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1 Corinthians 13:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

(1.)

Charity suffereth long - Μακροθυμει, Has a long mind; to the end of which neither trials, adversities, persecutions, nor provocations, can reach. The love of God, and of our neighbor for God's sake, is patient towards all men: it suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; and all the malice and wickedness of the children of this world; and all this, not merely for a time, but long, without end; for it is still a mind or disposition, to the end of which trials, difficulties, etc., can never reach. It also waits God's time of accomplishing his gracious or providential purposes, without murmuring or repining; and bears its own infirmities, as well as those of others, with humble submission to the will of God.

(2.)

Is kind - Χρηστευεται· It is tender and compassionate in itself, and kind and obliging to others; it is mild, gentle, and benign; and, if called to suffer, inspires the sufferer with the most amiable sweetness, and the most tender affection. It is also submissive to all the dispensations of God; and creates trouble to no one.

(3.)

Charity envieth not - Ου ζηλοι· Is not grieved because another possesses a greater portion of earthly, intellectual, or spiritual blessings.

Those who have this pure love rejoice as much at the happiness, the honor, and comfort of others, as they can do in their own. They are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.

(4.)

Charity vaunteth not itself - Ου περπερευεται· This word is variously translated; acteth not rashly, insolently; is not inconstant, etc. It is not agreed by learned men whether it be Greek, Latin, or Arabic. Bishop Pearce derived it from the latter language; and translates it, is not inconstant. There is a phrase in our own language that expresses what I think to be the meaning of the original, does not set itself forward - does not desire to be noticed or applauded; but wishes that God may be all in all.

(5.)

Is not puffed up - Ου φυσιουται· Is not inflated with a sense of its own importance; for it knows it has nothing but what it has received; and that it deserves nothing that it has got. Every man, whose heart is full of the love of God, is full of humility; for there is no man so humble as he whose heart is cleansed from all sin. It has been said that indwelling sin humbles us; never was there a greater falsity: Pride is the very essence of sin; he who has sin has pride, and pride too in proportion to his sin: this is a mere popish doctrine; and, strange to tell, the doctrine in which their doctrine of merit is founded! They say God leaves concupiscence in the heart of every Christian, that, in striving with and overcoming it from time to time, he may have an accumulation of meritorious acts: Certain Protestants say, it is a true sign of a very gracious state when a man feels and deplores his inbred corruptions. How near do these come to the Papists, whose doctrine they profess to detest and abhor! The truth is, it is no sign of grace whatever; it only argues, as they use it, that the man has got light to show him his corruptions; but he has not yet got grace to destroy them. He is convinced that he should have the mind of Christ, but he feels that he has the mind of Satan; he deplores it, and, if his bad doctrine do not prevent him, he will not rest till he feels the blood of Christ cleansing him from all sin.

True humility arises from a sense of the fullness of God in the soul; abasement from a sense of corruption is a widely different thing; but this has been put in the place of humility, and even called grace; many, very many, verify the saying of the poet: -

"Proud I am my wants to see;

Proud of my humility."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Charity suffereth long - Paul now proceeds to illustrate the “nature” of love, or to show how it is exemplified. His illustrations are all drawn from its effect in regulating our conduct toward others, or our contact with them. The “reason” why he made use of this illustration, rather than its nature as evinced toward “God,” was, probably, because it was especially necessary for them to understand in what way it should be manifested toward each other. There were contentions and strifes among them; there were of course suspicions, and jealousies, and heart-burnings; there would be unkind judging, the imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there were envy, and pride, and boasting, all of which were inconsistent with love; and Paul therefore evidently designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state of things by showing them what would be produced by the exercise of love. The word used here μακροθυμεῖ makrothumeidenotes “longanimity,” slowness to anger or passion; longsuffering, patient endurance, forbearance. It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can bear long when oppressed, provoked, calumniated, and when one seeks to injure us; compare Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15.

And is kind - The word used here denotes to be good-natured, gentle, tender, affectionate. Love is benignant. It wishes well. It is not harsh, sour, morose, ill-natured. Tyndale renders it, “is courteous.” The idea is, that under all provocations and ill-usage it is gentle and mild. “Hatred” prompts to harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be “gentle,” not severe and harsh; will be “courteous” because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings. And as religion is love, and prompts to love, so it follows that it requires courtesy or true politeness, and will secure it; see 1 Peter 3:8. If all people were under the influence of true religion, they would always be truly polite and courteous; for true politeness is nothing more than an expression of benignity, or a desire to promote the happiness of all around us.

Envieth not - οὐ ζηλόι ou zēloiThis word properly means to be “zealous” for or against any person or thing; that is, to be eager for, or anxious for or against anyone. It is used often in a good sense (1 Corinthians 12:31; See the 1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 14:39 notes; 2 Corinthians 11:2 note, etc.); but it may be used in a bad sense - to be zealous “against” a person; to be jealous of; to envy. Acts 7:9; Acts 17:5; James 4:2, “ye kill and envy.” It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here, - as denoting zeal, or ardent desire “against” any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning etc., those who are influenced by love “rejoice” in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not complain or repine that they themselves are not so highly favored - To envy is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another‘s prosperity; and to fret oneself on account of his real or fancied superiority.

Of course, it may be excited by anything in which another excels, or in which he is more favored than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honored with office, while we are overlooked. He may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skillful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. “Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank.” We do not, usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are “aspiring” to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster, or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself.

The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer envies another lawyer; the clergyman is jealous of another clergyman. The fashionable female who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is “love.” If we loved others; if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. “They are not to blame” for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should he thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have.

Every person should have his own level in society, and we should rejoice in the happiness of all - Love will produce another effect. We should not “envy” them, because he that is under the influence of Christian love is more happy than those in the world who are usually the objects of envy. There is often much wretchedness under a clothing “of purple and fine linen.” There is not always happiness in a splendid mansion; in the caresses of the great; in a post of honor; in a palace, or on a throne. Alexander the Great wept on the throne of the world. Happiness is in the heart; and contentment, and the love of God, and the hope of heaven produce happiness which rank, and wealth, and fashion, and earthly honor cannot purchase. And could the sad and heavy hearts of those in elevated ranks of life be always seen; and especially could their end be seen, there would be no occasion or disposition to envy them.

Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,

To mourn, and murmur, and repine,

To see the wicked placed on high,

In pride and robes of honour shine!

But oh! their end, their dreadful end!

Thy sanctuary taught me so;

On slipp‘ry rocks I see them stand,

And fiery billows roll below.

Now let them boast how tall they are,

I‘ll never envy them again;

There they may stand with haughty eyes,

Till they plunge deep in endless pain.

Their fancied joys how fast they flee,

Like dreams as fleeting and as vain;

Their songs of softest harmony.

Are but a prelude to their pain,

Now I esteem their mirth and wine.

Too dear to purchase with my blood;

Lord, ‹tis enough that thou art mine,

My life, my portion, and my God.

Vaunteth not itself - ( περπερευεται perpereuetaifrom περπερος perperosa boaster, braggart. Robinson.) The idea is that of boasting, bragging, vaunting. The word occurs no where else in the New Testament. Bloomfield supposes that it has the idea of acting precipitously, inconsiderately, incautiously; and this idea our translators have placed in the margin, “he is not rash.” But most expositors suppose that it has the notion of boasting, or vaunting of one‘s own excellencies or endowments. This spirit proceeds from the idea of “superiority” over others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them. Love would correct this, because it would produce a desire that they should be happy - and to treat a man with contempt is not the way to make him happy; love would regard others with esteem - and to boast over them is not to treat them with esteem; it would teach us to treat them with affectionate regard - and no man who has affectionate regard for others is disposed to boast of his own qualities over them. Besides, love produces a state of mind just the opposite of a disposition to boast. It receives its endowments with gratitude; regards them as the gift of God; and is disposed to employ them not in vain boasting, but in purposes of utility, in doing good to all others on as wide a scale as possible. The boaster is not a man who does good. To “boast” of talents is not to employ them to advantage to others. It will be of no account in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and afflicted, or in saving the world. Accordingly, the man who does the most good is the least accustomed to boast; the man who boasts may be regarded as doing nothing else.

Is not puffed up - ( φυσιοῦται phusioutai). This word means to blow, to puff, to paint; then to inflate with pride, and vanity, and self-esteem. See the word explained in the note on 1 Corinthians 8:1. It perhaps differs from the preceding word, inasmuch as that word denotes the expression of the feelings of pride, vanity, etc., and this word the feeling itself. A man may be very proud and vain, and not express it in the form of boasting. That state is indicated by this word. If he gives expression to this feeling, and boasts of his endowments, that is indicated by the previous word. Love would prevent this, as it would the former. It would destroy the feeling, as well as the expression of it. It would teach a man that others had good qualities as well as he; that they had high endowments as well as he; and would dispose him to concede to them full credit for all that they have, and not to be vain-glorious of his own. Besides, it is not the “nature” of love to fill the mind in this manner. Pride, vanity, and even knowledge 1 Corinthians 8:1, may swell the mind with the conviction of self-importance; but love is humble, meek, modest, unobtrusive. A brother that loves a sister is not filled with pride or vanity on account of it; a man that loves the whole world, and desires its salvation, is not filled with pride and vanity on account of it. Hence, the Saviour, who had “most” love for the human race, was at the farthest possible remove from pride and vanity.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Some of the effects of charity are stated, that we may know whether we have this grace; and that if we have not, we may not rest till we have it. This love is a clear proof of regeneration, and is a touchstone of our professed faith in Christ. In this beautiful description of the nature and effects of love, it is meant to show the Corinthians that their conduct had, in many respects, been a contrast to it. Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Not that charity destroys all regard to ourselves, or that the charitable man should neglect himself and all his interests. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It ever prefers the welfare of others to its private advantage. How good-natured and amiable is Christian charity! How excellent would Christianity appear to the world, if those who profess it were more under this Divine principle, and paid due regard to the command on which its blessed Author laid the chief stress! Let us ask whether this Divine love dwells in our hearts. Has this principle guided us into becoming behaviour to all men? Are we willing to lay aside selfish objects and aims? Here is a call to watchfulness, diligence, and prayer.
Ellen G. White
Education, 114

Love's agencies have wonderful power, for they are divine. The soft answer that “turneth away wrath,” the love that “suffereth long, and is kind,” the charity that “covereth a multitude of sins” (Proverbs 15:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4, R.V.; 1 Peter 4:8, R.V.)—would we learn the lesson, with what power for healing would our lives be gifted! How life would be transformed, and the earth become a very likeness and foretaste of heaven! Ed 114.1

These precious lessons may be so simply taught as to be understood, even by little children. The heart of the child is tender and easily impressed; and when we who are older become “as little children” (Matthew 18:3); when we learn the simplicity and gentleness and tender love of the Saviour, we shall not find it difficult to touch the hearts of the little ones, and teach them love's ministry of healing. Ed 114.2

Perfection exists in the least as well as in the greatest of the works of God. The hand that hung the worlds in space is the hand that fashions the flowers of the field. Examine under the microscope the smallest and commonest of wayside blossoms, and note in all its parts the exquisite beauty and completeness. So in the humblest lot true excellence may be found; the commonest tasks, wrought with loving faithfulness, are beautiful in God's sight. Conscientious attention to the little things will make us workers together with Him, and win for us His commendation who seeth and knoweth all. Ed 114.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 65

Mild measures, soft answers, and pleasant words are much better fitted to reform and save, than severity and harshness. A little too much unkindness may place persons beyond your reach, while a conciliatory spirit would be the means of binding them to you, and you might then establish them in the right way. You should be actuated by a forgiving spirit also, and give due credit to every good purpose and action of those around you. Speak words of commendation to your husband, your child, your sister, and to all with whom you are associated. Continual censure blights and darkens the life of anyone. 4T 65.1

Do not reproach the Christian religion by jealousy and intolerance toward others. This will but poorly recommend your belief to them. No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach, but many have thus been driven from the truth and have steeled their hearts against conviction. A tender spirit, a gentle and winning deportment, may save the erring and hide a multitude of sins. God requires us to have that charity that “suffereth long, and is kind.” 4T 65.2

The religion of Christ does not require us to lose our identity of character, but merely to adapt ourselves, in some measure, to the feelings and ways of others. Many people may be brought together in a unity of religious faith whose opinions, habits, and tastes in temporal matters are not in harmony; but if they have the love of Christ glowing in their bosoms, and are looking forward to the same heaven as their eternal home, they may have the sweetest and most intelligent communion together, and a unity the most wonderful. There are scarcely two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one may not be the trials of another, and our hearts should ever be open to kindly sympathy and all aglow with the love that Jesus had for all His brethren. 4T 65.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 470

That which can be said of men under certain circumstances cannot be said of them under other circumstances. Men are weak in moral power and so supremely selfish, so self-sufficient and so easily puffed up with vain conceit, that God cannot work in connection with them, and they are left to move like blind men and to manifest so great weakness and folly that many are astonished that such individuals should ever have been accepted and acknowledged as worthy of having any connection with God's work. This is just what Satan designed. This was his object from the time he first specially tempted them to reproach the cause of God and to cast reflections upon the Testimonies. Had they remained where their influence would not have been specially felt upon the cause of God, Satan would not have beset them so fiercely; for he could not have accomplished his purpose by using them as his instruments to do a special work. 3T 470.1

In the advancement of the work of God that which may be said in truth of individuals at one time may not correctly be said of them at another time. The reason of this is that one month they may have stood in innocency, living up to the best light they had, while the month following was none too short for them to be overcome by Satan's devices and, through self-confidence, to fall into grievous sins and become unfitted for the work of God. 3T 471.1

Minds are so subject to change through the subtle temptations of Satan that it is not the best policy for my husband or myself to take the responsibility of even stating our opinions of the qualifications of persons to fill different positions, because we are made responsible for the course that such individuals pursue. Notwithstanding, if they had maintained the humility and firm trust in God which they possessed when recommended to take responsibilities they might have been the very persons for the place. These persons change, yet are not sensible of the change in themselves. They fall under temptation, are led away from their steadfastness, and sever their connection with God. They are then controlled by the enemy and do and say things which dishonor God and reproach His cause. Then Satan exults to see our brethren and sisters looking upon us with doubt because we have given these persons encouragement and influence. 3T 471.2

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