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13:1 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.
13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, 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.
13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
13:11 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.
13:12 For 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.
13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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Everything King James Bible:1 Corinthians

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: 1 Corinthians
Book: 1 Corinthians
Chapter: 13

The necessity and advantage of the Grace of Love. (1-3) Its
excellency represented By its properties and effects; (4-7) and
By its abiding, and its superiority. (8-13)

1-3 The excellent way had in view in the close of the former
Chapter, is not what is meant By Charity in our common use of
the Word, Alms giving, but Love in its fullest meaning; true Love
to God and Man. Without this, the most glorious Gifts are of No
account to us, of No esteem in the sight of God. A clear head
and a Deep understanding, are of No value without a benevolent
and charitable Heart. There may be an open and lavish Hand,
where there is not a liberal and charitable Heart. Doing good to
others will do none to us, if it be not done from Love to God,
and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we
withhold the Heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the
most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for
acceptance and reward for their good Works, which are as scanty
and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!

4-7 Some of the effects of Charity are stated, that we may know
whether we have this Grace; and that if we have not, we may not
Rest till we have it. This Love is a clear proof of
Regeneration, and is a touchstone of our professed Faith in
Christ. In this beautiful description of the nature and effects
of Love, it is meant to show the Corinthians that their conduct
had, in many respects, been a contrast to it. Charity is an
utter enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own
praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Not that Charity
destroys all regard to ourselves, or that the charitable Man
should neglect himself and all his interests. But Charity never
seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It
ever prefers the welfare of others to its private advantage. How
good-natured and amiable is Christian Charity! How excellent
would Christianity appear to the world, if those who profess it
were more under this Divine principle, and paid due regard to
the command On which its blessed Author laid the chief stress!
Let us ask whether this Divine Love dwells in our hearts. Has
this principle guided us into becoming behaviour to all men? Are
we willing to lay aside selfish objects and aims? Here is a Call
to watchfulness, diligence, and Prayer.

8-13 Charity is much to be preferred to the Gifts On which the
Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It
is a Grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of
childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference
between Earth and Heaven. What narrow views, what confused
notions of things, have children when compared with grown men!
Thus shall we think of our most valued Gifts of this world, when
we come to Heaven. All things are dark and confused now,
compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen
as By the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a
Riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all
obscurity and error. It is the Light of Heaven only, that will
remove all clouds and Darkness that hide the Face of God from
us. To sum up the excellences of Charity, it is preferred not
only to Gifts, but to other graces, to Faith and Hope. Faith
fixes On the Divine Revelation, and assents thereto, relying On
the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens On future happiness, and waits
for that; but in Heaven, Faith will be swallowed up in actual
sight, and Hope in enjoyment. There is No room to believe and
Hope, when we see and enjoy. But there, Love will be made
perfect. There we shall perfectly Love God. And there we shall
perfectly Love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing
the best below! God is Love, 1Jo 4:8,16. Where God is to be
seen as he is, and Face to Face, there Charity is in its
greatest height; there only will it be perfected.

Most Bibles I have read substitute "Love" for "Charity" in this passage. Different versions of the Bible often have subtle differences in their translations.

This is, in fact, one of my favourite chapters of the Bible. I think that it is an excellent way of testing your love for somebody.

My radical ideas about this Bible passage have occured to others. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most popular Bible readings at Christian weddings.

I have an atheist friend who is a hopeless romantic and were he ever to pick up a Bible, he would love every word of this chapter, as it epitimises his ideal of love. He'd love the entire book of Song of Songs as well...

I've ruffled a few feathers with this writeup because the original Greek word in this chapter is agape which is more akin to a spiritual love, hence the freqent translation to "charity". (Agape is considered the highest form of love, such as you would have for God.) Use of the chapter at weddings implies the translation of "love" as from eros or romanic love, which is not correct. Personally, that doesn't plague me. I still think its awesome.

Actually, while Paul does seem to be talking about divine love, the passage applies fairly well to romantic love as well. Paul regularly uses 'agape' to refer to this form of love. For example, in Epesians 5:25, he says "Husbands, love your wife, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." In this case, "love" is "agapao".

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