Examples of Serving Without Loving. Paul used an example of Speech. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1, ESV). “Tongues” here is plural of glossa, “language; utterance” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. γλωσσαις). These tongues are “tongues of men” (v. 1). It does not refer to speaking in tongues which comes from God. Rather, it refers to speaking in the languages coming from men. Tongues of angels may be figurative language for speaking eloquently.
Paul uses the conditional conjunction, “if,” from the Greek, ean, “if; even if; though” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. εαν). “If I speak in the tongues of men.” This means that Paul did not speak in the tongues of men and of angels. He was not an eloquent speaker, and the Corinthians knew it (See 1 Cor. 2:1, 4). If Paul were alive today, he might not be invited as guest speaker in many churches. He was not a very good speaker. Remember when Paul was preaching to a crowd in Acts? His preaching must have been boring. A young man fell asleep, feel down, and died. This is bad news to the Corinthians. For in the 1st Century, the Corinthians admired eloquence, expressiveness, and persuasiveness. (David K. Lowery, The Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament, n. p.:1983, 2000 in PC Study Bible V.5 CD, Seattle: Biblesoft Inc.,1988-2007)
“Have not love” (ESV) here is interesting. “Have” is from echo, “hold, possess, keep” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. εχω) as a transitive verb. Here it is in the present tense and in the active voice. Paul is saying, “If I speak eloquently in the languages of men and of angels, yet I don’t hold, or possess, or keep love continually and constantly, then I am a noisy gong or cymbal.”
Now “noisy” here is not an adjective, but a present participle. It literally means, “sounding” (NKJV) or “booming.” “Gong” here is from chalkos, “copper, brass, bronze” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. χαλκος); “(an idiom, literally ‘echoing brass’ or ‘resounding brass’) a gong made of brass – ‘brass gong.’” (Greek-English Lexicon, s. v. χαλκος). “Corinth was famous for its “bronze,” and bronze vases (not ‘gongs,’ as in most translations) were often used for amplifiers in the outdoor theaters of this period.” (Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, n. p.: InterVarsity Press, 1993 in PC Study Bible V.5 CD, Seattle: Biblesoft Inc.,1988-2007)
“Cymbals” is from kumbalon, “a percussion instrument consisting of two metal discs which were struck together in order to make a shrill, clashing sound” (Greek-English Lexicon, s. v. κυμβαλον). “Clanging” (ESV) is from alalazon, which literally means, “raise the war cry” (Analytical Greek New Testament) or “wail loudly” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. αλαλαζον). In this context, it means, “to make a loud, reverberating sound – ‘to clang.’” (Greek-English Lexicon, s. v. αλαλαζον). Like “noisy,” (“resounding” to be precise), it is also a present participle—“clanging,” “making a loud sound.” Paul is saying, “I may sound electrifying and captivating and mesmerizing like sounding brass and cymbals, I may be loud but I communicate nothing.” (Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary in PC Study Bible V.5 CD)
Here is one example of emptiness in serving God and people without love—Noise.
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