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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 13 - Verse 8

Verse 8. Charity never faileth. Paul here proceeds to illustrate the value of love, from its permanency as compared with other valued endowments. It is valuable, and is to be sought, because it will always abide; may be always exercised; is adapted to all circum- stances, and to all worlds in which we may be placed, or in which we may dwell. The word rendered faileth (ekpiptei) denotes, properly, to fall out of, to fall from or off; and may be applied to the stars of heaven falling, (Mr 13:25,) or to flowers that fall or fade, (Jas 1:11; 1 Pe 1:24,) or to chains falling from the hands, etc., Ac 12:7. Here it means to fall away, to fail; to be without effect, to cease to be in existence. The expression may mean that it will be adapted to all the situations of life, and is of a nature to be always exercised; or it may mean that it will continue to all eternity, and be exercised in heaven for ever. The connexion demands that the latter should be regarded as the true interpretation. 1 Co 13:13. The sense is, that while other endowments of the Holy Spirit must soon cease and be valueless, LOVE would abide, and would always exist. The argument is, that we ought to Seek that which is of enduring value; and that, therefore, love should be preferred to those endowments of the Spirit on which so high a value had been set by the Corinthians.

But whether there be prophecies. That is, the gift of prophecy, or the power of speaking as a prophet; that is, of delivering the truth of God in an intelligible manner under the influence of inspiration; the gift of being a public speaker; of instructing and edifying the church, and foretelling future events. See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".

 

They shall fail. The gift shall cease to be exercised; shall be abolished, come to naught. There shall be no further use for this gift in the light and glory of the world above, and it shall cease. God shall be the teacher there. And as there will be no need of confirming the truth of religion by the prediction of future events, and no need of warning against impending dangers there, the gift of foretelling future events will be of course unknown. In heaven, also, there will be no need that the faith of God's people shall be encouraged, or their devotions excited, by such exhortations and instructions as are needful now; and the endowment of prophecy will be, therefore, unknown.

There be tongues. The power of speaking foreign languages.

They shall cease. Macknight supposes this means that they shall cease in the church after the gospel shall have been preached to all nations. But the more natural interpretation is, to refer it to the future life; since the main idea which Paul is urging here is the value of love above all other endowments, from the fact that it would be abiding, or permanent—an idea which is more certainly and fully met by a reference to the future world, than by a reference to the state of things in the church on earth. If it refers to heaven, it means that the power of communicating thoughts there will not be by the medium of learned and foreign tongues. What will be the mode is unknown. But as the diversity of tongues is one of the fruits of sin, (Ge 11,) it is evident that in those who are saved there will be deliverance from all the disadvantages which have resulted from the confusion of tongues. Yet LOVE will not cease to be necessary; and Lees will live for ever.

Whether there be knowledge. See Barnes "1 Co 14:8".

This refers, I think, to knowledge as we now possess it. It cannot mean that there will be no knowledge in heaven; for there must be a vast increase of knowledge in that world among all its inhabitants. The idea in the passage here, I think, is: "All the knowledge which we now possess, valuable as it is, will be obscured and lost, and rendered comparatively valueless, in the fuller splendours of the eternal world—as the feeble light of the stars, beautiful and valuable as it is, vanishes, or is lost in the splendour of the rising sun. The knowledge which we now have is valuable, as the gift of prophecy and the power of speaking foreign languages is valuable, but it will be lost in the brighter visions of the world above." That this is the sense is evident from what Paul says in illustration of the sentiment in 1 Co 13:9,10. Now we know in part. What we deem ourselves acquainted with, we imperfectly understand. There are many obscurities and many difficulties. But in the future world we shall know distinctly and clearly, (1 Co 13:12;) and then the knowledge which we now possess will appear so dim and obscure, that it will seem to have vanished away and disappeared,

"As a dim candle dies at noon."

Macknight and others understand this of the knowledge of the mysteries of the Old Testament, or "the inspired knowledge of the ancient revelations, which should be abolished when the church should have attained its mature state;" a most meager, jejune, and frigid interpretation. It is true, also, that not only shall our imperfect knowledge seem to have vanished in the superior light and glory of the eternal world, but that much of that which here passes for knowledge shall be then unknown. Much of that which is called science is "falsely so called;" and much that is connected with literature that has attracted so much attention, will be unknown in the eternal world. It is evident that much that is connected with criticism, and the knowledge of language, with the different systems of mental philosophy which are erroneous—perhaps much that is connected with anatomy, physiology, and geology, and much of the science which now is connected with the arts, and which is of use only as tributary to the arts—will be then unknown. Other subjects may rise into importance which are now unknown; and possibly things connected with science which are now regarded as of the least importance will then become objects of great moment, and ripen and expand into sciences that shall contribute much to the eternal happiness of heaven. The essential idea in this passage is, that all the knowledge which we now possess shall lose its effulgence, be dimmed and lost in the superior light of heaven. But LOVE shall live there; and we should, therefore, seek that which is permanent and eternal.

{*} "Charity" "love" {+} "tongues" "languages"

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