1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. KJV
Paul finished the last section or portion of his letter to these Corinthian believers presenting them the order of importance of all the “spiritual gifts” or charisma bestowed to them and us from God the Holy Spirit, but now Paul pulls them back to when they were first saved or born again as he wrote earlier to them in this very same letter with these words, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Paul had already written to them reminding them of how deep in sin and depravity they were before the Spirit of God took his proclamation of the gospel and washed them and then immediately filled them with the “love of God” as Paul spoke of earlier in this letter when he wrote this to them, “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. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Paul brought the gospel of grace to them and then spent a year and a half teaching them the Word of God and he was an eye witness to their individual and their collective transformation by the “grace of God”, so Paul having already earlier admonished them of their idolatry, sexual immorality, envy, and strife begins to remind them of what truly is the Greatest Gift from God the Holy Spirit that each and every one of them have received and through and by it are all their other “spiritual gifts” to be exercised for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul has also told them that God knows intimately every person who truly loves Him (1 Corinthians 8:3). The Apostle Peters words here when our Lord Jesus asked him for the third time did he love Him also testify to this point, “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep’ (John 21:17). Paul now declares to them and to us that not only our Love for God should be great, but that God’s Love in them and us is the Greatest of any Gifts received from the Holy Spirit, as he says in this manner, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Paul wrote this illustration or comparison first to them because these Corinthian believers were making much of the “gift of tongues” so much that they had elevated it even above apostleship, prophesy, teaching, and showing love toward one another for we recall Paul earlier wrote of their taking one another to court or suing one another over earthly temporal things before unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Paul use of the English word love or charity in this verse is translated by the Greek word agape which means affection or benevolence or a love feast or dear love to another brother or sister “in Christ”, this Greek word agape is the highest form of love that can be expressed anywhere in God’s Creation because it is “God’s Love” poured into His Adopted children as Paul wrote in this manner to the Roman believers, “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Paul even goes so far to say that even if they or we were to be enabled to speak with the language of angels (for it is certain that their language or communication methods are far superior or above human language) without it being energized by God’s Love it would be nothing but a bunch of worthless, useless, and despicable noise.
In other words, their speaking in tongues had become like listening to a group of 1st or 2nd graders playing musical instruments together for the first time and doing so as loud as they could. Listen to what Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922) had to say concerning Paul’s words written here in this first verse to these Corinthian believers, “The comparison is between the unmeaning clash of metal, and music; between ecstatic utterances which are jargon, and utterances inspired by love, which, though unintelligible to the hearers, may carry a meaning to the speaker himself and to God, 1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:7.” Paul is clearly here reaching into the hearts of these Corinthian believers with his words here to do a Spiritual Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on their hearts because they had fallen in love with the “gift of tongues” so much that they were exercising it with no love toward one another, but only to make themselves appear more spiritual than others and in so doing elevate themselves in the church. Paul even though he writes of himself becoming sounding brass or tinkling cymbals he really means to shock them back to their “first love” because they had become useless noise in God’s Presence.
“The love of God, and of all mankind for his sake, I am no better before God than the sounding instruments of brass, used in the worship of some of the heathen gods. Or a tinkling cymbal - This was made of two pieces of hollow brass, which, being struck together, made a tinkling, but very little variety of sound.” John Wesley
“Could a man speak all the languages on earth, and that with the greatest propriety, elegance, and fluency, could he talk like an angel, and yet be without love, it would be all empty noise, mere unharmonious and useless sound, that would neither profit nor delight. It is not talking freely, nor finely, nor learnedly, of the things of God, that will save ourselves, or profit others, if we are destitute of holy love. It is the charitable heart, not the voluble tongue, that is acceptable with God. The apostle specifies first this gift because hereupon the Corinthians seemed chiefly to value themselves and despise their brethren.” Matthew Henry
“Paul uses very expressive and graphic language in this first verse to these Corinthian believers because he knew that they were making so much of speaking in tongues, while they were simultaneously treating one another with contempt and even defrauding one another while boasting over their “gift of tongues” not even realizing how far from the “love of God” they had removed themselves, for God never moved His Love from them.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…