Saturday, 10 January 2015
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 1 Corinthians 13:9
It is good to remember that Paul’s words here were given based on divisions within the church because of the possession of various gifts of the Spirit. In verse 12:28, Paul listed “prophets” as second in ranking only behind apostles. This then is an indication that the appointment as an apostle was limited only to a select few in the early church who were designated as such by Christ. And so, instead of showing the limitations of the position of an apostle, he shows the limitations of the next highest ranking appointment, the prophet, one which would continue on throughout the age.
Prophecy in this case is being tied to “knowledge” and therefore it is speaking of the gift of “forth-telling,” not “foretelling.” Foretelling is communicating the words of God when directly influenced by the Spirit. On the other hand, forth-telling is a gift which is based on knowledge of what God has spoken. Truly no one can fully comprehend the depths of the word of God. Even when studied day and night for a lifetime, there will always be more that can be learned from it.
Because of this, Paul says that “we know in part and we prophesy in part.” This doesn’t mean there is a certain defect in prophesying, but that it is never fully complete. Two thousand years of preaching has not used up the well of knowledge or fully plumbed the depths of what can be preached. God’s word is a useful tool at all times, in all languages, and for any circumstance in any culture. It is wisdom, it is direction, and it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.
However, there are aspects of God which are not recorded in the Bible. There are events in human history which pertain to biblical prophecy and yet they can only be determined to fit the prophetic scenario once they have happened. Others will become evident as they prepare to happen. But no matter what, our knowledge of the events is limited because the future is not fully known to us. For these, and for a host of other reasons, our knowledge is limited and our prophesying is incomplete.
So why did Paul include this statement? It is because the gift of prophesying is an incomplete gift. The prophet cannot claim all-knowledge or all-ability. He is dependent on others who possess other gifts. He is one part of the body and not the Head. Again, when taken in context of Paul’s discussion about various gifts, the reason for this discourse on love becomes evident. The one who prophesies without love is truly just a clanging cymbal who is puffed up in and of himself. To prophesy with great knowledge but without love is to be ineffective at prophesying.
Life application: The preacher who possesses great knowledge in the word of God should be even more humble than when he knew little. With greater understanding of the word of God should come a greater understanding of how little one really knows about the word of God.
Lord, I have come to realize that the more I understand in Your word, the less I know in comparison to what I don’t know. Every time I think I’ve got it all figured out, I read a commentary or see a chart concerning something I had completely missed. Truly Your word is beyond amazing. I will read it, study it, and cherish it all the days of my life because I know that I could never exhaust the supply of wisdom and knowledge it provides. Thank You for this treasure! Amen.