PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 13:8-13; The Preeminence of Love

02/22 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 The Preeminence of Love; Audio available at:

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

8 Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει. εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται· εἴτε γλῶσσαι, παύσονται· εἴτε γνῶσις, καταργηθήσεται. 9 ἐκ μέρους γὰρ γινώσκομεν καὶ ἐκ μέρους προφητεύομεν· 10 ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον, τὸ ἐκ μέρους καταργηθήσεται. 11 ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος, ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος· ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ, κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου. 12 βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον· ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην. 13 νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη· τὰ τρία ταῦτα, μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 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. 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. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as the love chapter. We can learn much about relationships from this chapter, and as we have studied out what God’s love looks like and how we are to reflect the character of God in our relationships with one another, my prayer is that we continue to

Colossians 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

If we will allow God to so transform our hearts that the description of love portrayed in this chapter becomes characteristic of our lives, we will transform the world! That is why I chose to spend so much time unpacking what each word means.

But it is also important for us to see this chapter in its original context. As I have pointed out before, 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14. Paul is addressing a church of self-centered sinners who, like us, have a tendency to seek their own self interests and not

Philippians 2:3 … but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

In chapters 8-14 Paul is addressing issues of worship. In chapter 12, Paul addressed their abuse of gifts of the Spirit, seeking to be thought above others, seeking to be considered more spiritual than others. Paul levels the field by telling them that the person who is truly spiritual is the person who has the Holy Spirit living inside, which is every genuine follower of Jesus. Paul says that the gifts are all different, but they are all given by one and the same Spirit. All the gifts are given, not for self promotion, but for the common good. No one has all the gifts, and none of the gifts stand alone. All the members of Christ’s body, the church, are dependent on one another. All are important, but the gifts that build up others are most valuable. But even the most spectacular and dramatic gifts, if exercised without love are worthless, empty, even irritating and distracting. So Paul lays out the way of love. In chapter 14 he comes back around to some of the specific gifts and encourages the proper use of the gifts for building up the church in love. Here at the end of chapter 13 he asserts and defends the priority of love over the gifts of the Spirit, or we could say the fruit of the Spirit over the gifts of the Spirit.

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 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. 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. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love Never Falls

Love never ends. Literally, this could be translated ‘love never falls down’. The love that patiently bears up under a limitless load, that endures abuses for a limitless duration, this love never falls down. This is no human love. My love grows weary. My love fades. My love loses interest. My love gets tired. My love gets distracted. My love burns out. No, this is no human love. This is divine love, God’s love, love put on display in the person of our Lord Jesus, a love wrought by the Spirit in the heart of the believer.

Thank God that his love is like this. Thank God that he never loses interest, never gives up, never grows weary, his fervent love for us never fades. This is the love that motivated the Father to send his only Son into the world to save his enemies. This is the love that carried Jesus through the garden and all the way to the cross for us.

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

We can be assured that we who belong to Jesus will experience the steadfast love of the Lord for us throughout eternity. Love never ends.

All The Gifts Are Temporary

Paul contrasts the never failing nature of love with the temporary nature of the gifts. In chapter 12 and especially in chapter 14, Paul holds up prophecy as the gift he encourages the Corinthians to earnestly desire, and that he wants everyone to prophesy so that the church will be built up. This is the gift he starts with in his contrast with love. The gift of prophetic utterance, as desired and helpful and important as it is, will pass away. The gift of tongues will cease. The gift of knowledge will pass away. All the gifts given by the Spirit are for the building up of the church in this age. In the age to come, there will be no more need for these gifts. Paul mentions these three gifts as a way to summarize all the gifts. The most to be desired, the least of the gifts, and all those in between, all will pass away.

Paul then demonstrates why the gifts will cease. They will pass away because are incomplete. They are partial. We know in part. The gift of knowledge is not the gift of omniscience. Only God knows everything. We may be given specific insight into a situation for the good of the body, but that knowledge is not comprehensive. And so we need to be humble. We may be given a prophetic word to encourage or comfort or build up. But that does not mean that we know all and see all. Our prophetic utterance is given by God to build up the church in a specific context. It is not comprehensive and universal.

When The Perfect Comes

When the perfect comes the partial will be done away with. This word, twice in verse 8 and once here in verse 10 means abolished, destroyed, rendered useless. It is used in chapters 1, 2, 6 and 15 for something brought to nothing, doomed to pass away, something to be destroyed. Our question is when? When does the perfect come? When does that which is partial pass away? What is the perfect, and what is the partial? Too many people have used their imaginations or inserted their own agendas into this verse. A common interpretation is that the perfect is the bible, and the partial are the gifts of the Spirit. This is half right, because the gifts of the Spirit are what is in view as being incomplete, partial and temporary. But the bible is nowhere in the context, and this would assume that once the bible was completed then all the gifts became obsolete and unnecessary, which is clearly not true. Some have said that when the perfect comes is when the church is fully mature, and I think I could agree with that if we understand that the church is continually growing, but will never be fully mature until our King comes to take us home. We must look in the context to see what he means by the perfect, the partial, and when. In verse 12 he draws two contrasts between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’. The ‘now’ is now, while the gifts are functioning to build up the church. And it is clear that the ‘then’ is when we will see face to face, when we will know fully our Lord Jesus – when we are with him. So the ‘when’ that the gifts are done away with, when the perfect comes, is in the age to come,

1 John 3:2 … when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.


Paul uses himself as an illustration of this principle.

1 Corinthians 13:11 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.

It is right and good and beautiful for a child to be childish. Children think and speak and reason differently than adults do. We wouldn’t want young children to sound like adults in their communication. My son, who is 4 was telling me this week that our neighbors need to know God. He was planning to go over and tell them about God and tell them the gospel. But, he said, ‘I don’t know what the gospel is, so I’m just going to give them a bible and they will read it and give it back when they are done, and then they will know God.’ Beautiful. I admire his boldness, clarity and simplicity. He also tells me how he’s going to destroy the bad guys when they come in our house, and that includes a lot of onomatopoetic sounds like bam and pow and psheew, and leaping off the couch with a cape and a plastic sword. That is totally normal. It is exactly what you should expect if you have a 4 year old boy. But if I was wearing the batman underwear and cape wielding the plastic sword telling you how I was planning to crush the bad guys that were going to sneak in to my house at night, you might begin to wonder. Paul is not being derogatory toward the gifts. He is simply saying that they are age-appropriate, and maturity is coming. What is the language of childhood? Healing, tongues, prophecy, knowledge, miracles, teaching administration, service, bam, pow, psheeew. What is the language of maturity? Being patient and kind, not being arrogant or rude, not being self-centered, irritable or keeping record of wrongs, not rejoicing at wrongdoing, but rejoicing with the truth. Love is the language we begin to speak as we move in the direction of maturity.

Now and Then

1 Corinthians 13:12 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.

Now/then, now/then. The present age, the age to come. Now we see in a mirror dimly. The adjective translated ‘dimly’ is the Greek word [αἴνιγμα] – where we get our English word enigma – a riddle, and obscure saying. This word is used once in the Old Testament, in Numbers 12, a passage that the Apostle clearly has in mind here. This is when Miriam and Aaron were challenging the authority of Moses.

Numbers 12:5 And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

The contrast is drawn between visions, dreams, enigmas, and face to face (or literally mouth to mouth), clearly, beholding the form of the LORD. Isaiah looks forward to a day when:

Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

There was an expectation that one day in the age to come, all believers would enjoy the same privilege Moses had of seeing the glory of the Lord directly, not obscurely, in visions or dreams, as in a mirror. Now in a mirror enigmatically, then face to face.

1 Corinthians 13:12…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

We have partial knowledge of God. We cannot know him comprehensively. We can know true things about him, but we cannot know everything about him. But ‘knowing’ in the bible is not talking so much about information as relationship. We are known by God, fully loved by God. We have intimacy with God now, only partially. We experience communion with God in a limited way now. Then, we will be with him in uninterrupted relationship.

Does this get you excited? Are you filled with anticipation? Longing? Face to face with the Lord, knowing him fully even as I have been fully known. Does this stir the deepest recesses of your heart with joy and eager expectation? This is one of the things church should do for us. As we gather with a small segment of believers to commune with God, to worship him, to be together in his presence, we should get a taste of what communion with God is, and it should give us a ravenous appetite for more. We catch a faint glimmer of glory and we lean in straining to see more of him. We say with David:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Faith, Hope, Love

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

Prophecy, tongues, knowledge, all the gifts will be done away with. What remains is faith, hope, love, these three. Their superiority lies in the fact that they exist now in this age, and they will continue into the age to come. Love never fails; love abides forever. To love, Paul draws faith and hope in from verse 7; love believes all; love hopes all. Belief or faith is that childlike dependence on the character of God to do what he said he will do. Hope is the eager anticipation that God will fulfill his good promises to us. Our confident dependence on God and eager looking to God and our love for God and others will continue throughout eternity. But the greatest of these is love. Love for God and neighbor is the greatest command, and love is even superior to these essential characteristics of faith and hope, without which a person is not a Christian. Love believes, but a believer loves. Love is superior, because in faith and hope, my aim is to receive good gifts from God, where love I pour myself into others for their good. In a section dealing with proper worship, love is central, because love is central to our worship. Love is greater because God is love. Love is the more excellent way.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 22, 2015 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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