In this post we proceed our meditative explorations on 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s well-known ‘love chapter’. This is always the first thing I think about when people say ‘Paul isn’t important’ for whatever kind of reason. I can’t believe that anyone would want a bible without 1 Corinthians 13, and Gods message to mankind that was brought by Jesus is not complete without an understanding of what Paul is saying here.
Let’s just read the next part slowly:
Love never ends.
But if there are prophecies,
they will be set aside;
if there are tongues,
they will cease;
if there is knowledge,
it will be set aside.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part,
but when what is perfect comes,
the partial will be set aside.
This is a well-known piece of the bible, not only used for meditation but also for fierce theological discussions.
Some have used this piece for the defence of cessationism, which is the idea that the supernatural works of the Spirit have ceased after the time of the apostles. I don’t see how one could make that exegesis without having to conclude that not only speaking in tongues and prophecies, but knowledge itself would have ceased. And knowledge is quite important to most cessationists I’ve met. Also in this interpretation it seems that one has to conclude that the ‘perfect’ that will come is the canon of the bible. I really can’t see that work at all…
No, the piece is just noting the fallibleness of everything in this fallen world, in contrast with the love this chapter is speaking about. You don’t have to be postmodern to have a very humble epistemology! Just reading 1 Corinthians 1′ may suffice…
Prophecies, tongues and knowledge are incomplete in this age, but they will be perfected in the next age, when the Kingdom of God comes. So the last verse here really is eschatological.
Read the piece again. Let every detail sink in.
Everything is incomplete in this world. Our religious things as well as the non-religious, and we are just fallible humans.
One day there will be a perfection of Creation, but we won’t see it in this lifetime… And then the partial, the incomplete will be set aside.
Love will be completed then… We can not even start to understand what that might mean, but it surely will be good!