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1 Corinthians 13:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

(6.)

Doth not behave itself unseemly - Ουκ ασχημονει, from α, negative, and σχημα, figure, mien; love never acts out of its place or character; observes due decorum and good manners; is never rude, bearish, or brutish; and is ever willing to become all things to all men, that it may please them for their good to edification. No ill-bred man, or what is termed rude or unmannerly, is a Christian. A man may have a natural bluntness, or be a clown, and yet there be nothing boorish or hoggish in his manner. I must apologize for using such words; they best express the evil against which I wish both powerfully and successfully to declaim. I never wish to meet with those who affect to be called "blunt, honest men;" who feel themselves above all the forms of respect and civility, and care not how many they put to pain, or how many they displease. But let me not be misunderstood; I do not contend for ridiculous ceremonies, and hollow compliments; there is surely a medium: and a sensible Christian man will not be long at a loss to find it out. Even that people who profess to be above all worldly forms, and are generally stiff enough, yet are rarely found to be rude, uncivil, or ill-bred.

(7.)

Seeketh not her own - Ου ζητει τα ἑαυτης· Is not desirous of her own spiritual welfare only, but of her neighbour's also: for the writers of the Old and New Testament do, almost every where, agreeably to their Hebrew idiom, express a preference given to one thing before another by an affirmation of that which is preferred, and a negative of that which is contrary to it. See Bishop Pearce, and see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 10:24; (note), and 1 Corinthians 10:33; (note). Love is never satisfied but in the welfare, comfort, and salvation of all. That man is no Christian who is solicitous for his own happiness alone; and cares not how the world goes, so that himself be comfortable.

(8.)

Is not easily provoked - Ου παροξυνεται· Is not provoked, is not irritated, is not made sour or bitter. How the word easily got into our translation it is hard to say; but, however it got in, it is utterly improper, and has nothing in the original to countenance it. By the transcript from my old MS., which certainly contains the first translation ever made in English, we find that the word did not exist there, the conscientious translator rendering it thus: - It is not stirid to wrath.

The New Testament, printed in 1547, 4to., the first year of Edward VI., in English and Latin, has simply, is not provokeed to angre. The edition published in English in the following year, 1548, has the same rendering, but the orthography better: is not provoked to anger. The Bible in folio, with notes, published the next year, 1549, by Edmund Becke, preserves nearly the same reading, is not provoketh to anger. The large folio printed by Richard Cardmarden, at Rouen, 1566, has the same reading. The translation made and printed by the command of King James I., fol., 1611, etc. departs from all these, and improperly inserts the word easily, which might have been his majesty's own; and yet this translation was not followed by some subsequent editions; for the 4to. Bible printed at London four years after, 1615, not only retains this original and correct reading, it is not provoked to anger, but has the word love every where in this chapter instead of charity, in which all the preceding versions and editions agree. In short, this is the reading of Coverdale, Matthews, Cranmer, the Geneva, and others; and our own authorized version is the only one which I have seen where this false reading appears.

As to the ancient versions, they all, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Itala, strictly follow the Greek text; and supply no word that tends to abate the signification of the apostle's ου παροξυνεται, is not provoked; nor is there a various reading here in all the numerous MSS. It is of importance to make these observations, because the common version of this place destroys the meaning of the apostle, and makes him speak very improperly. If love is provoked at all; it then ceases to be love; and if it be not easily provoked, this grants, as almost all the commentators say, that in special cases it may be provoked; and this they instance in the case of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 15:39; but I have sufficiently vindicated this passage in my note on that place, and given at large the meaning of the word παροξυνω ; and to that place I beg leave to refer the reader. The apostle's own words in 1 Corinthians 13:7, are a sufficient proof that the love of which he speaks can never be provoked. When the man who possesses this love gives way to provocation, he loses the balance of his soul, and grieves the Spirit of God. In that instant he ceases from loving God with all his soul, mind, and strength; and surely if he get embittered against his neighbor, he does not love him as himself. It is generally said that, though a man may feel himself highly irritated against the sin, he may feel tender concern for the sinner. Irritation of any kind is inconsistent with self-government, and consequently with internal peace and communion with God. However favourably we may think of our own state, and however industrious we may be to find out excuses for sallies of passion, etc., still the testimony of God is, Love is not provoked; and if I have not such a love, whatever else I may possess, it profiteth me nothing.

(9.)

Thinketh no evil - Ουλογιζεται το κακον· "Believes no evil where no evil seems." Never supposes that a good action may have a bad motive; gives every man credit for his profession of religion, uprightness, godly zeal, etc., while nothing is seen in his conduct or in his spirit inconsistent with this profession. His heart is so governed and influenced by the love of God, that he cannot think of evil but where it appears. The original implies that he does not invent or devise any evil; or, does not reason on any particular act or word so as to infer evil from it; for this would destroy his love to his brother; it would be ruinous to charity and benevolence.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Doth not behave itself unseemly - ( οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ ouk aschēmonei). This word occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:36. See the note on that verse. It means to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors, producing veneration and respect for their opinions; and it prompts to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their rank, their poverty, their dress, their dwellings, their pleasures, their views of happiness; it prompts to the due observance of all the “relations” of life, as those of a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, son, daughter, and produces a proper conduct and deportment in all these relations. The proper idea of the phrase is, that it prompts to all that is fit and becoming in life; and would save from all that is unfit and unbecoming.

There may be included in the word also the idea that it would prevent anything that would be a violation of decency or delicacy. It is well known that the Cynics were in the habit of setting at defiance all the usual ideas of decency; and indeed this was, and is, commonly done in the temples of idolatry and pollution everywhere. Love would prevent this, because it teaches to promote the “happiness” of all, and of course to avoid everything that would offend purity of taste and mar enjoyment. In the same way it prompts to the fit discharge of all the relative duties, because it leads to the desire to promote the happiness of all. And in the same manner it would lead a man to avoid profane and indecent language, improper allusions, double meanings and inuendoes, coarse and vulgar expressions, because such things pain the ear, and offend the heart of purity and delicacy. There is much that is indecent and unseemly still in society that would be corrected by Christian love. What a change would be produced if, under the influence of that love, nothing should be said or done in the various relations of life but what would be “seemly, fit, and decent!” And what a happy influence would the prevalence of this love have on the contact of mankind!

Seeketh not her own - There is, perhaps, not a more striking or important expression in the New Testament than this; or one that more beautifully sets forth the nature and power of that love which is produced by true religion. Its evident meaning is, that it is not selfish; it does not seek its own happiness exclusively or mainly; it does not seek its own happiness to the injury of others. This expression is not, however, to be pressed as if Paul meant to teach that a man should not regard his own welfare at all; or have no respect to his health, his property, his happiness, or his salvation. Every man is bound to pursue such a course of life as will ultimately secure his own salvation. But it is not simply or mainly that he may be happy that he is to seek it. It is, that he may thus glorify God his Saviour; and accomplish the great design which his Maker has had in view in his creation and redemption.

If his happiness is the main or leading thing, it proves that he is supremely selfish; and selfishness is not religion. The expression used here is “comparative,” and denotes that this is not the main, the chief, the only thing which one who is under the influence of love or true religion will seek. True religion, or love to others, will prompt us to seek their welfare with self-denial, and personal sacrifice and toil. Similar expressions, to denote comparison, occur frequently in the sacred Scriptures. Thus, where it is said (Hosea 7:6; compare Micah 6:8; Matthew 9:13), “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;” it is meant, “I desired mercy more than I desired sacrifice; I did not wish that mercy should be forgotten or excluded in the attention to the mere ceremonies of religion.” The sense here is, therefore, that a man under the influence of true love or religion does not make his own happiness or salvation the main or leading thing; he does not make all other things subservient to this; he seeks the welfare of others, and desires to promote their happiness and salvation, even at great personal sacrifice and self-denial.

It is the “characteristic” of the man, not that he promotes his own worth, health, happiness, or salvation, but that he lives to do good to others. Love to others will prompt to that, and that alone. There is not a particle of selfishness in true love. It seeks the welfare of others, and of all others. That true religion will produce this, is evident everywhere in the New Testament; and especially in the life of the Lord Jesus, whose whole biography is comprehended in one expressive declaration, “who went about doinG good;” Acts 10:38. It follows from this statement:

(1) That no man is a Christian who lives for himself alone; or who makes it his main business to promote his own happiness and salvation.

(2) no man is a Christian who does not deny himself; or no one who is not willing to sacrifice his own comfort, time, wealth, and ease, to advance the welfare of mankind.

(3) it is this principle which is yet to convert the world. Long since the whole world would have been converted, had all Christians been under its influence. And when all Christians make it their grand object “not” to seek their own, but the good of others; when true charity shall occupy its appropriate place in the heart of every professed child of God, then this world will be speedily converted to the Saviour. Then there will he no lack of funds to spread Bibles and tracts; to sustain missionaries, or to establish colleges and schools; then there will be no lack of people who shall be willing to go to any part of the earth to preach the gospel; and then there will be no lack of prayer to implore the divine mercy on a ruined and perishing world. O may the time soon come when all the selfishness in the human heart shall be dissolved, and when the whole world shall be embraced in the benevolence of Christians, and the time, and talent, and wealth of the whole church shall be regarded as consecrated to God, and employed and expended under the influence of Christian love! Compare the note at 1 Corinthians 10:24.

Is not easily provoked - ( παροξύνεται paroxunetai). This word occurs in the New Testament only in one other place. Acts 17:16, “his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” See the note on that place. The word properly means to sharpen by, or with, or on anything (from ὀξύς oxussharp), and may be applied to the act of sharpening a knife or sword; then it means to sharpen the mind, temper, courage of anyone; to excite, impel, etc. Here it means evidently to rouse to anger; to excite to indignation or wrath. Tyndale renders it, “is not provoked to anger.” Our translation does not exactly convey the sense. The word “easily” is not expressed in the original. The translators have inserted it to convey the idea that he who is under the influence of love, though he may he provoked, that is, injured, or though there might be incitements to anger, yet that he would not be roused, or readily give way to it.

The meaning of the phrase in the Greek is, that a man who is under the influence of love or religion is not “prone” to violent anger or exasperation; it is not his character to be hasty, excited, or passionate. He is calm, serious, patient. He looks soberly at things; and though he may be injured, yet he governs his passions, restrains his temper, subdues his feelings. This, Paul says, would be produced by love. And this is apparent. If we are under the influence of benevolence, or love to anyone, we shall not give way to sudden bursts of feeling. We shall look kindly on his actions; put the best construction on his motives; deem it possible that we have mistaken the nature or the reasons of his conduct; seek or desire explanation Matthew 5:23-24; wait till we can look at the case in all its bearings; and suppose it possible that he may be influenced by good motives, and that his conduct will admit a satisfactory explanation. That true religion is designed to produce this, is apparent everywhere in the New Testament, and especially from the example of the Lord Jesus; that it actually does produce it, is apparent from all who come under its influence in any proper manner. The effect of religion is no where else more striking and apparent than in changing a temper naturally quick, excitable, and irritable, to one that is calm, and gentle, and subdued. A consciousness of the presence of God will do much to produce this state of mind; and if we truly loved all people, we should be soon angry with none.

Thinketh no evil - That is, puts the best possible construction on the motives and the conduct of others. This expression also is “comparative.” It means that love, or that a person under the influence of love, is not malicious, censorious, disposed to find fault, or to impute improper motives to others. It is not only “not easily provoked,” not soon excited, but it is not disposed to “think” that there was any evil intention even in cases which might tend to irritate or exasperate us. It is not disposed to think that there was any evil in the case; or that what was done was with any improper intention or design; that is, it puts the best possible construction on the conduct of others, and supposes, as far as can be done, that it was in consistency with honesty, truth, friendship, and love. The Greek word ( λογίζεται logizetai) is that which is commonly rendered “impute,” and is correctly rendered here “thinketh.” It means, does not reckon, charge, or impute to a man any evil intention or design. We desire to think well of the man whom we love; nor will we think ill of his motives, opinions, or conduct until we are compelled to do so by the most unbreakable evidence. True religion, therefore, will prompt to charitable judging; nor is there a more striking evidence of the destitution of true religion than a disposition to impute the worst motives and opinions to a man.

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
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 397

We do not, as followers of Christ, realize our true position. We do not have correct views of our responsibilities as hired servants of Christ. He has advanced us the wages in His suffering life and spilled blood, to bind us in willing servitude to Himself. All the good things we have are a loan from our Saviour. He has made us stewards. Our smallest offerings, our humblest services, presented in faith and love, may be consecrated gifts to win souls to the service of the Master and to promote His glory. The interest and prosperity of Christ's kingdom should be paramount to every other consideration. Those who make their pleasure and selfish interest the chief objects of their lives are not faithful stewards. 3T 397.1

Those who deny self to do others good, and who devote themselves and all they have to Christ's service, will realize the happiness which the selfish man seeks for in vain. Said our Saviour: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” Charity “seeketh not her own.” This is the fruit of that disinterested love and benevolence which characterized the life of Christ. The law of God in our hearts will bring our own interests in subordination to high and eternal considerations. We are enjoined by Christ to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is our first and highest duty. Our Master expressly warned His servants not to lay up treasures upon the earth; for in so doing their hearts would be upon earthly rather than heavenly things. Here is where many poor souls have made shipwreck of faith. They have gone directly contrary to the express injunction of our Lord, and have allowed the love of money to become the ruling passion of their lives. They are intemperate in their efforts to acquire means. They are as much intoxicated with their insane desire for riches as is the inebriate with his liquor. 3T 397.2

Christians forget that they are servants of the Master; that they themselves, their time, and all that they have belong to Him. Many are tempted, and the majority are overcome, by the delusive inducements which Satan presents to invest their money where it will yield them the greatest profit in dollars and cents. There are but few who consider the binding claims that God has upon them to make it their first business to meet the necessities of His cause and let their own desires be served last. There are but few who invest in God's cause in proportion to their means. Many have fastened their money in property which they must sell before they can invest it in the cause of God and thus put it to a practical use. They make this an excuse for doing but little in their Redeemer's cause. They have as effectually buried their money in the earth as had the man in the parable. They rob God of the tenth, which He claims as His own, and in robbing Him they rob themselves of the heavenly treasure. 3T 398.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 505

“Let us diligently cultivate the pure principles of the gospel of Christ—the religion, not of self-esteem, but of love, meekness, and lowliness of heart. Then we shall love our brethren, and esteem them better than ourselves. Our minds will not dwell on scandal and flying reports. But ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,’ we shall ‘think on these things.’” TM 505.1

As a people, we have been reproved by God for doing so little. How important, then, that we guard carefully against everything that might dishearten or weaken the influence of one soul who is doing a work that God would have done. There are victories to be gained if we present a united front and individually seek the Lord for strength and guidance. TM 505.2

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 439.4

For Christ's sake do not speak or think evil. May the Lord help us not only to read the Bible, but to practice its teachings. The human agent who is faithful in his work, who unites gentleness with his power, justice with his love, causes rejoicing among the heavenly intelligences, and glorifies God. Let us strive earnestly to be good and to do good, and we shall receive the crown of life that fadeth not away.—Manuscript 116, 1898. 2MCP 439.4

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