1 CORINTHIANS 13:8-13;
SPIRITUAL GIFTS: PAST, PRESENT
Comparing 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 13:8-13; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16; and Hebrews 5:12 to 6:1.
1 Cor 13:8 "Charity never faileth; Whether
there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
1 Cor 13:9 For we know in part, and we
prophesy in part.
1 Cor 13:10 But WHEN that which is perfect is
come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Cor 13:11 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.
1 Cor 13:12 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 I am known.
Cor 13:13 And
now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Paul declared that, sometime in the future, the
gift of prophecies shall fail; tongues shall cease, and knowledge (12:8) will vanish
away (13:8). This will happen because they are only "in part," or partial, revelations of knowledge about Christ
(13:9). They will be needed only until "that which is perfect (complete, mature, grown up) is come (13:10).
When will "that which is perfect"
(spiritual maturity) come and dispose of the three gifts? If, as some say, this refers to the coming of Christ, then the text
must teach that all believers will remain spiritual children until Christ comes. The fact that spiritual maturity is attainable
elsewhere in Scripture seriously challenges this interpretation. Others claim tongues still exist, but discard the office
of prophet. Still others claim the office of prophet still exists, but discards tongues. However, the correct understanding
must include or discard all three.
Perhaps the key is the word "knowledge"
(Greek: gnosis). In 12:8 a manifestation of the Spirit included a "word of knowledge." Gentiles in the early Church
desperately needed this gift to reveal to them the whole truth about Christ. Jewish Christians, still attached to the Law,
also needed special knowledge to break them from Old Covenant thinking.
In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 Paul uses the metaphor of a "veil" worn by those under incomplete
Old Covenant knowledge (3:14). When the New Testament truth about Christ is realized, that veil is removed (3:16). Now, as
we behold the reflected glory of God in a mirror (which is knowledge about Christ), we are being changed. This
happens in the present!!! Chapter 4, verse one, continues, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry..," thus linking it to Ephesians
While 1st Corinthians 13:12 says the childish gifts from the Holy Spirit do not reveal much in a mirror,
2nd Corinthians 3:18 uses the metaphor of a mirror differently. Through the Holy Spirit's revelation of the New Covenant,
"the glory of the Lord" is revealed, which transforms, or matures.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles;
and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastor and teachers [pastor-teachers].
Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting [equipping] of the saints for the work
of the ministry [and] for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
Son of God, unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:14 [In order] that
we henceforth be no more children, tosses to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine..."
In Ephesians 4, apostles, prophets,
evangelists, and pastor-teachers were given to the Church to "equip" the "saints." The apostles
"equipped" the early Church by giving their eyewitness knowledge of Jesus. The prophets "equipped"
the early Church with extra-special knowledge of Christ's Person, redemption, protection. and return.
The "saints" would then
"do the work of the ministry" and "edify, or build up" the Church. This work of the saints
would continue UNTIL the Church reached unity of faith, unity about Christ and maturity, that is, spiritual perfection.
Afterwards the Church would not be as children.
First Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 use similar wording:
"knowledge" (13:8) c.f. "knowledge of the Son of God" (4:13);
"child," (13:11) c.f. "no more children" (4:14);
"when I became a man" (13:11) c.f.
"unto a perfect man" (4:13);
end partial knowledge and prophecy (13:9,10) c.f. no longer "children tossed to and fro." (4:14).
Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have
need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk,
and not the strong meat.
Heb 5:13 For every one that uses milk is
unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
Heb 5:14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age [teleion],
even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Heb 6:1 Therefor leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us
go on unto perfection [maturity: teleioteta]
Hebrews 5:12 to 6:1 complete the picture about the perfection, or maturity of the Church. Spiritual "babies," cling to
"milk" "first principles" (5:12). As long as they continue such action, they will never become "skilful
in the word of righteousness" (5:13). Such is the state of believers who do not mature beyond elementary doctrines
and childish gifts such as prophets, tongues, and special knowledge!
Christian perfection, or spiritual maturity, only comes to those who partake of "solid food,"
advanced doctrine such as that of Melchizedek (5:10-12). Only by using the solid food, the word of righteousness,
does this perfection come (5:14). The author of Hebrews refused to linger any longer with these "baby milk" doctrines,
and proceeds into the deeper theology of Christ's High Priesthood. It must be done!
When will the "partial" gifts of prophecy,
tongues, and special knowledge end? For most, they ended gradually as the full knowledge about Christ and the New Covenant
became available through the written gospels and epistles during first centuries. For those who have no (written) full
instruction, they are still necessary for partial revelation of God's will. Such is the difference between "milk"
and "solid food," and between "childish things" and "maturity."
Since most Christians today have the full knowledge
of the gospel of Christ in the Scriptures, there is no need for special partial revelation through a prophet. Jesus
said "I am THE truth" in John 14:6. Everything needed for salvation has been revealed already through the written
word of God (Acts 20:20, 27; 1 Cor 15:3; Gal 1:8,9; Col 1:28).