First Corinthians 13--Love bears all things
Jul 28, 2017
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love “bears all things.” The Greek word he uses is stego, “roof over, cover, protect, hide, conceal, keep off something which threatens, bear, endure.” The word is derived from stege, “a roof of a house.”
The Septuagint uses this Greek word in Genesis 8:13, saying, “Noah opened the covering of the ark which he had made.” The word is used again in Ezekiel 40:43, where the Septuagint text reads quite differently from the Hebrew text:
43 And they shall have within a border of hewn stone round about of a span broad, and over the tables above screens for covering them from the wet and from the heat.
These are the only two places where the Septuagint uses the term stego, and in both examples, it is used of a covering. In the New Testament, the word is used only four times, where the NASB translates it endure three times, and “bears” (all things) in the love chapter.
Some scholars believe that when Paul says love “bears all things” he means it in the sense that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). However, Peter uses the word kalupto (“to veil”), instead of stego. Most scholars agree that Paul was telling us that love endures wrongs being suffered. Since the word has a range of meaning, the question is how Paul himself used the word in his writings.
Paul uses the word stego in 1 Corinthians 9:12,
12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure [stego] all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Paul used the word in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, when speaking of the suffering that the church had to endure. Paul says,
1 Therefore when we could endure [stego] it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 continues with the same sense,
5 For this reason, when I could endure [stego] it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain.
Hence, Paul uses the term, not in the sense of hiding something under a roof or covering, but as a means of protection while they endure hardship, inconvenience, suffering, or persecution. In this, we see that to bear all things is more akin to patience, which is the first characteristic of love on Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 13:4. One who loves, then, is able to endure injustice when others infringe upon their rights. Defending one’s right is not the driving force in the life of one who loves others. He has greater priorities, as did Jesus on the cross. Therefore, he “bears all things.”
This is part 82 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones