The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 13
(Part 4)

After revealing a more excellent way (that of love), Paul now contrasts that with the inferior way which incorporates the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 13:8 Charity 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.

Why is it that charity (love) will not ever fail? Remember, it is a most excellent way. Given the qualities which are manifested when love is exhibited, how can it fail? It is what will bring the object, or more precisely, the person upon whom that love is directed, to maturity; or in Bible terms, to perfection. As the Bible uses the term “perfect,” it means mature, coming to fruition, or intended purpose.

1 Cor 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: KJV
1 Cor. 2:6 We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought: ASV

As the more modern version attests, the word that the KJV uses, “perfect,” means “fullgrown.” Other synonyms are mature, or complete.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul clearly relates the purpose Christ had for the miraculous gifts.

Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Those things which are given (apostles, prophets, etc.) are miraculous. Note the purpose: for the perfecting (maturing) of the saints (Christians), to further the work of saving the lost, and keeping those saved who had done that which was commanded them to do in order to obtain forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38, Mark 16:16). When would that purpose be realized? Till all had come to the unity of the faith. What faith is that? The faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3 - ASV). The unity of the faith is not the unity of our individual faith that we keep, rather the unity of the system of faith that God has chosen to save mankind. The unity of the faith is found in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. The result: a perfect (fullgrown - ASV) man.

Ultimately, the saints would mature to the point where they would not be deceived by false teachers, like children could be deceived. They would not follow every which way the wind would blow as regards the doctrine of Christ. Men who would “make merchandise” of them (i.e. take advantage of them, and make a profit from it) would not be able to use their deceptive skills to draw Christians away from the true, pure, saving Gospel

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

They would have come to a maturity of the faith, and could identify those false teachers through the proving of the spirits (teachers).

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Knowing, therefore, Christ’s intention and purpose for the use of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is more evident that it would serve its purpose for a limited time. Also, having been shown a way which is better than that of the miraculous, then the Christians in Corinth are prepared to understand the shortcomings of the gifts. What are these shortcomings?

1 Cor 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

It is very simple: those who were taught via this in-part system only knew portions at a time, never in fullness. As they relied upon the miraculous gifts to impart knowledge from our Lord, through the Holy Spirit, through those utilizing the gifts with which they had been given, they only had it in parts. Therein is its weakness. Therefore, this system was lacking, and would be replaced with something better. What would that be?

1 Cor 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

The system whereby they would gain knowledge would be perfect, complete, mature. It would provide all the means by which Christians would no longer know in part, but know completely. When that perfect system came, then there would be no need for that imperfect, in-part system of revelation: it would be done away. It will have served its purpose, making way for a better way of learning; a way whereby, instead of knowing only in part, they can know in full. The revelation of the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will have been made complete. How valuable are these scriptures?

2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Nothing is left out: it is perfect in that it brings the man of God to spiritual maturity (perfect). Next we will observe how their current state of the miraculous gifts relates to the developmental stage of the church.

Curtis A. Little, Royse City, TX
Curtis A. Little
New Weekly Article
Watch GBN live



Mailing Address