressing
them ("unto you,"
to putting the case in his own person, "Though I," &c.
speak with the tongues--with the eloquence which was so much admired
at Corinth (for example, Apollos,
1Co 1:12; 3:21, 22),
and with the command of various languages, which some at Corinth abused
to purposes of mere ostentation
of angels--higher than men, and therefore, it is to be supposed,
speaking a more exalted language.
charity--the principle of the ordinary and more important gifts of
the Spirit, as contrasted with the extraordinary gifts
sounding . . . tinkling--sound without soul or feeling: such are
"tongues" without charity.
cymbal--Two kinds are noticed
the loud or clear, and the high-sounding one: hand
cymbals and finger cymbals, or castanets. The sound is sharp and
(Ro 11:25; 16:25).
Mysteries refer to the deep counsels of God hitherto secret, but
now revealed to His saints. Knowledge, to truths long known.
faith . . . remove mountains--
(Mt 17:20; 21:21).
The practical power of the will elevated by faith [NEANDER]; confidence in God that the miraculous result
will surely follow the exercise of the will at the secret impulse of
His Spirit. Without "love" prophecy, knowledge, and faith, are not what
they seem (compare
1Co 8:1, 2;
and so fail of the heavenly reward
Thus Paul, who teaches justification by faith only
(Ro 3:4, 5;
Ga 2:16; 3:7-14),
is shown to agree with James, who teaches
"by works" (that is, by LOVE, which is the
"spirit" of faith,
a man is justified, "and not by faith only."
3. bestow . . . goods . . . poor--literally,
"dole out in food" all my goods; one of the highest functions of the
give . . . body to be burned--literally, "to such a
degree as that I should be burned." As the three youths did
"yielded their bodies" (compare
These are most noble exemplifications of love in giving and in
suffering. Yet they may be without love; in which case the "goods" and
"body" are given, but not the soul, which is the sphere of love.
Without the soul God rejects all else, and so rejects the man, who is
therefore "profited" nothing
Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live
in its spirit, which is love.
4. suffereth long--under provocations of evil from others. The
negative side of love.
is kind--the positive side. Extending good to others. Compare with
love's features here those of the "wisdom from above"
envieth--The Greek includes also jealousy.
vaunteth not--in words, even of gifts which it really possesses; an
indirect rebuke of those at Corinth who used the gift of tongues for
not puffed up--with party zeal, as some at Corinth were
5. not . . . unseemly--is not uncourteous, or inattentive to
civility and propriety.
thinketh no evil--imputeth not evil
[ALFORD]; literally, "the evil" which actually is there
Love makes allowances for the falls of others, and is ready to put on
them a charitable construction. Love, so far from devising evil against
another, excuses "the evil" which another inflicts on her
[ESTIUS]; doth not meditate upon evil
inflicted by another [BENGEL]; and in doubtful
cases, takes the more charitable view [GROTIUS].
6. rejoiceth in the truth--rather, "rejoiceth with the truth."
Exults not at the perpetration of iniquity (unrighteousness) by others
Ge 9:22, 23),
but rejoices when the truth rejoices; sympathizes with it in its
See the opposite
"Resist the truth." So "the truth" and "unrighteousness" are contrasted
"The truth" is the Gospel truth, the inseparable ally of love
The false charity which compromises "the truth" by glossing over
"iniquity" or unrighteousness is thus tacitly condemned
7. Beareth all things--without speaking of what it has to bear. The
same Greek verb as in
It endures without divulging to the world personal distress.
Literally said of holding fast like a watertight vessel; so the
charitable man contains himself in silence from giving vent to
what selfishness would prompt under personal hardship.
believeth all things--unsuspiciously believes all that is not palpably
false, all that it can with a good conscience believe to the credit of
"easy to be entreated"; Greek, "easily persuaded."
hopeth--what is good of another, even when others have ceased to hope.
endureth--persecutions in a patient and loving spirit.
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.
9, 10. in part--partially and imperfectly. Compare a similar contrast
to the "perfect man," "the measure of the stature of the fulness of
10. that which is in part--fragmentary and isolated.
11. When . . . a child--
(1Co 3:1; 14:20).
I spake--alluding to "tongues."
understood--or, "had the sentiments of." Alluding to "prophecy."
I thought--Greek "reasoned" or "judged"; alluding to "knowledge."
when I became . . . I put away--rather, "now that I am become a man,
I have done away with the things of the child."
12. now--in our present state.
see--an appropriate expression, in connection with the "prophets" of
through a glass--that is, in a mirror; the reflection seeming to
the eye to be behind the mirror, so that we see it through the
mirror. Ancient mirrors were made of polished brass or other metals. The
contrast is between the inadequate knowledge of an object gained by
seeing it reflected in a dim mirror (such as ancient mirrors were),
compared with the perfect idea we have of it by seeing itself directly.
darkly--literally, "in enigma." As a "mirror" conveys an image to
the eye, so an "enigma" to the ear. But neither "eye nor ear"
can fully represent (though the believer's soul gets a small revelation
now of) "the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him"
Paul alludes to
"not in dark speeches"; the Septuagint, "not in
enigmas." Compared with the visions and dreams
vouchsafed to other prophets, God's communications with Moses were "not
in enigmas." But compared with the intuitive and direct vision of God
hereafter, even the revealed word now is "a dark discourse," or a
shadowing forth by enigma of God's reflected likeness. Compare
where the "light" or candle in a dark place stands in contrast
with the "day" dawning. God's word is called a glass or mirror
then--"when that which is perfect is come"
face to face--not merely "mouth to mouth"
was a type
(Joh 1:50, 51).
know . . . known--rather as Greek, "fully
know . . . fully known." Now we are known by,
rather than know, God
13. And now--Translate, "But now." "In this present
state" [HENDERSON]. Or, "now" does not express
time, but opposition, as in
"the case being so" [GROTIUS]; whereas it is
the case that the three gifts, "prophecy," "tongues," and
"knowledge" (cited as specimens of the whole class of gifts) "fail"
there abide permanently only these three--faith, hope,
charity. In one sense faith and hope shall be done
away, faith being superseded by sight, and hope by actual fruition
and charity, or love, alone never faileth
But in another sense, "faith and hope," as well as "charity," ABIDE; namely, after the extraordinary gifts have
ceased; for those three are necessary and sufficient for salvation
at all times, whereas the extraordinary gifts are not at all so;
compare the use of "abide,"
Charity, or love, is connected specially with the Holy Spirit,
who is the bond of the loving union between the brethren
Faith is towards God. Hope is in behalf of ourselves.
Charity is love to God creating in us love towards our neighbor.
In an unbeliever there is more or less of the three
opposites--unbelief, despair, hatred. Even hereafter faith in
the sense of trust in God "abideth"; also "hope," in relation to
ever new joys in prospect, and at the anticipation of ever increasing
blessedness, sure never to be disappointed. But love alone in every
sense "abideth"; it is therefore "the greatest" of the three, as also
because it presupposes "faith," which without "love" and its consequent
"works" is dead
Jas 2:17, 20).
but--rather, "and"; as there is not so strong opposition between
charity and the other two, faith and hope, which like it also "abide."