Study Guide

Corinthians Love

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But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." (NRSV 1 Corinthians 2:9)

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (KJV 1 Corinthians 2:9)

Paul gives a little shout-out to Isaiah 64:4 in order to describe all the good stuff that's going to happen to the folks who love God. What other Hebrew Bible allusions make their way into Paul's letters to the Corinthians?

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. (KJV 1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

Knowledge vs. Love in a fight to the death! Who will win? No, it's not that crazy, but Paul does think that it's better to be loving towards others that to just run around thinking you know everything. Hey, do you want be happy or do you wanna be right? Actually, don't answer that.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end […] Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 13:1-10, 12-13)

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. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away […] Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (KJV 1 Corinthians 13:1-10, 12-13)

Yeah, we pretty much had to quote the whole chapter here. There's a reason this verse is a favorite at weddings—it's a pretty poetic mediation on what love is all about. Of course, Paul isn't only talking about the relationship between spouses. He thinks that everyone should be living their lives immersed in this kind of all-encompassing love. Love, apparently, makes you into an awesome person to be around.

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. (KJV 1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

At first, this may seem like a contradiction—be alert, firm, and strong… but loving, too. What gives? (P.S. We feel like we've heard this in a LeAnn Rimes song before.)

Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 16:22-24)

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. (KJV 1 Corinthians 16:22-24)

Translation: love God—or else. It's not often you see people cursed for not loving, but this is how serious Paul is about the whole love thing.

This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 2:6-11)

Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (KJV 2 Corinthians 2:6-11)

Again with the cursing and the love. Paul is happy that the Corinthians have finally punished the Offending Brother. But now that they're done, they should get to work on loving him again. Huh? Is Paul being hypocritical or is there something else going on here?

For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 2:4)

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (KJV 2 Corinthians 2:4)

Paul gives the Corinthians a classic dad line: "I'm only doing this for your own good!" Because he loves his little children so much, Paul always brings the truth.

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 8:7-8)

Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. (KJV 2 Corinthians 8:7-8)

Way to put love to the test, Paul. While he's encouraging the Corinthians to donate money to the church in Jerusalem, Paul reminds them that love means giving… even if you don't want to.

I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (NRSV 2 Corinthians 12:15)

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. (KJV 2 Corinthians 12:15)

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return, right? But Paul's a little hurt that the Corinthians aren't throwing all his love back at him. He's giving his all, but they're playing footsie with the false apostles. Jealous much, Paul? Is he justified in his concern?

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