The good and the most excellent: Devotional Commentary for May 7-13
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NASB)
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
Who can separate us from the Love of God!
13:8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
Following his description of Love as the Most Excellent Way, Paul introduces us to Love's unparalleled supreme quality. In just a few succinct words, Paul affirms that God's Love is eternal. It never declines, fades, or terminates unlike the Gifts of knowledge, discerning revelations, and speaking in other tongues.
The cessation or termination of the Gifts noted in this verse must be viewed in context lest the message of the entire text is distorted by the conventional import of the expressions, "cease, or done away." These expressions often bear the connotation that something unwittingly came to an abrupt end, or had fallen short of its intended fulfillment, or had faded into oblivion. An unwise ascription of such implications to the text would unfortunately suggest exactly that.
Worse yet, we would be accusing God of being purposeless, aimless, or unreliable in what He does or gives. God forbid that we should dare assess the unsearchable wisdom of God the Almighty?! Dare we, vessels of clay, judge our Maker, the POTTER?
To be sure, Paul is actually revealing Love's unparalleled supreme quality by comparing its eternality to the divinely-planned-fulfillment of spiritual Gifts. Prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will be finally fulfilled and exercised into heavenly perfection; therefore, they will cease. There is nothing more to be done to what is fulfilled or completed as planned. So cessation or termination in this case is not abrupt or unmeant discontinuance, but fulfillment and completion as intended by the Giver. But God's Love continues-on even after prophecies, tongues, and knowledge come to their respective fulfillment according to God’s Purposed-divine-design. God's Love is timeless. It is the very Attribute of God.
9For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
Candidly and in truth, Paul reminds us that our capacity and ability to exercise God's spiritual Gifts, and our understanding of the mystery of the nature and the function of those Gifts are incomplete or imperfect at best. Because the excellence of God's Love escapes our comprehension, Our response to the operation of the Gifts by the Holy Spirit leaves much to be desired. We are flawed and finite. At best, our understanding of the bestowal and exercise of spiritual Gifts is partial. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit continues to administer His Gifts while preserving us in His Love.
The fulfillment of spiritual Gifts is substantiated by the coming of the complete or the perfect. We find no clear indication in this text as to who or what the complete or the perfect might be. However, the Scriptures unequivocally direct our attention to our returning Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the fulfillment of all of our anticipations, hopes, and faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Perfect One and the Completer of all things, Whose coming we long to see, that He might satisfy every hopeful anticipation of His children. Until then, we persevere by faith, knowing that when the Perfect comes, all deficiencies will be transformed into wholeness.
11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
Alluding to human growth and development to illustrate the difference between the incomplete and the complete, and, between the temporal and the eternal, Paul says, when he was a child, he spoke, understood, thought, and reasoned as a child because he was a child. Now as an adult, he put away childish things because they are of little value in the world of the mature. In other words, his mode of operation was in keeping with his developmental stage. He could not have done otherwise.
In view of that, our inability to understand the supremacy of God's Love is tantamount to being children in the things of God. We are still growing into adulthood, maturing in Christ under the Care of the Holy Spirit. When we become adults in Christ, we will be delivered from earthly imperfections and become fulfilled in Christ’s perfection.
Our comprehensions, communications, and contemplations are imperfect because we are constrained by our finiteness. At best, we see a blurred image of the Truth as if we observe through a mirror due to our limitations as humans. However, when we come face-to-face before our Lord, what we now view dimly will be fully revealed. What we now know partially will be clear and fully known. Our knowledge and understanding will be as complete as we are known by God. Until then, holding ever so tightly to the guiding hands of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to progress from the partial to the complete and from the dim to the clear, as we flourish in Christ under the supreme excellence of His Love.
13:13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
So Faith, Hope, and Love remain above and beyond everything else. But Love stands supreme because it is eternally perfect and endures forever. Faith and Hope will be complete when Christ the Substance of our faith and hope appears. Then Faith and Hope shall persist in heaven as fulfilled aspects of Christian anticipation.
God's Love shall persist as the essence of God's care toward us and as the compelling intrinsic power of worship we offer to our Father. God's Love is uncreated and has no beginning or end because it is God’s Attribute. Faith will be ultimately answered by the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the Substance, the Author, and the Finisher of Faith. Hope will be fully satisfied when we behold the glory of our Savior at His glorious appearing.
Although the sustaining ministry of Faith and Hope is more apparent on earth than in heaven, their eternal significance remains just as profound because of the presence of the One Who personifies their fulfillment. God's Love stands superior to Faith and Hope in that it continues to nurture all relationships in heaven for ever and ever into eternity, without end. We shall no longer live by Faith in Hope with anticipation. We flourish in the Love of our Father in endless bliss. Love is God's Power which makes us one in Him and with Him.
Every good and perfect Gift is from above, from God our gracious Father. Every spiritual Gift is, therefore, good because all gifts are given by Him. Love is even more so because it is God's Love. However, because we are easily mesmerized by the impressive manifestation of spiritual Gifts, we celebrate the good at the expense of the best.
- Betrayed by our own flawed perception of spiritual Gifts, we wink at God's Love and aimlessly wander chasing after the spectacular in a life of spiritual drudgery with no meaning and significance.
- Beguiled by our own passing excitement toward spiritual Gifts, we disregard the transforming power of God's Love and vainly labor to do God's work in our own way.
- Blinded by our own flawed sentiments toward the impressive manifestation of spiritual Gifts, we fail to experience the uniting power of God's Love and live in disfellowship victimized by feelings of loneliness and unworthiness.
Spiritual Gifts are good. They are the means by which God engages the talents, skills, and other amazing capabilities He has given to us for His Purpose. But God instills His Love in us because He expresses Himself through His Love. When God's Love is actively alive in us, we become unlike ourselves and behave as God's faithful servants fully available to His Will and Purpose.
When God's Love prevails in our hearts and is the moving force of our life, our natural inclinations and the tendencies of our sin-nature will be less appealing to us. Thus, being motivated and empowered by the most excellent way, we begin to recognize the excellence of our calling to stand in the gap and serve as God's conduits for proclaiming His Good News and for sharing His blessings. We deny ourselves so that we might be empty of ourselves and be available.
When God's Love is the prevailing Power in our hearts, the Attributes of our loving Father transform our attitudes toward God and the world around us. We begin to rejoice in serving others in the name of Christ, and exalt our Father in worship.
Standing assured in the security of God's Love, we rise to the occasion of our calling because we are set free from the bondage of our ungodly inclinations. God's Love will make us selfless, enabling us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In God's Love, we experience the true essence of our redemption and understand the supreme significance of our calling in His service.
Moved by the Spirit Who causes us to exclaim Abba Father, we rejoice in the flow of God's Love through our souls breaking into a beautiful chorus of surrender and worship.