1 Corinthians 13


The problem revolving around spiritual gifts, though not precisely identified to this point, is apparent. The Corinthians were elevating gifts and individuals who possessed certain gifts above others.

Any time an individual or a group of individuals separate themselves from the whole body there will be trouble in the church, 1 Corinthians 12:14. Eventually, such selfish ambition will lead to a schism in the body, 1 Corinthians 12:25.

The objective of 1 Corinthians 12 is to identify the gifts and their purposes. The fundamental objective of gifts was to ‘profit all’, 1 Corinthians 12:7.

Those Corinthians who did not approach spiritual gifts from this perspective had lost sight of their identity within the church. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were added to the church through baptism for the forgiveness of their sins, 1 Corinthians 12:13.

When one is baptized into the one body of Christ, the church they are no longer many but one, in purpose and identity, 1 Corinthians 12:27.

To divide along lines of gifts goes against God’s divine will for gifts. All things done must take into consideration the welfare of the body that the saint is a part of. Things done contrary to the one body are not healthy for the body as a whole, 1 Corinthians 12:25.

To do things for reasons other than profiting the whole body is to be ignorant, selfish and lack love for other parts of the body, 1 Corinthians 12:1.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without love, gifts were useless. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Paul speaks of tongues first to illustrate the inverted level of importance and the apparent interest the Corinthians had in this spiritual gift.

The word ‘tongues’, ‘glossa’ is defined as ‘a tongue, language’. The languages of men vary from race to race, 1 Corinthians 12:10.

The language of angels is clear communication as well, Genesis 16:7ff. Would not this reference prove that tongue-speaking could involve languages beyond those spoken by humans?

In the first place, consider the role, purpose, and activity of angels described in the Bible. The word ‘angel’, in Greek is ‘angelos’, in Hebrew it is the word ‘malak’ and it simply means ‘messenger’ one who ‘speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him’. It does not mean merely ‘to send,’ but rather ‘to send a messenger/message’.

It is true that angels in both the Old and New Testaments carried out a wide range of activities beyond message bearing, including, worshipping God, Revelation 5:11-12; comforting, aiding, and protecting, Daniel 6:22 / Matthew 4:11 / Luke 22:43 / Acts 5:19 / Hebrews 1:14 and executing judgment and inflicting punishment and death, Matthew 13:49 / Acts 12:23.

But it still remains true to say that the meaning of the term ‘angel’ is a messenger, one who communicates a spoken message.

Therefore, their principal role in God’s scheme of things was to function as messengers to humans. Consequently, angels always are represented in Scripture as communicating in human language. In the second place, what logical reason exists for humans to speak in an alleged ‘angelic’ language that is different from human language?

What would be the spiritual benefit? The Bible certainly makes no provision for humans to communicate with angels in such a language, nor would there be any need for an angel to communicate to a human in a non-earthly language.

The whole point of 1 Corinthians 12-13 was to stress the need to function in the church in ways that were meaningful and understandable. Since God, by His very nature, never would do anything superfluous, unnecessary, or frivolous, it follows that He would not bestow upon a human being the ability to speak in a nonhuman language.

The ability would serve no purpose! The Bible simply offers no rationale nor justification for identifying the ‘tongues of angels’ in 1 Corinthians 13:1 with some heavenly, otherworldly, non-earthly languages.

In the third place, if the ‘tongues of angels’ refer to known human languages, what was Paul’s point? Since angels were God’s appointed spokesmen, they naturally would perform their assignment in such a way that God would be represented as He would want to be.

God’s own angelic emissaries would have complied with their responsibility in such a way and manner that they would have God’s approval.

In other words, angels would naturally articulate God’s message as well as it could be expressed, i.e., perfectly. When God inspired mere humans to communicate His will, He integrated their own educational background, stylistic idiosyncrasies, and vocabulary into their oral and literary productions.

No such need would have existed for angels. Their communications would have been unfiltered through human agency. Their announcements would have been the epitome and pinnacle of eloquence and oratorical skill.

Perhaps, then, Paul was not drawing a contrast between human and nonhuman languages at all. Before referring to the ‘tongues of angels,’ he referred to ‘the tongues of men.’

Why would Paul say, “Though I speak with the tongues of men”?After all, isn’t that precisely what all adult humans do? We, humans, speak at least one human language! Paul must have been referring, then, not to the ability to speak a human language, but to the ability to speak all human languages.

No tongue-speaker in the first-century church had the ability to speak all human languages. In fact, the textual evidence indicates that most tongue-speakers probably had the ability to speak only one human language, which he, himself, did not understand, thus necessitating the need for an inspired interpreter, 1 Corinthians 12:30 / 1 Corinthians 14:26-28.

Paul could apparently speak more languages than any of the others, 1 Corinthians 14:18. If the ‘tongues of men’ referred to the number of human languages, rather than referring to the ability to speak a human language, then the ‘tongues of angels’ would refer, not to the ability to speak an angelic language but to the ability to speak human languages the way angels do.

Here, then, would have been Paul’s point, even if a tongue-speaker could speak every human language known to man, and even if that tongue-speaker could speak those human languages with the efficiency, skill, and perfection that God’s angelic messengers have spoken them in history, without love, the ability would be wasted.

With this understanding of the text, Paul was not contrasting human with nonhuman language. He was encompassing both the quantity, if I could speak all human languages and the quality, if I could speak them perfectly, of speaking human language.

One final point on the matter of the ‘tongues of angels’ merits mention. Even if the expression actually refers to angelic tongues that are nonhuman, it still is likely that tongue-speakers were incapable of speaking such languages. Why?

Paul was speaking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No human being, with the exception of perhaps Jesus, has ever been able to speak in all human languages. For Paul to suggest such was to pose a hypothetical situation. It was to exaggerate the facts.

So Paul’s meaning was, ‘even if I were capable of speaking all human languages, which I’m not.’ Likewise, no human being has ever been able to speak the tongues of angels. So Paul’s meaning was, ‘even if I were capable of speaking the languages of angels, which I’m not.’

This conclusion is supported further by the verse that follows the reference to the ‘tongues of angels.’ There, Paul used two additional hypothetical events when he said, “If I, know all mysteries and all knowledge” and “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,” 1 Corinthians 13:2

But no one on the planet, with the exception of deity, has understood all mysteries and all knowledge, nor has had faith that could literally remove mountains. Again, Paul was merely saying, “even if I could do such things, which I can’t.”

Without love being the motivation for speaking in tongues the gift would be useless. When one, through ignorance, separates from the body they were baptized into so that they may form a schism based upon an individual gift they ‘have not love’, 1 Corinthians 12:1 / 1 Corinthians 12:25 / 1 Corinthians 12:31.

Love, ‘agape’ is defined as ‘brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God, New Testament.’ The apostle John gives us clear commentary on what this love is, John 15:12ff.

John said, ‘God is love’, 1 John 4:8 / 1 John 4:16. God’s love is made manifest in the fact that He sent His Son, Jesus, for the propitiation of our sins, 1 John 3:16 / 1 John 4:10. Christians are commanded to love as God loves, 1 John 4:17. God loved in that He provided a way for man to rid himself of sin.

Christians are to care for brethren in such a way that helps them get rid of the sin in their lives, Acts 20:26. The Corinthians had this opportunity by delivering the Gospel of our salvation.

Secondly, God cares for the physical well-being of His people and so must we, 1 John 3:17. The prophet Isaiah records, ‘in all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old’. Isaiah 63:9.

The Corinthians, who practised their spiritual gifts without this love as its motivation, were as a ‘sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.’ ‘Sounding’, ‘echo’ is “to sound, often of metal, to let it Sound’.

The ‘brass’, ‘chalkos’ is defined as called in reference to its colour. Copper was the first metal wrought for use, hence chalkos came to be used for metal in general and when men learnt to work iron, chalkos was used for sideros, and chalkeus came to mean a blacksmith.

Chalkos also meant bronze, i.e., copper alloyed with tin, not brass, i.e., copper alloyed with zinc, which was a later invention, and this was its sense when applied to arms. Paul’s use of a ‘sounding brass’ is obviously intended to mean an annoying or unnatural sound made with the metal.

‘Clanging’, ‘alalazo’ is to raise the war cry, to shout the shout of victory, to cry or shout aloud. The ‘cymbal’ ‘kumbalon’ is one of a pair of concave brass plates that are struck together as percussion instruments. Again, the idea is an annoyingly loud sound that disturbs the peace.

In an orchestra, a percussion instrument serves its purpose among the strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments. Take the percussion or brass, trombone or French horn, out and the loud noise is useless. Likewise, one that speaks tongues that others do not understand, is useless and lacks love.

If the tongues speaker properly understood the function of the tongues, out of love, he would speak with an interpreter for the purpose of edifying all hearers, 1 Corinthians 14:12.

Paul’s point is that the single instrument or gift can only serve its designed purpose when acting together with the whole body, 1 Corinthians 12:14.

If love, a care and concern for my brother’s physical and spiritual wellbeing, is not the motivation for the Corinthians exercising their gifts then their efforts amount to ‘nothing.’ The word ‘nothing’, ‘oudeis’ is to be good for nothing, to make of no account.

The spiritual gifts of prophecy, knowledge, and faith were discussed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. As a single instrument is good for nothing, so the one who exercises gifts for a single motivation of pride.

Those Corinthians who were divisive and formed schisms with the use of their gift were actually ‘nothing’ though they and others thought they were something special.

To ‘bestow’, ‘psomizo’ is to employ in feeding others. What if I do such a good work without love as its motivation? Am I doing this to be recognized by others as generous rather than doing it because I see a real need?

Is my personality such as that of needing a pat on the back for all the good works I do? It is obviously wrong with such pictures of man.

‘If I give my body to be burned’ through persecution so that I may bring myself glory it prophets me nothing. Here were brethren who may have displayed a great spirit of conviction and zeal yet they lacked love and thereby their profit is ‘nothing’ in relation to God’s will to profit the whole church.

When spiritual and physical benevolence is achieved without love it profits nothing in relation to the church as a whole, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

Sixteen character traits of love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

1. Love patient. 1 Corinthians 13:4.

‘Suffers long’, ‘makrothumeo’ means to patiently endure wrongs or difficulties. This word is found nine times in the New Testament and generally means to be patient with those in error as the Lord is with us, 2 Peter 3:9. The one who truly loves will not just give up on a brother who is in sin but rather is willing to study about the matter.

2. Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4.

‘Kind’, ‘chresteuomai’ means to be good and kind. God is a loving and kind God, Jeremiah 9:23ff.

Such goodness and kindness led to sending His Son Jesus into the world so that we might have the opportunity to be saved from our sin, John 3:16. Christians are commanded to be just as kind and good. Think about the souls and well-being of others.

3. Love does not envy. 1 Corinthians 13:4.

The word ‘envy’, ‘zeloo’ means to rival, to be jealous of, envy. This word describes the condition of the Corinthian brethren. They were rivals and jealous of each other in the realm of spiritual gifts.

Such conduct revealed their true lack of love for brethren and cause for the existing schisms, 1 Corinthians 1:10 / 1 Corinthians 11:18 / 1 Corinthians 12:25. Real love does not envy others but it rejoices when others rejoice and hurts when brethren hurt, 1 Corinthians 12:26.

4. Love does not boast. 1 Corinthians 13:4.

To ‘vaunt’, ‘perpereuomai’ means to boast or vaunt oneself. A Christians who truly loves his fellow brother will not boast or vaunt himself above his brother. All the Christian’s efforts are in elevating the brother rather than self, Philippians 2:3.

The Corinthian that boasted of his abilities in the area of tongue-speaking lacked love, a true care and concern for his brother’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. All were to open their eyes and note these truths. Those who formed parties based upon gifts did not truly love the Lord.

5. Love is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4.

To be ‘proud’, ‘phusioo’ means to be puffed up, inflated with pride, to be proud, vain, arrogant. When one views his brother’s soul with great value and is desirous to do any and all things to benefit that brother, where is the room for arrogance and inflated pride?

The tongue-speaking Corinthians apparently felt that they were superior in some way to a brother that did not have this ability, Proverbs 6:16-19. When the church acts as one there is no place for a part of the whole to act as though it were more significant than the other parts, 1 Corinthians 12:21ff.

6. Love does not dishonour others. 1 Corinthians 13:5.

The phrase ‘does not dishonour itself’ is one Greek Word, ‘aschemoneo’ meaning to disgrace oneself, to be put to shame. What brings shame and disgrace to someone? The spirit of pride, self-importance, and schisms in the realm of gifts certainly would be disgraceful because such attitudes are antithetical to gifts in the first place.

7. Love is not self-seeking. 1 Corinthians 13:5.

To ‘seek’, ‘zeteo’ means to search after, search out, to search or inquire into, investigate. The word ‘own’, ‘heautou’ means himself, herself, itself, etc. Here is one who seeks to please self alone.

One who wants all actions to benefit self alone. One who so acts has lost sight of the whole body, 1 Corinthians 12:13-14. Again, such a disposition is antithetical to the love of God and is therefore against the love of a Christian.

8. Love is not easily angered. 1 Corinthians 13:5.

To be ‘provoked’, ‘paroxuno’ means to be to urge, prick or spur on, stimulate. What kind of brother would purposely irritate or exasperate another brother? The answer is, one who does not truly love, have a care and concern for a brother’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. Again, what kind of brother would allow himself to be irritated or exasperated at another brother? Truly love suffers long!

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5.

The phrase, ‘keeps no record of wrongs’, ‘logizetai’ means to count, reckon, calculate. Here is the brother who is quick to point a finger at another in the body and blame them for some wrong. Christians are to be careful not to make quick judgments about their brethren.

We ought to think the very best of our brethren until proven guilty. Those brethren who have repented of sins committed are to be forgiven rather than another keeping a ledger of other’s sins.

10. Love does not delight in evil. 1 Corinthians 13:6.

That which brings me joy is the faith of my brethren, 2 John 4 / 3 John 4. One who truly loves will find no joy in another Christian falling from grace.

11. Love rejoices with the truth 1 Corinthians 13:6.

Truth brings true joy to the man and woman who loves his brethren and works to promote unity for the betterment of the whole body.

12. Love always protects. 1 Corinthians 13:7.

To ‘protect’, ‘stego’ means to cover closely, so as to keep water either out or in: to keep water out, to keep off rain from oneself. When a brother sins against me, my love will not permit me to let the world know of the matter but to work the sin out with my brother and thereby contain the matter. A brother who continues in his error and even teaches it; however, must be marked and avoided, Romans 16:17-18.

13. Love always trusts. 1 Corinthians 13:7.

Until proven wrong, a loving brother gives one who is at fault the benefit of the doubt.

This does not state that the loving brother is to be gullible nor foolish but that we simply hear, and believe one unless two witnesses expose otherwise, 2 Corinthians 13:1. I am to always believe and hope the best for my brethren in the body of Christ.

14. Love always hopes. 1 Corinthians 13:7.

To ‘hope’, ‘elpizo’ means to hope for, look for, expect. It is the desire and expectation of one who truly loves to think the best of a brother before we ascribe evil and sin to one.

15. Love always preservers. 1 Corinthians 13:7.

To ‘persevere’, ‘hupomeno’ means to stay behind, survive. The Christian who loves the souls of his brethren will ‘endure.’ Such a one will take the wrongs of others patiently while standing his or her ground in a discussion about a matter. The attributes of love revealed here help us identify those who are causing the true schisms in the church.

Those who are overzealous spiritual bullies who seek to cause all to conform to their individuality and personal convictions are guilty of schisms in the body. The Corinthian brethren who formed factions in the church tried their hand at this and Paul exposes them. Let truth and the unity of the church be the motivating factor that moves our zeal.

16. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8.

To ‘fail’, ‘ekpipto’ means to depart from, digress, to fall off. There appears to be a play on words here. Love is sandwiched in between gifts. Those who do not perform actions within the church that are motivated by love for brethren are identified as those who are ‘nothing’, i.e., good for nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

While the man or woman who seeks to form schisms in the church, due to a lack of understanding of God’s purpose for gifts, comes to nothingness this is not the case with love. Schisms will have their doom and end yet love is eternal.

The apostle John said, ‘but if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.’ 1 John 2:5. The love of God is a care and concern for the spiritual well being of His creation. Whenever I keep God’s commandments by loving my own soul and the soul of my brethren, ‘love for God is truly made complete in them’.

The word ‘perfected’ is in the perfect tense which indicates the present state of one based on past actions. I am now perfect, without the guilt and due punishment of sin because I previously confessed those sins in a spirit of humility unto God and asked for forgiveness, 1 John 1:9.

As long as I have this type of character, I will not ‘fail’, depart or digress from the truth and come to nought. The ultimate failure in life is to depart and digress from the truth. As long as the Christian exercises a disposition of genuine care and concern for brethren our efforts will not come to nought!

Love and Spiritual gifts contrasted

“But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

Note that the same three gifts were mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Sandwiched in between these gifts, mentioned here again is love. The obvious conclusion is that these three gifts stand as a representation of gifts as a whole. Gifts, as a whole, will one day ‘be done away’ with.

The phrase ‘they shall cease’ is one word in Greek, ‘katargethesontai’ which means to be abolished. Prophecies, and gifts as a whole, will one day be abolished and cease to exist.

The verb ‘katargethesontai’ is future tense indicating the act will happen at a later date. At some point in the future gifts given by the Holy Spirit to man will be abolished or cease to happen.

Tongues shall be ‘stilled’, pausontai. The Greek verb ‘pausontai’ is future tense as well. The word ‘cease’ means to bring to an end, make an end of. Tongues will one day in the future cease to exist. ‘Knowledge’ shall ‘pass away’, ‘argethesetai’.

Again, the Greek verb ‘argethesetai’ ‘katargethesontai’ is future tense. The natural question would be when will prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, i.e., gifts be abolished or cease to exist?

The word ‘for’ naturally brings this thought along as a representation of the present time as opposed to what shall take place in the future. Do not lose sight of the fact that Paul is explaining to the Corinthians the fact that gifts will one day, in the future, come to an end.

The immediate purpose of this argument is to show the Corinthians the immediate value of gifts so that they will stop using gifts for the wrong reasons. Secondarily, we have a text that explains gifts as they relate to man today.

To ‘know’, ‘ginosko’ means knowledge of an especial kind and relatively high character. The word is used of the word of God in 1 Timothy 6:20 where Paul said, ‘Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge’.

The obvious conclusion is that some were given the gift of knowledge whereas others had to gain knowledge of truth through actual study. ‘Prophecy’ is the gift of expounding scripture, of speaking and preaching. The apostle Peter explains the process in 2 Peter 1:19-21.

Both knowledge and prophecy have to do with divine revelation, the word of God, truth or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is no coincidence that Paul used the three gifts of knowledge, prophecy, and tongues due to their direct relationship with the gospel message and the coming to an end of gifts. The truth, Gospel, was at the present time possessed by the Corinthians and the world in an ‘in part’, ‘ek meros’ manner.

The meaning of ‘ek meros’ means apart, share one’s portion, as opposed to the whole. Clearly, Paul proclaims to the Corinthian brethren the relationship between inspired knowledge and prophecy to the ‘once for all’ delivered Gospel, Jude 3.

Piece by piece and bit by bit the gospel of Jesus Christ was being revealed by the aid of spiritual gifts. An example of this would be the full disclosure of the Gentiles’ part in the kingdom of God, Acts 10:13-16 / Acts 10:34-35. The information in 1 Corinthians 14-16 illustrates this point.

Paul continues to add to divine revelation. As new revelation was being proclaimed ‘ek meros’ it was being confirmed by the signs that followed, Mark 16:20 / John 20:30-31 / Hebrews 2:3-4.

Men and women were being edified, 1 Corinthians 14:12 and God was revealed as the one true deity, Isaiah 46:9-10 all of which promoted unity in the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

We naturally conclude that there is a direct correlation between spiritual gifts and the process of divine revelation. The gifts confirmed the reality and validity of any new revelation.

The natural conclusion would thereby be that when all revelation was completed gifts would come to an end, they would no longer be needed. Consider this equation: Note that when Revelation was made complete there would be no more need for gifts.

‘Now’, present-day as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, means gifts and revelation, in part. ‘Then’, a time in the future when all revelation had been revealed, means revelation, perfect or complete.

‘When that which is perfect is come’. KJV. This quotation, as you will have recognised, comes from that beautiful and familiar exposition of the superiority of Love, but, whilst 1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter powerful and important enough to stand alone, it should really be studied in context with 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Misunderstandings arise when the 13th chapter is read out of context and studied in isolation.

If we always bear in mind that when the books of the Bible were written they were not divided into chapters and verses, we shall be spared a great many of the problems which arise from a device that was intended to be a help to us.

Turning, first, to 1 Corinthians 12, we find that Paul is continuing to respond to the series of questions sent to him by members of the church in Corinth.

He has now reached an issue that appears to be a major preoccupation with the Corinthian brethren; a question concerning the relative importance of the various miraculous gifts, bestowed by the Holy Spirit Himself. 1 Corinthians 12:11.

Those who possessed such gifts as other tongues, the interpretation of tongues, healing or prophecy, believed that their gifts were the most important of the nine ‘charismata’, ‘grace gifts’ which Paul lists in this section of his letter.

These were the gifts that attracted the most attention and which enjoyed a profile higher than the less dramatic and less ostentatious gifts, such as those of miraculous knowledge or wisdom.

1. The apostle’s first concern, therefore, is to make the brethren recognise that whatever gift a person possesses, it has been bestowed on him, not for his personal elevation, but for the edification of the entire Body of Christ, the church.

Indeed, this is the illustration he uses. He presents an analogy that portrays the church as a body comprised of many members, each of which has its distinctive function and which occupies its own special place, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

Incidentally, we should notice that in 1 Corinthians 13:29-30 how effectively he dismisses the view, still held today by many of the so-called ‘Charismatic’ groups, which says that anyone who does not possess a spiritual gift has not received ‘the second blessing’, that is, a blessing subsequent to salvation, and therefore may be regarded as a kind of ‘second-class’ Christian.

2. Then, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul urges the brethren to desire the ‘better gifts’, ‘kreittona’, or the ‘greater gifts’ ‘meizona,’ that is, gifts which are ‘better’ or ‘greater’ than the things about which they are so concerned. These better, more desirable possessions are ‘Faith, Hope and Love, of which the greatest is Love.’ 1 Corinthians 13:13.

3. The conclusion which remains to be drawn is that the Corinthians were taught, by Paul, that one could be a true Christian without possessing any miraculous gift, but there is one spiritual endowment, one Christ-like virtue, which is indispensable because it is a virtue which ‘abides’. The word ‘meno’, as used here by Paul, literally means ‘to remain when other things have ceased’.

4. Here we come to the nub of the matter because in 1 Corinthians 13:8-11 Paul assured his Corinthian brethren that whatever miraculous gifts of the Spirit they possess, those gifts are transient and they will inevitably pass away.

‘Prophecies’, in the plural and refers to a range of abilities which included both forth-telling and foretelling, would be ‘abolished, end, be caused to cease’. God would have revealed everything that He wants us to know.

The Greek text has a compound word that is 15 letters long, and which translates as ‘they will be abolished’, because they will have served their purpose.

The KJV states that prophecies ‘shall fail’, and this is an unfortunate rendering that is liable to give the wrong impression because Spirit-inspired prophecy never failed.

For prophecy to ‘cease’ is an entirely different matter. The gift of tongues, also, was destined to ‘cease’. The word ‘pausontai’ simply means ‘to end’. Miraculous knowledge, ‘will be abolished’.

We should bear in mind that, whilst the apostles were alive, the Holy Spirit, in fulfilment of the Lord’s promise was guiding them into all truth, revealing new truths and showing them things to come, but all of these miraculous gifts belonged to the church’s infancy and, like the playthings of childhood, they would eventually one day be ‘put away’.

We all know that the toys of childhood are always and inevitably discarded, laid assure as children grow up, as having served their purpose.

5. And when would this ‘cessation’ occur? This question has drawn our attention to that time, ‘when that which is perfect is come’. Does this mean the end of the age? Or the Return of Christ? It is true that this phrase has sometimes been taken to refer to the end of the age when Christ returns.

The so-called ‘Charismatic’ groups need it to have this meaning because they think it supports what they practice in their meetings! And, if this were to prove a correct interpretation it would be a strong argument for the continuance of spiritual gifts.

‘But it is not correct’, The phrase itself contradicts such a rendering, because Christ cannot be described as a ‘thing’ as ‘that which is perfect’. The word ‘perfect’, in this form, ‘teleion’, is neuter and would never be used to describe a mature person.

It is a form that was used to refer to a baby or a child. It is used, for example, in Luke 1:35, where the KJV reads, ‘that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’.

Strange as it may sound in our ears, in those days all children were described in the neuter gender until they reached the line of puberty, after which time they would be referred to in masculine or feminine forms, as the case required.

Therefore, the word ‘perfect’ used here in 1 Corinthians 13:10, cannot possibly refer to Christ and His return. Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit had intended us to understand this as a reference to Christ, it would have been easy for Him to have said, ‘when He who is perfect’, or even, ‘when Christ comes again’.

6. Does it refer to The Perfection of Heaven?

This is another explanation that has been suggested. We are asked to believe that the phrase refers to the future life in Heaven and to the state of perfection to which the believer looks forward. But it is difficult to fit this view into these three chapters, dealing, as they do entirely with the way in which the church should behave here, on earth!

And, in any case, this word, ‘perfect’, common though it is in the New Testament, is not once used with reference to Heaven’s state of perfection.

7. What, then, does the phrase mean?

Well, the word ‘teleios’, from ‘telos’, meaning ‘an end’, has to do with ‘reaching maturity’, or ‘the attaining of a purpose or goal’. Therefore the contrast is between something incomplete, in part, and therefore transient, see verse 9 again, and something complete and abiding.

Paul has pointed out to his Corinthian brethren that they know ‘in part’ that is, their understanding is, as yet, partial, because they are living in a time when God’s will and purpose are in the process of being revealed ‘through His holy apostles and prophets’. Ephesians 4:4-6

Again, bear in mind that the apostles had been promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth, teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance the things they had been taught by the Lord. John 15:26 / John 16:13.

As we look back from our position today, we see that during that period, the gifts of the Spirit were bestowed to support and strengthen the infant church, as Paul tells the church in Rome. Romans 1:11.

He now informs the Corinthian Christians that the endowments about which they are apparently so concerned are not intended to last. They will pass away. We know that this time came when the apostolic age ended, as the last apostle completed his work.

We have, today, in the New Testament Scriptures, in the inspired writings of the apostles, all that the Holy Spirit desires us to possess and know. We have the full and final revelation of God’s will for His people. The complete, the mature, the ‘perfect’ has come.

The miraculous gifts, which the Holy Spirit clearly indicated as of limited duration have passed away, and today, as James tells us, we look into ‘the perfect law, the law of liberty’. James 1:25.

Brethren would be edified in the complete word when it was completed, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. All would see the reality of God through the completed divine revelation. There would be no need for any more confirming spiritual gifts because the word of God would be complete. Unity is achieved by the completed revelation.

Anyone adding to divine revelation, after it had been completed, were not doing so by the authority of God, both Mosaic and Law of Christ at Deuteronomy 4:2 / Deuteronomy 12:32 / Revelation 22:18.

Paul uses two illustrations to prove that Spiritual gifts would cease when God’s completed revelation had been revealed. The first illustration compares childhood to adulthood. Childhood would be likened to the age of gifts.

Children need help in the early days of life that they may grow up to be men and women, children do not know many things and must be taught.

Likewise, the infant church needed divine guidance and help as they grew spiritually. Miracles gave the infant church that spiritual sustenance that confirmed truths and established faith in their minds.

Adulthood is compared to a time in the future when man would not need a guiding hand to teach them the difference between right and wrong and so forth. As adults, the people of God would have the completed revelation at their disposal.

All that God intended for man to know was given and they would be able to spiritually sustain themselves without the aid of gifts. Adult’s faith and conviction are formed through the completed revelation of God. Such individuals do not need a miracle to convince them of the truths that have already been delivered.

‘Now’ represents the days of the ‘ek meros’, partial revelation confirmed by spiritual gifts. Paul compares these days to seeing in a ‘mirror darkly,’ KJV. The word ‘darkly’, ‘ainigma’ means a dark saying, riddle, to propose a riddle.

The word dark means not easily understood; hard to make clear; obscure. The word riddle is any puzzling, perplexing, or enigmatic saying. Because many of the pieces of divine revelation had not been exposed, Christians could not fully understand God’s will for them.

People would not be able to fully know the truth until all was delivered. When a puzzle has all of its pieces the picture is clear and there are no mysteries. The ‘now’ in this illustration represents a time of obscure and unclear direction for people.

The ‘but then’ statement is in contrast with the ‘now.’ ‘But then’ equals the days of the ‘teleios’, complete revelation and the ‘now’ represents the ‘ek meros’, partial revelation being revealed by spiritual gifts.

‘Now’, days of incomplete revelation, we cannot fully understand ‘but then’ we shall fully know! Here is an excellent verse that reveals the fact that Christians living today can and must know all revealed truth.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

The word ‘remain’ helps us identify the ‘but now’ statement. Up to this point in our study, the ‘now’ represents the days of ‘ek meros’, partial revelation in the process of becoming complete through spiritual gifts.

The word ‘remain’, ‘meno’ means to stay, stand fast, abide, stay at home, stay where one is. Though spiritual gifts will pass away, ‘faith, hope and love’ will remain.

Faith is produced by the word of God, Romans 10:17. As divine revelation is revealed, faith continues to be produced. A consequence of this faith is ‘hope.’

One is confident, through divine revelation, that a heavenly home awaits the faithful, 1 John 2:25 / 1 John 4:13. Faith and hope, therefore, abide along with love, a care and concern for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of others.

Paul states, however, that love is greater than faith and hope. Why? The word ‘greater’, ‘meizon’ indicates the level of importance in relation to faith and hope.

Clearly, the reason that love is greater than faith and hope is that love is an act of the reality of one’s faith and hope. Love acts for the betterment of others. One only looks to the betterment, both physical and spiritual, of others because of an acceptance of the reality of God.

Summary of 1 Corinthians 13

Gifts without love were truly worthless. When an action has a specified purpose and that purpose is not met what good is the action? Even so, gifts exercised without the salvation, ‘profit’ of the souls of other people as its motivation was truly useless.

There would come a day, Paul explains, when gifts would be done away with, however, love will always remain. Gifts were never intended to continue throughout time. Love, however, lasts forever.

The Corinthians needed to learn their true purpose as God’s people and put away their childish attitudes toward the gifts.

When the completed revelation of God had come, gifts would forever be gone, 1 Corinthians 13:9-10. Where would this leave the Corinthians? A proper view of the gifts would leave them in a state of continuation.

Gifts would end and Christians would continue to teach out of the same motivation and love for the souls of men, to profit all. If, however, an individual only performs gifts for selfish purposes, when the gift is gone where would that leave this person? Truly love is to be the motivating factor in every Christian’s life.

All Christians today ought to take note that the revelation of God is now complete, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / Jude 3 / Revelation 22:18-19. There are absolutely no reasons for the Holy Spirit to distribute gifts of prophecy, knowledge, tongues and so forth.

Those who claim to have gifts today are lying and the truth is not in them. While there is no doubt God continues to work in men’s lives through providence there is equally no doubt that no man is being moved by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles.

Go To 1 Corinthians 14



"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."