In 1 Corinthians Paul says

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV)

This has long puzzled me from a couple of angles.

First, is this instructive, or descriptive? What I mean is, is Paul saying that to be loving, this is how we must behave? Or is he saying, someone who loves just naturally displays these characteristics?

Second, if this is instructive, what does it mean that love believes all things? Hopes, and bears/endures, I get, but believes? Let me use a personal example: an adulterous spouse. I love her and she claims with great energy that it will never happen again. I believe her, but it does. And she claims again that it will stop. I believe her?? Every time? For how long?

If it is descriptive, then believes makes sense, because as the cliche says, "Love is blind" so of course love believes all things.

Any insights into this?

  • When God forgives our sin knowing we will sin again, yet "believing that we won't sin again" He forgives - This is the highest expression of "love believes all things"
    – One Face
    Jul 1, 2016 at 15:16

11 Answers 11


Since Paul didn't expand on this, the best we can do is to review what noted theologians have said about this. To get some good answers, you really need to look no further than Bible commentaries.

Bear in mind that the type of love here is agape love, which is also translated as charity, or selfless love. It's not speaking of romantic love as on "love is blind", it's speaking of the selfless love that puts others first.

The general consensus is that it means that if you are truly charitable, you will have the type of love trusts by default. That you're not cynical by nature.

To back this up:

From the Pulpit Commentary

Believeth all things. Takes the best and kindest views of all men and all circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so. It is the opposite to the common spirit, which drags everything in deteriorem partem, paints it in the darkest colours, and makes the worst of it. Love is entirely alien from the spirit of the cynic, the pessimist, the ecclesiastical rival, the anonymous slanderer, the secret detractor.

From Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

believeth all things; that are to be believed, all that God says in his word, all his truths, and all his promises; and even sometimes in hope against hope, as Abraham did, relying upon the power, faithfulness, and other perfections of God; though such a man will not believe every spirit, every preacher and teacher, nor any but such as agree with the Scriptures of truth, the standard of faith and practice; nor will he believe every word of man, which is the character of a weak and foolish man; indeed, a man of charity or love is willing to believe all the good things reported of men; he is very credulous of such things, and is unwilling to believe ill reports of persons, or any ill of men; unless it is open and glaring, and is well supported, and there is full evidence of it; he is very incredulous in this respect:

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

believeth all things—unsuspiciously believes all that is not palpably false, all that it can with a good conscience believe to the credit of another. Compare Jas 3:17, "easy to be entreated"; Greek, "easily persuaded."

  • That's an interesting take on it, David. It seems to be more of a "meta view" rather than a one to one relationship in many cases, but then the Gill perspective we get the one-to-one with Abraham and God. Maybe this could be looked at as "Believes the best" sort of the way a prison chaplain sees the good in the inmates and believes in their potential.
    – DJGray
    Jul 24, 2014 at 18:36

1 Corinthians 13 is one of those chapters that tends to be read at weddings and get taken out of context. Because of its association with weddings, many associate it with romantic love, and David Stratton is right to say clearly that this is not what Paul was thinking about.

If you look at chapter 12, you'll see that Paul was addressing the issue of the members of the Corinthian church only valuing particular gifts. Chapter 13 is there to indicate that love is beyond these gifts, and love is the 'more excellent way' (1 Cor 12: 32). And if you flip over to Chapter 14, Paul starts with 'Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy' (verse 1).

I see Paul's focus as mainly instructional, as this is made explicit in 1 Cor 14:1, as indicated above.

My reading of 'believes all things' is seen in this light. It means that you have an attitude of trust, and that you should give people the benefit of the doubt. It is the opposite of someone with a cynical attitude towards people and life in general. I don't think it means believing in someone in the face of clear evidence against what a person says.

  • Yes, the context of 12-14 is clearly focused on gifting. I'd always thought of it as Love being the "regulator" of the gifts, but your idea that love is "beyond" the gifts is worthy of contemplation. Thank you for the feedback.
    – DJGray
    Jul 24, 2014 at 18:39

Anthony Thiselton, in his NIGTC commentary, has offered the following translation of 1 Cor 13:7:

It never tires of support, never loses faith, never exhausts hope, never gives up.

Here, the phrase "never loses faith" is used to translate πάντα πιστεύει (panta pisteuei). The basic argument underlying this translation is that panta ("all things") here is used to describe love by excluding its limits rather than by defining what it means to be all inclusive.

Thiselston’s understanding derives from the context of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. Paul elsewhere insists on discrimination and differentiation as he counters the Corinthian slogans that, "all things are lawful," (1 Cor 10:23) and "we have become kings" (1 Cor 4:8). Thiselton is concerned that translations enjoining readers to bear, believe, hope, and endure everything further the arguments of "modern" critics of this Pauline view of love:

Nietzsche can say that “truth has been turned topsy-turvy . . . transvaluation of all values!” while Michel Foucault can perceive it as the promotion of conformist “docility,” Marx as “opium,” and Freud as a projection derived from inner conflicts resolved by wishful thinking which “believes all things” in order to “endure all things.”

The translation "never loses faith", etc., aims to exclude such mis-representations of Paul’s theology. This interest echoes Calvin’s concerns about this verse:

It is not that a Christian . . . strips himself of wisdom and discernment . . . not that he has forgotten how to distinguish black from white!

Instead, this verse is descriptive of Paul’s view of love, and the main point is that it is without limits.

Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 1026ff.


By studying Christ's teachings on love, we can get a better understanding of the belief of love.

He gives us an idea of how strong his love us for us in John 15, as well as guidance on how to love one another. He loves us as the Father loves him. If we obey, we remain in his love. He states we're his friends and that everything he's learned from his Father he's shared with us. (John 15:9-15 NIV)

If we look back a few chapters with that in mind, we can get an idea of how loving as the example that Christ gave would lend to belief. In chapter 10 the Jews challenged him to quit keeping them in suspense. "If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

His answer is to say that he has told them, but they don't believe. They didn't believe because they weren't his. "My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me." He gives us life eternal and he won't let anyone take us from him. (John 10:24-30 NIV)

If we love Christ as he loves us, we're going to have solid belief in all he tells us through his word. And if we love one another as Christ loves us, we'll have no reason to doubt one another.

God warns us to not believe everything. 2 Timothy 3:12-14 talks about those who are evil and will go on deceiving. But that we could continue on with what we believe because we know who we learned it from.

You ask if you should keep believing someone that lies to you repeatedly? Like the passage above, you know who you're hearing it from. Do you continue on believing it? That would be showing a lack of discernment. But if the love of God is between the two of you, then there will be no deception and you can believe all things in that perfect love.

  • The 2 Timothy angle is interesting. Clearly we are to love all (love your enemies, do good to them that persecute you, etc.), and yet we are not to be taken in by deception. So there is a way of loving that refuses to be deceived, yet love "believes all things." So, perhaps combining your response with those above, we get a clearer picture of one who believes the best of others in general, but is discerning enough to not be taken in by deception.
    – DJGray
    Jul 24, 2014 at 18:44

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1825
Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies." [Rom 5:10]. The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. [cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45].

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." [1 Cor 13:4-7].

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1826
"If I . . . have not charity," says the Apostle, "I am nothing." Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, "if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing." [1 Cor 13:1-4]. Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity." [1 Cor 13:13]. (My view is first means greatest/superior, the crowning. The beginning and grounding is faith, the root and trunk, hope the branches, and charity the fruit.)

Perhaps this What does Paul mean by “Love believes all things?” is an answer to Charity believes all things

My thinking is it believes all things that God has revealed, because it is God who has revealed them; he can neither deceive nor be deceived. This is the theological virtue of Faith. For example the believing [f]or thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption [cf. Ac 2:27 (RSVCE)] or in hope believing against hope trusting in God's promises and that he will see them through [cf. Rm 4:18 (RSVCE)].

When a spouse commits adultery:

Separation with Bond Remaining, Code of Canon Law Can. 1152 §1.
Although it is earnestly recommended that a spouse, moved by Christian charity and concerned for the good of the family, not refuse forgiveness to an adulterous partner and not disrupt conjugal life, nevertheless, if the spouse did not condone the fault of the other expressly or tacitly, the spouse has the right to sever conjugal living unless the spouse consented to the adultery, gave cause for it, or also committed adultery.

Code of Canon Law Can. 1155
The innocent spouse laudably can readmit the other spouse to conjugal life; in this case the innocent spouse renounces the right to separate.

Spouse continues to commit adultery after the innocent other has laudably readmitted them to conjugal life.

While praying for God's mercy and forgiveness for them, knowing that should they persist in their folly, they will not escape the Day of the LORD. Either way, believing and knowing that the LORD will hear one's cries and will save them from all their troubles [cf. Ps 34:6 (RSVCE)].

The man will be seized when he least expects it [cf. Si 23:21 (RSVCE)] and to the woman who shares your bed do not open your mouth [cf. Universal injustice Mi 7:1-7].

  • 1
    FMShyanguya, Thank you for enthusiastically jumping into this thread. I have lived the scenario above. Initially, I reasoned within myself, "If God can look at me and forgive my deep sin, I can forgive this(my wife's adultery), and I can never, every hold it over her head or use it as a weapon against her. But when it was made clear that it would continue to happen, I couldn't make that deal. Still, I am very challenged by Hosea's model. God continues to love us and shower us with his grace and mercy, will we repeatedly prostitute ourselves to the world.
    – DJGray
    Jul 29, 2014 at 15:29
  • 1
    @DJGray You are most welcome. Great questions bring out the best. I have augmented the answer. You make very good comments. What we suffer from others will never compare with what we have caused God himself to suffer for us. Let's pray for each other and please offer up some of your pain and suffering for us. Please keep up the good fight. Remember also that it is worse to commit an injustice than to suffer it ...
    – user13992
    Jul 29, 2014 at 19:34

What does Paul mean by “Love believes all things?”

Paul inserts this definition of love in his discourse on spiritual gifts. In this larger context he is talking about how their use of spiritual gifts is essentially selfish and produces chaos.

To look specifically at the word for "believe" we see the Greek word pisteuō which is the word for trust and faith.

What is being said is that the selflessness of love trusts and risks being proven wrong. It could be said to give "the benefit of the doubt", but in stronger terms.

What Paul lists is not a step by step procedure that results in love, but rather he paints a picture describing how selfless love actually looks. Trusting in (believing) what someone says is taking a risk. It is a risk that can only be taken when the consequence for being wrong is not considered.


God is Love personified: ...for God is love (1Jn.4:8). Hence love is God's nature and he wouldn't do anything but by love. When we discuss the nature of love, then it's descriptive. When we refer to the scripture for guidance on love, then it's instructive. It's descriptive of the Christian that he is love personified. It's instructive of the Christian, having realised that love has been shed abroad in his heart by the spirit of God, to live out that love.

There is some truth that "love is blind".The truth in it is that love chooses to overlook the wrong and focus on the good. Love chooses to pay attention to someone's Strenght, rather than the weakness. That way, forgiveness is easy to apply.

Howevever love is not gullible as to accept anything as the truth. Love is not ignorant or a whimp. Someone (it might be someone else) gets hurt or misled when we take things for granted, when we are deceived.It promotes and prolongs wrong doing.

Referring to infidelity in marriage, love frowns at it (love does not rejoice over wrong). However, the same love demands forgiveness for the offender, without counting how many times the offence has been committed. It depends on how far the one forgiving can go. In this situation, the offended is in control as to forgive or not.The Lord will not count the offended guilty for nor forgiving, however, if the offender desires the manifestation of the fulness of God (who is love) in his life, then, he must keep forgiving indefinitely. This is because of the indefinite nature of God's love who has forgiven the offended so enormously and immeasurably already when Jesus died for his sins which included spiritual adultery.

The agape love is God's manifested nature. All the teachings in the Bible directs the Christian to live out God particularly as the Christian has now been joined together to God as one spirit. Jesus is the express image of God and lived out God all through his ministry in the earth. He is our example. How did he live out God? Of course, by love.

Every Christian has, through Christ's ministry, been restored to the image and likeness of God, and which, as we have seen is expressed in and through love. God is the first believer of everything good and expressed this by making all creation good, man inclusive.

Every Christian must believe in everything good - that there is goodness in everything God created, everyone we meet inclusive. I believe that this is what Paul meant when he stated that love believes all things. "All things" is in the context of what God created, and we know that God never created evil, rather evil is the corruption of God's creation.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. This answer would be better if it had some sources.
    – user3961
    Jun 11, 2015 at 9:11

New to the site, love the question and the forum.

Bear with me through the answer to what is being said, for what I hope will be a helpful answer to how it is intended to be applied.

To the question of whether Paul is being instructive or descriptive, this master-teacher really wants his audience to understand this concept, as their behavior indicates they are missing it. Thus, he is helping them understand how to recognize when they are living according to "the better way" (agapē) and when they are not. Still, while it is descriptive, the result is exclusive. If what they are living or experiencing does not fit the description, it may be some other form of love (see C.S. Lewis' "4 Loves"), but it is not agapē. Here Paul is just telling us what agapē looks like. It is somewhere else that agapē is given as an instruction.

To the question of what does it mean to "believe all things" Paul chose not to use another word (peithō), which tends to refer to an intellectual affirmation. Rather, he used pisteúō, which carries a sense of trust and expectation. Vine's states that it means "reliance upon, not merely credence." The word used usually refers to belief in God; but not always, as it is used to reference people who would lead astray (Matt. 24:26), the scriptures (Jn. 2:22), Moses (Jn 5:46,47), application of the law (Rom. 14:2), news of divisions (I Cor. 11:18), a lie (2 Thes. 2:11), and every spirit (1 Jn 4:1). So, while it is understandable why the author(s) of The Message inserted God's name in their translation ("...trusts God always.."), the author's intent is much broader. So what is it we should rely on? Here's the kicker, the answer is, "all." Mind you, as with each of the four "all things" referred to in 1 Cor. 13:7, Paul is very careful to use the anorthrous form of an adjective as a noun (all). With the definite article this would apply in totality (as in Matthew 8:32, when "... the whole heard of swine ... perished in the water."). With the way Paul uses the word in I Cor. 13:7, without the definite article, it refers instead to plurality ("as many"). If an umpire was officiating a baseball game in Greek he would use the definite article to tell the batter "That's all of them", meaning he has swung three times and is out; but, if the umpire was to use the same form of the word as Paul uses in 1 Cor. 13:7 he would be telling the batter, "Swing all you want." What Paul is saying is that agapē "relies and trusts anyone, anything, as often as."

So, now to the difficult answer to how we should apply this to the personal example given. The situation of an unfaithful spouse is truly a painful one. There is nothing trivial about living through that, and I don't know how else to convey that in a blog other than to simply state it up front. From a position stand point, there are a couple interesting thoughts to consider. First, the admonition to "...be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48) is not a requirement of flawlessness, as the English would imply. It is, rather, an encouragement to mature. That is, to be better in your agapē today than you were yesterday, and to be more mature in this regard tomorrow than you are today. We are on a journey; hopefully one of growth and maturity in our love for God and others. This is why I Cor. 13 migrates to a discussion of "that which is perfect" and "when I was a child." See how the same word ("perfect") is used in Heb. 6:10-11 and 2 tim. 3:17, and I would encourage a study on how often it is used in the context of agapē.

As this site is committed to understanding the Christian position, another pertinent teaching to keep in mind is illustrated in Luke 7:36-50. There we see a woman of ill-repute weeping at Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair. To those around, this discredited Jesus; for a holy man would not allow such an unholy person to touch him. But Jesus responded with a story about two men who both owed third man money, in differing amounts. Prompted by a question from Jesus, the Pharasee who was judging both Jesus and the woman responded correctly that the man who was forgiven the most debt would (in return) love the most. Jesus then explained, "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”. In that sense, we don't rejoice over sin; but, greater sin motivates the violated forgiver, as they know there is a direct correlation between the degree of violation and the degree of eventual reciprocating love. This is why the early Christians could rejoice in tribulation. They weren't psyching themselves up to act Christian, they really believed that living out agapē required their violation to produce repentance in others; and, the more that they would be violated the greater that likelihood would be. And, while being so violated, the believer's agapē was being perfected (matured).

Of course, as much as God's values are different from Man's, God's time table is different than ours also. So the conclusion/promise that "Love never fails" (I Cor. 13:8) begs the question of how we define "success" as much as it begs the question, "when do we make that determination." What we do know is that Jesus declared, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30) at what his mother, disciples and opponents probably viewed as the epitome of defeat - just as He died on the cross. Yet, we can see in hindsight that this was when he had fulfilled his obedience to The Father in the painful act of displaying His agapē to Mankind. To the difficult question of handling an unfaithful spouse, His example tells us that the journey will be hard, and that our focus must be on the end result, despite the shame (Heb. 12:2). The amazing correlation between vulnerability, shame and victory can be be further read about in Dr. Brené Brown's book (though not at all a religious book), "Daring Greatly."

This instruction to "believe all things" is absolutely pivotal to the gospel message. It is to say (as we demonstrate agapē toward God) I trust your word and your character to get me through this challenge. And it is to say to those around us (as we demonstrate agapē toward others) I know you hurt me today, but I believe you are better than that, and I will trust you for tomorrow. It is no wonder that this utterly unnatural virtue is compelling evidence of the very existence of God (John 17:20-ff), when lived out.

Regarding forgiveness, of course we are instructed to forgive as often as necessary; but, forgiveness does not necessitate foolish ignorance or complete susceptibility, no more than forgiving a debt necessitates making another loan. In that sense, as much as Paul is being descriptive, he is not saying, "Love is blind." Would it be truly loving to allow one's spouse to believe that perpetual infidelity is without profound life consequences? No, it would not. Therefore, love is not blind; for, as much as love sees what's going on, love also sees the heart of the beloved. They are just as vulnerable in the relationship; however, in that vulnerability, love does not attack; rather, it faithfully works to heal.


First, is this instructive, or descriptive? What I mean is, is Paul saying that to be loving, this is how we must behave? Or is he saying, someone who loves just naturally displays these characteristics?

He is saying what is love. It means that if you love, you will bear all things, believe all things, hope and endure all things.

Second, if this is instructive, what does it mean that love believes all things?

It means that when you love, you unconditionally accept things as they are. You don't judge. Thus, you believe in good, no matter if something is bad, evil, wrong, etc.

Let me use a personal example: an adulterous spouse. I love her and she claims with great energy that it will never happen again. I believe her, but it does. And she claims again that it will stop. I believe her?? Every time? For how long?

When you love, you unconditionally accept things as they are. You don't judge. Thus, you believe in good, no matter if something is bad, evil, wrong, etc. When you have a spouse who is adulterous and doesn't stop, you still believe, thus accept her actions unconditionally, without ill will and similar. If she doesn't stop, you live her, but you still believe, accept her and everything unconditionally, without ill will and similar.

  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Please see What this site is about and How this site is different to help you learn how the site works. Also see the help center and take the tour to learn the site functions. I hope to see you post again soon. [This comment is only a welcome and not a comment on the quality of your post].
    – user3961
    Jul 6, 2015 at 22:22

I see this as God's love not ours if you notice that what he is doing is describing what God's love is. The mistake I think that people make is trying to love like this by there own understanding. For us to manifest this kind of love we must be born of God because this love only comes from God. This love comes out of the nature of God, and for us to do it we must have the nature of God born into us when that happens you will love like this. So for your first question I do not beleve Paul is asking us do this in the old nature, but for us to ask God for the Nature of Himself that produces this love . When you receive this nature which is a actual thing that happens, and you will know when it happens, you will be able to love like this. With out God's nature in you it is impossible to do. When you receive the nature of God your love for your spouse will change and what use to bother you won't. Don't let the devil convenience you that you must stay for this love not true. She has broken the vow not you,so do not let guilt hold you in bondage.


1 Corinthians chapter 13 is called the Hymn of Love. Perhaps the most beautiful English rendition of the song is the the King James Bible, but unfortunately it translates ἀγάπην as 'charity', rather that 'love'. The Hymn of Love, from the KJV, amended to speak of 'love':

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Tibor Horvath says (Thinking about Faith: Speculative Theology, page 23) the Christological hymns that Paul inherited from pre-Pauline Christian communities are the hymns of his love, yet they are the hymns of the pre-Pauline Christian communities as well. Verse 7 can be regarded as a celebration of love, as one would write in a song or hymn. No doubt "love believes all things" is like saying "love is blind."

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