1 Corinthians Chapter 13

February 2, 2012

This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on 1 Corinthians. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.

You can listen to the study by clicking here

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NIV)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is the most excellent way.

True spirituality is completely unrelated to the gifts a person may have from the Spirit. Love is the indication of a person’s true spirituality.

With that said I want to first address 1 Corinthians 8b-10 and have a discussion on spiritual gifts in the church today.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

There is quite a range of thought on where the spiritual gifts fit in to the church today.

Position 1: Signs and wonders ceased at the end of the Apostolic Age

BB Warfield – Counterfeit Miracles – Pages 5-6

Everywhere, the Apostolic Church was marked out as itself a gift from God, by showing forth the possession of the Spirit in appropriate works of the Spirit – miracles of healing and miracles of power, miracles of knowledge, whether in the form of prophecy or in the discerning of spirits, miracles of speech, whether of the gift of tongues or of their interpretation. The Apostolic Church was characteristically a miracle working church. How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age….These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Church as such… they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the Church. Their function (i.e. healing and other miracles) thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it…The possession of the charismata (i.e the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in the early Church) was confined to the Apostolic Age…They (the miracle workings) were confined to the Apostolic Age, and to a very narrow circle then.

Here is the scripture used to support this position:

Position 2: Signs and wonders ceased because they belonged only to the earliest centuries. They ceased because they were no longer needed as divine credentials since the church had been widely established and officially sanctioned and the Canon was completed.

John MacArthur – The Charismatics

There he states the following:
“As we study the Scripture, we find three categories of spiritual gifts. In Ephesians 4 there is the category of gifted men: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, teaching pastors and teachers. These gifted men are called to be leaders in the church. Secondly, there are the permanent edifying gifts, which would include knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, faith (or prayer), discernment, showing mercy, giving, administration and helps (see Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28). Thirdly, there were the temporary sign gifts. These were certain enablements given to certain believers for the purpose of authenticating or confirming God’s word when it was proclaimed in the early Church before the Scriptures were penned. These sign gifts were temporary. Their purpose was not primarily to edify, although sometimes edification did occur. The four temporary sign gifts were miracles, healings, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. These four sign gifts had a unique purpose – to give the apostles credentials, to let the people know that these men all spoke the truth of God. But once the Word of God was inscriptured, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased. The gift of miracles and the gift of healing were both special sign gifts given for the single purpose of confirming God’s revelation.” (p. 131)

“The gift of healing was one of four miraculous sign gifts that were given to help the apostolic community to confirm their preaching of the gospel message in the early years of the Church. Once the Word of God was completed, the signs ceased. Miraculous signs were no longer needed.” (p. 149)

The scripture used as a proof text for this position is 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, which we are discussing now.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

This position is based on a reading of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 which says, “.. when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part is done away with”. The phrase, “… that which is perfect…” is interpreted to be the completed Canon of Scripture (that is the New Testament). This brings us down to approximately 400 A.D. The words, “…that which is in part will be done away with…”, refer to the Spiritual Gifts (miracles, healing, etc.). This is a widely held position by both Reformed and Dispensationalist scholars. The ARGUMENT follows these lines: 1) the word “perfect” is a neuter noun and refers to a thing and not a person. Since Scripture is a thing and is neuter in gender, it must be the “perfect” to which Paul is referring. 2) This concept fits well with Paul’s illustration in verses 11-12. Scripture and knowledge. These gifts were “childish” while Scripture is “mature”. These gifts give “dim” images and “partial” knowledge contrasted with Scripture which reflects perfectly and conveys full on knowledge. Some of the WEAKNESSES of this position are: 1) While “perfect” is neuter, it should not necessarily be equated with another neuter noun. A neuter noun or pronoun can be used to describe masculine and/or feminine things or even persons. One example is the word “begotten” (John 3:6) which is neuter as a reference to Jesus, which is masculine. The word “Spirit” is also neuter, but it is clear from Scripture that even though neuter, He is not an “it” but a “He”. 2) The interpretation calls for a leaving of the immediate context to determine the identity of “perfect”. The proponents look to 2 Timothy 3:15-16 when “Scripture” is neuter to file their case. Certainly the Corinthians did not have 2 Timothy at their disposal to help them interpret the text.

2 Timothy 3:15-16 (NIV)
15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

If not “Scripture”, then what is “the perfect”? A British scholar, F.F. Bruce, says that “perfect” is the second coming of Christ. (Bruce, F.F., 1 & 2 Corinthians, p. 122). This certainly fits well within the context of the overall book. 1 Corinthians 1:7 gives that very impression.

1 Corinthians 1:7 (NIV)
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

Position 3: Signs and wonders continue today

In my opinion all of scripture supports this position as does church history.

Now, let’s talk about love a little more.

Paul tells us that love is patient.

The second half of verse four gives us some tips for being patiently loving or lovingly patient

1 Corinthians 13:4b (NIV)
…It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Love does not envy

Love does not boast (vaunteth)
(brag, vaunt)

Love is not proud

And we also see that

Love is kind

Paul tells us what love being kind looks like in

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

It is not rude

Are you aware of your own rudeness? Do you catch yourself being rude? Do you ever say “I don’t mean to be rude but ……” as though somehow this is an excuse for being rude. If someone says I don’t mean to be rude but.. to you, you need to kindly go (cover ears and go lalalalalalal). You are helping them.

It is not self-seeking

It is not easily angered

It doesn’t say love never gets angry, there is an appropriate anger.

It keeps no record of wrongs

Just like verses 4 and 5 fit together, so do verses 6 through 8. They point us to the source that makes living a life of love possible, they help us to get our eyes on Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8 (NIV)
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Love rejoices with the truth

It is only possible to even hope to love this way by getting our eyes focused on Him and trying to live by doing the next right thing. With Jesus as our center of our lives we can begin to experience the love expressed in verses 7 and 8.

Love never fails

How does love never fail? Paul again helps to define this amazing love, this time by telling us what love does.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It always protects

It always trusts

It always hopes

It always perseveres

This type of unfailing love is expressed to us by the Lord. As we can begin to recognize and experience this love for us by Him, we can then begin to love others in this way.

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1 thankful5 and/or Comment

  1. Donna Jo says:

    Thanks Pastor Steve, Very informative.

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