Online Bible Commentary
The Qualities of Love
1 Corinthians 12:31b And yet I show you a more excellent way.13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 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, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
Previously in chapter 12 Paul was writing of spiritual gifts. The first century church in Corinth was emphasizing the gift of tongues over the other spiritual gifts. In response, Paul called on them to emphasize the gifts that were better than the gift of tongues; gifts that were more edifying to the church. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the church.
In this passage, Paul shifts the focus from spiritual gifts to a “more excellent way” (v. 31b). He is not devaluing the importance of spiritual gifts, but rather setting the tone for their application.
The Corinthians application of the gift of tongues had caused divisions and hard feelings within the church between those who put a greater emphasis on the gift of tongues and those who did not. Paul wanted to resolve these divisions.
Paul begins by endorsing the importance of the gift of speaking in tongues by stating that he, himself, possessed that spiritual gift (v. 1a). He stated his gift consisted both of speaking in “the tongues of men and of angels” (v. 1b).
The “tongues of men” was the gift of speaking to others in their own language even though he did not have knowledge of their language, as such was displayed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The “tongues of angels” was the gift of speaking the supernatural language of God and translating it so that men could understand what was being said. Angels in the Bible always spoke so that men could understand what they ware saying.
Regardless of which gift of tongues is used, Paul states that all must be done in love (v. 1c). If not, the message is lost and confusing, sounding as the noise of “brass or a clanging cymbal” (v. 1d).
Paul admits that he also possesses the gifts of prophecy, spiritual wisdom, spiritual knowledge and faith (v. 2a). Then he states that the application of any spiritual gift, without love, is useless, it is “nothing” (v. 2b).
Even if we giveaway all of our possessions to the poor and sacrifice our body, these acts would be useless unless they are committed in love to help our fellow human beings (v. 3). In the same way the application of spiritual gifts is useless unless their application edifies the church.
After Paul states the wrong sacrifices to make, he then states the right sacrifices, those made in love. Love means sacrificing our own needs in order to meet the needs of others.
Paul lists the qualities of one who is applying his spiritual gifts in love. The first two qualities of love are patience (long suffering) and kindness (v. 4a).
Next, Paul identifies qualities that do not represent love. These qualities are envy, pride, boasting, rudeness, selfishness, anger and evilness (vv. 4b-5).
Love does not rejoice in sin, but rather rejoices in the truth of God, as expressed in the Bible (v. 6). In doing so, love does not publicize the sins of others, although love does provide Godly discipline when necessary (v. 7a).
Love always remains positive, always holds on to hope and endures all hardships (v. 7b). Jesus was the perfect example of the qualities of love.These qualities of love should be exercised in the application of our spiritual gifts. These are the qualities of love that Christians are to always endeavor to display