Sunday, May 1, 2011

1 Corinthians 13

So this chapter is one that almost every Christian knows or has heard of, and one that I've heard all my life. But I was reading it through again, and I came across verses 11 and 12 where Paul is contrasting the past with the present and the present with the future. I realized I really have no idea what he's talking about and how it relates to the rest of the chapter, which seems to stick to a certain theme... What do these two verses mean?

Like you said, it seems very strange that our Apostle Paul, after talking about charity in this chapter, will then switch to talking about his childhood! But it is really not that unusual once you understand the point the is trying to make comparing the spiritual gifts with the charity of the believer!

First let’s look at the verses that you asked about….

1 Corinthians 13:11-12
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Notice though that these verses have a context

1 Corinthians 13:8-10
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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Now notice that the verses that directly precede your verses say that charity never “faileth,” that is, it never ends—it will go on forever throughout eternity! We believers will always show love one for another right?

But notice in verse 8 that Paul says that “prophecies, they shall fail” Now what is he saying? Is he saying that when God gives a prophetic word to somebody in that day that it will fail to come to pass? We know that is not true. Everything that God says will happen comes to pass. So what does it mean that “prophecies, they shall fail”? It means that one day the spiritual gift of prophecy will fail; that is, will stop being given.

Notice also in verse 8 that tongues shall cease. Does that mean that people won’t be able to speak in languages anymore? No, we will be using our tongues and languages to talk for all eternity. But just like the spiritual gift of prophecy, the spiritual gift of tongues will one day cease, that is, come to an end! Same with the gift of knowledge in verse 8. We won’t ever stop knowing things, but the gift of knowledge will “vanish away” one day.

In verse 9, Paul says that we “know in part,” that is, at the time that he wrote the book of 1 Corinthians, he only had partial knowledge of the message that the Lord Jesus gave him to write down, called the mystery of Christ! He also said that we “prophesy in part,” that is, they only preach and teach the message in part because they were not given all the truth yet! The Lord had much more to reveal to our Apostle about the mystery of Christ for Paul to teach and write down.

So at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, the supernatural spiritual gifts were in operation. Those gifts were given temporarily in order to edify the church, the body of Christ in the doctrine of the Mystery of Christ until something “perfect” would come.

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

Notice that in verse 10 Paul starts with a “but,” that is in contrast to what he just said. As opposed to all those temporary spiritual gifts, which were given because the revelation of the mystery was incomplete at that time…one day that perfect, that is complete revelation would be given. It will be at that time that the “in part” (spiritual gifts) shall be done away with.

Now then, that is why Paul uses his childhood as an example of this principle….

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Paul uses his childhood to show these saints that the use of the spiritual gifts were only given until while the church is in its infancy! But once we “grow up” into a grown man, that is, when the full doctrine of the mystery of Christ is given to us and written down in the bible, we no longer need these baby things like spiritual gifts!

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

God finally did it later in the book of Ephesians when he gave the full revelation of the mystery.

Ephesians 4:11-15
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  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:  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;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Once God gave the full revelation of the mystery to Paul and he wrote it down in the bible, all the baby gifts were done with! Now today, we don’t need them because we have all scripture!

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

Notice Paul’s use of all scriptureman, and perfect. Again, the same as in 1 Corinthians 13, and Ephesians 4.

So in conclusion, Paul wants them to know that even the gifts themselves were temporary and immature, spiritually speaking. These saints were acting like it was a big deal having these spiritual gifts (just like people do today), but Paul is letting them know that they are temporary, and that they will not last. He compares the transition from saints depending on the use of supernatural spiritual gifts to solely depending on the written word of God, to that of a child growing up into a man. That is what verses 11-12 are all about. He wanted their focus to be on what is most important, that is, charity one towards another!

Hopefully this helps! 

Do you have a question for Pastor Ron?

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