Commentators A-I
Thomas Aquinas:  Thirdly, he shows how charity excludes the disorder of anger, saying: It is not irritable, i.e., is not provoked to anger. For anger is an inordinate desire for revenge. But it pertains to charity rather to forgive offenses than to seek revenge beyond measure: “Forbearing one another, if one has a complaint against another” (Co 3:13); “The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20).

Tertio, ostendit quomodo charitas excludat inordinationem irae, dicens non irritatur, id est non provocatur ad iram. Est enim ira inordinatus appetitus vindictae. Ad charitatem autem pertinet magis remittere offensas, quam supra modum aut inordinate vindicare, secundum illud Col. III, v. 13: donantes vobismetipsis, si quis adversus aliquem habet querelam; Iac. I, 20: ira viri iustitiam Dei non operatur.

William Barclay:  Love never flies into a temper. The real meaning of this is that Christian love never becomes exasperated with people. Exasperation is always a sign of defeat. When we lose our tempers we lose everything. Kipling said that it was the test of a man if he could keep his head when everyone else was losing his and blaming it on him, and if when he was hated he did not give way to hating. The man who is master of his temper can rise to be master of anything.

A.F. Barfield:  Calm. "Is not easily provoked." Love has power to command all the other faculties, and to make them obey.

Barnes & Murphy: Is not easily provoked, paroxunetai. This word occurs in the New Testament only in one other place. Acts 17:16: "His spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." The word properly means, to sharpen by, or with, or on anything, (from oxun, sharp,) and may be applied to the act of sharpening a knife or sword; then it means, to sharpen the mind, temper, courage of any one; to excite, impel, etc. Here it means, evidently, to rouse to anger; to excite to indignation or wrath. Tindal renders it, "Is not provoked to anger." Our translation does not exactly convey the sense. The word "easily" is not expressed in the original. The translators have inserted it to convey the idea that he who is under the influence of love, though he may be provoked--that is, injured--or though there might be incitements to anger, yet that he would not be roused, or readily give way to it. The meaning of the phrase in the Greek is, that a man who is under the influence of love or religion is not prone to violent anger or exasperation; it is not his character to be hasty, excited, or passionate. He is calm, serious, patient. He looks soberly at things; and though he may be injured yet he governs his passions, restrains his temper, subdues his feelings. This, Paul says, would be produced by love. And this is apparent. If we are under the influence of benevolence or love to any one, we shall not give way to sudden bursts of feeling. We shall look kindly on his actions; put the best construction on his motives; deem it possible that we have mistaken the nature or the reasons of his conduct; seek or desire explanation, (Matthew 5:23,24;) wait till we can look at the case in all its bearings; and suppose it possible that he may be influenced by good motives, and that his conduct will admit a satisfactory explanation. That true religion is designed to produce this, is apparent everywhere in the New Testament, and especially from the example of the Lord Jesus; that it actually does produce it, is apparent from all who come under its influence in any proper manner. The effect of religion is nowhere else more striking and apparent than in changing a temper naturally quick, excitable, and irritable, to one that is calm, and gentle, and subdued. A consciousness of the presence of God will do much to produce this state of mind; and if we truly loved all men, we should be soon angry with none.

A.R. Beard:  To be "not easily provoked," to be slow in taking offence, and moderate in the expression of resentment — in one word, a good temper seems to be generally reckoned rather among the gifts of nature, the privileges of a happy constitution, than among the possible results of careful self-discipline. We speak of our unhappy temper as if it were something that entirely removed the blame from us, and threw it all upon the peculiar sensitiveness of our frame. The excuse is as absurd as it is mischievous. It is to say, "I have great need of self-control; therefore I will take no care about controlling myself; I have much to acquire of a truly Christian spirit; therefore I need take no pains in studying it." It is granted that there may be great differences of natural constitution, just as there are great differences of outward situation. A sickly frame may, in itself, be more disposed, than one which has always been healthy, to a fretful and irritable temper. Particular circumstances, also, may expose some to greater vexations than others. But, after all this is granted, the only reasonable conclusion appears to be, that the attempt to govern the temper is more difficult in some cases than in others, not that it is, in any case, impossible. I now proceed to lay down some rules for its government. The first I derive not only from the opinion that a bad temper is nothing else than the strength and waywardness of selfish feelings habitually indulged, but from the connection in which I find the apostle's description of that good temper which is one characteristic of charity — Charity "seeketh not her own." Now it appears to me that the reverse of this is pre-eminently true of a bad temper. It is continually seeking its own — its own convenience, ease, comfort, pleasure; and therefore it cannot bear that these things should be forgotten or interrupted.

  1. The first rule, therefore, which I would mention for the government of the temper is, guard against the indulgence of a selfish feeling even in your best purposes; beware, even when you think you are entirely occupied with the welfare of others, lest there be some lurking self-will which is seeking to be gratified.
  2. Another caution which will frequently be found of use, and particularly in our intercourse with those to whom it is of most consequence that our temper should be gentle and forbearing, is this: avoid raising into undue importance in your own minds the little failings which you may perceive in others, or the trifling disappointments which they may occasion you. How much uneasiness and provocation do we seek, both for ourselves and our friends, if we fret ourselves into anger on an occasion which requires, perhaps, only a gentle word; or if we think it necessary to wear a frown, when every purpose of correction might as well, if not better, be effected by a good-tempered smile.
  3. Again, if you wish to follow after that charity which "is not easily provoked," do not forget, in the opposition or disappointment of which you may feel inclined to complain, to make due allowance for the situation, feelings, or judgments of others; do not forget that these cannot always be expected to be in unison with your own.
  4. Another rule for the government of the temper, closely connected with the last, if indeed it can be separated from it, is, always put the best construction on the motives of others, when you do not understand their conduct. Do not let it be your immediate conclusion, that they must have intended to neglect or offend you, that they cannot possibly have a good reason for their behaviour.
  5. It will further be a great help to our efforts, as well as our desires, for the government of the temper, if we consider seriously the natural consequences of hasty resentments, angry replies, rebukes impatiently given or impatiently received, muttered discontents, sullen looks, and harsh words. It may safely be asserted that the consequences of these and other varieties in which ill-temper can show itself, are entirely evil. The feelings which accompany them in ourselves, and those which they excite in others, are unprofitable as well as painful. They lessen our own comfort, and tend rather to prevent than to promote the improvement of others. After considering the effects of a bad temper, even when connected with good intentions, we shall be the more disposed to practise another method which may be mentioned, for correcting or guarding against it in ourselves. I have already advised a restraint to be placed upon hasty feelings of anger or dissatisfaction; but we should check the expression of those feelings. If our thoughts are not always in our power, our words and actions and looks may be brought under our command; and, if I mistake not, a command over these will be found no mean help towards obtaining an increase of power over our thoughts and feelings themselves. There are not wanting either reasons or rules for the government of the temper, even when we have serious cause for complaint or censure. Let it be that the language or conduct of another has done us real and great injustice. Is this more than we ought to expect, or to be prepared for bearing, in a world where, among other purposes, we are placed to be exercised by trials of Christian patience? A good temper is the natural and constant homage of a truly religious man to that God whom he believes to be love, and to dwell in those who dwell in love. To confirm us in the resolution of making our religion effectual as a help and a rule in the government of our tempers, we shall do well to consider, frequently, the proofs of its efficacy for such a purpose which we may find in the examples of those who have been remarkable for their meekness and patience. These examples will familiarise us with the fact, that such things have been borne; they will accustom us to consider a patient endurance of them a regular part of our religious duties; they will accustom us to think it the business of a Christian to watch over every weakness to which be knows himself subject. Cherish in your minds a spirit of prayer. The help of religion is best sought in connection with supplication to Him who is the source and end of religion. The calmness and seriousness of reflection are best secured by making the pause allowed for communion with our own wisest thoughts, a pause also for communion with Him who is the giver of wisdom.

Joseph Beet:  Anger: not here a simple purpose to punish, as in Eph. 4:26, but the vindictiveness which often accompanies it. To this, love never prompts; though it often compels us to punish.

Brian Bell: 

  • Love is not provoked!
    • Love never flies into a temper. Love is not irritable or touchy.
    • Christian love never becomes exasperated w/people!
      • Often it is excused as something that people cannot help, but it demonstrates a lack of love,…no if, &’s, or buts!
    • When we loose our tempers we loose everything! - Master your temper & you can master about anything!
      • Jesus never was vindictive nor did He retaliate.
    • Are you temperamental, thin-skinned, easily offended, quick to be resentful?

John A. Bengel:  ou paroXYnetai, is not provoked) although love glows with an eager desire for the Divine glory, yet it is not provoked; cf. Acts 15:39.

Joseph Benson:  ... so long as a zeal for the glory of God and the souls of men swallows him up. But though he is all on fire for these ends, yet he is not provoked, (the word easily is not in the original,) to sharpness or unkindness toward any one. Outward provocations indeed will frequently occur, but he triumphs over them.

Gilbert Burnet:  After an intimate acquaintance with Archbishop Leighton for many years, and having been with him by night and by day, at home and abroad, in public and private, I must say I never saw him in any temper in which I myself would not wish to be found at death.

Alan Carr:  Is Not Easily Provoked - True loves keeps no record of evils done to it, but it willingly endures all slights and injuries. This characteristic of love reminds us that love does not demand its own rights! It is willing to yield to the will of another. True love only responds in anger to that which angers God! All other things are handled through forgiveness - Eph. 4:26-32.

Adam Clarke:  Is not easily provoked] ou paroxunetai Is not provoked, is not irritated, is not made sour or bitter. How the word "easily" got into our translation it is hard to say; but, however it got in, it is utterly improper, and has nothing in the original to countenance it. By the transcript from my old MS., which certainly contains the first translation ever made in English, we find that the word did not exist there, the conscientious translator rendering it thus: It is not stirid to wrath.

The New Testament, printed in 1547, 4to., the first year of Edward VI, in English and Latin, has simply, is not provokeed to angre. The edition published in English in the following year, 1548, has the same rendering, but the orthography better: is not provoked to anger. The Bible in folio, with notes, published the next year, 1549, by Edmund Becke, preserves nearly the same reading, is not provoketh to anger. The large folio printed by Richard Cardmarden, at Rouen, 1566, has the same reading. The translation made and printed by the command of King James i., fol., 1611, &c. departs from all these, and improperly inserts the word easily, which might have been his majesty's own; and yet this translation was not followed by some subsequent editions; for the 4to. Bible printed at London four years after, 1615, not only retains this original and correct reading, it is not provoked to anger, but has the word love every where in this chapter instead of charity, in which all the preceding versions and editions agree. In short, this is the reading of Coverdale, Matthews, Cranmer, the Geneva, and others; and our own authorized version is the only one which I have seen where this false reading appears.

As to the ancient versions, they all, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, AEthiopic, Coptic, and Itala, strictly follow the Greek text; and supply no word that tends to abate the signification of the apostle's ou paroxunetai, is not provoked; nor is there a various reading here in all the numerous MSS. It is of importance to make these observations, because the common version of this place destroys the meaning of the apostle, and makes him speak very improperly. If love is provoked at all; it then ceases to be love; and if it be not easily provoked, this grants, as almost all the commentators say, that in special cases it may be provoked; and this they instance in the case of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 15:39; but I have sufficiently vindicated this passage in my note on that place, and given at large the meaning of the word paroxunw; and to that place I beg leave to refer the reader.

The apostle's own words in ver. 7, are a sufficient proof that the love of which he speaks can never be provoked. When the man who possesses this love gives way to provocation, he loses the balance of his soul, and grieves the Spirit of God. In that instant he ceases from loving God with all his soul, mind, and strength; and surely if he get embittered against his neighbour, he does not love him as himself. It is generally said that, though a man may feel himself highly irritated against the sin, he may feel tender concern for the sinner. Irritation of any kind is inconsistent with self-government, and consequently with internal peace and communion with God. However favourably we may think of our own state, and however industrious we may be to find out excuses for sallies of passion, &c., still the testimony of God is, Love is not provoked; and if I have not such a love, whatever else I may possess, it profiteth me nothing.

Stephen J. Cole: The Greek word means to sharpen, stimulate, rouse to anger. Phillips paraphrases, “It is not touchy.” Love does not have a hair-trigger temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. They’re easily offended. One little thing that doesn’t go their way and “KABOOM!” They use their temper to intimidate and to punish. When you confront them, they say, “Sure, I have a bad temper. But I get it all out and it’s over in a few minutes.” So is a bomb. But look at the devastation it leaves behind! When you’re angry, usually you’re not loving.

F.C. Cook: Is not easily provoked, or flies not into a rage (middle voice again, probably): ever keeps the rising temper under control.

Henry Drummond: The next ingredient is a very remarkable one: Good temper. "Love is not provoked."

Nothing could be more striking than to find this here. We are inclined to look upon bad temper as a very harmless weakness. We speak of it as a mere infirmity of nature, a family failing, a matter of temperament, not a thing to take into very serious account in estimating a man's character. And yet here, right in the heart of this analysis of love, it finds a place; and the Bible again and again returns to condemn it as one of the most destructive elements in human nature.

The peculiarity of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and women who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered, or "touchy" disposition. This compatibility of ill temper with high moral character is one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics. The truth is, there are two great classes of sins--sins of the Body and sins of the Disposition. The Prodigal Son may be taken as a type of the first, the Elder Brother of the second. Now, society has no doubt whatever as to which of these is the worse. Its brand falls, without a challenge, upon the Prodigal. But are we right? We have no balance to weigh one another's sins, and coarser and finer are but human words; but faults in the higher nature may be less venal than those in the lower, and to the eye of Him who is Love, a sin against Love may seem a hundred times more base. No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to un-Christianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short,

this influence stands alone.

Look at the Elder Brother--moral, hard-working, patient, dutiful--let him get all credit for his virtues--look at this man, this baby, sulking outside his own father's door. "He was angry," we read, "and would not go in." Look at the effect upon the father, upon the servants, upon the happiness of the guests. Judge of the effect upon the Prodigal--and how many prodigals are kept out of the Kingdom of God by the unlovely character of those who profess to be inside. Analyze, as a study in Temper, the thunder-cloud itself as it gathers upon the Elder Brother's brow. What is it made of? Jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, touchiness, doggedness, sullenness--these are the ingredients of this dark and loveless soul. In varying proportions, also, these are the ingredients of all ill temper. Judge if such sins of the disposition are not worse to live in, and for others to live with, than the sins of the body. Did Christ indeed not answer the question Himself when He said, "I say unto you that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you"? There is really no place in heaven for a disposition like this. A man with such a mood could only make heaven miserable for all the people in it. Except, therefore, such a man be

he cannot, simply cannot, enter the kingdom of heaven.

You will see then why Temper is significant. It is not in what it is alone, but in what it reveals. This is why I speak of it with such unusual plainness. It is a test for love, a symptom, a revelation of an unloving nature at bottom. It is the intermittent fever which bespeaks unintermittent disease within; the occasional bubble escaping to the surface which betrays some rottenness underneath; a sample of the most hidden products of the soul dropped involuntarily when off one's guard; in a word, the lightning form of a hundred hideous and un-Christian sins. A want of patience, a want of kindness, a want of generosity, a want of courtesy, a want of unselfishness, are all instantaneously symbolized in one flash of Temper.

Hence it is not enough to deal with the Temper. We must go to the source, and change the inmost nature, and the angry humors will die away of themselves. Souls are made sweet not by taking the acid fluids out, but by putting something in--a great Love, a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Christ, the Spirit of Christ, interpenetrating ours, sweetens, purifies, transforms all. This only can eradicate what is wrong, work a chemical change, renovate and regenerate, and rehabilitate the inner man. Will-power does not change men. Time does not change men.

Therefore, "Let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

Jonathan Edwards:  Charity the opposite of an angry spirit

  1. WHAT IS THAT SPIRIT TO WHICH CHRISTIAN LOVE IS THE OPPOSITE OF A WRATHFUL DISPOSITION? It is not all anger that Christianity is opposite to (Ephesians 4:26). Anger may be undue and unsuitable in respect to —
    1. Its nature, i.e., when it contains ill-will, or a desire of revenge. We are required by Christ to pray for the prosperity even of our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14). And so revenge is forbidden (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:19; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8).
    2. Its occasion, i.e., when it is without any just cause (Matthew 5:22). And this may be the case —
      1. When there is no fault in its object. Many are of such a proud and peevish disposition, that they will be angry at anything that is troublesome, whether anybody be to blame for it or not. And it is a common thing for persons to be angry with others for their doing well, and that which is only their duty.
      2. When persons are angry upon small and trivial occasions. Some are of such a fretful spirit, that they are put out of humour by every little thing in the family, society, or business, that are no greater faults than they themselves are guilty of every day.
      3. When our spirits are stirred at the faults of others chiefly as they affect ourselves, and not as they are against God. We should never be angry but at sin.
    3. Its end. When we are angry —
      1. Without considerately proposing any end to be gained by it.
      2. For any wrong end.
    4. Its measure. When it is immoderate —
      1. In degree. Sometimes men's passions rise so high that they act as if beside themselves.
      2. In its continuance (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Ephesians 4:26). If a person allows himself long to hold anger towards another, he will quickly come to hate him.
    1. It is directly, and in itself, contrary to all undue anger, for its nature is good-will.
    2. All its fruits, as mentioned in the context, are contrary to it. It is contrary to —
      1. Pride, which is one chief cause of undue anger.
      2. To selfishness. Love, or charity, is contrary to anger. It is because men seek their own that they are malicious and revengeful.
    3. Conclusion: Consider how undue anger —
      1. Destroys the comfort of him that indulges it.
      2. Unfits persons for the duties of religion (Matthew 5:24).
      3. The angry men are spoken of in the Bible as unfit for human society (Proverbs 22:24, 25; Proverbs 29:22).

Joseph Exell:  St. Remigius, Archbishop of Rheims, foreseeing that a year of famine was approaching, stored up a quantity of grain for the poor of his flock. Some drunkards set fire to his granaries, and the Saint hearing of it, mounted his horse and rode to the spot to save the corn. Finding, however, that the fire had gained too great power, he quietly dismounted, and approaching the fire, stretched out his hands as if to warm himself, observing: "To an old man a fireplace is always acceptable."

Exell & Spence:  Is not easily provoked. The word "easily" is here a gloss. The corresponding substantive (paroxusmos, whence our "paroxysm") is used of the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Love, when it is perfected, rises superior to all temptations to growing exasperated, although it may often be justly indignant. But, as St. Chrysostom says, "As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea, but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished without disquietude."

Lee Gatiss:  Self-centredness is immensely divisive, and could cause them to be "touchy" when they felt their interests were not being adequately addressed. Love, however, does not fly into paroxysms of rage or make dramatic gestures of discontent at the slightest provocation.

Geneva Notes:  is not easily provoked
It is not insolent, or reproachful.

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible:  is not easily provoked
to wrath, but gives place to it: such an one is provoked at sin, at immorality and idolatry, as Paul's spirit was stirred up or provoked, when he saw the superstition of the city of Athens; and is easily provoked to love and good works, which are entirely agreeable to the nature of charity:

Frédéric Louis Godet:  The term 'to be provoked' no doubts alludes to the dissensions and lawsuits (1 Cor. 6).

John W. Gregson:  As a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea, but is itself extinguished, so an evil thing befalling a loving soul will be extinguished without disquietude or excitement. Love is not provoked, irritable, nor bitter; it does not have a "short fuse."

Yeager says of this verse, "The text does not say that love is never provoked. It does say that the provocation does not lead to a fit of rage."

Matthew Henry:  It tempers and restrains the passions. Ou paroxynetai--is not exasperated. It corrects a sharpness of temper, sweetens and softens the mind, so that it does not suddenly conceive, nor long continue, a vehement passion. Where the fire of love is kept in, the flames of wrath will not easily kindle, nor long keep burning. Charity will never be angry without a cause, and will endeavour to confine the passions within proper limits, that they may not exceed the measure that is just, either in degree or duration. Anger cannot rest in the bosom where love reigns. It is hard to be angry with those we love, but very easy to drop our resentments and be reconciled.

Dean Hook:  A quick and fiery temper, easily excited and irritable under small provocations, ought to be regarded as a misfortune and a disadvantage. By such a temper, ungoverned and unchecked, a man may be driven to acts of violence, and even to deeds of blood; partially restrained, it will hurry him into acts of indiscretion, and involve him in controversies and disputes; but let such a temper be brought under the dominion of grace, and it is precisely the temper which creates zeal, which rouses the soul to the gracious self-denyings of noble doing for the sake of God and His truth, to a bold resistance of what is wrong, and an enthusiastic pursuit of what is good.

H.A. Ironside:  "[Love]... is not easily provoked." We read, "Be ye angry and sin not." A Puritan once said, "I am determined so to be angry as not to sin; therefore to be angry with nothing but sin." Sin may well stir my indignation but, "[Love]... is not easily provoked."

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