Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Co 13:4–7).
How many times have we heard this passage, especially v. 7 (believes all things), simply tossed out in discussions of who is and is not a part of the body of Christ, in hopes that the greater Christian community will embrace all who claim the name of Jesus. In other words if someone claims to be a Christian but denies the triune God, has a history of proclaiming modalism, but says they believe in the Trinity when pressed yet uses modalist language to describe the Godhead and feel “uncomfortable” with the word “persons;” prefers “manifestations” (because it is “Pauline”), and preaches a prosperity gospel, we are to embrace them as a brother in Christ because he professes to affirm the Trinity and because love believes all things then we must believe his profession of orthodoxy.
Let’s not limit the situation to T.D. Jakes and the Elephant Room 2 debacle. Let’s talk about others that say they “believe” the Gospel in private but in public they pervert it and preach a different Gospel. But because they say they are “Christian” we must think the best of them because love believes all things. I once had someone sit before me and tell me that they believed what I believe concerning the Gospel. But what I heard come from his mouth publicly was a different gospel. And the conversation I had with him was after this. Then his writings also reveal that he denies the Gospel. Since some take “believes all things” and divorce it from its context many would force us to accept this person in “unity.” Must we take everyone at their word when the facts say otherwise?
Is that what Paul is saying here. Must we take everyone’s word at face value? I do not believe that is what the Apostle is teaching. I do not believe him to be saying that we must believe the best about everyone and take their word for all things. I believe that those who wish to make it so would not even be consistent with their own position. Let’s say they do believe the best about everyone and take them at their word. The whole prison system would be empty! Of course there is something called evidence which would really help in this matter. And they would not wish to free all that say they are “innocent.”
Hence if a person has a history of saying one thing and then professes to no longer believe falsehood. We need to see some genuine repentance that their new position is indeed credible. We should see some public refutation of their former positions whether they were in writing or speaking and then proclamation of the truth. After all the verse that comes before says that love “rejoices in the truth.”
What then does Scripture mean when it says “love believes all things?” Here we shall consult a few commentators:
In saying “love always believes” and “hopes,” Paul does not mean that love always believes the best about everything and everyone, but that love never ceases to have faith; it never loses hope. This is why it can endure. The life that is so touched by the never-ceasing love of God in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:39 is in turn enabled by the Spirit to love others in the same way. It trusts God in behalf of the one loved, hopes to the end that God will show mercy in that person’s behalf.*
Love “believes all things.” This does not mean that a Christian filled with love lacks the qualities of wisdom and discernment and thus becomes the gullible dupe of every falsifier. On the contrary, love is always wise and discerning.
The clause signifies that a Christian has faith in God, who will work out his divine plans even when all the indicators seem to point in different directions. Filled with love for God and neighbor, a believer trusts that God indeed will make his or her paths straight (Prov. 3:5–6).*
Charity believes and hopes well of others: Believeth all things; hopeth all things. Indeed charity does by no means destroy prudence, and, out of mere simplicity and silliness, believe every word, Prov. 14:15. Wisdom may dwell with love, and charity be cautious. But it is apt to believe well of all, to entertain a good opinion of them when there is no appearance to the contrary; nay, to believe well when there may be some dark appearances, if the evidence of ill be not clear. All charity is full of candour, apt to make the best of every thing, and put on it the best face and appearance? it will judge well, and believe well, as far as it can with any reason, and will rather stretch its faith beyond appearances for the support of a kind opinion; but it will go into a bad one with the upmost reluctance, and fence against it as much as it fairly and honestly can. And when, in spite of inclination, it cannot believe well of others, it will yet hope well, and continue to hope as long as there is any ground for it. It will not presently conclude a case desperate, but wishes the amendment of the worst of men, and is very apt to hope for what it wishes. How well-natured and amiable a thing is Christian charity?*
Love believeth all things — not that the Christian knowingly and willingly allows himself to be imposed upon — not that he divests himself of prudence and judgment, that he may be the more easily taken advantage of — not that he unlearns the way of distinguishing black from white. What then? He requires here, as I have already said, simplicity and kindness in judging of things; and he declares that these are the invariable accompaniments of love. The consequence will be, that a Christian man will reckon it better to be imposed upon by his own kindness and easy temper, than to wrong his brother by an unfriendly suspicion.*
We must never forget also that “love rejoices in the truth” (v. 6).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (640). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
*Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 18: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary (461–462). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
*Henry, M. (1996). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (1 Co 13:4–7). Peabody: Hendrickson.
*Calvin, J. (1998). Calvin’s Commentaries: 1 Corinthians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Calvin’s Commentaries (1 Co 13:7). Albany, OR: Ages Software.