Summary: Every right-thinking Christian will want to build his/her life upon the permanent and the preeminent. Love is God’s gift of gifts. Love is the most excellent way of life.
[LIVING IN LOVE SERIES] 1 CORINTHIANS 13: 8-13
THE PERMANENCE OF LOVE
Following the elaboration of the preeminence of the love (vv. 1-3) and the elements of the love (vv. 4-7), chapter 13 concludes with a discussion of The Permanence of Love. Love lasts. Throughout all eternity love will never end.
Many of the Corinthians had their focus on the wrong things. They were overly concerned about the temporary and had little concern about the permanent and eternal. Every right-thinking Christian will want to build his/her life upon the permanent and the preeminent. The gifts of the Spirit are temporary. Even when compared with the other two eternal virtues, faith and hope, love reigns supreme. Love is God’s gift of gifts. Love is the most excellent way of life (CIT).
I. GIFTS ARE TEMPORARY, 8-10.
II. GIFTS ARE ELEMENTARY, 11-12.
III. LOVE IS ETERNAL, 13.
Verse 8 begins to distinguish what is of eternal importance from what is of earthly importance. 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.
“Love never fails.” Fails (from ðßðôù) has the basic meaning of falling, particularly that of a flower or leaf that falls to the ground never to get up but withers and decays. The word never refers to time not to frequency meaning that at no time will divine love ever fall, wither or decay. [Aren’t you grateful that this is the way God loves us?] Love, the only true motive for the exercise of these ‘gifts’, will ‘never fail’ but ‘endure’ throughout history into the coming age.
Divine love never drops out of existence. It was not designed and adapted as were spiritual gifts to the present state of existence, but for our future and immortal state of being. Love is permanent and will never be terminated, eliminated or abolished. Love is singled out as the supreme possession for a very remarkable reason, it lasts. Love never fails.
Paul then runs over a representative list of things important to spiritual Christian that are all fleeting, temporary, and passing away. He contrasts love’s permanence to the impermanence of three spiritual gifts: prophecy, tongues and knowledge. But if there are prophecies they will be done away. The great and needful gift of prophecy is the forth-telling of God’s Word.
To proclaim and interpret the Word of God. Some even proclaim the future. What blessing it is to speak in agreement with the very voice of God. Yet all the prophecies of the Word of God have either been or will one day soon be fulfilled.
If tongues, they will cease. The Corinthians had given tongues, the least of the gifts, a special significance just like some do today with the unbiblical claim that you must speak in tongues to be saved, equating tongue speaking with salvation. But tongues will cease themselves (Greek reflexive if middle voice or be ceased if passive voice). Instead of tongues being the supreme gift it is a temporary one. Tongues of whatever kind, ecstatic or otherwise are not the language of heaven.
If there is knowledge, it will be done away. Knowledge was another prized gift. Yet even a schoolboy today has more knowledge of science than Sir Isaac Newton. Newton’s knowledge has passed away. Buy an old edition of the great encyclopedias for a few cents and you will find their knowledge has passed away and been superseded. The carriage done away by steam. Look how electricity swept hundreds of inventions into the dark. Look at the scrap yards and see the pride of scientific knowledge of just 20 years ago. Though it is seen far better with scientific fact, much of what people have sustained as fact –like the earth having literal corners has passed also. Even the special secret knowledge some claim which gives them special privilege or ability or station - God will do away with them all.
All the charismatic gifts are divinely bestowed powers or endowments that enable the church to function as the body of Christ during this present age. They are not intended to go beyond it.
In verses 9 and 10 are the explanations for why earthly spiritual gifts will cease. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
Paul’s first emphasis is the incompleteness of knowledge and prophecy. Those gifts mentioned are representative of all gifts indicating all spiritual gifts will one day be done away with. The word parts is plural and emphatic. Its meaning is a little here, a little there. At best, even the most gifted and wisest of us have a fragmentary understanding of God and Christ and the gospel. We know and can say so little concerning the conditions of life that are to come. Our preaching and knowledge give only glimpses of the heavenly reality.