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First Corinthians 13--Love is kind

Jul 07, 2017

Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:4 that “love is kind.” In other words, love is chresteuomai (middle voice of chrestos). The Greek word chrestos was used often in the Septuagint as the equivalent of towb, “good.”

For example, in Jer. 24:2, 3, 5, we read of the “good figs” (chrestos). Also, in Jer. 52:32 The king of Babylon “spoke kindly” (chrestos) to Jehoiachin and brought him out of prison. In both cases, Jeremiah used the Hebrew word towb, which the Septuagint renders as chrestos.

The Hebrew word towb has a range of meaning, but it includes being good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, and productive.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H2896&t=NASB

Some scholars define it as “functional good.” Al Novak renders it “merry” in his book, Hebrew Honey. In other words, towb is kindness that springs from a merry heart. Paul says it best in 2 Cor. 9:7,

7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful [hilaros, “merry, joyful, hilarious, cheerful”] giver.

When Jeremiah speaks of the “good figs” in Jeremiah 24:2, he contrasts it to the bad (ra) figs. This particular metaphor is important because Paul speaks of kindness (chrestotes) as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Hence, good figs are kind, while bad figs are unkind. Young's Concordance renders it "useful, beneficial."

If we pursue this idea further, we find that Jeremiah said that the bad figs were those who refused to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had raised up to rule over Jerusalem and Judah. They preferred to fight as Judean patriots, ignoring the decree from the divine court. It goes without saying that they had no intention of being “good” or “kind” to the Babylonians, but instead treated them as enemies.

Jesus said in Luke 6:35,

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind [chrestos] to ungrateful and evil men.

So here we have an example of divine kindness, which is an expression of God’s love. He is kind not only to friends, but to “enemies” and “to ungrateful and evil men,” and He expects us to have the same character. This is seen also in Paul’s definition of divine love in Romans 5:6-10, where God died for those who were yet sinners and reconciled those who were still enemies.

So Paul says in Titus 3:4-6,

4 But when the kindness [chrestotes] of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

This kindness was extended while we were yet sinners living a disobedient life style, as the previous verse shows. Thus, when Paul says that love is kind, he was speaking of the quality of kindness seen in the character of God in Christ Jesus. Perhaps it is no coincidence that chrestos is so similar to christos, “anointed” (or Christ).


This is part 72 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in First Corinthians


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