When the Perfect Comes


#1

We’ve all read 1 Corinthians 13 and have heard it read many times. What are your thoughts of “the perfect” which Paul states is to come?

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 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. (1 Cor 13:9-12 ESV)

I’m sure we’ve heard it said many times. “Only Jesus is perfect! The Perfect who is to come is none other than Jesus who will come again!”

Have we been convinced by the many speakers whom we have heard expound 1 Corinthians 13? I was—until I noticed that Paul begins talking about the supremacy of LOVE, and ends his discourse by stating that LOVE is greater than faith and hope, and encouraging his readers to pursue LOVE. Doesn’t it seem peculiar to interpose the fact of the second coming of Christ WITHIN this discourse about LOVE?

I have now come to believe that Paul didn’t change the subject at all! It is LOVE all the way through 1 Corinthians 13, even including the first two words in Chapter 14. Here’s the way I understand it now:

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

Love will endure. The gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the gift of knowledge will pass away. These gifts will no longer be needed in order to reveal the hearts of others. For we will know them completely through LOVE.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

We may think we know our friends well. But actually we know them only partially. When COMPLETE LOVE comes (the meaning of “perfect” is “complete”), then we will know other people completely!

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
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Using the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge is wonderful in revealing the hearts of others right now. But the use of these gifts are child-like compared to knowing others fully through full LOVE.

12 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 mirrors in Paul’s day were not like those of our day. I have heard that they were made of metal like polished shields. They gave a distorted image. That’s the way we see our friends and acquaintances now—in a somewhat distorted way. So we know them only partially. But THEN, when we experience that COMPLETE LOVE for them, we shall know them fully, even as we are known fully by God, who already loves us with that COMPLETE LOVE.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


#2

Hi Paidion
Great post! Most non-Christians who will frequently have heard this read at weddings and funerals will have little understanding of what’s going on. And even we Christians can be so familiar with the text as to lapse into letting the wonderful words kind of flow around us/past us without them hitting us with their full force.

As a Christian with leanings towards Philosophical Idealism, I feel that we see ‘reality’ around us as though through the bottom of a thick glass bottle; the reality is there alright, but is warped by our being tied to a ‘material’ reality. A little bit like truth and facts we discussed last week, there is the material, empirical reality we experience (facts), but another ‘truer’ reality which exists in the spiritual realm (Truth). Every now and again, this breaks through to us, the ‘lightning conductor’ being the Holy Spirit.

A classic example of this in scripture comes in 2 Kings 6:16f “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

I’m sure we all occasionally have a ‘close encounter’ with the Spirit, maybe as we sing a great hymn during a Sunday service and we are suddenly overwhelmed and brought even to tears by the sheer force of the love which surrounds us. I always feel at such times that all my theology, philosophy and worldly ‘wisdom’ flies out the window as so much rubbish, and all that matters is this second of pure joy.

I agree with you that behind everything is LOVE (1 John 4:8)

Blessings

Chris