1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Gifts Will Cease; Love Abides:
It must be remembered that the theme of love and spiritual gifts are woven together in this context. Some of the Corinthians saints were gloating in their gifts, exploiting them without the needs of others being paramount. One final argument, therefore, is this: The gifts are but temporary in the divine order of things. Love must abide. It is the all-encompassing regulator of moral conduct.
Paul selects three gifts—prophecy, tongues, and knowledge—to be illustrative of the nine mentioned earlier (cf. 12:8-10). These supernatural bestowments will be “done away” or “cease.” Love will go on and on. It will be needed to regulate human conduct indefinitely. The gifts of knowledge and prophecy, for example, came incrementally through the different ones possessing these gifts, but when the “prefect” (literally, “the complete”) has been accomplished, “the partial” will be needed no longer. The partial was the piece-by-piece revelation; the “complete” was the revelatory process brought to its goal. That happened when the canon of Scripture was completed with the death of John the apostle and the culmination of the New Testament record. The common though careless theory that “the perfect” refers to the return of Christ (and/or heaven) fits neither grammar nor the context. It is woefully unfortunate that this segment of Scripture is so seriously misunderstood, and many continue to labor under the illusion that miracles are operative yet today.
Paul employs two illustrations to conclude his arguments. (a) Certain things are necessary for the child-stage of one’s existence. When that phase is outgrown, the youngster’s “toys” are laid aside. The church needed miraculous gifts during its infancy period; when the revelation factor was complete, it was time for more mature development. (b) The era of partial, bit-by-bit revelation, was similar to seeing one’s image in an imperfect brass mirror. When the full revelation of Scripture was completed, the sharp, face-to-face view would be so much richer. While the supernatural gifts are temporary, faith, hope, and love will be operative even after the completion of the canon of Scripture. The former two will find their goals achieved in time; but love will flourish eternally!
Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary
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