November 19, 2014
I Corinthians 13:8-12
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
The controversy among Christians still rages over the validity today of the miraculous Spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:8 through 10 and the first two of four offices God gave to the Church and mentioned in Ephesians 4:11:
• I Corinthians 12:8 through 10 – “…the word of wisdom…the word of knowledge…faith… gifts of healings…the working of miracles…prophecy… discerning of spirits…different kinds of tongues…[and] the interpretation of tongues.”
Only the first three gifts here, “…wisdom…knowledge…[and] faith…” are considered valid by many believers today. That is because these three are mis-named and/or wrongly described! But more on this subject in a future blog in this series.
• Ephesians 4:11 – “…apostles…[and] prophets….”
Much of the argument against the validity of these gifts and offices today hinges on the interpretation of I Corinthians 13:8 through 12:
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether
there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish
away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which
is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I
was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;
but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a
mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall
know just as I also am known.
I Corinthians 13 is what is known as The Love Chapter. And it tells us that “…prophecies… tongues…[and] knowledge…will fail…[and] vanish away.” (verse 8). But when? “…when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (verse 10). The question then becomes, What Is The Perfect To Come?
Much hinges on the Greek language. There are three genders of nouns, masculine, feminine and neuter. “…that which is perfect…” in verse 10 is to teleion, “the perfect thing.” It is an adjective used as a noun in the neuter gender. If “…that which is perfect…” means the fulfillment of the New Testament at the end of the first century, then it would be in the feminine gender – because the words scripture or scriptures are always translated in the New Testament from either grapha (ending in long a) or gramma (ending in short a), and both words are in the feminine gender. And if “…that which is perfect…” refers to Jesus Christ – either His first or second coming – it would be in the masculine gender, as His name and pronouns always are in the Greek.
So being in the neuter gender, “…that which is perfect…” can present a problem. But I believe Lange’s Commentary On The Holy Scriptures, the Corinthian volume, p. 271, clears this up beautifully: “By ‘the perfect’ …he means the consummation of the kingdom of God which is to take place at the appearance of Christ….” And then Lange points to the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14 as proof: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 through 23:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to
be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest
expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of
God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because
of Him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be
delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors
with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who
have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
All creation was put under God’s curse because of sin (see Genesis 3:14 through 19). And so “…tears…death…sorrow…crying…pain…” (Revelation 21:4) have been a major part of all creation ever since. But there is coming a day when “…the revealing of the sons of God…into the glorious liberty…” (Romans 8:19 and 21) will take place. When Jesus Christ returns in glory, we will be with Him (see Zechariah 14:5 and Revelation 19:14), “…we will be like Him…” (I John 3:2) and we will be manifested to the whole world! And according to Romans 8:21 and 22, “…the whole creation…also will be delivered from bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” As Lange implied, all creation will enter the consummation of the kingdom! No wonder “…that which is perfect…” is neuter! “…the whole creation…” consists of all sorts of masculine, feminine and neuter named things and their pronouns! And “…the whole creation…” will be made perfect ! So to cover such a wide swath, such an adjective as perfect used to refer to “…the whole creation…” would be rendered in the Greek in the neuter gender!
Now, if this is the correct interpretation of “…that which is perfect…,” then according to I Corinthians 13:8, “…prophecies…tongues…and knowledge…will fail…[and] vanish away…,” not at the end of the first century, but at the return of Jesus Christ at the end of this age!