1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Love Is Indispensable

1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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1 Corinthians 13:1 in Other Translations

KJV
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.
ESV
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
NLT
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
MSG
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
CSB
1 If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 13

This chapter is taken up in the commendation of the grace of charity, or love, which is preferred to all gifts whatsoever; is described by its properties and effects, and particularly its duration; on which account it is represented as more excellent than other principal graces. The apostle prefers it to gifts, by which it appears to be the more excellent way, he speaks of in the latter part of the preceding chapter: he begins with the gift of tongues, which without charity makes a man noisy, but not spiritual, 1Co 13:1 he next mentions the gifts of knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel, and of preaching them; and also the gift of working miracles, on the account of which a man thinks himself something, and yet with all these, not having the grace of love, he is nothing, 1Co 13:2 to which he adds alms deeds and martyrdom, and observes, that a man may do the one in the most extensive manner, and suffer the other in the most dreadful shape; and yet if love be wanting, from whence, as a principle, all actions and sufferings should flow, these will be of no avail, 1Co 13:3 and then the apostle proceeds to describe and commend this grace, by its effects and properties, and that in sixteen particulars; by which it appears to be exceeding useful, and what adorns and recommends the person possessed of it, 1Co 13:4-8 and enlarges upon the last, namely, the duration and perpetuity of it; showing that the gifts of knowledge, speaking with tongues, and preaching, shall fail, but this will not, 1Co 13:8 the failure of these gifts he proves from the imperfection of them, which therefore must be removed in a perfect state of things, 1Co 13:9,10 this he illustrates, by comparing the present imperfect state to childhood, and the future one to manhood, which he exemplifies in himself, 1Co 13:11 the imperfect knowledge of the one he compares to looking at objects through a glass, and to an enigma, riddle, or dark saying; and the perfect knowledge of the other, to seeing face to face, without any artificial help, 1Co 13:12 and he concludes this excellent commendation of charity by observing, that it is not only preferable to gifts, but even to graces, and these the more eminent, and which are abiding graces too, as faith and hope; and yet charity exceeds these, both as to its duration and use, 1Co 13:13.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 In-Context

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Cross References 26

  • 1. ver 8; S Mark 16:17
  • 2. ver 8; S Ephesians 4:11; S Acts 11:27
  • 3. 1 Corinthians 14:2
  • 4. S 2 Corinthians 8:7
  • 5. 1 Corinthians 12:9
  • 6. Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21
  • 7. Luke 19:8; S Acts 2:45; Matthew 6:2
  • 8. Daniel 3:28
  • 9. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
  • 10. 1 Corinthians 5:2
  • 11. S 1 Corinthians 10:24
  • 12. S Matthew 5:22
  • 13. Job 14:16,17; Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8
  • 14. 2 Thessalonians 2:12
  • 15. 2 John 4; 3Jn 3,4
  • 16. ver 8,13
  • 17. ver 2
  • 18. ver 1
  • 19. ver 12; S 1 Corinthians 8:2
  • 20. Philippians 3:12
  • 21. Psalms 131:2
  • 22. Job 26:14; Job 36:26
  • 23. Genesis 32:30; Job 19:26; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 1 John 3:2
  • 24. 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9
  • 25. Romans 5:2-5; Galatians 5:5,6; Ephesians 4:2-5; Colossians 1:4,5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 6:10-12
  • 26. Matthew 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Galatians 5:6; 1Jn 4:7-12,16

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or "languages"
  • [b]. Some manuscripts "body to the flames"
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