It is written:
1 Corinthians 13:7 (Love)…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
As Paul describes the characteristics of the love that God wants His people to learn and to apply to their lives, he says that this is a love that “endures all things.” The word “endures” is from the Greek word hupomenō.
Now, there is a great deal more to this word than meets the eye.
When I think of the English word “endure,” my mind usually takes me to the movie Rocky IV. Remember the movie where Rocky fought the Russian? At the end of the movie, as Rocky and the Russian are slugging it out, you are just waiting for Rocky to get taken down by the next blow.
Punch after punch!
Hit after hit!
But what does Rocky do?
He gets back up!
He keeps fighting!
And then finally….he wins!!!!
(Sorry for any spoilers there).
Now, that is a beautiful idea behind our word “endure.” To persevere; to continue on; to refuse to give up or to give in.
All of those ideas are included in the word hupomenō.
But there is something else to this word that the people in Paul’s day would have understood when they heard (or read) it.
Barclay gives us this amazing breakdown of hupomone:
“Hupomonē is one of the noblest of NT words. Normally it is translated ‘patience’ or ‘endurance’, but, as we shall see, there is no single English word which transmits all the fullness of its meaning. In classical Greek it is not a very common word, it is used of the endurance of toil that has come upon a man all against his will, of endurance of the sting of grief, the shock of battle and the coming of death. It has one very interesting use—it is used of the ability of a plant to live under hard and unfavourable circumstances. In later Greek, in the later Jewish literature, it is especially common, for instance in Fourth Maccabees, of that quality of ‘spiritual staying power’ which enabled men to die for their God. In the NT the noun hupomonē is used 30 times, and the corresponding verb hupomenein is used in this sense about 15 times. As we have said the normal translation of the noun is ‘patience’, and of the verb ‘to endure’, but when we examine its use in detail certain great truths, which are inspirations, begin to emerge. (i) Hupomonē is very commonly used in connexion with ‘tribulation’. Tribulation worketh patience (Rom. 5.3). The Christian must approve himself in much ‘patience’ and in ‘afflictions’ (II Cor. 6.4). The Thessalonians are commended for their ‘patience’ and faith in ‘persecutions’ and ‘tribulations’ (II Thess. 1.4). The Christian must be patient (hupomenein) in ‘tribulation’. This use is specially common in the Revelation, which is characteristically the martyr’s book (cp. Rev. 1.9; 3.10; 13.10). (ii) Hupomonē is used in connexion with ‘faith’. The testing of faith produces ‘patience’ (James 1.3). It is hupomonē which perfects faith. (iii) Hupomonē is used in connexion with ‘hope’. Tribulation begets ‘patience’ and patience begets experience and experience begets ‘hope’ (Rom. 5.3). It is ‘patience’ and comfort which produce ‘hope’ (Rom. 15.4, 5). The ‘patience’ of the ‘hope’ of the Thessalonians is praised (I Thess. 1.3). (iv) Hupomonē is connected with ‘joy’. The Christian life is marked with ‘patience’ and long-suffering with joyfulness (Col. 1.11). (v) Oftenest of all hupomonē is connected with some goal of glory, some greatness which shall be. The references are too many to cite in full (Luke 21.19; Rom. 2.7; Heb. 10.36; 12.1; II Tim. 2.10, 12; James 1.12; 5.11). And now we can see the essence and the characteristic of this great virtue hupomonē. It is not the patience which can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm is past. It is not, in the Scots word, merely ‘tholing’ things. It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope; it is not the spirit which sits statically enduring in the one place, but the spirit which bears things because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory; it is not the patience which grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn. It has been called ‘a masculine constancy under trial’. It has been said that always it has a background of andreia, which is courage. Chrysostom calls hupomonē ‘a root of all the goods, mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbour that knows no storms’. He calls it ‘the queen of virtues, the foundation of right actions, peace in war, calm in tempest, security in plots’, and neither the violence of man nor the powers of the evil one can injure it. It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal. George Matheson, who was stricken in blindness and disappointed in love, wrote a prayer in which he pleads that he might accept God’s will, ‘not with dumb resignation, but with holy joy; not only with the absence of murmur, but with a song of praise’. Only hupomonē can enable a man to do that.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words (The William Barclay Library), 2231-2264 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added M.T.); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
So hupomone had reference to the ability not only to endure afflictions and hardships, but to recognize that those afflictions and hardships were being allowed in order to bring about some greater good!
Doesn’t Paul teach us this throughout 1 Corinthians?
For example, Paul discusses how a Christian will be saved “through the fire” when Jesus comes again:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15-For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Christians will “suffer loss” in this life, yet they will still be saved, “yet as through fire.”
Our sufferings are meant for a higher purpose.
Didn’t Paul make this point in 1 Corinthians 15?
When the Apostle wrote about people who were being “baptized for the dead,” he says:
1 Corinthians 15:29-Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?
Notice the phrase “baptized for the dead.” The phrase “the dead” here actually is plural in number, so “the dead ones” is the more accurate translation. Furthermore, the passage itself identifies who “the dead ones” were: dead Christians!
Some of the Christians in Corinth had died for Christ, being martyred for being faithful to Him.
Now, some in Corinth were being baptized for some reason related to these dead Christians.
“We also note that while the two verses in the last category are ambiguous, the other usages, and the discussion as a whole, make it quite clear that Paul is not interested in all dead people, but in those who will benefit from being raised to glory. That is, his references to “the dead” have the righteous dead (i.e., dead who will be raised to glory) in mind. Paul is concerned with the resurrection of those “who have fallen asleep in Christ” (v. 18), those who “belong to” Christ and will be raised “when he comes” (v. 23). Those are the “all” who “will be made alive” (v. 22) that are his concern here. Paul is not concerned with the dead in general, but with the dead who will “bear the image of the heavenly man” (v. 49) and “inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50), the ones who “will be raised imperishable” (v. 52). “The dead” Paul has in mind are those who will be “raised imperishable”; “raised in glory”; and “raised in power” (vv. 42-43). When he says that people are “baptized on account of the dead,” we may assume that he means that they are baptized on account of the righteous dead, those who will be raised in power and glory. This, then, is more specific than dead people in general, but it does not suggest something as specific as living or deceased apostles or specific loved ones who have recently passed away. We suggest that for believers to be baptized on account of the dead who will be raised in glory means that they have heard about these dead being raised up (to new life and glory) and that they want to be part of that group. 174 As Keener puts it, this may be Paul’s “roundabout way of saying ‘baptized so as to be able to participate in eternal life with Christians who have already died,’ hence baptized in the light of their own mortality as well.” 175”. (Roy E. Ciampa & Brian Risner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC), 783-784 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
God had taken the tragedy of the deaths of these people and brought good through it. There had been people in Corinth who had been saved so that they could look forward to being with their loved ones again in the hereafter!
Look at how God had allowed tragedy and brought amazing good through it.
Think about Paul’s mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he writes about in his second Epistle to the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10-And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul learned that the hardships he faced through the “thorn in the flesh” (whatever THAT was) were allowed because God was going to strengthen him through them.
Learning that love “endures all things” helps us to see the troubles that we face in the present with a hopeful eye of the good that God will bring through those troubles. Sometimes we may not know what that good is that God will bring; but love helps us to know that God is still at work, and that He will indeed work all things together “for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
When you face the trials and afflictions of your life, know that God has a good purpose for allowing those trials to take place.
Love “endures all things.”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.