Vol.XX No.V Pg.7
July 1983

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Oct. 13,82 L.A.M. wrote, "You have never written anything on 1 Cor. 13:8-10. I am not going to let you get away with that.

Reply: (admittedly delayed)

I believe Shipley and I have written on this, but will never exhaust the matter. For whatever it's worth...

Paul says prophecies and knowledge shall be done away, tongues shall cease. He likens these miraculous gifts to "that which is in part," and contrasts them with to teleion, "the perfect" ("thing" because neuter). He further explains this "perfecting" by comparison with the growing-up process: "when I was a child" (vepios) with "now am become a man."

Note likeness of this language to Eph. 4:11-f. Christ "gave some to be" apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These gifts were for perfecting of saints, work of ministering, building up of the body, "till we all attain unto...a full grown (teleion, 'complete') man" — v. 14, "that we may be no longer children (vepioi). Or, compare with Phil. 3:11-f. where Paul depicts the new life as a progressive struggle or trying. "Not that I...am already made perfect" (from teleios), but "I press on toward the goal..."

These passages have one thing in common: the "perfect" means "complete or mature" and represents the goal to which the parts contribute. I believe that is the key to this study.

There are scriptures (1 Thes. 1:10, 2 Thes. 2:1-f) which indicate 1st. Century Christians expected an early return of the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:6-8 even relates gifts to that expectation. The point may be that anti- cipation had an ethical value, intensifying their faith for a time (Cf. 1 Cor. 15). But if time setting was involved they were mistaken. (Study 2 Tim. 4:3-8.)

The neuter gender ("that which") of 1 Cor. 13:10 does not fit with the actual return of Christ. (We would expect "He who...") Further, the "perfect" (full grown, mature) of our text must be interpreted as the goal toward which the "parts" progress. Were the miraculous prophecies, knowledge and tongues "parts" of Christ's personal return, or "parts" of the revelation of His will, the New Covenant? I think the latter.

We are told all revelation is consummated in the personal coming, and in a sense this is true, but it seems to strain this particular context. Paul was urging the Corinthians to "grow up," to cease acting as though "gifts" were their own end. They were the means to the attaining of a full grown (full of love) life in Christ.

Miraculous gifts were for the purpose of confirming the source of the gospel message (Mk. 16:20, Heb. 2:1-4), and reason dictates they would cease when this was accomplished. "Now we see in a mirror, darkly..." etc., may refer to progressive revelation, consummated in the complete word. I would not hesitate to so use it. But v.12 could also fit the progression on the part of all saints (including Paul, Phil. 3:12-14) toward a full-grown Christian life. Think about it!