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 God's glory, and the profit of the
Church as is before proved? So that those gifts, without charity, have no
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
(d) Literally, "defers wrath".
13:5 Doth e
not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil;
(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".
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.
(g) The getting of knowledge by prophesying.
For we know in h part, and we prophesy
(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?
(h) We learn imperfectly.
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.
(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?
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 man's 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.
(i) All this must be understood by comparison.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these
(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 Christ's, 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."