Summary: A Bible study on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (Material taken from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, "The Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study" chapter 9 and Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, "Power From On High", chapter 11)
"It is significant that the gift of tongues is nowhere alluded to, hinted at or even found in the Apostolic Fathers."- Cleon L. Rogers. Why? Because they had been withdrawn!
Much of the debate about whether miraculous gifts have ceased or are still in operation centers around the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13.
Thesis: Let’s have an in depth study of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
For instances: I. Introduction to these verses.
This passage of Scripture occurs in the midst of a larger section from 1 Corinthians 12-14, a section in which Paul deals with the whole subject of spiritual gifts. Church in Corinth had many problems and Paul is dealing here with a controversy over the use of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of tongues.
In ch. 12 we learn that these Christians had decided that there was a definite order of importance in the “different kinds of gifts” (12:4), some were more important than others. Those who felt like they had more important gifts enjoyed a higher status in the church. For some reason they had concluded that the gift of tongues was the most important (chapter 14).
The main point of chapter 13 is to put all of the spiritual gifts into the proper perspective. All of the gifts are important and are not to be neglected. Within the list of gifts Paul puts prophecy as the most important if he has to choose, but overall there are other aspects of the Christian life that are far more important than any such gifts. These are the things they should have been concentrating on, and they need to focus on “the most excellent way” (12:31).
In chapter 13 Paul explains that this “most excellent way” is love. Instead of fighting over the importance of each gift, they should be focusing on loving one another. Without love, nothing else matters (13:1-3).
Carl Ketcherside was a man of great faith. He’s with the Lord now. Carl came out of the non-instrument church of Christ and eventually became disgusted with the legalistic attitudes. In fact, Carl was disgusted with all the legalism that existed in all churches! A man said to Carl one time, “By the way you talk, you’d think that love was the most important thing in the world.” Carl replied, “THANK GOD, YOU FINALLY GOT IT.” Read vs. 4- 8a
To make his point Paul compares love with three of the gifts: prophecy, knowledge and tongues. Why does he choose these 3? Because he wants to make a point that love is more important than even these gifts of supernatural knowledge.
How does he show that even these gifts are relatively less important than love? By asserting that such gifts will come to an end, while love (and faith and hope) will continue to exist in the church’s life until the second coming.
Paul’s is saying: Why are you getting so excited about things that are temporary? Why are you dividing the church over things that will pass away? “Follow the way of love” (14:1).
The Structure of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
This section consists of two contrasts:
Between things that are temporary (vs. 8) and things that are permanent (vs. 13).
A. View vs. 9-12 as a parenthesis and now Read Vs. 8 and then vs. 13.
B. Why didn’t Paul just leave it at this? Well, Paul knew that in the minds of many Corinthians the gift of tongues was the heart and soul of their faith. Imagine there reaction to this info.
To address this concern Paul gives vs. 9-12
The reason these are temporary is because they are only “partial” or piecemeal; something “perfect” or complete will come to take their place.
A. Now read vs. 9-12.
The Corinthians did not want to hear this. Paul tells them that the very things they have made the centerpiece of their lives will be “done away” because they are only partial.
As an analogy, their individual episodes of miraculous tongues and prophesying were like single pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Something is coming, though, that will be like the entire puzzle with all its pieces put together; then we will see the entire picture. Won’t that better?
What is this coming thing that will take the place of tongues and other such gifts? Make a promise tonight, only one Greek word. Dr. Cottrell gives several in this section, but I’m only give you one. Teleion- vs. 10 NIV translates it as perfection. If we can just know what this teleion is, then we can know when tongues and the like will cease. Paul specifically says here, “When the teleion comes, the imperfect disappears.”
What is the teleion?
The word is an adjective, and modern translations call it the perfect or NIV perfection.
This is indeed one meaning of the word. Another meaning can be mature. Still another meaning is “complete.” The NIV does translate this word as “make complete” in several places like James 2:22 and 1 John 2:5.