This section begins and ends with love. It starts with “Love never ends” and ends with “the greatest of these is love.” It flows out of what Paul is saying is most important evidence of the work of the Spirit. And then in the beginning it talks about gifts ceasing (Knowledge, tongues, and prophecy) and then he says that three abide (Faith hope and love). Now we know that love is the only one that never ends, and therefore also the greatest. Even faith and hope will not be needed one day when our faith will be sight, and our hope a reality. But love will still exist. Paul is making a argument for the primacy of love. And he ends by showing us that love alone is eternal. All else will cease.
Love will Remain.
- Spiritual Gifts
- Stages of maturity
- Love will remain.
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. What does it mean that they will pass away or cease? It means that at some point we won’t need them. There are two basic answers to that question, the first is that they passed away when the canon was written shortly after the apostolic time, the second is that they will pass away and cease when Christ comes back. Whichever way you take it and there are strong arguments for both, both confess that they will not be needed. And that’s the point.
I lean toward saying that the need for these have passed at the end of the apostolic age, and the writing of the canon. Why? Four basic reasons. But regardless of what position you take it does not make a huge impact on the ultimate point that God through Paul is making.
- The first reason is the text itself as we have already seen, at the end he says three things will abide – faith, hope and love. He seems to contrast these with the gifts of prophecy tongues, and knowledge which will cease. Now we know that Faith and hope will also cease at the end of time. So it seems like Spiritual gifts cease before that.
- The second reason is what the Bible says about supernatural gifts like tongues and healing – they were given as a sign to validate the legitimacy of the preached word. Hebrews 2:4 says, “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Acts 14:3 says, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who affirmed the message of His grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.
- The third reason is the book of Acts and Paul’s writings. Since Paul was associated with the author of Acts, he must have known that miracles, signs, and wonders diminished rapidly as the church grew older.
- And the fourth reason is the history of the early church. The early church fathers bear witness to that the gifts spiritual gifts like healing, prophecy, or a revelation of knowledge from God had ceased.
So, although God may still speak, and there may still be times of dramatic and miraculous healing, and there may be knowledge given at times when scripture is not available, and the Spirit may even allow for the speaking of tongues, these gifts are no longer necessary since the church as come to A sort of maturity,
Prophecy will pass away. What is this? In one sense we are all prophets – who are called to share the word of God. But this is not what Paul was talking about here, because he is talking about a gift that not everyone had, although Paul wanted them to seek it. This was more likely prophecy in the sense of a direct word of God since they didn’t have the New Testament yet. So, prophecy in a sense of direct revelation would pass away, but prophecy in the sense of the application of Gods truth to our world today continues. Paul is talking here about direct revelation.
Tongues they will cease. What are these tongues? We simply don’t know. Some think they were languages present at that time; others think they were some kind of heavenly language. Whatever it was, it was a language not native to the speaker. What is clear is that Paul says they will cease whether it was a foreign language which I think it was, or not.
knowledge, it will pass away. We should all grow in knowledge, but again Paul has in mind here the gift of knowledge, where the individual is given knowledge most likely about the gospel, or application of the gospel message to share. Again, this was one of the earliest books written, and we would therefore expect this need to build up the church as it was still in its infancy.
It would be very useful for certain situations for someone to have a gift of knowledge so that could settle disputes in doctrine otherwise, that occurred between individuals which scripture had not spoken about. In this instance the gift of Spirit imparted knowledge would play a role. This is what is meant here by the gift of knowledge because knowledge in the sense of understanding, of course, continues, hopefully.
But when the final word of God was given there as no more need for that special revelation of knowledge. WE have it. The complete canon.
Love will outlast all these gifts that you see says Paul!
This fits well with the next line, “For we prophesy in part, and we know in part, but when the perfect comes the partial will pass away.” One day we will know fully
Dear church, we have the word of God. The living, complete, Word! In it we discover the gospel – the work and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet the perfect has not come yet. No love is not yet all in all. We still need to pray that the love of God may more and more be shed abroad in our hearts; that we may love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and love one another as Christ has loved us. As we grow in him – we grow in love. As we grow in love the need for gifts starts to fall away! The gifts are there to help us to love one another! Its like that often with children too. When they are young, they love gifts – it is a sign of the parents’ love and care. As they grow older gifts become less important – why? Because they experience the relationship so much deeper. Paul is making a point. Not only is love the origin of all things, not only should love be the motivation of all things, but love outlasts all things. First the Spiritual gifts and ultimately even faith and hope! Love is the greatest! What are you pursuing? Love?
You see we suddenly realize this when something happens, like a car accident, or cancer diagnosis, or terrible tragic event that makes life stand still. We realize all those things that we thought were important, that we thought gave us meaning, are totally unimportant. We can miss that flight, miss that business trip if someone dies or is injured. Why? Because then suddenly life gets put into perspective that it was always about relationship.
Stages of maturity
There is a redemptive historical progression taking place. And indeed, that is what we see in the next line. There is a growth in maturity for the church. From infancy in the first century to adulthood. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
Here there is importance in knowing the direction of history. WE are growing up – there is a maturing process not just in the church. Its going somewhere. We are growing. The church is not the same church as it was in the 1st century. There have been many growing pains, but through it all we can see the work of the Spirit. One stage of maturity was when the church went from the time when the canon was not yet complete, when miraculous gifts were given to authenticate the word. But then the growing did not stop.
O we still want these things, because we are much like the Corinthians, there is an infatuation with the supernatural – we want to see a sign. There can be as JI Pack said a super-supernaturalism where we want to see miracles, and we are happiest when God is working contrary to nature. The death and resurrection is not enough. The Bible is not enough. In a sense love is not enough, because we still live with sin, we don’t want to make it purely about God and others. We want it to be about us. But what does Paul say? Love is the greatest – ordinary patient, enduring, not being rude kind of love. A cruciform love.
We can have that same tendency, to hold onto the child stage. For God to proceed slowly and by natural means is a disappointment, almost a betrayal. But this undervalues the ordinary, natural, and regular means of Gods work, and shows a weak grasp of the realities of creation and providence.
Children want dramatic change. Now. As we grow older, we realize the beauty in life is found in the ordinary. Just look at love –It is the daily, yearly, commitment that builds up. Not the dramatic. It is the same way with preaching and sacraments, what God has instituted as the ordinary means of grace. There is beauty and glory in this. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.
Paul knew that an objective record of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" was little by little being put into written form (cf. II Peter 3:15- 16). If allowed to continue, this growing book would someday reach completion, like its Old Testament counterpart, and a new stage of the church's maturity would result. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. The full revelation of Christ has not yet been revealed. Nevertheless, it is revealed far more to us, even then it was to the people in the first century who did not yet have the New Testament Scripture. It reminds me of what Paul says in the second letter where Paul says in the old covenant, they looked through a veil, they could see glory but only through a veil. And Paul says in 3:10,18. “Indeed what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory….and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
Indeed, this is the good news – the gospel – found in the imperishable word of God. that is why Paul can say God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Dear church in a very real sense God has been revealed to us in Scripture. We can see the face of Christ. And yet even this is a veil. Even now we look through the glasses of the scripture. Which are for us much clearer then the intermittent prophecies and tongues of the church in Corinth. One day even this will be removed, and we will look upon him truly as he is. And love will fill us. Till that day faith hope and love remain.
Staying of love
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. By comparing the stages of history, he finally ends with declaring the primacy of love not just in all we do, but in the whole of church history. Love will outlast all. Faith and hope still abide. But faith will be sight, and hope will be reality when Christ returns. Paul said elsewhere, “For hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for that which he sees.” Again, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen.” (Romans 8:24; Hebrews 11:1)
When love is all that is left maturity in Christ will be complete. Love alone will survive, and the church's maturity will be perfect. It never fails. EVER.
But there is another way in which love never ends. Because it can also be translated as that love never falls. Now this is the deepest desire of all people. To be loved with a love that does not fall or falter no matter what. The fear is that people will not love us if they get to know us. That love will stop when we mess up. But that is not the love of God it cannot fail. Ever.
And nothing can break it not even death. The resurrection guarantees that those who love with Christ love will always and forever share in that love. And that they are bound together in his love although they may be separated by the veil of death.
One day we will share in this love of God perfectly in the Power of the Spirit in perfect communion with the father and the Son. Heaven is the is the palace of the High and holy one, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of love. There dwells the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, mutual, eternal love.
There are dwells God the Father, the Father of all love, who so loved the world the world that he gave his only begotten son. There dwells the Christ, the lamb of God, the prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood. He who is also the mediator through whom all love flows There dwells God the Spirit the spirit of divine love, in whom the very being of God flows out, and is breathed forth in love. He who opens our hearts to grasp how wide and long and high is the love of Christ.
It is into this God that we baptize little Eben! O how glorious, how precious, how amazing the love of God that he should call us sons of his! May this love flow overflow in the parents into his live. May this love overflow from all of us into this family. This holy, pure, perfect, beautifying love. May this love overflow in us all into the world!
When faith, endurance, hope, and perseverance will be no more – there is love. Why? Because this is the love of God! This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This chapter is the resume of Christ our lord, don’t you see? Love was there in the beginning – it is in love that he created all things – and in the end it will be his love that binds and brings all things back together – and it was all possible through the greatest dead of love in the cross that is what love does. That is What God does. For as John so succinctly states, God is love.
In the words of Augustine, “Love is the unique gift, the fountain that is yours alone. The Spirit of God exhorts you to drink from it, and in so doing to drink from himself. It is free. Take it, clasp it. There is nothing sweeter. If this is what it is like merely to talk about it, what must it be like when one has it?
O that we may have love. Where will you find it? In God. God is love.