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.…
I. ITS NATURE. Charity means love. As to its properties, it comprises complacency, gratitude and benevolence. Its objects are —
1. God. This constitutes the first great commandment of the moral law; God is the object of love, as it comprises complacency in the contemplation of His perfections, and gratitude in the contemplation of His blessings.
2. Man. This is the second great commandment — the love required not excluding complacency and gratitude, but consisting principally in benevolence.
(1) To those who share the same spiritual privileges and are therefore in the highest sense brethren.
(2) To men simply as men. It is impossible for any one to be a Christian without being a philanthropist.
II. ITS MANIFESTATIONS.
1. Toward God.
(1) Belief of His truth. Faith produces love, but love in return lends a higher and more powerful energy to faith.
(2) The study of His character. We cannot conceive of love but as meditating upon its object.
(3) Obedience to His commandments. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words," etc.
(4) Activity in His cause. They who are thus animated will desire that others may love Him also.
(5) Anticipation of His kingdom. Here it blends with hope.
2. To man. These manifestations are presented in the verses directly succeeding the text. Note the importance of these manifestations, in relation —
(1) To the Church. All that love can think and do, in forbearance, forgiveness, humility, sympathy, and benevolence, is demanded on behalf of those who are united in the same community with ourselves; and not only to these, but to all who own the Christian name. The whole Church must cultivate this towards the whole Church, ere it can ever approximate to the fulfilment of its responsibility, both in relation to the glory of God and the happiness of man.
(2) To the world. Beyond the manifestations presented here there is one which the present state of the unconverted world does most solemnly demand, viz., pity. Christianity calls on us to be almoners of the Divine bounty to the souls of men, and we have to carry to them the gospel. This will purify their pollution and redress their wrongs.
III. ITS PRE-EMINENCE. Passing by the superiority of love to miraculous gifts or natural amiable dispositions, note two facts in which its pre-eminence consists.
1. Love partakes of the Divine nature. This cannot be stated of a large proportion of the other graces, viz., repentance, faith, hope, etc. But "God is love" (1 John 4:7, 12, 16).
2. Love is perfected and perpetuated in the celestial state. Other graces prepare for heaven, but do not enter it, e.g., repentance, faith, etc. But love is there; and love is all.
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.