1 Corinthians 13b
1 Corinthians 13:8… 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.
The conclusion to the 15 attributes of love in vv. 4-7 is found in v. 8: “Love never fails.” The word for “fail” comes from the Greek pipto which means “to fall; to stop; to be destroyed; to cease.” The word “never” precedes the verb, and it refers to time. Simply put, love, because it is the essence of God Himself, who is eternal, will never cease. This is in contrast to the spiritual gifts which are given by God to bring glory to God. All of them will cease, but love will not.
Paul lists three spiritual gifts in v. 8 that would all eventually disappear. Prophecy and knowledge will be “done away,” while tongues will “cease.” The word for “done away” comes from the Greek katargeo which means “to destroy; to abolish.” The verb form is a passive which basically means that something or someone will cause prophecy and knowledge to stop. Verse 10 says this something will be “the perfect.” Tongues, on the other hand, will “cease.” This comes from the Greek pauo which means “to finish; to stop.” This verb form is a middle voice, and when it is used in reference to people and inanimate objects it denotes an intentional action upon oneself – a reflexive action. In other words, the gift of tongues had an innate ability to stop itself. The gift of tongues can be likened to a self-destructing device with a limited life span that served its purpose then simply ended itself. Whereas prophecy and knowledge would be stopped by something acting upon them, tongues would stop of its own accord. All three gifts were given to validate the message of the ones who had them. Paul’s (and the other apostles) evangelistic messages about salvation in Jesus Christ alone was given credibility by his (their) ability to perform miracles and speak in languages they had not previously learned. When unbelievers would hear the message of the apostles, and see the signs and wonders they performed, it gave their ministry a high credibility. These gifts were given to the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12), and when they died in the first century so did the normative nature of these gifts. They ceased.
Prophecy was the special God-given ability for one person to receive God’s direct revelation and proclaim it to others. The church itself was built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20) – those men who testified concerning Jesus who is “the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Now if the foundation is laid by the prophets and apostles, then it has no need to be laid again. It’s not their teaching that makes the foundation, it’s the office they held, and those offices died out when they died. As such, the ability to receive new revelation from God (prophecy) and the knowledge which clarified the “mysteries” of God died out when they themselves died. Whereas in the apostolic age God’s revelation was given through the apostles and prophets, in the current age prophecy and knowledge are given to us in the written Word – the Bible. Those today who are given the special ability to teach God’s Word are the modern-day prophets. All others either add to or subtract from that Word (i.e. false prophets).
Food for Thought
Many well-meaning people today believe that they not only can speak in tongues but that they also have the knack for hearing God speak to them with new prophecies. These unfortunate events have made Christianity look pretty ridiculous. God has spoken, and the true apostles and prophets – those who walked with Jesus and saw him resurrected – recorded Christ’s words without error. We have all that God wanted us to have in our English Bibles. Beware of those who speak in ecstatic utterances, for research has shown that most of them unknowingly speak blasphemies against Christ in these utterances. Let’s praise God in a way that all can understand.
1 Corinthians 13:8… 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…
Food for Thought (Cf. The MacArthur NT Commentary, 1 Corinthians, pp. 359-62).
Just a few reason why the sign-gifts (tongues, miracles, healings, prophecies) have ceased. First, though God can still perform miracles and the like, the Bible records only three periods in history where miracles occurred regularly: during the days of Moses/Joshua, the days of Elijah/Elisha, and during the days of Jesus and the apostles. Each period lasted about 70 years. Miracles will also be normative during the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth following his second coming. The last biblical miracle occurred in Acts 28:8 (AD 58), and the last prophecy came to John the Apostle (The Book of Revelation) in AD 95.
When Israel rejected Jesus their Messiah it was “impossible to renew them again to repentance” (Heb. 6:6). So the gospel was then offered to the Gentiles. Christ’s teaching had been confirmed to all through the giving of signs and miracles – gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2:3-4). Even the writer of Hebrews (circa AD 68) speaks of the giving of gifts by the Holy Spirit in the past tense. So to him the signs, wonders, and miracles had ceased as they were solely intended for the apostles. Once they died so did the firsthand knowledge of Christ’s words, and this is why they wrote it down so as to preserve it for future generations.
Second, the gift of tongues was a judicial sign to Israel that God had rejected them and had taken the message of salvation to the world outside of Israel. When the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in AD 70 they destroyed Judaism and the priesthood, so the Jews were no longer able to carry out their sacrifices. From that day to the present the Jews have been unable to fulfill the requirements of their Law as given to Moses. Now it is no longer necessary for God to carry out this judicial sign – the speaking in tongues – because it no longer has any value.
Third, the gift of tongues ceased because they were an inferior means of edification even when performed properly (1 Cor. 14:5; 12-13; 27-28). In 1 Cor. 14 Paul shows that tongues were an inferior means of communication (vv. 1-12), praise (vv. 13-19), and evangelism (vv. 20-25).
Fourth, the gift of tongues has ceased because its purpose as a confirming sign of power and doctrine ended when the NT was completed. Genuine tongues-speaking involved direct revelation of God to the speaker, and it was itself veiled revelation that always needed translation or interpretation, often even to the speaker himself (1 Cor. 14:27-28). God’s revelation to mankind, however, was completed after the writing of the NT. Jesus told John that nothing was to be added/subtracted from it (Rev. 22:18-19), affirming that Revelation was the final prophecy.
A fifth reason to conclude that tongues has ceased is due to the silence about them in the other NT writers (Peter, James, John, Jude). Corinthians was an early letter, and the fact that no other writer even mentions them, not even Paul after 1 Corinthians, and given the fact that later lists of spiritual gifts are listed by Paul (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11) with no mention of tongues, likely means that they had ceased years before he died. Nowhere in any of the NT epistles is speaking in tongues the evidence of salvation, nor are they encouraged for spiritual exercise.
A sixth evidence for the cessation of tongues specifically is due to the fact that the early church fathers record nothing about them. Clement wrote 40 years after Paul to the church in Corinth and said nothing of them. Justin Martyr wrote extensively but makes no mention of tongues even among his lists of spiritual gifts. Origin, the great 3rd century theologian, mentions tongues only in reference to his opinion that they had ceased. John Chrysostom, a 4th century preacher, when commenting on 1 Cor. 12, stated that tongues had ceased and couldn’t even be accurately defined. Even St. Augustine is quoted as saying that tongues had “passed away.”
1 Corinthians 13:9-10… For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
The spiritual gift of tongues ceased soon after Paul’s letter. He never speaks of them again after 14:39. This is significant given that he later writes the Roman epistle – a thorough exposition of Christian theology – without mentioning the gift, and subsequently the Ephesian letter without mentioning the gift. The gifts of prophecy and knowledge, however, were not done away with because the “perfect” (v. 10) had not yet come. Remember that the reflexive middle voice verb, “to cease,” in speaking of tongues, denoted that tongues would cease of their own accord. Prophecy and knowledge, on the other hand, would be abolished by something outside of themselves. Verse 10 says that this something is “the perfect” (Greek teleios). And when “the perfect” comes, “the partial will be done away” (abolished; destroyed). So if “the perfect” can be defined from scripture we can know that when it comes then both prophecy and knowledge, referred to by Paul as “the partial,” would be destroyed, abolished – “done away.” It is clear that “the perfect” does not refer to the second coming of Christ – Christ being “the perfect” – because the Greek phrase is neuter, thus eliminating the possibility that it refers to a person.
The word for “perfect” in scripture is used in various ways. It references Christians who are made perfect by the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 2:6). Even though believers still make mistakes and are inherently sinful, they are called “perfect” in their positional standing before God. It is also a word used to describe maturity in adults and completeness in reference to something that has reached its end. So when does “the partial” become complete? When does “in part” become perfect? Since prophecy and knowledge as spiritual gifts are given by God to build up the church of Jesus Christ, and since they are gifts that only shed light on who God is – providing enough information to bring about salvation – they are incomplete in and of themselves. This means that full perfection comes when believers are ushered into God’s eternal kingdom in heaven and no longer have a need for the partial spiritual gifts that prophecy and knowledge provide while on earth. The “perfect” therefore is the eternal state of heaven – the final destiny of all who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Only then will prophecy and knowledge be abolished as spiritual gifts. Prior to that time prophecy and knowledge will continue to function as gifts. But God’s full knowledge will be known to all who see him face-to-face. Since spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the church on earth, and since the church will ultimately reside with Jesus Christ in the eternal state of heaven, prophecy and knowledge will no longer be needed.
Food for Thought
Prophecy and knowledge are spiritual gifts that pertain to God’s revealed Word prior to the written scripture where it was actually put to paper. These wonderful gifts are “partial” because they don’t reveal all of God’s infinite wisdom. The prophets received God’s knowledge “in part” in that this limited knowledge only revealed God in the present age. This knowledge, however, must not to be confused with human learning. Rather, it is the unique expression of the Spirit, a spiritual knowledge that understands God’s revealed ‘mysteries’ (13:2). It refers to a comprehension of God and His ways right here and now. Mankind is far too depraved, however, to fully understand God’s knowledge, for his finite mind cannot grasp it. But this is in contrast to the eternal state of heaven where our depravity comes to an end forever. It is then that perfection comes, and it will be then that knowledge and prophecy, along with all the other spiritual gifts, will be “done away.” We will rest eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13… When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.
The analogy Paul uses here of a child and a man (better translated as “adult”) is a comparison between the future perfect state of believers (cf. v. 10) when they dwell with Christ forever in heaven versus the temporary state of living in an imperfect world. During their lives on earth all Christians are like children in comparison to what they will be – full grown adults – when the “perfect” comes, namely the eternal state of heaven, the day in which we see God face-to-face. It is likely that Paul was comparing his own spiritual state of being with that of a child. As an orthodox Jew he had his bar mitzvah when he turned 13. Bar mitzvah literally means “son of the law” – a phrase that denotes how a Jewish boy became a man and was accountable to the Mosaic Law as given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai in the 15th century BC. MacArthur comments: “Our perfection in Christ (when the “perfect” comes) will be a type of spiritual bar mitzvah, a coming into immediate, complete, and eternal spiritual adulthood and maturity. At that moment everything childish will be done away with. All maturity, all childishness, all imperfection, and all limitations of knowledge and understanding will be forever gone.”
In v. 12 Paul continues by speaking of a mirror. Whereas modern-day mirrors are made with glass and mercury, in Paul’s day mirrors were basically polished metal. The reflection they gave was less than accurate, but this is the point he’s trying to make. NOW we see a reflection that is imperfect (“dimly”). In classical Greek this word was used to denote a riddle, and Paul uses it here (only time used in the Bible) with the same nuance. Our current life is a riddle – a story that needs an ultimate answer; but one that will be plainly interpreted when the “perfect” comes. It is then that we will see God “face-to-face” and go from being imperfect to perfect. We will go from having a dim image in a mirror to a bright one. Even though God’s illumination through His Holy Spirit is available to all believers, in our present state of being we are incapable of seeing all of God’s plan clearly. Currently we know “in part,” but in the end, when the “perfect” comes, we will “know fully just as we have been fully known.” This is a reference to the fact that even though we only see ourselves “in part” God knows us fully. He knows now and has always known exactly what we ourselves will know when we see Him face-to-face.
In v. 13 Paul says that three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love. Two of these beautiful virtues, faith and hope, are actually fully encompassed by love itself which “hopes all things” and “believes all things.” Love is the greatest because it is permanent throughout eternity. When we see God face-to-face there will be no more need of faith and hope along with all the spiritual gifts. They have no purpose or meaning in that perfect day when we see God fully and the riddle of our own life and all else is made perfectly clear.
Food for Thought
Love endures forever, for it is the greatest of all virtues and gifts. It does not die; it is the “most excellent way.” I find it amazing that so many of us pursue that which is temporary and fading away at the expense of seeking for what is truly important in this life. If even the greatest of spiritual gifts and virtues will cease, then why are we so transfixed on wood and rocks (homes and jewelry) which are so temporary? Let us pursue that which is eternal, and when we meet our Maker face-to-face may He look at us and say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.”
This is significant in light of the fact that the Corinthians did not have much love for their brethren. Each one sought their own good and that which made them look good. Paul’s point was to show them “the most excellent way.” While they were busy in their pursuits of the lesser things in life (speaking in tongues, etc.) Paul is reminding them that they are “polishing the brass on a sinking ship.” What worldly concerns have gotten your attention lately? Whatever it is it isn’t important ultimately. It will all burn, but love will last forever. So, let’s be about pursuing love and forgetting about all the things that will “pass away.” If the spiritual gifts as given by the Holy Spirit will pass away then worrying about retirement, new cars, better homes, and the like are certainly meaningless. We far too often pursue the wrong things and put our minds to seeking after things that don’t matter and that will pass away. Let’s pursue the 15 attributes of true love and stand before our Maker one day and have Him say to us: “Well done Thy good and faithful servant.”
All groups would agree that 1 Corinthians 13:10 indicates that gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are temporary. That such gifts will cease is not at issue so much as when those gifts will cease and what particular time is being indicated by the phrase ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον in 13:10. Whenever τὸ τέλειον arrives, then these gifts will no longer be necessary. While the analyses of the passage have produced a variety of interpretations, the major views essentially reduce to two possible ways of rendering τὸ τέλειον . 66
The first view understands τὸ τέλειον in an absolute sense of “perfect” and has reference to Christ’s Parousia. Here the significance of τὸ τέλειον is identified as “the perfection” that will exist after Christ returns for His church, as seen in13:12. At that time, all spiritual gifts, not just prophecy and knowledge, will cease. The only virtue which has permanent significance, is love (v.13). Several arguments are advanced in favor of this view. First, this view is the only one that adequately satisfies the explanatory confirmation of 13:12 where the ideal, final state is in view. Second, the meaning of “perfect” best describes the period after Christ’s return. Third, the verb ἔλθῃ can refer only to the precise moment of Christ’s second coming. Fourth, Pauline statements of eschatological hope center in Christ’s return (1 Cor 1:7–9; 15:20–34; 1 Thess 4:13–18). Fifth, Paul and other New Testament writers used the related term, τέλος , of the same period (Rom 8:18–30; 1 Cor 1:8; 15:24; Matt 24:6, 13–14). Sixth, maturity and the end are related in Paul’s writings (Col 1:5, 22, 27–28 ). 69
The second view is that τὸ τέλειον refers to what is “mature” or “complete” rather than “the perfect state.” 70 Understood in this sense, τὸ τέλειον draws on the figure of the church as Christ’s body collectively growing up during the age since the day of Pentecost. 71 The gifts of 1 Corinthians 13:8–9 gradually ceased with the close of canonical revelation and the increasing maturity of the body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:11–16 , esp. v. 13 , εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον , “the mature man”).
Admittedly any decision on these two options is not easy. However, the second view (“maturity”) is the more viable. Arguments for the second view also constitute a rebuttal of the first view. First, Pauline usage of τέλειος never conveys the idea of absolute perfection, and such a philosophical meaning is also questionable in the rest of the New Testament. 72 Only this view allows τέλειος a relative sense. Second, Paul’s constant use of the νήπιος … τέλειος antithesis supports this interpretation. Τέλειος elsewhere always possesses a relative meaning of “mature” when used in proximity to νήπιος ( 13:11 , ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος , “when I was a child”; cf. 1 Cor 2:6 ; 3:1 ; 14:20 ; Eph 4:13–14 ). Furthermore the occurrence of τέλειος is what suggests the νήπιος illustration of 1 Cor 13:11 (cf. Heb 5:13–14 ). Whenever the adjective is used in connection with νήπιος , it always carries the connotation of gradual increase, not of an abrupt change. Third, this view gives an adequate sense to the illustrations of 1 Corinthians 13:11 and 12 . In verse 11 a relative maturity is signified, while verse 12 indicates an absolute maturity. Provision also exists here for the ultimate state after the Parousia, according to the demands of verse 12 , in that maturity is of two kinds: one that is constantly changing and increasing (v. 11 ), and the other that is final and absolute (v. 12 ). The latter type is viewed in 13:12 as a future goal.
Fourth, Ephesians 4:13–14 more explicitly presents the picture of the maturing of Christ’s body collectively. A number of striking resemblances between 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 tie these passages together in reference to gradual maturity. 73 The parallels between these two passages are strengthened also by the historical connection of the writing of 1 Corinthians while Paul was ministering at Ephesus ( 1 Cor 16:8 ). 74 Since Ephesians 4:13–14 pictures a gradual development of Christ’s body from the beginning to the end, Paul’s picture in 1 Corinthians 13 would also convey the same concept. Fifth, this view provides for Paul’s uncertainty as to the time of the Parousia and status of a written canon. 75 Sixth, as already suggested in note 69, the contrast with ἐκ μέρους in 13:9 requires a quantitative idea (“complete”) rather than a qualitative idea (“perfect”). 76
In light of this, Paul’s development from childhood to adulthood in verse 11 illustrates the progressive growth of the church through the critical period of its history. Ultimate maturity is another matter, as is illustrated in verse 12 , when growth reaches its culmination at Christ’s return. Thus this view is comprehensive enough to embrace the relative maturity implied by the illustration in verse 11 as well as the absolute maturity depicted in verse 12 . It pictures believers collectively growing up together in one body, beginning with the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost. The body of Christ attains different states of maturity during this period until complete maturity is reached at the Second Coming of Christ. The contrast in verse 13a is that gifts of the earlier part of the paragraph were possibly to extend only through a portion of the church’s existence, whereas faith, hope, and love would characterize the entire earthly ministry. Beyond this, only one of the three virtues will survive the Parousia, and that is love itself. For this reason, it is declared to be the greatest gift. 77 As Thomas concludes,
“When the mature comes” gathers together into one concept both the period of church history after the need for the gifts of direct revelation has ceased to exist (relative maturity illustrated in v. 11 ) and the period after the return of Christ for the church (absolute maturity illustrated in v. 12 ). By comparing these gifts to the maturity of the body of Christ Paul shows their temporary character (in contrast with love). A certain level of maturity has been reached once the N.T. canon has been completed and is in hand, and so the result is almost the same as that of [the completion of the New Testament canon view]. Yet Paul expected an imminent return of Christ and could not know, humanly speaking, that there ever would be a complete N.T. canon of 27 books before Christ returned. Hence, he was guided by the Spirit to use the more general language of maturity to allow for this. 78
Thus the gift of prophecy, along with tongues and knowledge, was a temporary gift which is no longer operative today. 79
Geisler identifies a crucial issue regarding fallible prophets.
Many today claim to be receiving visions, dreams, and revelations from God. The problem is that their “revelations” are not infallible. Some of them are flatly wrong. But a fallible revelation from God is a contradiction in terms….
The problem with making testable prophecies in the name of the Lord is that they might prove to be false. This might not seem to be too significant until we remember that the test of a prophet is not whether he is sometimes right but whether he is ever wrong. Moses declared, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously” ( Deuteronomy 18:22 ). The penalty for false prophecy under the Old Testament law was death (v. 20 ). If that law were still in effect today, there would undoubtedly be far fewer persons claiming prophetic powers. 87
66. No less than five interpretive options for this verse have been formulated, making the issues surrounding these verses highly complex. Essentially all of these arguments may be reduced to two views: τὸ τέλειον refers either to what is “perfect” or to “maturity.” Three other options merit attention. They share the understanding that τὸ τέλειον signifies the idea of “perfect.” (1) Edgar’s view is that τὸ τέλειον refers to the death of the believer when the person is ushered into Christ’s presence. He argues that (a) 1 Corinthians 13:11–12 has a personal emphasis in view, that (b) in verse 10 τὸ τέλειον “is stated as part of a general principle and not as a specific,” and that (c) the time in which a believer has “perfect” knowledge is when he dies and goes to be with the Lord (Edgar, Miraculous Gifts: Are They for Today? 340-44). However, the context argues against this view in that the passage focuses on the situation on earth, not in heaven. The emphasis is on the exercise of spiritual gifts and love in the Christian community. (2) MacArthur’s view is that τὸ τέλειον refers to the eternal state. He gives two reasons for this. First, “in the millennial kingdom there will be prophesying and teaching resulting in knowledge” ( Isa 11:9 ; 30:20–21 ; 32:3–4 ; Jer 3:14–15 ; 23:1–4 ; Joel 2:28–32 ; Rev 11:1–12 ). Second, the phrase “face to face” ( τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον , 1 Cor 13:12 ) must refer to being with God in the new creation or eternal state (John F. MacArthur, Jr., The
Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978], 165–71; idem, Charismatic Chaos , 230-31, n. 20). A major problem with this view is that the Pauline eschatological hope is not exclusively centered on events after the millennium ( Rom 8:22–23 ; 1 Cor 1:7 ; 15:1–58 ; 1 Thess 4:13–18 ). (3) Unger holds that the canon of the New Testament is identified with τὸ τέλειον . The argument is that the possession of the canonical Scriptures removes the partial or incomplete understanding and thus removes the need for prophesying. This view also finds support indirectly because of the role the gifts of prophecy and knowledge played in the completion of the New Testament canon (Merrill F. Unger, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit [Chicago: Moody, 1974], 141–42). However, no room for the Parousia (which is clearly in view in 1 Cor 12:12 ) exists in such a view. Furthermore the concept of the New Testament canon is not directly involved in this context.
69. This view has several major weaknesses. First, Paul’s illustration of gradual development from childhood to adulthood does not really typify the immense transformation associated with the Lord’s return (v. 11). Adulthood is not completely free of limitations as would be the Parousia. Second, the view fails to allow for the distinctive revelatory character of the gift of prophecy and the distinctive confirmatory character of tongues (v. 8; cf. 12:8–10, 28). Third, the contrast with ἐκ μέρους (“in part”) requires a quantitative idea (i.e., “complete”) rather than a qualitative idea (“perfect”). See Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts , 203; idem, Exegetical Digest of 1 Corinthians 12–14 (n.p.: 1988), 96.
70. The major proponents of this meaning of τὸ τέλειον are Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts , 202-3; idem, Exegetical Digest of 1 Corinthians 12-14 , 95-98; Jody Dillow, A Biblical Evaluation of the Twentieth-Century Tongues Movement (Seven Crucial Questions ) (n.p.: 1972), 35–36; idem, Speaking in Tongues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 88–90. Thomas and Dillow differ, however, on the ultimate significance of the idea of maturity or completeness. While Thomas places emphasis on a gradual development whereby the church is constantly entering new stages of maturity, Dillow places more stress on the close of the canon as the significance of the term. Both commentators, however, negate the idea of τὸ τέλειον as having an absolute sense of perfection.
71 71. The view adopted here is that of Thomas. While Dillow is correct in seeing the development of the New Testament canon as a significant stage in the maturation process, the close of the canon would represent only one stage in the body’s progressive development and alone cannot satisfy the illustration of 13:12 (see Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts , 108).
72 72. For further information on this point see Theological Dictionary of the New Testament , s.v. “ τέλειος ,” by Gerhard Delling, 8:69–77; Thomas, “Tongues…Will Cease,” 83; idem, Exegetical Digest of 1 Corinthians 12–14 , 96-97. While classical Greek usage may convey the idea of “perfection” (Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, Greek-English Lexicon , rev. Henry Stuart Jones, 9th ed. [Oxford: Clarendon, 1940], 1769–70), Paul never used this word in that sense.
73 73. At least 11 striking similarities and parallels are seen between 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 (Thomas, Exegetical Digest on 1 Corinthians 12–14 , 97). (1) The νήπιος … τέλειος antithesis is found in both places. (2) The general subject of discussion in both is spiritual gifts. (3) Edification of the body of Christ is the stated objective in Ephesians 4 as well as in 1 Corinthians 12–14 . (4) Both passages use the figure of the human body to represent the church. (5) Growth from childhood to maturity is emphasized in both cases. (6) Love is prominent in the growth process along with spiritual gifts in both passages. (7) Individual parts of Christ’s body are depicted by the noun μέρος in both chapters ( Eph 4:16 ; 1 Cor 12:27 ). (8) Whenever Paul discussed spiritual gifts, he had the body figure in view ( Eph 4:11–16 ; cf. Rom 12:3–8 ). (9) An emphasis on unity is seen in Ephesians 4:1–6 (cf. 1 Cor 12 ). (10) All seven unifying persons and features mentioned in Ephesians 4:4–6 are referred to in 1 Corinthians 12–14 . (11) Ἀνήρ is used in both passages.
74 74. For further information on the place and date of writing, see Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction , rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 457–59; and Hiebert, The Pauline Epistles , vol. 2 of An Introduction to the New Testament , 112-13.
75 75. Again, though the completion of the canon was a development in this maturation process, it was only one stage of that development.
76 76. Several criticisms are leveled against this view. First, this view, it is argued, does not do justice to the illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:12 which most likely refers to Christ’s Second Coming. In reply, it may be noted that the view does see an absolute maturity (v. 12 ) represented along with a progressive maturity (v. 11 ) so that the view does do justice to the illustration in verse 12 . Second, a gradual development does not suit the κατήργηκα of verse 11 . However, if the transition is seen as a fading away until completely gone, the perfect could appropriately picture this. Third, this view does not give a good sense to the aorist ἔλθῃ . However, if the aorist is viewed as constantive, then an adequate sense may be supplied. Fourth, the question may be asked, Was the church ever mature enough not to need these gifts such as prophecy? In reply, it should be noted that when in the providence of God the church had a completed package of revelatory data (the New Testament canon) prophecy would have been rendered unnecessary. As will be seen, the analogy of the completion of the Old Testament canon and the cessation of prophecy in the Old Testament period would serve as paradigms for the cessation of New Testament prophecy. For further elaboration on arguments for and against this view, see Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts , 106-8; idem, Exegetical Digest on 1 Corinthians 12–14 , 95-98; and William McRae, The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 93–94.
77 77. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts , 106-7, 207, and idem, Exegetical Digest on First Corinthians 12–14 , 97.
78 78. Thomas, Exegetical Digest on 1 Corinthians 12–14 , 98.
79 79. Geisler’s comment is also important. “Although Paul does not specify when these gifts would cease, he does say that they will. Furthermore, he hints that this would occur as the church progressed toward ‘maturity’ ( 1 Corinthians 13:10 ; cf. Ephesians 4:12 ). Although this will not be complete till the Second Coming (v. 12 ), he does not say that all the gifts will last until then. Indeed, it is obvious from the contrasts above that the gifts petered out as the early church matured” (Geisler, Signs and Wonders , 137). Chrysostom wrote the following concerning the subject of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:1–2 specifically, and chapters 12–14 in general: “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question; namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?” (Chrysostom, Homilies in First Corinthians , Homily 29; cf. Homily 36). Here is a clear statement by a leader of the church in the fourth century that miraculous gifts, like prophecy and tongues, ceased. Because Chrysostom was well traveled and would have most likely known the general status of practices in the church, he signaled the widespread absence of such gifts in his day. The Muratorian canon makes the explicit statement that the number of apostles and prophets “is complete,” indicating an end to prophetic expression (Gamble, The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning , 95). Thus Heine makes the following observation regarding the Muratorian canon list: “It should be noted that the Muratorian canon, which is to be dated at approximately this same time [as the Montanist Controversy] and located at Rome, rejected the Shepherd of Hermas for the same reason that Hippolytus advanced against the Montanist prophecy: it is a recent writing, and prophecy ceased with the apostles” (Ronald E. Heine, “The Role of the Gospel of John in the Montanist Controversy,” The Second Century 6 [1987-88]: 12-13).
Many believe that this argument from church history constitutes one of the strongest arguments against the continuance of prophecy, and miraculous gifts in general. Constable terms this the “strongest evidence” for the cessation of revelation (Thomas L. Constable, “Review of ‘The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy in Revelation 22:18 , ’“ Bibliotheca Sacra 147 [April-June 1990], 233). Also see Thomas R. Edgar, “The Cessation of the Sign Gifts,” Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (April-June 1990): 372-75.
87 87. Geisler, Signs and Wonders , 138-39. Geisler cites David Wilkerson’s prophetic “revelation” of April 1973 that “more than one-third of the United States will be designated a disaster area within the next few years.” However, as Geisler demonstrates, such an event never happened. See David Wilkerson, The Vision (New York: Pillar, 1974), 32–35.
Bibliotheca Sacra. electronic edition. Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1998.