Church of Christ Deism: That Which Is Perfect, Part 2

i_dont_believe_in_miracles_i_rely_on_them_tshirt-p235921785579041865yk07_400The maturity argument

There’s another possible interpretation. “Perfection” or “that which is perfect” (teleios) is always translated “mature” or “adult” elsewhere in 1 Corinthians. I could refer to maturity — especially maturing in love for each other.

(1 Cor 2:6)  We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

(1 Cor 14:20)  Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

The same is true in several other places, where teleios refers to a person —

(Phil 3:15)  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

(Col 1:28)  We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

(Col 4:12)  Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

(Heb 5:14)  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

(James 1:4)  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Thus, the argument can be made that teleios refers to the mature Christian — particularly a Christian who has matured in love — as gifts are given for the immature —

(1 Cor 12:22-25)  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Paul certainly seems to be arguing in the highlighted passages that God sometimes gives greater gifts to those Christians with the greatest needs. Having a spectacular gift may well be grounds for humility — God gave you more because you needed more!

And so, we can attempt a different translation —

(1 Cor 13:8-13)  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease [when we mature in love]; where there are tongues, they will be stilled [when we mature in love]; where there is knowledge, it will pass away [when we mature in love]. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when [maturity in love] comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man [mature in love], I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then [when I am mature] I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain [even for the fully mature]: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It’s not without its difficulties, but it fits the theme of leave childish things behind and pressing on to the most excellent gift of all: love.

The hardest part of this translation is the “face to face” and “know fully, even as I am fully known” passages.

Highly relevant, at least to me, is the parallel between 1 Cor. 13:8-14 and Eph. 4:11-13–

(Eph. 4:11-13) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

“Mature” again translates teleios. Paul urges his readers to obtain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” as something that might be accomplished in this earthly existence as a result of “works of service” leading to being “built up” and “unity” and “knowledge of the Son of God” and maturity.

It’s truly hard to imagine actually attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ while living in these earthen vessels. But that’s what the book says. And this gives a clue to Paul’s similarly ethereal language in 1 Cor. 13. But he sure seems to say in Ephesians that, through works of service (acts of love) we will “reach … the knowledge of the Son of God.” The thought is that by living as Jesus lived (doing acts of love), we grow closer to him and in our knowledge of him. To gain the fullness of being Christ-like, the path is through service to others.

A similar thought is found in 2 Cor. 3–

(2 Cor. 3:18) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Paul’s argument is that the glory of Moses’ face, which came from talking with God “face to face” (Ex. 33:11), is much less than the glory experienced by Christians. Moses’ glory faded after he left the presence of God, but we never leave God’s presence, because through his Spirit, his presence never leaves us! Hence, our glory (the manifestation of God’s presence) never fades.

In Paul’s mind, we Christians see God face to face in the here and now.

(2 Cor. 4:6) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

“Knowledge” in 1 Cor. 13 is not book or law learning, but knowledge of Jesus. And that knowledge is available even today. Paul’s argument seems to be that if Moses could see God face to face, then we, in whom God lives through his Spirit, can know Jesus and know him better than Moses did. Indeed, we can attain “the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” right here on this earthly plane.

Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean knowing all the answers to the philosopher’s questions. It means knowing his heart, which is why the path to such knowledge begins with works of service in Eph. 4. And which is why Paul emphasizes love in 1 Cor. 13. Love is the greatest gift because it brings us nearest to knowing the heart of Jesus.

And so, try this paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:8-14–

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease [when we mature in love]; where there are tongues, they will be stilled [when we mature in love]; where there is [miraculous] knowledge, it will pass away [when we mature in love]. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when [mature love] comes, the [partial] [1] disappears.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [mature] man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; when we are fully [matured in love] we shall see face to face [just as Moses did] [2]. Now I know [Jesus] in part; then I shall know [Jesus] [3] fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

[1] The Greek is not “imperfect” but “the thing in part” in parallel to v. 9.

[2] “Face to face” would be well known to those familiar with the Old Testament to be an allusion to Moses’ conversation with God on Mt. Sinai, an event which took place in earthly existence, not in the end times. The phrase is used several times in reference to Moses’ special relationship with God. Consider–

(Deut. 34:10-12) Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Here the author associates the doing of great miracles with knowing God face to face. Hence, Paul’s argument is from irony – in contrast to Moses, we will come to see God face to face only when we’ve outgrown miracles! Hence, the Christian experience is to be even greater than Moses’.

Compare–

(Luke 7:28) I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John [the Baptist]; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

(Luke 10:23-24) Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

We tend to undervalue the knowledge of Jesus that all Christians share, but the scripture speak of this knowledge as precious indeed.

[3] By analogy to Eph. 4:13 and Paul’s use of “know” in 1 Cor.–

(1 Cor. 2:2) For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

(1 Cor 2:16) “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Moreover, the context is about Christians (persons) being “known” by Christ (a person). Hence, knowledge of persons is at issue, not knowledge of doctrine. The parallel is clearly our knowing Jesus just as Jesus knows us! See also 2 Cor. 4:6 —

(2 Cor. 4:6) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Summary

Each theory presents its own problems, but the first theory — that “that which is perfect” means the New Testament — is the least satisfying. How would the prediction that spiritual gifts will expire with the completion of the New Testament have mattered to the Corinthian church? How does it fit the context of chapters 12 – 14? It just doesn’t fit.

And has the New Testament provided us with complete knowledge? If so, why do I have so many unanswered questions? You see, Paul is surely talking about a different kind of knowlege in v. 12.

The end of time argument may well be correct, and if so, it implies that miraculous gifts will continue to the end of time. But why does Paul say that faith, hope, and love “remain”? Remain after what doesn’t? We’d have to figure that faith and hope survive the End of time. But —

(Rom 8:24)  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

(Heb 11:1)  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

It seems that hope and faith necessarily end at the End of time. Therefore, they must “remain” (“abideth” in KJV) after something that ends sooner. What?

On the other hand, as Bobby Valentine has pointed out, the Church Fathers nearly unanimously adopted this interpretation — which is important, first, because it means they didn’t adopt the perfection = New Testament argument, and they were there when it all happened.

The maturity in love argument fits the best, in my opinion — and I know that many will disagree. But if you study Paul’s language regarding knowledge and the presence of the Spirit, the difficulties aren’t so difficult — rather, he is saying that these gifts are marks of immaturity and they’ll be replaced by something much better when you grow up into Christ through faith, hope, and love, especially love. These will remain after you mature in love. And it nicely parallels Ephesians 4.

And it fits precisely with —

(1 Cor 14:20)  Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults [teleios].

It just seems odd to me that Paul would use teleios to mean “heaven” or “the end of time” in chapte 13 when discussing putting away childish things, and then in the midst of the very same metaphor in a continuation of his discussion of the gifts of the Spirit use teleios to mean mature or adults.

Either way, it’s clear that Paul’s point isn’t that the gifts will expire when the New Testament is written. Certainly the Church Fathers didn’t think that was the message. Either they continue until the church (or the individual Christian) outgrows the need for the gifts — or they continue until the end of time.

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35 Responses

  1. It seems to me that mature or sometimes spiritual means this, that person really understands their need for God. Maturity traditionally meant someone who knew a lot about the Bible and was older. Mature to me is someone who is willing to suffer in faith, love the unloveable, not count the cost and DO what God calls them to do regardless of age or Bible knowledge.

  2. I’ve often argued that this is the only interpretation that seems to respect the overall theme of 1 Corinthians, as well as the usage of the word by Paul in earlier chapters. It makes the most sense to me. Thank you for an excellent presentation of this view; now when someone asks me to defend it, I’ll just say, “Go see what Jay wrote.” 🙂

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  3. Thomas was invited to examine the wounds of Christ’s miraculously transformed body when told, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    This is consistent with Jesus’ words in John 10:38 and 14:11, where belief because of the miraculous seems to be treated as a less mature faith.

    And who can forget the mistake that Simon the sorceror made in Acts 8:9-24 … possibly because his faith was not only selfish, but in the wrong thing (the miraculous) and not in Christ – because his faith was not mature? (He did seem to wise up fast, though!)

  4. Either way, it’s clear that Paul’s point isn’t that the gifts will expire when the New Testament is written.

    Not at all. The traditional view fits perfectly.

    Here’s what is clear: tongues, prophecies, and knowledge were “in part”. Something else is contrasted to that, as “complete” or “mature” or “perfect”. That leads to two inescapable conclusions.

    1) The word contrasted to “in part” should be translated “complete”. Something that is not “in part” is complete. “Mature” is incongruent. So is “perfect” at least as commonly used in modern English vernacular.

    2) In order for the contrast to be meaningful, the “complete” thing must be of the same kind as the “in part” thing. When we have the complete , the partial is no longer needed. The two blanks must be filled in with something of the same kind.

    So, what fills in those two blanks?

    Tongues (when interpreted), prophecies, and knowledge all consist of God-breathed truth. So, what “complete” thing would also consist of God-breathed truth? Certainly, the completed NT canon at least must be considered as a possible answer.

    The Corinthians would have understood from this letter that tongues, prophecies, and knowledge would all pass away, but love would not. They would therefore have understood Paul’s point, that they were pursuing the wrong gifts. The bit about when the “complete” came would likely have eluded them. But it wasn’t pertinent to their understanding of Paul’s point. That bit was provided for our benefit, not theirs.

    It seems to me that you have a priori rejected the traditional interpretation. Your evidence for rejecting it consists entirely of alternative views, which have their own difficulties. You’ve presented no evidence from the text itself supporting the rejection of the traditional view.

  5. As I have written on my blog at http://adisciplesthoughts.blogspot.com/2008/10/end-of-spiritual-gifts.html, I believe that the apostle Paul was referring to the return of Christ as the time when spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues and prophesying would end.

    I have heard the argument that mature love would bring an end to the spiritual gifts, but I’m not sure about it. I was not given the gift of tongues when I first became a Christian, presumably when I was the least mature. Even now, I’m not sure that I’m so mature that I would not benefit from several of the gifts that I do not have. In addition, I’m not sure that the lack of spiritual gifts among other Christians indicates that they are mature in their love either. I’m not sure that the apostles who had such gifts could be considered less mature than me and most other Christians who do not speak in tongues. As a practical matter, I’m not seeing this argument in action.

    However, your post has raised a good question about faith, hope, and love remaining. Could the Greek word for “remain” be understood differently?

    Paul also used the word “now”…”And now these three remain.” Is he necessarily referring to the end times? After all, he said “now” rather than something like “in the future, these three will remain.”

    Could he have been using a figure of speech to indicate that faith, hope, and love were even more important than the spiritual gifts?

  6. I was not given the gift of tongues when I first became a Christian, presumably when I was the least mature. Even now, I’m not sure that I’m so mature that I would not benefit from several of the gifts that I do not have.

    Your comment reveals a fallacy in understanding gifts. The gifts are not given for the benefit of the individual possessing the gift, but for the benefit of the church as a whole.

    1Co 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

    1Co 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

    1Co 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

  7. “Remains” or “abides” is meno (Strong’s 3306). Zodhiates defines as remain, abide, dwell. Regarding 1 Cor 13:13, he gives “remain, endure, last.”

    “Now” translates nuni, which is the emphatic form of nun, meaning “now.”

    In English, “now” is used idiomatically for something like “Now I say …” as in “Now, we should all realize how difficult this is to translate.”

    I think the Greek may be similar. For example,

    (1 Cor 14:6) Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

    There “now” is not really temporal.

    (1 Cor 15:20) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

    “Indeed” translates nuni.

    So the meaning can refer to “at the present time” or not, I think. Grosheide agrees that “now” introduces a conclusion, rather than meaning “in the present.” NI Commentary on 1 Cor. And it really seems hard to fit “at the present time” into 1 Cor 13:13 — as Paul seems to be making a contrast — these three remain; some other things do not.

    Which means Paul’s point is that faith, hope, and love endure.

    I should say, arguing against my own case, that although faith and hope expire at the Eschaton, they only expire in the sense of being fully realized. We’ll still believe in God, and while we won’t hope for our salvation, we’ll have our hope in hand.

    Therefore, an argument can be made that all three remain after the Second Coming in a sense, which would allow the interpretation to be made that gifts will continue to the Second Coming.

    I continue to ponder the case, but still find the use of teleios in 14:20 to mean “adult” compelling.

  8. Alan,
    You are right, and I was wrong. I was not thinking biblically. Thanks for correcting my understanding.

    Jay,
    Thanks for sharing the information on the meaning of the Greek words. I continue to see the earliest understanding of 1 Corinthians 13 as more compelling, but I appreciate your help in understanding your view.

  9. I am baffled by this. I am 50 and have attended churches of Christ all my life. I have never heard that

    “10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

    “perfection” refers to the New Testament. I never heard that this was the “traditional” interpretation.

    This seems to be a simple, almost redundant, statement that when something is finished or complete it is no longer unfinished or incomplete. I don’t see any great mystical meaning about anything.

    I guess I am too dense to comprehend something greater.

  10. I should say, arguing against my own case, that although faith and hope expire at the Eschaton, they only expire in the sense of being fully realized.

    If we are speaking of faith and hope as gifts of the Holy Spirit, then I think we can safely say that they will expire when we receive our inheritance. Then we will not need supernatural help in order to believe in God, nor to hope for something we’ve never seen.

  11. I believe, if we fully and completely grasp how all encompassing the implications of agape truly are, then we surpass the need for miraculous manifestations of the Spirit to confirm or demonstrate our faith in Jesus.

    But that does not negate God’s power to manifest miracles.

  12. Jay, thank you for your usual well-researched and well-presented material. I would like to offer an alternative explanation. I see the “perfect/mature (teleios) as arriving when the “goal” or “end” (telos) of God’s purpose is reached, namely of his people being transformed into the image of his Son. Every major NT passage concerning the grace-gifts (charismata) also includes reference to this “goal” (telos) or to the mature/perfect state when it is reached.

    We forget sometimes that 1 Cor 13 has a context in the epistle — it all grows out of the statement in 1 Cor 1:4-9 that God’s people are fully gifted while they wait for Jesus’ return. Paul says: “I give thanks to my God … that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge . . . so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, AS YOU WAIT for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [duration of gifts] who will sustain you to the end (telos), guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.(v. 4,5,7,8).

    This is all set out in detail in a Word document I prepared for three classes at a university lectureship a few years ago — with an accompanying Power Point slide program — at http://www.EdwardFudge.com/spiritualgifts.doc

  13. ADD TO ABOVE… I meant to add to above that “now abide faith, hope, love” might be saying that although gifts will one day end, “FOR NOW we have faith, hope, love (love being the greatest), so the Corinthians should focus on those things rather than on their misguided notions and uses of the charismata (which are legitimate and important in their proper place and use and motivation).

  14. You make an interesting point about 1 Cor 1:4-9 and similar passages. I think that does provide a framework for understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. But it does not necessarily contradict the view that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit would pass away at a certain time.

    In your paper you said:

    The “perfect” (teleion) in 1 Cor. 13:10 goes back to the End/Goal (telos) in chapter 1 of the same epistle, which stated that the gifts were given while we wait for Jesus’ revelation and that God will confirm us until that occurs and he presents us “blameless.”

    I don’t think that is valid. 1 Cor 1:4-9 promises God will establish us until the end (which in the context is the return of Jesus). 1 Cor 13:10 is speaking of the incompleteness of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, and refers to a time when something complete would displace them. So the two passages are talking about two different things.

    To sum up, the Holy Spirit continues to provide us with gifts until Jesus returns. But certain specific gifts have passed away due to a better, complete gift being given.

  15. I cannot see the traditional cannon complete view in 1 Cor 13. Which version? The Vulgate perhaps? It would make more sense to choose the Gutenburg Bible.
    Why can’t the NT era be like the Mosaic? There are many similarities, including I beleive Miraculous displays. Jesus and the apostles and others, did many things just like Moses with the plagues, Red Sea, cloud & pillar of fire, manna, Jordon River, longest day, etc. But the great outpouring diminished, followed by occassional miracles from Elijah, Elisha, and some others. This is similar to the first century church.
    Like David Hines, I beleive God can manifest miracles whenever He wants. Apparently He confirmed that these were His people from Egypt to Cannan, and again from Jesus to the end of apostolic era. Fits 1 C 13 also, these manifestations are diminishing, but love remains.

  16. Which version?

    Pick one. Jesus apparently did not find it necessary to protest discrepancies in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures). I’m quite confident some of the translation police today would have felt compelled to go there — there is plenty to quibble about in the Septuagint if one is so inclined. I choose to follow Jesus’ example.

    Like David Hines, I beleive God can manifest miracles whenever He wants

    As do I. But when God says tongues, prophecy, and knowledge would pass away, I take him at his word. Maybe there will be a resurgence of gifts before the second coming. God certainly can do that if he chooses. But in the meantime, when I read 1 Cor 13, I’m just doing my best to understand what is written. I’m fallible like everyone else, but I have to go where my understanding leads me.

  17. Alan — brother, you are not unique. We all believe that “when God says [anything, we] take him at his word. When [we] read 1 Cor 13, [we all are] just doing [our] best to understand what is written.” And “[we all] have to go where [our] understanding leads [us].”

  18. Amen, Edward. Thank God there is grace for doctrinal error. I have no illusion of being free from it.

  19. Quick question:

    Why can’t “AS YOU WAIT for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” refer to the completion of the inspired NT? It says revealed rather than return. Couldn’t the revealed indicate the written word? Heb 1:1 tells us God now communicates to us through Jesus Christ. Maybe it’s not a coincidence after all that the last book of the NT is called the Revelation.

  20. I think the un-mentioned part of this passage – the verses following 1 Corinthians 13, in the next chapter – are some of the most revealing: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.”

    Mysteries in the spirit may build up the person speaking, but no one else … unless there’s interpretation. To me, it sounds like the gifts were given for a common purpose (the edification of the saints – 14:5) but were to be used also to benefit the newcomer (vs. 6-25). The call, once again, is to maturity – “Stop thinking like children!” (v.20) and nothing can be plainer than, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” (v. 22)

    Whether this maturity is that of mankind as a race (Romans 5:6; Galatians 3:23-25) or as individuals (Hebrews 5, 6) I don’t know for certain; perhaps, to some degree, both.

    But I have to ask, along with Jay, if it’s solely meant to refer to maturity or perfection of mankind – or to some complete/perfect canon of scripture – how does that help the saints at Corinth in the middle of all this worship chaos? That makes it sound like Paul is saying, “Someday, all these troublesome gifts will be taken away, but in the meantime you’ll just have to deal with it” instead of “These gifts were given to benefit all and glorify God, not to puff up individual egoes. Someday you’ll mature to the point where you understand this, and the sooner the better.”

  21. After having been strongly corrected about which gifts are greater in chapter 13, the recipients of the letter might well have been inclined to completely abandon tongues and prophecies. But, despite the fact that they would pass away, they had not yet passed away. So Paul explained in chapter 14 how they should regard those gifts in the meantime. Prophecy was greater than tongues, unless tongues were interpreted, etc. And he told them how to manage the use of these gifts in the assembly. They were not to be despised, but the Christians needed to keep them in proper perspective. That’s what chapter 14 is about.

    And BTW, that is how I would read chapter 14 regardless of which interpretation we choose of the specific time when those gifts would pass away.

  22. I’m just pursuing the theme of maturity that Jay’s outlined. It seems to continue in chapter 14. It’s not like it isn’t there, bro!

  23. I don’t think 1 Cor 13:9-10 refers to maturity of a person. The partial things are tongues, prophecy, and knowledge. The complete thing is necessarily of the same kind (and therefore is not a person). So, no, the text doesn’t support the ‘theme of maturity’ as you’ve described it.

  24. Necessarily?

  25. In my view, yes, necessarily. Otherwise the text does not make logical sense. Then the comment about the partial nature of tongues and prophecies is irrelevant. So what if they are partial? What does that have to do with anything? Why does that imply that they would pass away? It doesn’t, unless there is something that is not partial that can take their place.

  26. ” 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

    I believe “pass away” is about things that pass away in an individual’s life. I used to be able to do a lot of things physically, mentally, emotionally when I was 20. I cannot do those things now that I am 50. They have passed away for me, but there are things I can do physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually now that I could not do at 20.

    Some things in my life have passed away and some things have become complete.

    That is how I have always read this passage.

  27. I believe “pass away” is about things that pass away in an individual’s life.

    That’s a unique perspective. Then there are several problems reconciling that with the text:
    1) That theory suggests those gifts are provided to support the individual in their immaturity. But remember, the gifts are given for the common good, not for the individual.
    2) Paul spoke in tongues more than all of them. Was he the most immature?
    3) The text says those gifts would pass away because they are partial. How does their partial nature lead to them passing away, if the maturing of the individual were the real reason they pass away? And how does that serve the common good?

  28. Alan,

    Several things.

    (1) Calling what I believe “a theory” angers me. It is not a theory. It is what I believe.

    (2) I have no idea how my belief “suggests those gifts are provided to support the individual in their immaturity.” Where did I use the word “immaturity?”

    (3) I have no idea how your statements 2) and 3) relate to what I wrote. I would appreciate you showing me how they do.

    I just don’t follow your comments. Please forgive me for my ignorance and instruct me. I would like to learn.

  29. (1) Calling what I believe “a theory” angers me. It is not a theory. It is what I believe.

    I’m startled by your response. I certainly did not intend to anger you. Maybe I should have chosen a different word rather than “theory.” On a discussion forum like this one, if someone chooses to post their beliefs, they generally can expect them to be challenged by someone. Please accept my apologies for having challenged yours in a way that offended you. That was absolutely not my intent.

    (2) I have no idea how my belief “suggests those gifts are provided to support the individual in their immaturity.” Where did I use the word “immaturity?”

    Apparently I misunderstood. I thought you were saying that the gifts pass away in an individual’s life as the individual matures, and that is what my responses address. That interpretation at least connects to the translation of “teleios” as “mature” which some here have advocated. Obviously you meant something different causes the gifts to pass from the individual’s life, but at this point I have no idea what that something else is, nor what it is in the text that leads you to that interpretation.

  30. Alan,

    Thank you for your reply and the manner in which you replied.

    My comment is about words and how the words we use often hurt other people. A “belief” is something personal. Calling a “belief” a “theory” knocks the person out of the discussion – hence killing the person in the discussion. In the same way, challenging a person’s belief challenges the person and chases them out of the discussion.

    What I believe a better way to answer is, “I read what you believe. I believe something different,” allows the person to be who they are and what they believe. It continues the discussion.

    In the same way, inserting words into a person’s talk ends a discussion. I never used the word immaturity or maturity, yet you answered me by inserting the word “immaturity.”

    Again, I appreciate you answering and the manner in which you answered. Thank you. I wish and pray that we all learn to use words that keep people in the discussion – any discussion.

  31. Dwayne,

    Please excuse me for injecting a comment here.

    You make some very good points of how to best show respect in these online discussions. I will try to remember and practice.

    One comment on the ‘inserting words’ point. I often reflect back intentionally changing the words to see if I have properly interpreted what has been said. Or sometimes, I will list what seems to be a logical ramification of the original premise. This is intentional to give the originator the opportunity to agree, refute, clarify or qualify their original statement. I might not always be consistent at it but that’s my intention.

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts here. They help keep it interesting for this conservative to keep coming back.

  32. Dwayne,
    Returning to the discussion, can you help me understand better what you believe about the gifts passing out of an individual’s life? You said:

    I believe “pass away” is about things that pass away in an individual’s life. I used to be able to do a lot of things physically, mentally, emotionally when I was 20. I cannot do those things now that I am 50. They have passed away for me, but there are things I can do physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually now that I could not do at 20.

    Some things in my life have passed away and some things have become complete.

    That is how I have always read this passage.

    The passage says that when the “teleios” comes, the partial things will pass away. What is the complete thing (“teleios”) that comes into an individual’s life, as the partial things pass away?

  33. From my earlier comment,

    “10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

    This seems to be a simple, almost redundant, statement that when something is finished or complete it is no longer unfinished or incomplete.

    I don’t know “teleios” from television and I don’t believe that God requires me to read ancient languages to be saved. Perhaps I trust in the English translators too much.

    What becomes complete? What disappears? I don’t know. I haven’t found it yet in my life. The change may be so gradual that I don’t notice it. The complete thing is probably different in everyone’s life. I do know that some things have passed from my life and other things are closer to being complete. For example, I don’t remember every little fact I read any longer. I used to be able to do that when I was 18.

    I do seem to have a greater capacity for love, empathy, compassion and such now than when I was 18. That is closer to being complete in my life.

  34. What becomes complete? What disappears? I don’t know.

    I can certainly relate to your comment about not remembering details, and other things that I used to be able to do that I no longer can. However, the passage explicitly tells us what it means about the things that pass away. It says tongues, prophecy, and knowledge will pass away. So it’s not talking about my memory lapses, and it’s not talking about my tennis game.

  35. Alan,

    Grant me a chance to back up. In general, I read in these verses and the surrounding chapters that:

    some things are more important than other things

    Love is one of those more important things. Other things, for example tongues, prophecy, knowledge, come and go here and there this and that…What is more important is love.

    I guess that is my paraphrase or summary of this passage. I’ve never seen these verses as a discussion about the arrival of the New Testament and the passage of miraculous speaking in foreign languages. If I can love people like Jesus, I won’t care about other things so much.

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