Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake 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 through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. I Corinthians 13:8-12
Charity never faileth:
Charity or biblical love, the fruit of the Spirit, is everlasting. It will never be abolished. Biblical love will never be rendered inactive. The fruit of the Spirit will last throughout eternity.
but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;
Propheteia is the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God….prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, fore-telling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means….it is the forth telling of the will of God. In contrast to love lasting forever, Paul states that prophecies shall fail (be rendered inactive).*
whether there be tongues, they shall cease;
Glossolalia or tongues is the supernatural gift of speaking in another language without its having been learned. Acts 2:4-13 Pauo or cease means to stop, to make an end and is used chiefly in the middle voice in the NT, signifying to come to an end,…….a willing cessation (in contrast to the passive voice which denotes a forced cessation).*
whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
Ginosko (knowledge) signifies to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand*….……this is the process of learning. Vanish from katargeo means to abolish, to be done away.* It is the same word for fail in reference to prophecy which means to be rendered inactive.*
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect (complete/entire) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Prophecies and knowledge we have in part. That which is in part shall be rendered inactive. This will happen when that which is perfect is come. What is “that which is perfect” referring to?
Some say it is Christ, but the word perfect (teleiov) is neuter, so it can’t be Him. Some say it refers to the completion of the canon of Scripture, but we still prophesy (forth telling the will of God) and knowledge (learning) is still necessary for the believer’s spiritual growth. That which is perfect or complete, therefore, must be referring to eternity with Christ.
The forth telling of the will of God will no longer be necessary in eternity because all those in God’s presence will be redeemed and in His will. Learning will no longer be necessary, because we will know even as we are known, The last two verses in this passage lend themselves to this; When I was a child, I spake 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 through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
But what about tongues? Paul says tongues shall cease in and of themselves. When will this happen? It will happen when the sign gifts are no longer necessary.
Remember that tongues were for a sign. The sign gifts were the gifts of healing, miracles and tongues. Whenever these gifts were exercised, unbelieving Jews were present. The sign gifts were to confirm to the Jew that what he was seeing and hearing was of God. The sign gift of speaking in tongues warned of coming judgment for the rejection of God’s rule per Paul’s instruction in I Corinthians 14:21&22 which quotes Isaiah 28:11&12.
The Jewish religious leaders completed their rejection of the Messiah and His kingdom by turning Christ over to the Roman authorities for the death penalty. The sign gifts would continue to warn of God’s judgment until judgment fell. When Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD there was no longer a need for the sign gifts to Israel.
God’s revelation of Himself to mankind through a nation of peculiar people (Israel) has been suspended throughout the period of the church age. When the believing church (which includes both regenerate Jews and Gentiles) is complete, the last soul is saved, and the church is raptured (caught up) out of this world, God will once again deal with Israel as a nation. He will deliver Israel from their enemies and restore to the nation His kingdom as they call on Messiah Jesus for deliverance in the last days.
Pray for the peace of Israel.
Note: This is the fourth section in a series of studies on Speaking in Tongues in this blog. I would invite you to review the previous three studies, if you haven’t already, because they build upon each other.
For a more complete study of this topic please read The Corinthian Catastrophe by George E. Gardner; copyright 1974 by Kregel Publications.
To be continued, as the apostle Paul lay down the priorities and rules for speaking in tongues in I Corinthians 14.
*Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by Unger & White. Copyright 1984, 1996 Thomas Nelson, Inc.