1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Welcome back to my study/review of 1 Corinthians. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


What is Love?

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not arrogant
  • Not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Not irritable
  • Not resentful
  • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Rejoices with the truth
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things

In this section of the text, Paul lists the characteristics of love. Keep in mind, that this chapter relates to the overall discussion about spiritual gifts and the way that the variety therein were leading to splits among the Church in Corinth. Paul’s point in Chapter 13 is to tell the Corinthians that love should be the unifying priority. We’ll start by looking at The Pulpit Commentary‘s note for verse 4:

1 Corinthians 13:4

Suffereth long, and is kind. Passively it endures; actively it does good. It endures evils; it confers blessings. Envieth not. Its negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy—”one shape of many names”—includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye, etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations. Vaunteth not itself. The meaning would probably be most nearly expressed by the colloquialism, does not show off. It does not, for instance, “do its alms before men to be seen of them” (Matthew 6:1). The Latin perperus, which is from the same root as this word, means “a braggart,” or “swaggerer.” Cicero, speaking of a grand oratorical display of his own before Pompey, says to Atticus, “Good heavens! how I showed myself off (ἐνεπερπερευσάμην) before my new hearer, Pompeius!” (‘Ad. Art.,’ 1 Corinthians 1:14). Is not puffed up. Has no purse proud or inflated arrogance.” Love, therefore, is free from the characteristic vice of the Corinthian Church (1Co 4:6, 1 Corinthians 4:181 Corinthians 4:191 Corinthians 5:21 Corinthians 8:1).

Verse 4 begins a discussion of the list of characteristics. Paul starts by saying what love is, patient and kind, then begins to list what love is not This list is useful for the examination of behavior when a group is going through a hard debate or discussion. Ellicott’s Bible Commentary adds the following, also on verse 4:

(4) Charity suffereth long.—Better, Love is long-suffering. Here follows a description of love. Descriptions of positive characteristics and negations of evil qualities are now employed by the Apostle in what he would have us believe to be his impossible task of adequately describing true love.

Has spending time with someone, while remaining patient and kind, ever felt like suffering? If you suffer long… that’s love. Continuing with The Pulpit Commetnaries:

1 Corinthians 13:5

Doth not behave itself unseemly (see 1 Corinthians 12:231 Corinthians 14:40). Vulgar indecorum is alien from love, as having its root in selfishness and want of sympathy. “Noble manners” are ever the fruit of “noble minds.” “Be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8). Seeketh not her own. Self seeking is the root of All evil (1 Corinthians 10:241 Corinthians 10:33Philippians 2:4Romans 15:1Romans 15:2). Is not easily provoked. The word “easily” is here a gloss. The corresponding substantive (paroxusmos, whence our “paroxysm”) is used of the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Love, when it is perfected, rises superior to all temptations to growing exasperated, although it may often be justly indignant. But, as St. Chrysostom says, “As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea, but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished without disquietude.” Thinketh no evil; literally, doth not reckon (or, impute) the evil. The phrase seems to be a very comprehensive one, implying that love is neither suspicious, nor implacable, nor retentive in her memory of evil done. Love writes our personal wrongs in ashes or in water.

Remember that Paul told us that love *is* patient and kind. So if one is any of the the negatives listed in verse 5, one is out of line. Paul tells us that love has to guide everything else. The Church in Corinth is quite divided – in fact that is the primary reason for this letter – and love must take the lead to bring about unity.

Rudeness, and a “my way or the highway” attitude, are not love. I cannot help but spend some time thinking about this verse in the context of Protestantism, and the centuries of official Church splits, with new denominations and and non-denominations, which have occurred over doctrinal differences. Obviously heresy is one thing, and evil must be purged (1 Corinthians 5) but does the Church world place enough emphasis on unity? I wonder. Returnin to Ellicott in verse 6, which seems to add some clarity to verse 5:

(6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity.—The attitude of our mind towards sin is a great test of the truth of our religious feeling.

Paul is consistent. He wants unity in the Church, but he does not want unity with sin. If a Christian (especially a teacher) is condoning or celebrating sin, in the name of love, they are in the wrong, just as much as someone who forms a faction or is divisive over issues outside of sin / iniquity. Paul tells us that if an action is disobedient to God, doing it and/or celebrating it is *not* love. This type of false teaching pretty common in the present era where sexual immorality is often condoned and sometimes celebrated in the name of love. Christian love, and secular love, are not one and the same. Christian love is patient, kind, and it “rejoices with the truth.” Christian love obeys God. Finishing the segment, in The Pulpit Commentaries, Paul tells us more about what love is.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Beareth all things (see on 1 Corinthians 9:12). Endures wrongs and evils, and covers them with a beautiful reticence. Thus love “covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:121 Peter 4:8). Believeth all things. Takes the best and kindest views of all men and all circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so. It is the opposite to the common spirit, which drags everything in deteriorem partem, paints it in the darkest colours, and makes the worst of it. Love is entirely alien from the spirit of the cynic, the pessimist, the ecclesiastical rival, the anonymous slanderer, the secret detractor. Hopeth all things. Christians seem to have lost sight altogether of the truth that hope is something more than the result of a sanguine temperament, that it is a gift and a grace. Hope is averse to sourness and gloom. It takes sunny and cheerful views of man, of the world, and of God, because it is a sister of love. Endureth all things. Whether the “seventy times seven” offences of a brother (Luke 17:4), or the wrongs of patient merit (2 Timothy 2:24), or the sufferings and self. denials and persecutions of the life spent in doing good (2 Timothy 2:10). The reader need hardly he reminded that in these verses he has a picture of the life and character of Christ.

This verse is a little difficult, but I tend to agree with the note above’s interpretation. What does it mean to “believe all things”?

Takes the best and kindest views of all men and all circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so.

believes = πιστεύω pisteúō, pist-yoo’-o; from G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

all things = πᾶς pâs, pas; including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole:—all (manner of, means), alway(-s), any (one), × daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no(-thing), X thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.

Love is credited to / entrusted to / applies itself (patience, kindness, truthiness) to everything. If a person is difficult, then love might perceive the things causing a person to be difficult, and thus show patience and kindness to that person. If a circumstance is unfair, then love might perceive that present circumstances might prove to be beneficial in a way one cannot yet see – so love is applied even then. And so on.

Continuing that thread, love also hopes.

Hopes = ἐλπίζω elpízō, el-pid’-zo; from G1680; to expect or confide:—(have, thing) hope(-d) (for), trust.

No matter what happens, love expects and trusts in the ultimate outcome. I like the way that the note above puts it, so I’ll repeat it here:

Christians seem to have lost sight altogether of the truth that hope is something more than the result of a sanguine temperament, that it is a gift and a grace. Hope is averse to sourness and gloom. It takes sunny and cheerful views of man, of the world, and of God, because it is a sister of love.

This is a difficult thing to see sometimes. It is possible to have hopeful conflict that results in continued unity. If a Church is “purging evil from its midst” (per 1 Corinthians 5) then if that happens in love, it does so with hope.

So in summation:

Love IsLove is Not
Celebratory about TruthArrogant
Bears all thingsRude
Believes all thingsInsistent on its own way
Hopes all thingsIrritable
Endures all thingsResentful
Celebratory about wrongdoing

This is a good table to apply to oneself. If you see yourself in the column on the right, then you should work toward replacing that with the column on the left.

In the close of the chapter, Paul reiterates that gifts should be prized far less than virtues, the highest and greatest of which is love.