AN EXPOSITION OF 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-7
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Because of the darkness that still resides within the human heart, Paul will describe what love will, and will not do. He speaks of divine love being manifested in the life of those who have become the children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Divine love is of a different quality than human love. The essence of divine love is explained in 1 John 4. It is the kind of love that sent the Saviour to be the propitiation for sinners on the cross at Calvary. If we want to know divine love, that is the definition. If we want to manifest love, then Paul sets forth what love will, and will not do.
Love suffereth long
Love is longsuffering When dealing with antagonistic people, love will suffer long. When a Christian is long suffering towards persons who are problematic, they reflect how God is longsuffering with those who are obstinate towards Him. Peter teaches how God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) A love which is longsuffering is a love that is patient with regard to adverse situations. Love will endure.
One example of endurance, and longsuffering, is the character of Job. “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:11) Job manifested a spirit of longsuffering with his antagonistic friends, who accused him of doing something wrong. He manifested a spirit of endurance in his physical afflictions.
Love is kind
An illustration of this is found with reference to our Lord. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32)
Love envieth not
Love does not envy. This is part of the darkness that still resides in the heart. The heart of the natural man, the heart of the carnal man, does not want to suffer long, it does not want to be kind, but it does want to envy. In the church of Corinth there was envy among the brethren, especially over the spiritual gifts. Paul had to remind the church that every part of the body was important, and each gift was important, having been sovereignly assigned by the Spirit. Not only is envy unnecessary, it is unseemly, for jealousy leads to resentment and dissatisfaction within the body of Christ.
Love vaunteth not itself
Love is not boastful. It does not parade itself. Love does not present itself as a braggart. In America sports, it is not uncommon for players to engage in trash talk, whereby they boast about their own abilities, while demeaning their opponents in order to distract them. In the church of Corinth there was trash talk. One person would boast they were of Paul, another said they were of Cephas, or Apollos. The idea was to pit one person against another. One person would brag that he associated himself with Paul, the great theologian. Another person would boast and say they identified more with Peter, the rock on which the church was built and not with Apollos who was just a gifted speaker. So Paul had to say, “Love does not parade itself.”
Love is not puffed up
Love is not conceited. Some of the brethren in Corinth were full of conceit, just like some people today are conceited. Muhammad Ali was not known for his modesty. He loved to say, “I am the greatest.” One day he was riding on a plane. One of the stewardesses walking up the aisle of the plane looked at him and saw he did not have his seatbelt fastened. “Mr. Ali, you will have to fix your seatbelt.” Ali replied, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The stewardess had the presence of mind, and a good sense of humor to respond, “Superman don’t need no airplane either.” Ali fixed his seatbelt. Well, Paul was compelled to address the problem of conceit in Corinth, so that individuals would learn not to be “puffed up for one against another.” (1 Cor. 4:6) The antidote for conceit is humility. Humility is not thinking how humble, or lowly you are. It is not thinking about yourself at all. By promoting the best interest of others, the heart has no time to be puffed up.
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Loves does not behave itself unseemly
Love does not act improperly, or rudely. Love is not boorish by ignoring others. With one teaching exception, the Lord never ignored anyone who came to Him for help. Jesus was always a gentleman. He wants Christians to be ladies and gentlemen too. Grace transforms the heart. “Take a man brought out of the gutter and saved by grace; see how the Spirit of God changes him until his whole character becomes different.” (H. A. Ironside)
Love seeketh not her own
Love is not selfish. One of the great characteristics of Jesus is that He did not seek inappropriate recognition. After performing a healing miracle for a man, “Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Matt. 8:4) Jesus presented Himself as being meek and lowly. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)
Even when Jesus was abused, He did not promote Himself. “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” (1 Peter 2:23) The darkness that still lies within our hearts will lead us to seek for honor, promotion, and recognition. Paul reminds the church that love does not seek her own. Such a reminder is necessary because it is possible for others to lead a Christian into darkness by a provocation, by repeating what is only hearsay, and by rejoicing in iniquity.
Love is not easily provoked
The word easily is not in the original text. It was inserted by the translators of the Authorized Version to soften the impact of the statement, for every person is provoked. It is difficult to comprehend the idea that love is not provoked. When we find a person that does provoke us easily, we tend to avoid them. We try not to talk to them. Still, the text says, “love is not provoked.” In the church of Corinth, Christians were provoking one another so much, they started to sue one another. They went to law with one another to settle their disputes. Christian love was not operating. The biblical solution is to go to the Elders to solve the dispute, and then rest with what they do. Obey those who have the rule over you. (Heb. 13:7)
Love thinketh no evil
What Paul actually says is that love does not keep a record of wrongs. In addition, love does not reckon, or charge someone else with evil when the true status of the situation is not known. Christians are quick to pass judgment on others, or a situation, without knowing all the facts. Christian love will not do that. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Prov. 18:13) Christians must always be careful about embracing hearsay evidence.
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Love rejoiceth not in iniquity
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness. It has been said that the character of a person can be discerned by what they laugh at, and what they embrace. If that standard is valid, then Christians have much to be ashamed of, for we often laugh at humans, which includes taking the name of the Lord in vain. We embrace iniquity. We rejoice when we hear that someone has had a moral failure. Then, we cover our own lack of love by saying we will pray for someone. Rather than laugh, or express a malicious joy at the downfall of someone else, let there be pity. Jesus wept over sinners, and so must we.
Love rejoiceth in the truth
The Apostle Paul teaches that love, joy, and truth, are united. Love will rejoice in the truth that triumphs over falsehood of any sort, moral, political, or theological. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Where there is no truth, joy takes wings and flies away, and there is no love. Lies, half-truths, and insincerity, characterize the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In 2018, a White House Communication Director that worked for President Donald J. Trump admitted that she felt compelled to tell “white-lies.” She was compelled to resign, for people want to know the truth when someone speaks. “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” (Prov. 12:22)
Love rejoices in full disclosure
Christians cannot stop others from obscuring the truth by commission and omission. But, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, believers can love by telling the truth, and then rejoicing in the truth.
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love beareth all things
There is a love that bears with silence all things, including the frowning face of God. There are times when the heavens seem to be like brass, and God is not listening, or answering our prayers. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” (Job 13:15) Love is not impatient, nor malicious. It does not get angry at the Lord, or rail at life.
Paul expressed such love to the Corinthians when he did not use his apostolic authority against them. “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12) Paul had a right to be supported financially by the church, but he did not insist upon that support. Rather, Paul endured the insults of the Corinthians against him, and loved them to the end, just like Jesus had endued Paul’s hostility against the church, prior to his conversion.
Love believeth all things
Love is not gullible, nor is love rooted on a faith that is foolish and overreaching. Love does not believe false doctrine. But love will put the most favorable construction, by the power of the Holy Spirit, upon that which is unclear to the heart. There is the promise of the resurrection, the hope of heaven, the gift of eternal life, and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead and the ascension into heaven. Love believeth all things. Love believes the Bible is the Word of God. Love believes that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1) Love believes that God is a prayer hearing and a prayer answering God.
Love hopeth in all things
This does not mean that love is unrealistic. Love does not embrace a false hope. Rather, all that God has promised is to be embraced with confidence.
Love endureth all things
Love remains steadfast. It perseveres in faith, grace, mercy, and compassion, despite the circumstances of life. If the Corinthians had manifested love to one another, they would have resolved all of their local problems. If the Corinthians had taken the verbs associated with love, and put them into action, all would have been well. The overall lesson of this chapter is that love, and lovers, behave in a certain way that is not emotional, but rational, and helpful to others. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7)