1 Corinthians 13

This paper on 1 Corinthians 13 is the last written work by our esteemed brother Mr. Walter Gustafson, who went to be with the Lord in 2020. It is a privilege to publish his final series of articles.

Chapter 13 is in three parts: verses 1-3 describe the value of love, verses 4-7 the virtues of love, and verses 8-13 the victories of love. But the headings that I like the best are these: verses 1-3 emphasize the preciousness of love, verses 4-7 the practices of love, and verses 8-13 the permanence of love.

The Preciousness of Love

Verse 1 shows the preciousness of love. Paul is speaking hypothetically, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling [clanging] cymbal.”[1] Verse 1 is in the realm of speech, verse 2 the realm of intellect, and verse 3 the realm of devotion.

Paul’s words in verse 1 must have been startling to the Corinthians, who valued the speaking gifts so highly. By application to our day, a man could be speaking with such eloquence as to have his audience enthralled or spellbound, but without love it is only like a clanging cymbal, an unpleasant noise.

In the realm of intellect, Paul adds, “Though I have the gift of prophecy [not the foretelling of the future but the ability to explain clearly the meaning of Scripture to an audience], and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (v2). Quite a few saints may have thought very highly of such a person. “All faith” does not refer to saving faith or living for God faith but a wonder-working faith to the fullest degree (like George Müller who fed hundreds of orphans by praying in faith for God to meet the needs).

In the realm of devotion (v3), what more could any person give than all his goods to feed the poor and his body to a painful martyr’s death? But to do all that without love has no profit for him or for God.

In Luke 9:54 the disciples James and John had faith enough to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritan villagers because that village would not receive the Lord Jesus. But they did not have love enough for those people to believe that the Lord would not do it. In summary, if love is not prompting or motivating things that are of supreme value, those things are without value.

To be continued

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.