Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be caused to cease; if tongues, they shall cease; if knowledge, it will be caused to cease. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect thing comes, then that which is in part will be caused to cease.1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Love never fails; prophecies, tongues, (words of) knowledge will cease. Love (the better way) is being contrasted with the gifts. There will be a time when the gifts as such will cease to be distributed to the body. But the question is “when?”. It is that question which is the essence of the difference in theological perspective for many groups. There are of course other issues wrapped up in these verses – what do “prophecies”, “tongues” and “knowledge” mean? You can work out what I believe about it from the comments I have already made. I believe “prophecies” refer to prophetic words given via the Holy Spirit (Bible Gems 435, 436), “tongues” refers to speaking in tongues (Bible Gems 438, 439) and “knowledge” refers to the spiritual gift of a word of knowledge (Bible Gems 430, 431). There is more to come on tongues because Paul handles it at some length. But these beliefs are not held by everyone. Some feel prophecies refer solely to the predictions of future events and that they shall “fail” because they will already be accomplished; or else the gifts of explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, and of preaching the Word of God will be not be needed in a state of perfection. Others feel the gift of speaking in tongues refers to normal human languages and these will cease because there will be one language, Hebrew, and other languages will not be needed. We can debate these concepts until the cows come home (which for you farmers means work) or until the perfect comes. Or has the perfect already come?
Herein lies the major question for us to answer at this point. Having pointed out where the major problem is with this section I will now leave it with you for a day, or a week or a month to decide for yourself. Oh I will give you input tomorrow but you can choose whether you use it or not, or would rather wait until you have found out for yourself. I repeat again some see two issues here: the definition “prophecies”, “tongues” and “knowledge” as well as the meaning of “when the perfect comes”.
What are the things that will cease and when will they cease, or have they already ceased?
I don’t personally see a problem with the definitions of these three things that will cease. I believe Paul is being consistent and using the terms to mean just what he meant when he listed the manifestation gifts. I think he is talking about the prophetic word, speaking in tongues and the word of knowledge. Changing the definition of these words in this section is problematic. Consistency is needed to be maintained. Referring to these gifts as general forth-telling of the gospel, ordinary human languages and general knowledge neither fits the context nor explains away the question of what happens when the perfect comes. In fact it adds complication.
I suggested in Bible Gem 438 I encouraged to write what you believed about the gift of tongues, your own personal statement of faith about what you think about the gift of tongues. Some responded and told me how useful and helpful that was. One man told me he had never thought to do that before. To actually put in writing what he believed about something. After doing it he said that it both clarified for him what he himself believed and was surprised to find that he differed from the stand his church would take. That’s good – know what you believe – and I would add know why you believe it. The other thing he said it did for him was expose the areas of lack. It brought to the surface those things that he hadn’t deeply thought about and realised that there were some gaps. Some areas of his belief he needed to sort out. That too is good. We all need to be challenged from time to time to think about what we believe and why.
Your task today is to stop and think about what you believe “when the perfect comes” means. Take a moment to sort out YOUR belief system while addressing the major issue in this section of Scripture.
- When does the perfect come? // What does “the perfect” refer to?
- Has it already come or is it still to happen?
Two very crucial questions to be answered. Go to it.
Sometimes your body is smarter than you are.Anon
We don’t change God’s message. His message changes us.Anon
Don’t make simple things complicated in the effort to preserve your theology.Anon