1 Corinthians 13:1-13 . CHARITY OR LOVE SUPERIOR TO ALL GIFTS.
7. Beareth all things--without speaking of what it has to bear. The same Greek verb as in 1 Corinthians 9:12 . 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 another. Compare James 3:17 , "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 Translate, "Shall be done away with," that is, shall be dispensed with at the Lord's coming, being superseded by their more perfect heavenly analogues; for instance, knowledge by intuition.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entirely "ceased," and "prophesyings" and "knowledge," so far as they were supernatural gifts of the Spirit, were superseded as no longer required when the ordinary preaching of the word, and the Scriptures of the New Testament collected together, had become established institutions.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 Christ" ( Ephesians 4:11-13 ).
10. that which is in part--fragmentary and isolated.
11. When . . . a child--( 1 Corinthians 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 seers ( 1 Samuel 9:9 ).
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" ( 1 Corinthians 2:9 ). Paul alludes to Numbers 12:8 , "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 2 Peter 1:19 , 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 also in 2 Corinthians 3:18 .
then--"when that which is perfect is come" ( 1 Corinthians 13:10 ).
face to face--not merely "mouth to mouth" ( Numbers 12:8 ). Genesis 32:30 was a type ( John 1:50 John 1:51 ).
know . . . known--rather as Greek, "fully know . . . fully known." Now we are known by, rather than know, God ( 1 Corinthians 8:3 , Galatians 4:9 ).
13. And now--Translate, "But now." "In this present state" [HENDERSON]. Or, "now" does not express time, but opposition, as in 1 Corinthians 5:11 , "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" ( 1 Corinthians 13:8 ), 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 ( Romans 8:24 , 2 Corinthians 5:7 ); and charity, or love, alone never faileth ( 1 Corinthians 13:8 ). 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," 1 Corinthians 3:14 . Charity, or love, is connected specially with the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of the loving union between the brethren ( Romans 15:30 , Colossians 1:8 ). 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 ( Galatians 5:6 , James 2:17 James 2:20 ).
but--rather, "and"; as there is not so strong opposition between charity and the other two, faith and hope, which like it also "abide."