One of the most talked about sections of Scripture is found in the book of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 13, commonly called the “love chapter of the Bible”. In this small section of Scripture we have several basic principles concerning love being addressed:
- vs 1-3 – the absolute necessity of love (charity) in all aspects of Christian life and ministry
- vs 4-7- the evidences of Biblical love
- vs 8-12- the eternal nature of Biblical love compared to the ceasing of Divine, inspired revelation to man; the physical / spiritual maturing of an individual picturing the increasing revelation of God received by man until completion; the increasing understanding of God due to completed revelation
- vs 13a- the continuation of love, faith and hope
- vs 13b- the supremacy of love over faith and hope
We will divide our study of this section of Scripture into 3 basic parts. In today’s blog entry we will look at 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. And in our final part we will look at verses 11-13.
Let us prayerfully, begin our study of the compelling and important subject of love…
1Cor 13:1-13 (KJV)
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
1 Corinthians 13:
Vs 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.
Here, Paul makes it very plain that love is the only gift of the four divine gifts (love, prophecy, tongues, knowledge) that will exist eternally. In our previous study, we explained that both knowledge and prophecy was related to the divine inspiration of Scripture, when the Lord handed His Word to mankind. The sign gift of tongues was related to the accreditation of the ministry of Christ, His NT Word and the local church ministry.
(Please note it is crucial to understand the meaning of the phrases “shall fail”, “shall cease”, and “shall vanish away”…
- “shall fail”
- is the greek word – “pauo” – it means “to stop”, “to be made complete” and “to end”.
- is in the middle voice, meaning the subject of the verb is acting upon itself. In other words, tongues would “stop by themselves” or “would be ended in and of themselves”
- “shall cease” and “shall vanish away”
- Both of these phrases are the same Grk word “katargeo” which means “to be made inoperative, to cease to work, to cease to exercise, to render useless, to vanish”
- Both of these are in the passive voice meaning the subject of the verb receives the action. In other words our verse is saying that “the perfect thing” (vs 10) will cause both knowledge and prophecy to “no longer be exercised”, or “to vanish away”
Vs 9 – For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
Out of the four previously mentioned gifts from God… knowledge and prophecy are set apart as being “in part”. What does in part mean? This phrase is referring to the nature of divinely inspired revelation to man. Keep in mind, as God handed down His word to mankind, he did it over many years and many different men. He gave it a part at time, not all at once. (Isa 28:9-13)
The gifts of prophecy and knowledge were “in part” meaning… as each prophecy came from God (as each bit of knowledge came to man) they were “one part” of the whole of divine revelation to man. Until the final revelation from God was received by John on the Isle of Patmos (the book of Revelation), both knowledge and prophecy received by man was only a piece of His Word. At the end of the message given to John on Patmos, the word was finally completed. It was only then that mankind had the prophecy and knowledge God had chosen to give to man in a state of completeness.
Love exists eternally, knowledge, prophesying and the gift of tongues will definitely come to an end, making love a much more valuable gift from God.
Vs 10 – But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Paul here describes what causes prophecy and knowledge to vanish away. He describes it as “that which is perfect. To help us understand what Paul is referring to we need to recognize a few important points in our study…
- Lets review a few points from the previous verses in our study
- Remember, in the previous verse of our study we saw that the gifts that were in part were the gifts of prophecy and knowledge.
- Also, we saw that the ending of these gifts were described by the Grk word “katargeo” which means “to be made inoperative, to cease to work, to cease to exercise, to render useless, to vanish”
- Thirdly, we learned that based on the Grk passive voice, something must act upon the knowledge and prophecy “to render it useless” or “to cause it to vanish away.”
2. What has acted on the gift of prophecy and knowledge rendering them worthless? It is the completed revelation from God… Once God had given to man all of His Word, there was no need for prophecy or knowledge gifts any longer… they were now useless and ineffective because the Lord was not going to give men His inspired revelation any longer.
- Remember, the Lord has made it plain that the Word He has given to us is now complete with the revelation He had given to John. We will be receiving no additional inspired truth from Him. (Rev 22:18, Heb 1:1-2)
- We know it is His Word that is perfect based on the Greek word for “perfect”
The word for perfect here is the Grk word “telios” – which means “complete”, “matured”, “brought to completion”. “Telios” refers to the Word of God in James 1:25. The only other two times this word is used in 1 Corinthians “telios” refers to human beings who are mature, or should be mature in the faith. (1 Cor 2:6, 1 Cor 14:20). Also there are many other occasions in the Word of God where this word refers to the same type of idea. (Matt 19:21, Phil 3:15, Col 1:28, 4:12 etc etc)
In Matthew 5:48 “telios” is used to describe the Lord and in the context, it is describing His absolute maturity. Note that the issue of treating all men kindly and with respoect is the issue being addressed, this is a mark of spiritual maturity. We are to even pray for those that mistreat us. By doing this, we will be mature Christians following the example of our Father who is in heaven. He is the epitome of spiritual maturity and completeness. The issue is not sinlessness, the issue, here is spiritual maturity. Learning to treat all men with love and kindness. The very issue of our study in 1 Corinthians. No place in Scripture does the word “telios” mean sinlessly perfect.
3. But what about the Lord? We’ve already seen that the Lord is described using the term “telios” In Matthew 5:48. However, we have already seen that this “perfect thing” that is coming must act on the gifts of prophecy and knowledge rendering them useless. If this is so then…
- We have to say that the Lord is continually revealing His inspired word to man throughout the ages. In other words, His word is not in completed form but He is continually adding to His revealed Word to man. This revealing of the Word will only stop at His second coming.
- If this is so, we should be continually adding to the Scriptures. Every new revelation God gives to man should be added to the Scriptures. This principle does away with the warning given by John to not add to the Scriptures (Rev 22:18-19).
- And also the fullness and completeness of God’s Word for us to use is done away with. Therefore we cannot count on His Word being the complete set of instructions for us to live by. (2 Tim 3:16-17) In this hypothetical scenario, we may face situations that the Word cannot equip us to face. What happens if the part of the Word we need now, will not be revealed to man for another 25 years? Our entire view of the Scriptures must change if this is the case.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION
For those who are saved…
Remember, the principle concerning love that is presented in our study today…. Charity NEVER FAILS. But all these other gifts that are mentioned have already failed and now cease to exist. We’ve seen that the gifts of prophecy and knowledge have already ceased to exist when man received the final revelation of God to man. In our next study, we will see that the gift of tongues has already gone out of existence as well.
The eternal nature of love is one of the many reasons why love is counted as superior over these sign gifts.
With the importance of love in view… should we not all strive to show love to others? How much love do we show others? Or maybe, I should ask it this way… how much are we willing to sacrifice for others? This is the true mark of love.
John 15:12-14 (KJV)
12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
For those who have never trusted in Christ…
If you have never experienced the love of God in your lives, look to Him knowing He has made clear His love and concern for His people…
1John 4:7-12 (KJV)
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
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