13:1 Though 1 I speak with the tongues of men and of a angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a b tinkling cymbal.
(1) He reasons first of charity, the excellency of which he first shows by this, that without it, all other gifts are as nothing before God. And this he proves partly by an induction, and partly also by an argument taken of the end, for what reason those gifts are given. For, to what purpose are those gifts but to Gods glory, and the profit of the Church as is before proved? So that those gifts, without charity, have no right use. 13:2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all c faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
(a) A very earnest amplifying of the matter, as if he said, "If there were any tongues of angels, and I had them, and did not use them to the benefit of my neighbour, it would be nothing else except a vain and prattling type of babbling."
(b) That gives a rude and uncertain sound.
(c) By "faith" he means the gift of doing miracles, and not that faith which justifies, which cannot be void of charity as the other may. 13:4 2 Charity d suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
(2) He describes the force and nature of charity, partly by a comparison of opposites, and partly by the effects of charity itself. And by this the Corinthians may understand both how profitable it is in the church, and how necessary: and also how far they are from it, and therefore how vainly and without cause they are proud. 13:5 Doth e not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
(d) Literally, "defers wrath".
(e) It is not insolent, or reproachful. 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but f rejoiceth in the truth;
(f) Rejoices at righteousness in the righteous. For by "truth" the Hebrews mean "righteousness". 13:8 3 Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] g knowledge, it shall vanish away.
(3) Again he commends the excellency of charity, in that it will never be abolished in the saints, whereas the other gifts which are necessary for the building up of the church, so long as we live here, will have no place in the world to come. 13:9 4 For we know in h part, and we prophesy in part.
(g) The getting of knowledge by prophesying.
(4) The reason: because we are now in the state that we have need to learn daily, and therefore we have need of those helps, that is, of the gift of tongues, and knowledge, and also of those that teach by them. But to what purpose serve they then, when we have obtained and gotten the full knowledge of God, which serve now but for those who are imperfect and go by degrees to perfection? 13:11 5 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
(h) We learn imperfectly.
(5) He sets forth that which he said by an excellent similitude, comparing this life to our infancy, or childhood, in which we mutter and stammer rather than speak, and think and understand childish things, and therefore have need of such things as may form and frame our tongue and mind. But when we become men, to what purpose should we desire that stammering, those childish toys, and such like things, by which we are formed in our childhood by little and little? 13:12 6 For i now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
(6) The applying of the similitude of our childhood to this present life, in which we darkly behold heavenly things, according to the small measure of light which is given to us, through the understanding of tongues, and hearing the teachers and ministers of the Church. And our mans age and strength is compared to that heavenly and eternal life, in which when we behold God himself present, and are enlightened with his full and perfect light, to what purpose would we desire the voice of man, and those worldly things which are most imperfect? But yet then all the saints will be knit both with God, and between themselves with most fervent love. And therefore charity will not be abolished, but perfected, although it will not be shown forth and entertained by such manner of duties as belong only and especially to the infirmity of this life. 13:13 7 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
(i) All this must be understood by comparison.
(7) The conclusion: as if the apostle should say, "Such therefore will be our condition then: but now we have three things, and they remain sure if we are Christs, without which, true religion cannot consist, that is, faith, hope, and charity. And among these, charity is the chiefest because it ceases not in the life to come as the rest do, but is perfected and accomplished. For seeing that faith and hope tend to things which are promised and are to come, when we have presently gotten them, to what purpose would we have faith and hope? But yet there at length we will truly and perfectly love both God and one another."