I Corinthians 13:8-13
A Doctor was chatting at a party with a Chartered
Accountant. He asked, “How do I manage this delicate issue
when people even at a party like this ask me about
their joint pains and heartburn and gas trouble?
Just because I am a doctor. Not fair!”
The CA friend replied coolly, “Just tell them the
right things politely, but send them a bill from your
clinic the next morning. Only once. Word will soon
get around and it will stop immediately.”
“Wow! Thanks for the tip,” said the doctor.
The next morning the doctor got a bill from his CA
friend: “Consulting charges for Business
In the first 7 verses of this 13th chapter of first
Corinthians Paul emphasized the fact that love must be
the motivation behind the use of all spiritual gifts. If we
aren’t using them in love, then there is no point in using
them at all.
In the last six verses he describes the permanence of
love as opposed to the temporary nature of spiritual gifts.
I Corinthians 13:8
Love is Eternal
This phrase “love never ends” is both the final descriptor
of love, but also the segway back to Paul’s purpose in this
part of the chapter that love is eternal. Agape love never
ends. Spiritual gifts will eventually cease. But love never
Paul mentions prophecies, tongues and knowledge from
his earlier list of some of the spiritual gifts.
The same verb is used for both prophecies and
knowledge translated in the ESV as to pass away. It
means “to render useless or make inoperative”.
It’s not that prophecies and knowledge will stop being
true, it’s that they will not be necessary forever. They
were designed to be used on earth to point people to
The verb used to describe what happens to tongues is a
completely different word. It means to pause or cease.
In English we have the active and passive voice. The
Greek has both but they also have a middle voice.
This is how this verb is written. So a good translation of
this phrase would be tongues shall make themselves to
Tongues were used in various places in the NT, the most
notable in Acts 2 at Pentecost where 3000 were saved.
Paul’s point here is that
Spiritual gifts are temporary, love is eternal.
I Corinthians 13:9-10
The NLT translates the first part of verse 9 this way,
Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete.
We certainly don’t know everything, even if we have the
spiritual gift of knowledge. God’s ways are higher than
our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.
Paul wrote this in his letter to the church at Rome.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his
judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
God is infinite and we are finite. We can never fully
understand Him completely. Only to the point He allows
us to know Him. How much more we will know Him when
we are together with Him forever in heaven!
Paul also writes that we prophesy in part.
God reveals a portion of His entire plan to us as He gives
us the prophetic word.
But one day there will be no need for prophecies.
In the world of darkness, prophecy and knowledge were
a lamp, but in the presence of God there will be no more
need for the lamp. God is light!
Verse 10 refers to the second coming of Christ.
Jesus is the perfect one who is coming.
The Greek word here is teleios and it means complete or
mature. It speaks to totality versus what is partial or
incomplete. We can only know and prophesy in part, but
when Christ comes, we will have no need for those gifts
When Christ returns we will no longer need
spiritual gifts because we will be in the presence of
the perfect gift!
Next Paul gives a couple of analogies to help his reader
understand he is writing about their future in heaven.
I Corinthians 13:11-12
John MacArthur likens verse 11 to a Jewish boy going
through his bar mitzvah. He is considered a boy until he
completes that rite of passage. Believers will have a sort
of spiritual bar mitzvah when we reach heaven. All the
imperfections of earth will be gone and we will be present
with Christ as mature adults.
Next, Paul mentions only being able to see on earth like a
reflection in a mirror. We all know what we see in the
mirror is only a reflection of the original.
The Corinthians were very well known for the mirrors
they produced from polished bronze. They were the best
available at that time. But still only an image of the
Think about looking at a picture. It never does it justice
compared to seeing something in real life. The one who
saw it in person recalls it with such joy and fondness, but
the one seeing it only in a picture is normally
On earth we only get a glimpse of Christ, but one day we
will see him face to face.
The imperfect image that we experience on earth
will be replaced in heaven with the perfect
presence of the Son of God.
Listen to John’s words from
I John 3:2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we
know that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is.”
I Corinthians 13:13
Earlier Paul wrote that not everyone receives every
He ends the chapter by mentioning three things that
remain for all believers, Faith, Hope and Love.
Love is the Greatest
They all remain, but love is the greatest.
Love is the lens by which we ought to perform our
spiritual gifts. Love is the motivation we have for serving
And God is love, so it is clearly the most important of the
Our spiritual gifts should remind us that we will one day
be present with the giver of those gifts.
Love should motivate us to use our gifts for the glory of
God and the edification of His church.