Lesson 110: 1 Corinthians 13–14

“Lesson 110: 1 Corinthians 13–14,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 110,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 110

1 Corinthians 13–14


Paul taught the importance of charity. He counseled the Corinthian Saints to obtain and follow after charity and seek other spiritual gifts. Paul taught that the gift of prophecy is greater than the gift of tongues and is given to Church members so they can strengthen others spiritually.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Corinthians 13

Paul teaches about the importance of having charity

Before class write the following scenarios on the board, or provide students with copies of them. Invite a student to read each scenario aloud, and ask students to consider whether any of these statements describe them.

  1. You frequently get annoyed and upset by the behavior of a sibling.

  2. A classmate is rude to you, so you feel justified in being rude in response.

  3. You feel envious of a friend’s talents and accomplishments.

  4. Sometimes you find it easy to gossip and speak badly about others in your priesthood quorum or Young Women class.

  • What harmful effects can result from having these attitudes and behaviors?

Invite students to look for truths as they study 1 Corinthians 13 that can help them avoid attitudes and behaviors that can disrupt personal happiness and relationships with others.

Remind students that the Saints in Corinth were behaving in ways that led to contention and divisions in the Church. In his epistle, Paul taught that spiritual gifts are given to profit all and to help Church members serve and strengthen one another. Paul counseled the Saints to seek earnestly the “best gifts” (see 1 Corinthians 12:7–31).

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 13:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for an attribute and gift of the Spirit that Paul praised highly.

  • What attribute and gift of the Spirit did Paul praise highly? (Charity.)

Explain that “charity is the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection” (Bible Dictionary, “Charity”).

  • How did Paul describe those who do not have charity despite having other spiritual gifts?

Explain that the phrases “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbal” in verse 1 refer to instruments that make loud or ornamental sounds. In the context of verse 1, these phrases can signify speaking words that become empty or meaningless when the speaker is not motivated by charity.

  • Why do you think we are nothing without charity?

  • How is it possible that someone can give away all of his or her possessions to feed the poor or willingly die for the truth and yet still not have charity? (Explain that charity is more than an act of generosity and more than dying for the truth.)

Copy the following chart on the board:

What Charity Is or Does

What Charity Is Not or Does Not Do

Explain that Paul described qualities and characteristics of charity to help the Corinthian Saints better understand this gift. Divide students into pairs. Invite students to read 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 with their partners, looking for Paul’s descriptions of charity.

After sufficient time, ask students to come to the board and write Paul’s descriptions of charity under the appropriate heading on the chart. As needed, help students understand each description.

  • Who fits the description of all these attributes of charity? (Jesus Christ.)

Remind students that the prophet Mormon taught that “charity is the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). Explain that charity can be described in two important ways: (1) Christ’s love for us and (2) our Christlike love for others. Ask students to choose a few descriptions of charity from the list on the board and explain to the class how they are good descriptions of Jesus Christ.

  • What do you think it means in verse 8 that “charity never faileth”?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

True charity … is shown perfectly and purely in Christ’s unfailing, ultimate, and atoning love for us. … It is that charity—his pure love for us—without which we would be nothing, hopeless, of all men and women most miserable. …

“Life has its share of fears and failures. Sometimes things fall short. Sometimes people fail us, or economies or businesses or governments fail us. But one thing in time or eternity does not fail us—the pure love of Christ” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 337).

  • How can it be helpful to remember that the pure love of Jesus Christ will never fail?

  • Based on what we have learned from 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, what happens to us as we obtain the gift of charity? (Students may identify a variety of truths, but make sure it is clear that as we seek to obtain the spiritual gift of charity, we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. Write this truth on the board.)

Summarize 1 Corinthians 13:9–12 by explaining that Paul taught why the spiritual gifts of knowledge and prophecy would eventually vanish. Paul observed that the knowledge available in this life is incomplete and that we will gain a perfect knowledge in eternity.

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 13:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for three gifts of the Spirit that Paul taught would abide, meaning to endure or remain constant. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What did Paul teach is the greatest spiritual gift? (Students should identify the following truth: Charity is the greatest gift of the Spirit. Write this truth on the board.)

  • What is the relationship between faith, hope, and charity? (Faith leads to hope, and hope leads to charity.)

  • Based on what we have learned in 1 Corinthians 13, why do you think charity is the greatest gift of the Spirit?

Point out Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “follow after charity.”

  • What can we do to “follow after” or obtain the gift of charity?

Invite a student to read Moroni 7:48 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Mormon taught his people to do to obtain the gift of charity. Invite students to report what they find.

  • How can having charity improve our relationships with family, friends, and peers?

  • Can you describe a time when you have witnessed charity in the way someone treated you or others? (Consider sharing an experience of your own.)

Invite students to write on pieces of paper which descriptions of charity they feel are most difficult for them and why. Encourage students to write a goal regarding what they will do to continue seeking to obtain greater charity. Invite students to place it somewhere they will see it often and be reminded of their goal.

1 Corinthians 14

Paul teaches that the gift of prophecy is greater than the gift of tongues

Bring items to class that can be used to build a tower, such as blocks, boxes, cards, or books. Invite a student to use the items you brought to build a tower as tall as possible in one minute. Afterward, invite the student to be seated. Ask students to read 1 Corinthians 14:1–3 silently, looking for the word in these verses that relates to the demonstration of building a tower.

  • What word in verse 3 relates to building a tower? (Edification. If necessary, explain that edify means to “build up,” as in to strengthen or improve spiritually.)

Invite students to look for a principle as they study 1 Corinthians 14 that will help them know how they can edify others.

Explain that Paul addressed members of the Church in Corinth who were experiencing the gift of tongues, or the ability to speak in other languages. Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 14:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what spiritual gift Paul counseled the Saints to seek instead.

  • What gift of the Spirit did Paul counsel the Saints to desire and seek?

Explain that “a prophecy consists of divinely inspired words or writings, which a person receives through revelation from the Holy Ghost. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). When a person prophesies, he speaks or writes that which God wants him to know, for his own good or the good of others” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Prophecy, Prophesy,”

Write the following phrase on the board: prophesy = to teach and testify by inspiration

  • According to verse 3, how can teaching and testifying by inspiration help us bless others? (Using their own words, students should identify a principle similar to the following: As we teach and testify by inspiration, we can help edify and comfort others.)

  • How have you been edified and comforted by the inspired teachings and testimony of another person?

Summarize 1 Corinthians 14:4–30 by explaining that Paul cautioned the Corinthian Saints about the gift of speaking in tongues. Paul warned that if used improperly, the gift of tongues would fail to edify the Church and would distract members from seeking more useful spiritual gifts.

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 14:31, 33, 40 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what counsel Paul gave the Saints about prophesying.

  • What counsel did Paul give the Saints about prophesying? (All, both male and female, may prophesy, or teach and testify. This should be done in order, one person at a time.)

  • What truth can we learn about the Church of Jesus Christ from these verses? (Using their own words, students should identify a principle similar to the following: In the Church of Jesus Christ, all things are to be done in order.)

  • Why do you think it is important for all things in the Church to be done with proper order?

Explain that Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 provide an example of how he directed the Saints at Corinth to maintain order in the Church. Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught Church members at Corinth. Invite students to report what they find.

Explain that it is difficult to understand the intent of Paul’s counsel since he clearly did not forbid women from praying or speaking in Church meetings (see 1 Corinthians 11:5). The Joseph Smith Translation replaces the word speak in verses 34 and 35 with rule. This word change suggests the possibility that Paul was trying to correct a situation in which some Corinthian women were either being disorderly during worship services or were improperly seeking to take responsibility to lead rather than sustaining and following priesthood leaders (see New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 380).

Conclude the lesson by testifying of the truths taught in 1 Corinthians 13–14.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Corinthians 13:1–3. Charity is more than being generous

Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy taught the following about charity:

“It is quite possible to render charitable—even ‘Christian’—service without developing deeply ingrained and permanent Christlike character. Paul understood this when he warned against giving all one’s goods to feed the poor without true charity. … We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. If our vertical relationship with God is complete, then, by the fruit of that relationship, the horizontal relationship with our fellow beings will also be complete. We then act charitably toward others, not merely because we think we should, but because that is the way we are” (The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences [1989], 196–97).

1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Charity

As recorded in 1 Corinthians 13:4–5, Paul described various attributes of charity; in other words, people who have charity do the things and have the characteristics he described. The phrase “suffereth long” describes someone who endures trials patiently. “Envieth not” describes someone who is not jealous of others. “Vaunteth not itself” describes someone who is not boastful. “Not puffed up” describes the quality of being humble. “Doth not behave itself unseemly” describes someone who is not rude or inconsiderate. “Seeketh not her own” describes the quality of putting God and others before self. “Not easily provoked” describes someone who is not angered easily. “Believeth all things” describes someone who accepts all truth.

1 Corinthians 13:8. The gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will “cease” and “vanish away”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why the gifts of prophecy and tongues will eventually cease and why the gift of knowledge will vanish away:

“Shall the gifts of the Spirit cease? Is there to be a day when the saints shall no longer possess the gifts of prophecy and tongues? Or the gift of knowledge? Yes, in the sense that these shall be swallowed up in something greater, and shall no longer be needed in the perfect day. When the saints know all tongues, none will be able to speak in an unknown tongue. When the saints become as God and know all things—past, present, and future—there will be no need or occasion to prophesy of the future” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:380).

1 Corinthians 14:1. “Follow after charity”

Elder Robert J. Whetten of the Seventy explained:

“Like faith, Christlike love is a gift of the Spirit, is granted upon the principles of personal righteousness and in accordance to our level of obedience to the laws upon which it is predicated. Like faith, love must be exercised to grow” (“True Followers,” Ensign, May 1999, 30).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Charity, ‘the pure love of Christ’ (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 34).

1 Corinthians 14:1–3. The gift of prophecy

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the distinction between members of the Church who have the spiritual gift of prophecy and those called to serve in the prophetic office:

“In the sense used in speaking of spiritual gifts, a prophet is one who testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches God’s word, and exhorts God’s people. In its scriptural sense, to prophesy means much more than to predict the future. …

“It is important for us to understand the distinction between a prophet, who has the spiritual gift of prophecy, and the prophet, who has the prophetic office” (“Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 71).

1 Corinthians 14. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue”

“The Apostles and others spoke with ‘other tongues’ on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4–8). On this occasion, the gift of tongues was manifest through God’s servants teaching the gospel in languages that were known to their listeners but unknown to the speakers (see the commentary for Acts 2:5–11). Another manifestation of the gift of tongues occurs when a person is moved by the Spirit to speak in a language that is unknown to either the speaker or the hearers (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:383)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 379).

For additional information about important cautions regarding the purpose and use of the gift of tongues, see Robert D. Hales, “Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 14–15.