"Love Covers a Multitude of Sins"

(1 Peter 4:8; James 5:20)

WHAT DOES IT MEAN "TO COVER?" If we desire to be instructed by the Word of God, we must understand what God says. This expression has occasioned some misunderstanding. The word "cover" (kalupton) is used in the following places, from which the meaning will be obvious: Matt. 8:24; 10:26; Luke 8:16; 23:30; 2 Cor. 4:3*; Jas. 5:20**; 1 Pet. 4:8. The thought is--to hide from view. It does not mean--to look the other way. It does not mean--to patiently bear the sins. It does not mean--to ignore the sins. It means "to cover." In order to cover something, a definite action must be taken with respect to the thing covered. Love will act in regard to sins. Another has remarked, "May there not also be the thought that the service of love will watch with jealous eye the beginning of evil in a brother and by washing his feet prevent the full development of evil which would require the publicity of putting away? Love cannot hide sin that ought to be manifest, but it can prevent the need of such manifestation by faithfulness in private dealing with the evil before it assumes the character of positive wickedness."

In James 5:20, the use of the expression is a little different. In 1 Pet. 4:8, it is, as remarked above, an action of love to cover and prevent development. Divine love would give us such a care for one another; first, because sins are a reflection on the Lord, and then also they are hurtful to the sinning one and to the church of God. In James, the point is restoration and recovery. No doubt, further development is also hindered. The two things are interrelated, but there are distinguishing features.

Love will seek the good of another. You do not seek my good, you are not showing divine love to me, when you see me sin and you close your eyes to it. It is easier to close the eyes to it than to put divine love into operation.

In order to stress once more that "cover" denotes an action with respect to the sins, let it be observed that James 5:19, 20, clearly establishes this. One restores another (v.19) and in doing this, he covers a multitude of sins. Hence, the covering is the result of an action. Love is proved by action. Much love is wordy and tongue deep. "Children, let us not love with word, nor with tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).

MULTITUDE OF SINS: It is not said that all sins are covered by love. But a very large quantity may be covered. This word multitude is used in Luke 2:13; Acts 6:2; 14:1; Heb. 11:12, and elsewhere. When divine love is at work, i.e., love which is of God, a multitude of (not all) sins will be covered. (There is, by the way, such a thing as "covering up," an indifference which in effect pretends that the sin is not there, a matter that is not the result of divine love.) But note again that love does not cover all sins. There is such a thing as a sin unto death (1 John 5:16). And there were those at Corinth who had experienced this (1 Cor. 11:29-32).

It needs yet to be remarked that Proverbs 10:12 speaks of "transgressions." -- R.A.H. (available from Present Truth Publishers in tract form)


*hid, or hide.

**S. Ridout