1 Corinthians 13:8-12
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
1 Cor. 13:8 (Holman) Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
Since love never ends, we are assured of at least four traits about love. One, love is always appropriate.
We will never be in a situation where love will not be an ornament and a delight. The Holy Spirit is always a perfect gentleman. Jesus handled embarrassing situations with love. When the four could not get their friend through the crowd, they broke a hole in the roof, interrupting Jesus’ preaching (MK 2). His response was gentle, “Arise, take up your bed, and go your way.”
Two, love is always accessible. We can show it anytime we want to. If we choose to love, the Holy Spirit will empower us. Not all can preach, speak with tongues, or have knowledge. But all can love. It is the universal gift. Jesus offers to let a never-ending supply flow through us. “Return often to and drink deeply from this well of God’s heart” (Alan Johnson).
Three, love is always effective. Love has to be the world’s most potent force. Life isn’t worth living without it. A lady who committed suicide had written in her diary for days, “No one came today.”
Why do we want to live tomorrow? Because there is someone who loves us, and whom we want to see, be with, and love back. There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are loved (Drummond).
At times of stress and discouragement, the love of Christ through Ruth has sustained me. In recent events, your love as a congregation has strengthened our family. Life’s sustaining power source is love.
For obedience’s sake, a man will fetch as little water as possible, but if his wife is dying of thirst he will bring water until he drops in exhaustion. What’s the difference? Love.
As Eliot the missionary grew older, his strength seemed to increase even as his physical body declined. What kept him going? Near death, he said, “I have lost everything; my understanding leaves me, my utterance fails me, my memory fails me; but I thank God my love holds out still; and I find it rather grows than fails.” Love was his power source.
Our church’s effectiveness in reaching others lies in love. The world dislikes our message and wants to withdraw from us. We tend to react the same way, but we must not let them slip away. We must find ways to express our love to them. They view us as enemies. We must convince them otherwise. The love of the father drew the prodigal son back home. The love of the Father through us is our best hope of wooing the world back to Him.
Four, love always lasts. It animates our most cherished memories. As we look back on our lives, the moments that stand out, the ones where we really lived, are the times when we did things in love (Drummond). We also remember loving deeds done for us. When I was 16, I visited my Uncle Dan in Georgia. Under a glass on his desk, he had put a news story he had clipped from the newspaper about my having been licensed to preach. I was moved when I saw it. Grandma Marshall stepped from the crowd one day when I was leaving for college and said, “Little Johnny, we love you and miss you.”
What do we cherish most about Christ’s life? His sermons, knowledge, miracles? No, the Cross! We deem it the everlasting monument to His love.
Love will last forever. An immortal soul feels a need to give itself to something immortal (Drummond). Therefore, love.
1 Cor. 13:9a “For we know in part, . . .”
We know very little, though we claim otherwise, and the little we do know is mixed with error and trivia. Much of what we take pride in having learned was discovered accidentally. Cars have good tires because in 1839 Charles Goodyear by chance dropped some rubber and sulphur on a hot stove. Columbus headed for India, but found America. Bell wanted a better hearing aid, but wound up with a telephone.
At best, we know in part. We need this reminder. Anyone amassing knowledge must be cautious. The pursuit can become a source of pride.
The more we learn, the more we need to humble ourselves before God. The higher our level of knowledge goes, the lower our heads need to bow in prayer. Preachers and Sunday School teachers, as time goes by, I urge you to spend more and more time in prayer. Years of learning can cause us to lean more on our own intellect and less on God. Be careful! Be humble.
When we gather to worship, intellect must not be overly emphasized among us. A church is not a place to showcase philosophers, clever persons, or highly trained minds. Church is for the contrite and brokenhearted. Our purpose is not to dazzle each other with information, but to help each other live a better life.
Recognizing we know in part can stimulate us. Realizing our lack of knowledge should prompt in us a never ending desire to gain more knowledge of God. Search the Scriptures. Seek to know more of God and His ways.
Never become satisfied with your level of knowledge. Desire to learn more. Don’t let knowledge fossilize. Avoid hardening of the smarteries. Remain studious. Keep learning of Jesus.
1 Cor. 13:9b “. . .and we prophesy in part.”
Partial knowledge characterizes even people who are called to speak God’s truths. God has revealed everything to no one.
Even the spiritual giant, Paul, was beset with partial knowledge. He dove deeper and deeper into the doctrine of predestination, but gave up, declaring, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God: how unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways” (Romans 11:33).
1 Cor. 13:10-11 “But when that which is perfect is come, then that
which is in part shall be done away. 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.”
Paul compared our present life to childhood; our future to adulthood. Our childish ways will someday mature. Partial knowledge will be exchanged for perfect knowledge.
Remembering we are in childhood helps us not to expect too much of each other. Remaining constantly aware we all are deficient in knowledge can save deep disappointments toward our fellow believers.
Our limited, child-like knowledge is appropriate to our present condition. God blessed us by not letting us know all His secrets. If we knew how sinful our sins truly are, and how holy God is, we would collapse in despair.
If we knew all trials, sorrows, deaths, and other calamities that will befall us, life would become immediately intolerable. Mercy wove the veil that hides the future. God will let us see the future only when the future contains total bliss.
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 also I am known.”
“Glass” means a mirror. “Darkly” means in a riddle, indistinctly. Corinth was famous for its mirrors. Ancient mirrors, made of metal, left much to be desired, at their best giving an imperfect reflection.
Similarly, our knowledge of God is indirect and indistinct. We discern things at a distance, as though in clouds and obscurity, but this blurred vision of God will someday be replaced by a face-to-face look.
In Heaven, we will know God as we are now known by Him. While we are on Earth, God knows us completely, but we see Him “darkly.” In Heaven the light of His presence will remove all riddles and all darkness.
Heaven’s best attraction will be God. When John the Revelator entered Heaven, he saw God the Father first (4:2ff), God the Son second (5:6ff), and spoke of the city’s beauty last.