1 Corinthians 13:13


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Paul concludes his discourse on love in this verse by beginning with “And now…” Among scholars, there is division over what this means. Some take it as a temporal sequence which would place it in opposition to the “then” of the previous verse. What that would mean is that “now” isn’t speaking of our present existence in comparison to the future, such as – “And at this time abide faith, hope, and love, but someday only love will abide.” Instead, it is speaking of the logical nature of the summary thought; it is the conclusion of everything he has said. “And now when every other gift is done away with, faith, hope, and love will remain.”

Other scholars will argue the opposite by stating that only love will remain in the future. Faith will no longer be needed because it will be swallowed up in sight, and hope will no longer be needed because we will have possession of our hope in the joy of the Lord. Thus, only love will remain.

The first argument is correct; all three will remain. They are all permanent and they are all essential, even in the eternal state. What Paul is telling us here is that the “gifts” which the believers at Corinth had been arguing over were temporary and that they would pass away, even gifts such as prophecy. On the other hand, the three individual components of faith, hope, and love would continue on forever.

If eternity is set before us and yet our eternity is based on God’s willingness to maintain His created order, then our faith will remain in God who continues to sustain our existence. Tied into this is hope which will always remain as an anchor for the soul of the redeemed. It will never find its completion, but will always exist. Because God is infinite, we will infinitely hope to see more of His infinite goodness as He ceaselessly reveals Himself to us.

Despite these being eternal though, the facet of love is greater than they are. It is not greater in duration (which is impossible because all are eternal), but in logical order. The Pulpit Commentary explains why love is greater than faith and hope in four ways –

“1. Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; ‘we believe only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.’
2. And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbours; faith and hope mainly for ourselves.
3. And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is love.
4. And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love, and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one colour, as a ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the chapter, is a diamond of many facets.”

Life application: Paul has shown a “more excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13. Rather than arguing over who has the better gift, and rather than having feelings of either jealousy or contempt towards others because of their gift, we should express gratitude to God for His provision and demonstrate love towards God and others as we await our final call to eternal glory.

O God, I cannot express to You the thanks in my heart and soul for the people I worship with, work with, walk with, and who I share in life with even on the internet each day. There is always someone to lift me up in prayer or someone that I can return that favor to. When I have something exciting to share, folks are there to share in those moments. And when they have good times, I get to revel in their happiness as well. Thank You for all the people who I have had the pleasure and honor of coming to know in this life. Thank You, O God! Amen.


1 Corinthians 13:12


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Paul has been contrasting the imperfect world in which we live with the purity of the world to come. He has been doing this by comparing that which is temporary and physical with that which is eternal and spiritual. With that thought in mind, he now gives a description of what our knowledge is like at this time in comparison to what it will be like in the future. In order to do this, he uses words concerning a mirror which would have been perfectly understood by anyone in the church at that time.

However, in his words, he is certainly using an example from the Old Testament as the basis for his thoughts. In Numbers chapter 12, the Lord spoke these words to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam –

“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?” Numbers 12:6-8

Knowing that this is Paul’s point of reference will help to explain his words to the Corinthians. He begins with the word “for” as a conjunction to the previous statement. What is earthly will be explained first. In this earthly existence (now) he says that “we see in a mirror, dimly.” Mirrors of Paul’s time were made of highly polished metal. They reflected an image, but it was far less perfect than our modern glass mirrors. When looking at such a mirror, just as when looking at a mirror of today, it appears that the image is standing on the other side of the mirror.

But the reflection in those ancient metal mirrors would have had imperfections which skewed what a person actually looked like. They could get the general sense of how they looked, but it wasn’t perfect. Hairs which were out of place may have gone unseen, lipstick might have been off a wee bit, and the teeth might not have been as clean as one hoped for. Such a mirror wasn’t capable of giving a perfect reflection and so imperfection in actual appearance was to be expected.

Paul shows that this is comparable to what is spiritual. We now see God’s plan only partially. We now study the Bible with preconceptions and using faulty logic. Our minds are dull in understanding many aspects of Scripture and we are incapable of seeing some things which would otherwise be obvious. But in this earthly existence, they are hidden.

In contrast to this, someday we shall see “face to face.” In Numbers 12:8 (above), the term the Lord used when speaking to Moses is peh el peh, or literally “mouth to mouth.” There was direct and intimate dialogue between the two. The Lord hid nothing from Moses when He spoke to him. This is the way it shall be for us when we are glorified. Until then, we still see dimly and our understanding is therefore obscured.

This word, “dimly,” is from the Greek en ainigmati. It means “in an enigma.” Everything is somewhat obscured in some way or another. Again, this is comparable to what was said to Moses with the words “in dark sayings.” When God spoke to the prophets of old, His word was given in such a way that they often had no idea what God was speaking about. It was as if a dark shadow were cast over the eyes of their minds to keep them from fully realizing what was intended by the words they uttered or wrote down.

This is no different even today. Although we have clarity that the prophets didn’t, particularly about the work of the Lord Jesus, there are still aspects of the Bible that are completely hidden from us. We can understand the surface meaning of the words, but the true depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God which is found in the Bible is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. This is confirmed in Paul’s words which continue on by saying, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

We have the Bible, and with it we can know how to be saved through the work of Jesus. It also tells us about the sure return of Jesus for us someday. But it doesn’t tell us when that will happen. Nor does it tell us an infinite number of details that we might like to know. Instead, with it we can only know in part. However, when we stand in the presence of the Lord in our glorified state, we will have a much more perfect understanding of the Lord and of His work, just as He at this time fully knows all about us.

Life application: Just because we cannot fully know all the mysteries of the Lord in this life, it is no excuse to not do our very, very best to study the Bible and seek out the mysteries which are hidden there. What a shame to spend our time learning an infinite number of sports statistics while knowing almost nothing about the riches contained in Scripture! Study your Bible.

Lord, from time to time, I have to stop and ask myself questions about where I stand with You. Will You be more pleased with me for knowing all the statistics of my favorite football team, or will You be more pleased with me reading and understanding the book of Romans? Are You going to say “Well done” to me for having the shiniest car in town, or will You be more pleased that I went to church and there worshipped You on Sunday morning?” Is increasing the size of my bank account more important than attending Bible Study? Priorities Lord… help me with my priorities. If this is my one chance to get it right, help me to get it right.  Amen.



1 Corinthians 13:11


Monday, 12 January 2015

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

In this verse, Paul is making an analogy between spiritual immaturity and spiritual adulthood through the use of the natural growth of an individual. He has been discussing spiritual gifts and the need to use them in connection with love for them to have any true value. In the previous two verses, he showed that eventually those gifts will be done away with altogether.

In his analogy then, he says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child.” Babies have their own sounds which develop into short sentences and then into the talk of teens. Each is discernable and shows a lack of development. Eventually though, most people learn to speak as adults. Sentences are more complex and they convey the higher thoughts necessary to accomplish the challenges of adulthood.

In a similar fashion, Paul says that, “I understood as a child.” Children look at the world in a completely different way than adults. Adults have had experiences which allow them to hopefully make wise decisions. Children don’t have such experiences. They may touch hot surfaces, they may get swindled out of their school lunch, or they may step on sandspurs because they didn’t know that sandspurs existed. Their understanding of the world around them has limited their ability to think in more developed ways.

And this leads to the next thought of Paul which says, “I thought as a child.” Without experience, thoughts will be naive about the world around us. Without a developed language, our tongues will only speak either unintelligible or rather simple sentences. And without experience, we cannot make rational choices about our future, how to care for our present needs, or how to empathize with others when they suffer.

In contrast to this, Paul tells us that “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This state is analogous to what he said in verses 8-10. The connection is obvious when one looks at how Paul has cited his examples. “I spoke” relates to the gift of tongues, “I understood” relates to the gift of prophecy, and “I thought” relates to the gift of knowledge. Paul showed us in those previous verses that each of these gifts were temporary and would be done away with. Thus he has equated that time of spiritual maturity to being a man. In adulthood, we have put away the ways of childhood; and in our glorification, we will have put away these lesser gifts.

Isaac Newton, one of the greatest intellectual minds in all of human history, understood this to be true when he wrote these words –

“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself by now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Life application: Those gifts which we cherish now, and which we too often use to the harm of others rather than to their edification, will someday be done away with. Keeping this in mind, let us use our gifts for building others up, not attempting to tear them down.

Lord, I know that all the knowledge I possess, all the supposedly great things that I have done, and the wealth that I have obtained in this life are like grains of sand on an infinite shore in comparison to the true wealth of heaven. What I seek after in this life has no comparison to what You offer to those whom You have redeemed. Because this is true, help me not to focus on these temporary things, but to think on and strive for that which is true wealth. Help me to use my time wisely in the pursuit of You. I know You will be pleased with the life I live in this way. Amen.


1 Corinthians 13:10


Sunday, 11 January 2015

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:10

Paul here speaks in an overall way concerning that which is imperfect in comparison to that which is perfect. As long as there is imperfection, that is all that is truly perceived. But when something perfect comes, it completely overshadows imperfection. This is even true in gradations of perfection. As an example, we can think of the development of the internet.

It first began with a single connection between two computers. The language was slow and very limited. Eventually, a larger network was developed and the less perfect system was overshadowed by the better. In due time, the internet grew into something that anyone could access, but it was limited to dial-up modems using the land-line phone system.

Along came higher speed land-line systems and they swallowed up the slower ones. Then cam DSL and people forgot about land-lines. Then came cable, and after that fiber optics. Each step replaced that which was less perfect. The old systems were done away with.

Such is true with the gifts of the Spirit which we now employ. The Giver of the gift is perfect, but we are imperfect. Our prophecies may miss the mark; our tongues may mispronounce words as we translate languages; and our knowledge is riddled with misunderstanding and misevaluations of spiritual matters.

However, someday, there will be a perfect unity between the Giver of the gifts and the glorified saints. There will no longer be a need for that which is lesser because that which is perfect will swallow up the imperfection in its perfection, just as dial-up modems have been dispensed with and forgotten.

All “that which is in part will be done away” with at that time. This is the hope of the saints; it is the anticipation of the redeemed; and it is the joy which is set before us because of the work of Christ. His perfection will be realized in us. We ourselves will not be God, but we will have a direct and unstained access to that which is perfect. We shall walk in His presence and see His glory illuminating our path for all eternity.

Life application: At this point in time, we perceive all things from a faulty perspective. This is because we are fallen and thus we often misperceive spiritual matters. However, this doesn’t mean that we should sit on our hands and wait for our glorification before seeking out perfection. We should always strive to learn more from God’s word. We should attempt to commune more closely with God at all times. And, we should fix our eyes on Jesus who is our model for perfect living as we walk in this fallen world.

Glorious Heavenly Father, Your word shows that there is a time coming when all that is imperfect will be done away with. You have prepared a place for Your glorified saints which will swallow up imperfection and only Your radiant purity will be seen for all eternity. I know that this is available only through the work of Christ and I know that I want a part of that. I bow my knee to the Lord and I receive His work done on my behalf to make this possible. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.


1 Corinthians 13:9


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.