1 Corinthians 13:1-13
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.
Nothing is more dangerous in religion than unreality. It may pass muster, and be undetected, in secular things, but it is soon discovered in people who profess and call themselves Christians. St. Paul had in the previous chapter rebuked the Corinthians for their mistaken view of spiritual things. He had done his utmost to lead them up to the realisation that they were then "as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" — mere voice, and nothing more. He had also promised to show them a more excellent way. It is the way of charity, or perfect love.
I. A GREAT FACT. All things are valueless without love. Bishop Wordsworth describes this love (ἀγάπη) as "love to God and to man in God and for God" (1 Corinthians 8:1). The life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ show us the power of love over human hearts. He used no artifice, no violence, no ostentation. The great secret of His power was that His was the acme of love (John 15:13).
II. A GREAT MOTIVE. St. Paul would have us look to our motives (1 Samuel 16:7). That is not always charity which seems so, just as "all is not gold that glitters." The great motive is wanting. Even martyrdom, without love, is a hollow and useless sham. It is as worthless as a great sounding of brass and a tinkling of cymbals. It is a thing "without life, giving sound" (1 Corinthians 14:7).
III. A GREAT CHARACTERISTIC. How are we to know, then, what is truly charity and what is not? We must test it. The genuineness of everything is discovered by tests.
1. That which looks like a sovereign is often discovered to be of base metal by its ring upon the counter, or by the application of an acid.
2. A house sometimes looks well built and habitable, but when the rain descends and the floods come, and beat upon it, the fall thereof is great (Matthew 7:27).
3. Those who seem to be our best friends are often actuated by the most selfish motives, and would be the last to give us help if we needed it. In all these cases the test brings out the true characteristics. The great characteristic of true charity is unselfishness. Wherever it is found, that quality will be at the root of all its actions.
IV. A GREAT CONSOLATION. All men long for something that will last. We live in a world of change. St. Paul answers, "Charity never faileth." In love we have something which will not be old-fashioned in time or eternity. It will never wear out.
(F. St. John Corbett.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.