Commentators J-Z

B.W. Johnson:  Is not provoked. Does not fly into a rage, but keeps the temper under control.

S. Lewis Johnson:  Well, that's the love, Christian love, and the darkness that is within us. But now in the second point of Professor Barth’s outline in verse 5B through the 6th verse, Christian love and the darkness of others. There are three ways we may permit others to lead us into lovelessness. Notice in the latter part of verse 5 now, "Love is not provoked." I'll tell you, when I read the Authorized Version there, I smile. The translators of the Authorized Version, they are wonderful men, but they were men. So what do you do with the statement "love is not provoked"? Why, there are so many of us that are provoked that what you do is what they did. You add the word "easily." It's not easily provoked. There isn't anything in the original text that suggests easily. What they did was to say you cannot say love is not provoked, but it's not easily provoked. No, the text says "love is not provoked." It's not provoked. So if we are provoked, we are not letting the love of God control our lives. "Love is not provoked." Now, that is very difficult. Some people have a knack for provoking us.

Now, I want to tell you something about me. I have some people that naturally have the gift of provoking me. [Laughter] And it is very difficult to deal with them. So one of the things I do is, if I can do it with a clear conscience, I avoid them. And then I say to myself, as I talk to them, be quiet now, be still, don't respond too hastily. And this is so true to life. Love, however, is not provoked. I'm not loving completely if I am provoked, provoked by anyone. "Love is not provoked."

Now, why does that apply to the Corinthians? Well, what were the Corinthians doing? They were so provoked with each other that they were running over to Fort Worth for the Christian lawyers in order to meet them in court. "Love is not provoked." You think that wouldn't happen in Believers Chapel? Huh-uh. Listen, it is happening in Believers Chapel. There was a church in Houston that I was involved fairly closely with for a period of time, not living there, but often preaching there. They had several of their offices fighting with each other in a law court. We had opportunities for that in Believers Chapel. It’s not uncommon at all for that to happen in Christian churches, even though 1 Corinthians chapter 6 says, "Christians ought not to go to law with one another." Why should we go before the unrighteous to settle out disputes that we have?

So the apostle has that in mind. I fully believe, when he says that “love is not provoked,” 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, there it all is right there, "Love is not provoked." And so when Christians go to law with one another, they have been provoked with reference to each other. Christian love is not operating. What do you do in a case like that? Go to the elders. Let the elders deal with the problem. I know they are happy to hear me say that, but go to the elders; they are the ones that have the oversight. Christians they have problems with other Christians within the body, and it’s possible for that to happen, as Corinth lets us know. Take it to them. Let those who will not take sides, ideally, solve the dispute and rest with what they do.

W. Phillip Keller:  It is the haughty spirit, the arrogant soul obsessed with its own ways and wishes that is readily aroused. Anger flashes out at any adversary. Temper rises to react to any transgression against its owner. Belligerence breaks out in angry provocation against any opponent.

For lack of a better description, I have called such proud individuals, "porcupine people". Every deadly quill is tense and ready to impale those who dare to endanger its self-interests.

Quick temper is an attitude passed over too often as being of no great consequence. Actually it is a most serious evil in the disposition. It not only blights the character of the one who is angry, but casts gloom and injury over those who feel its wrath.

There is a place, and there are appropriate times, when Christians should express rightful indignation over wrongs done to others. We are too often silent when we should stand and shout for justice to be done to others.

But angry outbursts of abuse against associates to express hurt over our own interests have no helpful role in our conduct. They shame us. They becloud cordial relationships. They tend to alienate even those who might excuse us.

As a young man I had a terrifying, hair-trigger temper. It would erupt in devastating violence like an unpredictable volcano blowing its top. At times even I was alarmed by the horrendous heat of my awful anger. It would convulse my whole person, body, mind, and spirit in ferocious fury.

At the age of 27 I read Henry Drummond's classic essay, "Ill Temper". For the first time I saw what my anger really was. It drove me to my knees before Christ in contrition. In His gracious way His Spirit flooded into mine to flush out the filth and pollution of a soul stained with "self-righteous rottenness".

Here are excerpts from Professor Drummond's remarkable insights:

Jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, sulkiness, touchiness, doggedness, all mixed up together into one--ill temper.

It is the intermittent fever which tells of unintermittent disease; the occasional bubble escaping to the surface, betraying the rottenness underneath.

One of the first things to startle us about sins of temper is their strange compatibility with high moral character.

If we are to be truly Christ's people, we cannot endure such contamination of our character. We must be put right within by His righteousness. We must be cleansed by His incoming. We must be purified by the presence and power of His Wholesome Spirit.

There is no other way.

It is the expulsive, explosive newfound power of His love flooding into our experience that can expel the debris of our own desires. And this Christ does for the one who wants it to happen.

Keith Krell:  Love is not provoked. Love is not given to emotional outbursts, is not exasperated by petty annoyances, and refuses to let someone else get under one's skin. But, you say, when someone else provokes me, it's not my fault. Yes it is. We don't have to get irritated, and if we were exercising love, we wouldn't. One English version translates this virtue, "Love is not touchy." Do you know people who are so quick to take offense that you have to handle them with kid gloves? You try to avoid talking to them and when you can avoid it no longer, you carefully measure every word you say to make sure that you say exactly what you mean. But still the person seizes upon something and twists it to make you look bad. That kind of person knows nothing of agape love, for love is not touchy.

Paul Kretzmann:  And therefore love is not embittered; it refuses to be irritated by the show of ingratitude which men return for the kindness shown them.

Lange & Schaff:  is not provoked to anger,--[paroXYnetai; "the expression is a strong one, and deontes all those feelings of violent irritation, and bitter exacerbation, which are so easily excited in an irritable men." Bloomfield].--It points back to the long-suffering spoken of in verse 4. Osiander distinguishes it from the former (which he explains as shewing meekness under wrong in general) by the explanation 'love does not allow itself to be aroused even into a transient passion, such as arises from the supposed infringement of one's own claims and interest." Hence this declaration is closely connected with the one immediately preceding, and as much so with what follows.

Steve Lewis:  Is not provoked (paroxuno) = not to be easily irritated or goaded into anger and indignation; is not prone to violent outbursts or rage.

J.J. Lias:  is not easily provoked] ou paroXYnetai. The ‘contention’ between Paul and Barnabas is, according to the Greek, a paroxysMOS. Acts 15:39.

Heinrich Meyer:  ou paroXYnetai: does not become embittered, does not get into a rage, as selfishness does when offended. This is the continuance of the makrothyMIa.

Mark Heber Miller:  (Love) does not become provoked.

The Greek is OU PAROXYNETAI and is variously rendered: NEB: not quick to take offense; RSV: not irritable; PME: not touchy; BECK: it doesn’t get angry. One can see the root of "oxygen" in the word and it literally refers to the bellows of the blacksmith which blasts the coals and heats things up and thus sharpens iron. The English word PAROXYSM can mean "a sudden convulsion or outburst" for either good or bad. The word is rare and various forms convey "to stir" or "arouse" (Acts 17:16).

The first case of anger makes us shiver that such a thing befall us. (Genesis 4:5) The Corinthian church had a problem with "cases of anger." (2 Corinthians 12:20) Anger is a work of the flesh. (Galatians 5:20) Elsewhere Paul encourages getting rid of anger. (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8)

There are two particular occurrences which catch our attention, one bad and another good. Note Acts 15:39, "But, a paroxysm [sharp burst of anger] occurred and they (Paul and Barnabas) separated from one another." It is very interesting that the one who wrote that "love is not (given) to paroxysm" should have it recorded by his traveling companion Luke that he did succumb to such a burst of anger. Though we are not precisely told who it was that first became so angry. The case that caused this circumstance was Paul’s refusal to take the disciple Mark on this missionary tour because he had left midway during the previous journey. Barnabas, Mark’s cousin, may have wanted him to join them for family reasons. (Galatians 4:10) Clearly, here is a case where love was not controlling these men.

This illustrates that there are times when even previously good friends or companions--as was the case with Barnabas and Paul--have a disagreement so severe that they become angry with one another. Paul and his new partner, Silas (Silvanus), go on to write several inspired epistles where Barnabas misses out on this opportunity. Barnabas is not mentioned again in the Book of Acts. However, Paul later mentions both Barnabas (though misled by Judaizers) and Mark in positive tones. (Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; 4:10)

There is a good form of PAROXYSM which occurs in Hebrews 10:24, "incite [PAROXYSMON] to love and fine works." Where love may cool it is vital to blast the coals with the oxygen of encouragement. Paul writes this counsel in the context of Christian meetings.

It is true some personalities are given to wearing their feelings on their cuff and have a low boiling point. This is due more to immaturity on the Christian walk, while those who have been Nazarene disciples longer will manifest a calmer and controlled spirit. It is often easier to learn to remain quiet--and keep opinions within and under control--rather than struggling to always say the right thing. Once one controls rash speech, anger will become less and less part of the Christian character.

There is one final thought regarding love not provoking others. Being a cause of provocation can bring our Christian friends enormous grief. Consider, how Moses was driven "crazy" (Ecclesiastes 7:7) by the provocation of his fellow worshippers. Psalm 106:32, 33 records, "Further, they caused provocation at the waters of Mer'i·bah, so that it went badly with Moses by reason of them. For they embittered his spirit and he began to speak rashly with his lips." (Numbers 20:2, 12; 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:37; 32:51; compare Hebrews 3:15)

Robert E. Neighbour:  Love is not provoked. Had she been seeking her own, she would have resented any loss that might have befallen herself. Had she been interested in the things which concerned her own enhancement, she had been angered, provoked, when anyone had crossed her pathway to fame and honor. Love is not provoked, because love is not self-centered.

W. Robertson Nicoll:  Selfishness generates the irritability denied concerning Love in ou paroXYnetai; intent on one’s own advantage, one is incessantly angered to find the world at cross purposes with him. Except Hebrews 10:24, the only other NT parallels (Acts 15:39; Acts 17:16) ascribe to Paul himself the paroxysMOS which he now condemns; as in the case of ZE-los (see 1 Corinthians 3:3), there is a bad and a good exasperation; anger may be holy, though commonly a sin.

Jose L.S. Nogales:  El amor no se irrita (oú paroxúnetai). No se exaspera, ni se amarga. Irritación es esa excitación morbosa y malsana que provoca la ira, y la ciega violencia que la sigue al escenario como coro trágico y fatal. Irritar es, además, anular o invalidar una relación contractual, o una obligación libremente asumida. El amor es medicina que mantiene alejada la enfermedad de la ira y la violencia que ciega. El amor impide que quien ama quede invalidado y anulado por la sin- razón, la ceguera, y la locura de la crueldad que inducen a la amargura.

Matthew Poole:  is not easily provoked; he is not without his passions, but he is not governed by his passions, and overruled by them to fly out extravagantly against his brother upon every light and trivial occasion; he knows how to bear injuries, and is willing rather to bear lesser wrongs, losses, and injuries, than to do any thing in revenge of himself, or to the more remarkable prejudice of his neighbour.

Ray Pritchard:  Eighth, love is not easily angered. This is the quality I always stop and think about when I read this chapter. This is the quality that seems to come too close for comfort. Love is not easily provoked, is not quick tempered, does not blow its top, is not easily angered, and is not irritable. By contrast, love is good-natured, easy-going, and quick to forgive.

I think most of us tend to look on this as a minor problem, as if being quick-tempered is merely a matter of temperament, personality or family background. We excuse it by saying “That’s just the way I am.” Well, that may be the way you are but it’s not the way you’re supposed to be. Over 100 years ago Henry Drummond wrote a wonderful, short treatment of I Corinthians called “The Greatest Thing in the World.” Regarding this phrase he noted that “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.” Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit is saying.

I know that some people excuse their bad temper by saying, “Sure, I lose my temper a lot, but it’s all over in a few minutes.” So is a nuclear bomb. A great deal of damage can be done in a very short time. Even small temper “bombs” can leave behind a lot of hurt, especially when they explode on a regular basis. Your temper is a sign of what is in your heart. A bad temper is a symptom of a terrible disease within the soul. It is an escaping bubble that reveals a fetid pit within.

Ron Ritchie:  Jesus is not easily angered or touchy. He never wore his feelings on his sleeve. He lived and now lives his life in the power of the Holy Spirit. He could truly express righteous anger as he did in the temple when the merchants had turned his Father's house into a den of thieves.

A.T. Robertson:  {Is not provoked} (ou paroxunetai). Old word. In N.T. only here and Acts 17:16. Irritation or sharpness of spirit. And yet Paul felt it in Athens (exasperation) and he and Barnabas had paroxusmos (paroxysm) in Antioch (15:39). See good sense of paroxusmos in Heb 10:24.

Hamilton Smith:  Love "is not quickly provoked". The flesh is ever touchy and quick to take offence and resent insults. Love is slow to anger and not easily provoked. Love, indeed, can be provoked, for in this very Epistle we are warned that it is possible to provoke the Lord (1 Cor. 10:22); but the Lord is slow to anger; He is not quickly provoked.

Richard L. Strauss:  "Love is not easily provoked." It is neither touchy nor irritable. Since it has surrendered all its rights for the one it loves, it has nothing to get upset about. Love is not easily aroused to anger, doesn’t wear its feelings on its sleeve, is not temperamental. Touchy people make poor marriage partners; they need to let the Spirit of God give them victory in this area of their lives if they hope to find happiness in marriage.

Isaac Taylor:  II. IS NOT EASILY PROVOKED. If a man's spirit be fully imbued with an affectionate complacency towards God and man, he is not thrown into bitter resentments by unjust usage. He is "slow to wrath." Provocations must and will arise. The state of the health, mind, temperature, circumstances, will make a man more disposed to fretfulness or reserve, one day than another. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" A family pique has overthrown an empire, and a bodily sensation directed the course and given the feeling to a man's life! But the spirit of the charitable man does not soon become acid. His injured feelings do not ferment into vinegar.

R.A. Torrey:  Is not [easily provoked]. (Numbers 12:3; 16:15; 20:10-12; Psalms 106:32; Psalms 106:33; Prov. 14:17; Matt. 5:22; Mark 3:5 James 1:19)

Bill Turner:  Love is not provoked or irritable, it does not fly into a temper.

"Provoked," is "paroxunetai," the present passive of "paroxuno," to sharpen, provoke, or stir up, it only occurs here and Acts 17:16, where it says that Paul's spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry. There are times when it is a sin not to be angry, but a person who can't control their temper is no use in the service of God, for they can hurt and injure many people. Lk. 16:14,15; Mt. 23:1-39; 1 Tim. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:24,25; Eph. 4:15; Gal.13:26. When the Corinthians misused their spiritual gifts, Paul gave them sound teaching and advice, not an exhibition of bad temper.

Love never gets angry and forbids spiritual gifts, nor does it call this bad temper and unbelief by the name of righteous indignation. For the noun "paroxusmos," see Acts 15:39, where Paul and Barnabas both failed to manifest "agape" love and had a most unchristian angry dispute. See Heb. 10:24, where "paroxusmos" is used in a good sense, "And let us thoughtfully consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Here Paul uses "katanoomen," the present active subjunctive of "katanoeo," to put the mind down upon, to thoughtfully consider; and he uses the present tense to show that "agape" love always thoughtfully considers how to provoke to love and good works, and is never provoked to fly into a temper.

Bob Utley:  "no se enoja fácilmente (se irrita)" Literalmente el término significa "afinar". Metafóricamente se aplica a "despertar". Puede ser positivo, como en Hechos 17:16; o negativo, como se muestra aquí. La traducción Phillips establece "no es tierno", en el sentido de "nose irrita o enojada fácilmente." Este SUSTANTIVO aparece en la discusión entre Pablo y Bernabé sobre Juan Marcos (Hechos 15:39).

Marvin R. Vincent:  Easily provoked (paroxunetai). Easily is superfluous and gives a wrong coloring to the statement, which is absolute: is not provoked or exasperated. The verb occurs only here and Acts 17:16. The kindred noun paroxusmov, in Acts 15:39, describes the irritation which arose between Paul and Barnabas. In Heb. 10:24, stimulating to good works. It is used of provoking God, Deut. 9:8; Psalm 105:29; Isa. 65:3.

John Wesley, Explanatory Notes:  But, though he is all on fire [in a zeal for the glory of God and the souls of men], yet he is not provoked to sharpness or unkindness toward any one. Outward provocations indeed will frequently occur; but he triumphs over all.

John Wesley, Sermon 22:  No marvel that such "love is not provoked:" ou paroxunetai. Let it be observed, the word "easily", strangely inserted in the translation, is not in the original: St. Paul's words are absolute. "Love is not provoked:" It is not provoked to unkindness toward any one. Occasions indeed will frequently occur; outward provocations of various kinds; but love does not yield to provocation; it triumphs over all. In all trials it looketh unto Jesus, and is more than conqueror in his love.

It is not improbable that our translators inserted that word, as it were, to excuse the Apostle; who, as they supposed, might otherwise appear to be wanting in the very love which he so beautifully describes. They seem to have supposed this from a phrase in the Acts of the Apostles; which is likewise very inaccurately translated. When Paul and Barnabas disagreed concerning John, the translation runs thus, "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder." (Acts 15:39.) This naturally induces the reader to suppose, that they were equally sharp therein; that St. Paul, who was undoubtedly right, with regard to the point in question, (it being quite improper to take John with them again, who had deserted them before,) was as much provoked as Barnabas, who gave such a proof of his anger, as to leave the work for which he had been set apart by the Holy Ghost. But the original imports no such thing; nor does it affirm that St. Paul was provoked at all. It simply says, kai egeneto paroxusmos, -- "And there was a sharpness," a paroxysm of anger; in consequence of which Barnabas left St. Paul, took John, and went his own way. Paul then "chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren to the grace of God;" (which is not said concerning Barnabas;) "and he went through Syria and Cilicia," as he had proposed, "confirming the churches." [Acts 15:39-41] But to return.

J.B. Wilkinson: 

  1. Provocation is but the calling forth in us, and from us, some emotion, by some external circumstance which in some way or other affects us. It is perhaps the evil from within us, answering to, and going forth to meet the evil from without us. There is probably some dangerous, tender spot in the character or temperament of every one of us which is peculiarly susceptible to provocation. It may vary from time to time. It may shift from one point to another, just as pain sometimes shifts from one member to another. We know also that certain conditions of the atmosphere, or postures of the body, or certain things which affect our senses, affect each of us according to the sensitiveness of any particular sense. So it is with the mind. One thing which one person will bear without the least annoyance will entirely disturb another; or again, certain people will have the peculiar gift of saying, or looking, or having a manner which almost, in spite of ourselves, seems so easily to provoke us, and cause us to be wanting in kindly feeling. There are persons who somehow always contrive to say the right things at the wrong times, or are out of tune with us altogether. When we are in great trouble, they talk trivially; or they console us with just the very things that do not afford us the very least consolation; or when our minds are full of some important business, they detain us with some imaginary trouble of their own, or some story about their neighbour. Our charily, our courtesy, is chafing under it, and at last we are fairly "easily provoked," and, indeed, if we knew where to draw the line — justly.
  2. Much depends, however, by what is meant by the word "provoked" here. The word is such an everyday word, that we can be at no loss to attach a meaning to it in its ordinary sense. When we hear such expressions as "I was provoked beyond endurance," or even of things which fall out in the order of providence, that favourite expression, "It is so provoking," when we come to sound, means really neither more nor less than that our mind has, for the time being, lost its equilibrium, and therefore we are so far forth out of charity with God and our neighbour. Of course the range of such an expression is enormous. It may go from a hasty passing phrase to the deadly sin of anger, malice, and all uncharitableness. At any rate, it is the beginning of sin; and, says the wise man, the "beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water"; that is to say, no one knows when or where it will stop.
  3. No doubt one common form that this sin takes with us is irritability of temper. We call it sometimes constitutional irritability. We may excuse it in others, but we must not excuse it in ourselves. It can be overcome. It must be overcome, though it cost us twenty-two years' work, as it is said to have cost a great saint. Charity is not irritable, nor easily irritated, we may translate the text.
  4. To show its great danger, and how it may take any one of us at unawares, remember that one hasty word, spoken under provocation, deprived Moses of the possession of the promised land.

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