1 Corinthians 13
The Passion Translation
Love, the Motivation of Our Lives
13 If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels,[a] yet I didn’t express myself with love,[b] my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I were to have the gift of prophecy[c] with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains,[d] but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
3 And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr,[e] without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
4 Love is large and incredibly patient.[f] Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous[g] when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 5 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated[h] or quick to take offense.[i] 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty[j] and finds no delight in what is wrong.[k] 7 Love is a safe place of shelter,[l] for it never stops believing the best for others.[m] Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
8 Love never stops loving.[n] It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away.[o] It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten.[p] 9 Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial,[q] 10 but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away.[r] 11 When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
12 For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries[s] as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face.[t] My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. 13 Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all.[u] So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.[v]
- 13:1 The implication is that the angels speak a distinct language among themselves that is not known on earth.
- 13:1 The Aramaic word for love is hooba, and it is a homonym that also means “to set on fire.” It is difficult to fully express the meaning of this word and translate it into English. You could say the Aramaic concept is “burning love” or “fiery love,” coming from the inner depths of the heart as an eternal energy, an active power of bonding hearts and lives in secure relationships. The Greek word is agapē, which describes the highest form of love. It is the love God has for his people. It is an intense affection that must be demonstrated. It is a loyal, endless, and unconditional commitment of love. Feelings are attached to this love. It is not abstract, but devoted to demonstrating the inward feelings of love toward another with acts of kindness and benevolence.
- 13:2 Or “prophetic powers.”
- 13:2 The Greek present infinitive indicates a continuous aspect, which means a faith to keep on removing mountains or to remove one mountain after another.
- 13:3 The Aramaic word used here is a homonym that can mean either “to burn” or “to boast.” Because of this, some Greek manuscripts have “I offer my body in order to boast [glory].”
- 13:4 Or “Love patiently endures mistreatment” could mean that love is incredibly patient even in difficult relationships. The Aramaic can be translated “Love transforms the spirit.”
- 13:4 Or “boil with jealousy.”
- 13:5 Or “overly sensitive” (having sharp edges).
- 13:5 Or “resentful” or “does not keep score.” The Aramaic can be translated “Love does not stare at evil.” Love will overlook offenses and remain focused on what is good, refusing to hold resentment in our hearts.
- 13:6 Or “reality” (or “truth”).
- 13:6 Or “injustice” or “unrighteousness.”
- 13:7 Or “Love bears all things.” Although commonly understood to mean that love can bear hardships of any kind, the nominalized form of the verb (stego) is actually the word for “roof” found in Mark 2:4. Paul is saying that love covers all things, like a roof covers the house. See 1 Peter 4:8. Love does not focus on what is wrong but will bear with the shortcomings of others. And like a roof protects and shields, you could say that love springs no leak. It is a safe place that offers shelter, not exposure.
- 13:7 Or “it never loses faith.”
- 13:8 Or “Love never, not even once, fails [lapses]” or “Love never falls down” (it keeps going higher).
- 13:8 The Aramaic can be translated “prophecy comes to pass.”
- 13:8 That is, the gift of the word of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8). Knowledge itself will not pass away or be set aside, for we will learn of God’s mercies throughout eternity. This is the gifts of knowledge Paul refers to.
- 13:9 Or “in fragments.”
- 13:10 Perfect love diminishes the importance of prophecy and tongues. Paul could be saying that they will cease being important when compared with perfect love. That which is perfect is love and is greater than the gifts. Perfect love puts everything else in second place, for God is love. See 1 John 4:8, 18. Paul is contrasting spiritual gifts with love, saying, “Gifts will fail, but love will never fail.” Like leaves falling to the ground, something greater will one day take their place: the love of God.
- 13:12 The Greek word ainigma used here is equal to our English word enigma.
- 13:12 Paul is referring to God speaking to Moses “face-to-face” (Hebrew “mouth-to-mouth”), and not using dreams and figures of speech (Num. 12:8). Transforming love will bring us all face-to-face, mouth-to-mouth with God.
- 13:13 Faith and hope both spring from love, which makes love the greatest virtue of all. Faith and hope are temporary, but love is eternal. Paul gives us ten characteristics of divine love in this chapter. Love (1) is patient under stress, (2) is kind at all times, (3) is generous, not envious, (4) is humble, not self-promoting, (5) is never rude, (6) does not manipulate by using shame, (7) is not irritable or easily offended, (8) celebrates honesty, (9) does not focus on what is flawed, and (10) is loyal to the end.
- 13:13 Unfortunately, there is a chapter break before this line. Chapter headings are not part of the inspired text. This translation has chosen to insert the partial text of 14:1 here in conclusion to Paul’s masterful treatise on love.