Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.3. The Need and Superiority of Love.
This chapter is a most blessed exaltation of love. The word “charity” is an unfortunate mistranslation. The Greek word for love used in the New Testament was never used by the Greek heathen classical writers. In its meaning it was unknown among the Gentiles. God is love. As His people, members of His body, we know the love of God manifested in the gift of God’s well beloved Son. And this love is shed abroad in the hearts of the children of God. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another ... if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1John 4:7; 1John 4:11-12.). The divine nature bestowed by the Spirit of God is a holy nature and a nature which possesseth in it the love of God. Love is therefore the divine nature in its manifestation. And this wonderful love, the divine love, is to be manifested in the body of Christ. It is the true motive for all ministry. The Corinthians in their worldly, self-seeking, ambitious spirit, in their use of the gifts, had not followed this more excellent way. The divisions among them and their self-exaltation and self-confidence were the result of not being governed by love. If love had been supreme in the Corinthian church, neither sectarianism, nor careless walk, nor indifference to sin of others and toleration of evil, nor going before a heathen judge, nor high-minded pretensions, nor the desecration of the Lord’s supper, nor a false practice of Christian liberty, could have prospered. Love surpasses everything. It is a far better thing than any gift. Very significantly the Apostle begins with the gift, as already pointed out, of the smallest value. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels without love is like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
(For a number of years movements have started which claim to be a new Pentecost. The gift of tongues is the leading feature. They go by different names--Apostolic Faith--Pentecostal Faith--Latter-Day Rain, etc. But is it the work of the Holy Spirit? The divisions which exist in these movements, the unscriptural teachings which are held by some of them and the lack of love, besides other characteristics are not the marks of the energy and power of God’s Spirit.)
Prophecy, the understanding of all mysteries, all knowledge, all wonder-working faith and even the giving up of all things and martyrdom, are valueless without love. God looks for love; it is of God, and loving is conformity to God. It is a solemn warning that true gifts may be possessed without a manifestation of love.
Many pages could be filled with a closer examination of the different characteristics of divine love as given by the Apostle. If we study the blessed life the Son of God lived down here we shall find how He manifested this love in His life among the children of men. The fifteen brief, but deep, descriptions of love should be the standing mirror of self-judgment for all God’s children. To read these pithy sentences in His presence at the close of each day and apply them as a test, is a wholesome exercise.
The opening descriptions are all of a passive character, and show that love demands the renunciation of self. Long-suffering and kindness head the list. These are the attributes of our loving God and Father, and we are to imitate Him as His children and forbear one another in love. Love does not envy. God does not envy. Envy is of Satan; all self-seeking has its origin in pride, which is the crime of the devil (1Timothy 3:6). Love vaunteth not itself. It never seeks the applause of men. Self-display is self-love. True love is not puffed up. Love doth not behave itself unseemly. Its ornaments are meekness, modesty and unobtrusiveness. It seeketh not its own; it is self-neglect and is expressed in devotion to others. Nor is it easily provoked, for self-consciousness and self-seeking being absent, sensitiveness becomes impossible. Love thinketh no evil. The better translation is, “does not impute evil.” It rather hides than exposes. Furthermore, love “rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth with the truth.” The last four characteristics show its positive energy. It beareth all things--it puts up with anything but that which is wrong and sinful; believeth all things; it does not suspect, therefore it hopeth all things and also endureth all things. Finally the permanence of love is stated. Prophecies, tongues and knowledge will fail, cease and pass away. Love never. It is abiding eternal, the greatest of all.