1 Cor. 13
The chapter of love.

It stands after 12 chapters and before 4 chapters.
When the books of the Bible were originally written these books were not divided into chapters or verses. No, there was one continual thought from beginning to end.

With that in mind let us consider a number of things.

1. Some contextual matters.

A. The greater context.

In chapter 13 we find references to speaking in tongues and prophecies.
When we look at the chapter before (12) we see reference to the same things. In chapter 14 we find references made to these gifts.
So, when we truly want to get a good glimpse into these matters we need to consider these three chapters as a whole to truly know what Paul is adressing in chapter 13. And even more importantly we need to consider this book as a whole.

Someone has written that chapter 12 deals with "distribution" of the gifts, chapter 13 deals with the "duration" of the gifts and chapter 14 deals with the "regulations" of the gifts.
That seems to be a pretty good description.

B. The 9 gifts given to the church.

In chapter 12 we observe that Paul introduced the, what we can refer to as, 9 different gifts to the church.

  • The word of wisdom.
  • The word of knowledge.
  • Workings of miracles.
  • Prophecy.
  • Discernings of spirits.
  • Divers kinds of tongues.
  • The interpretation of tongues.
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healing

C. Some pride problems.

We also observe that there were some problems with the Corinthiers when it came to these gifts. There was a pride problem when it came to these matters.

1Co 14:37 If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.

So, we see that some thought they were more spiritual then others. The heart of the problems in Corinth had to do with the level of love they had for one another. Some thought they were more important then others. (12: 13- 31)
There were schisms in the body, we see traces of this in the whole of this first epistle, (1: 10- 13; 6: 1ff; 12: 13- 31) these schisms could only be fixed by one medicine and that was the medicine of love. The great principle of love and commitment to the other. (Phill. 2: 5- 8)

D. The gifts were individually given but for the profit off all.

Paul wrote in verse 7 of chapter 12:

1 Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

So, we observe that the gifts were given to man individually, however they were for the benefit off all.

Paul further wrote:
1 Co 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

1Co 12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

Paul helped us to understand that the Spirit gave these gifts to Christians individually. So, some had one gift and another one had another gift.

E. Unity and diversity in one body.

Paul wrote in the latter part of chapter 12 (12-30) that the body of Christ functions the same way as our bodies work.
One part might seem less significant but it it not, what would the eye be without the ear and what would the feet do without the head??
In the same way Paul argues that the spiritual gifts were all important.
One was not more important then the next.

But together they made up the body of Christ, even though not everyone had the same gift.
It was like our bodies. Several members but one body. United in one. That is what they lacked most off all. So Paul starts to show the more excellent way and even tells them that there will be a time coming when those gifts are not going to exist anymore

F. A more excellent way

Paul described that beyond these gifts there was a much better way.
He wrote:

1Co 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

The Apostle Paul showed in chapter 13 that there was a much better way.
The Corinthiers thought that speaking in tongues and to prophecy were gifts from God and it was

He showed in chapter 13 that there was a time-limit to these gifts and that to seek these gifts was not the highest and noblest. There was a better way and that way was the way of love.

2. 1 Cor. 13

1 Co 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

1 Co 13:2 And if I have the gift ofprophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

1Co 13:3 And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Here we have the real crux of the matter. Love is the greatest and that is what they should strive for. Even the tongues of angels would be less then the greatest and highest gift of love. Even being able to prophecy would be less important then love.

Love is the greatest gift and that is what they should strive for.
They strove for gifts such as speaking in tongues and to prophesy. However, Paul showed the more excellent way here with the words of chapter 13.

Even great things like faith that could move mountains, or that someone would know all mystery. All these things were nothing when love was not present.

1Co 13:4 Love suffereth long, andis kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

1Co 13:5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

1Co 13:6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

1Co 13:7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Paul showed what love in it's true character truly is.
The value of true love goes so much deeper then the gift of speaking in tongues and to prophecy. True love is the greatest. True love will conquer all.
Speaking in tongues and prophecy was a good thing, but what would it accomplish without being accompanied by love.

Love does not only look at self, no it looks at others, it is concerned about the best interest of others. Love goes so much deeper then tongues and prophecy. Tongues and prophecy goes to the mind and give insight and understanding, however love touches the heart, the most inner part of man. Love can conquer all. True love that is.
Love as described so beautifully here.
Love in all it's true facets. True love is concerned about others.
Whatever gets true love will always grow. The only thing that will make us grow.

1Co 13:8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

1Co 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;

The things that they desired so deeply were things described as those in part.
Those things would be done away with, these things would cease.
Now, if they were the best gifts what would happen to them if the time came when they would cease??

Paul desribed that there was a much higher way, that was the way of faith, hope and love.
Well, there was a better way. (12: 31) The way of love.

1Co 13:10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

Here we have the words of Paul as to the duration of these gifts.
When the perfect is come that which is in part would be done away.

The word perfect:

G5046 teleios

From G5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with G3588) completeness: - of full age, man, perfect.

This Greek word for "the perfect" is a neuter word, it means that a "thing" is decribed and not a person.
It describes a principle that is complete, something that has been brought to completion.

What we see here is that a contrast is made between:

  • That which is perfect.
  • That which is in part.

What is in part has been shown. So, if we know what the "in part" is then we also know what "the perfect" is.

What was in part?
Well, Paul told us: "We know in part and we prophecy in part".

So, the speaking in tongues and the prophecies that were uttered were seen as "in part".

What does this mean?
Well, what this means is that all these things were a part of the greater revelation of God.

We see that Paul wrote in Ephesians:

Eph 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles,

Eph 3:2 if so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward;

Eph 3:3 how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words,

Eph 3:4 whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ;

Eph 3:5 which in other generation was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

He wrote here that the complete mystery had been made known.
How was it made known? It was made known through the Apostles and prophets. By revelation was made known that which had not been made known to other generations.

How was it made known? Through the apostles and prophets. It was revealed unto them. And this revelation came part by part. No one had the whole revelation to himself. All shared part in revealing this great body of truth.
So, the knowledge that they had was "in part". Prophesy was also "in part".
They all made a certain part known of this truth, this all till it was complete.
Compare this to a cake. A cake is made up off 8 slices (parts) of the whole. So, in the same manner, the apostles and prophets all made known a part of this whole.
The time element involved: "Till the perfect should come".

We read in John 16:

Joh 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things so ever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples in John, He made the promise that when He would leave, He would send a comforter and that comforter would make known to them the truth. He would lead them into all truth.

So, when the Spirit came over the Apostles on the day of Pentecost he started a process of making known the truth to the Apostles. As time moved on, more and more of the truth was made known. However, there came a time when this body of truth was complete.

So, Jude in his epistle wrote:

Jud 1:3 Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.

When this body of truth was complete, no more revelations were needed.
The church was now out of her infancy-stage and had grown into manhood.

1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I 
have put away childish things.

1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

Paul used a life example to illustrate his argument.
He argues that the church in the state with speaking in tongues and prophecies is a child.
The church with full revelation will be the church as a grown man.

A child usually knows only in part. He learns more and more as the child grows. Everytime he adds something from the whole of life, and the child will come to a point where his knowledge about life is complete. The child is then a grown-up, ready to face what comes the childs way.
The child has now become an adult.

Paul uses these words to describe the church in her infancy-stages and how it moved to maturity.
When the full revelation (mystery) was revealed the church had become a grown man. Fully able to become what God wanted it to be. His holy bride (Rev. 21: 2)

1Co 13:13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

What would abide was faith, hope and love.
When these gifts would cease, these things would remain.

Some have suggested that "the perfect" is the return of Jesus or the end of time.
However when Jesus returns or when the end of time is here there is no need for faith, hope and love, for these will not be needed in our perfect state in the new heaven and the new earth. In the new heaven and new earth all will be perfect, no more need for faith, hope and love. We will then be with God, where God is all in all.

3. An extra thought.

Spiritual gifts were given through the laying on of the hands of the Apostles.

When we look at the evidence of the scriptures we see that spiritual gifts were transferred through the laying on of the Apostles hands. (Acts 18: 14- 25; Rom. 1: 11; 2 Tim. 1: 6)

What we observe then is that, since we do not have the twelve Apostels anymore, gifts cannot be transferred anymore.
When the last Apostle had died, these gifts could not be transferred anymore, so the last person who had these gifts, when this person died, there were no spiritual gifts anymore.
(The nine gifts as described in 1 Cor. 12)

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