Online Bible Commentary
The Permanence of Love
1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away 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 just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
In this chapter, Paul shifts the focus from the spiritual gifts themselves in verse 12 to a “more excellent way” (12:31b). He is not devaluing the importance of spiritual gifts, but rather setting the tone for their application. They are to be applied in love.
Previously, in this chapter, Paul stated the qualities of love. Now, in this passage, he writes of the permanence of love.
Love is permanent. It will “never fail”, or go away (v. 8a). Love lasts for eternity in Heaven, however the spiritual gifts do not.
Some believe that some of the spiritual gifts were not needed after the completion of the Bible and, therefore, have not existed since then. Others believe that all the spiritual gifts will last until we enter our eternity in Heaven when spiritual gifts are no longer needed. This commentary is written from the perspective of the former, not the latter.
Either way, spiritual gifts are not permanent. For example, Paul lists three of these spiritual gifts, “prophecy”, “tongues”, and “knowledge”, that will disappear (v. 8b).
After the church had been established and all Scripture had been written there was no longer a need for the gifts of knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits and tongues and their interpretation.
Only God can heal, work miracles, and discern spirits. The gifts of knowledge and prophecy ended with the Bible, as affirmed by Jude when he wrote “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The gift of tongues is not mentioned in any other Biblical epistle. It was not a part of the church from 100 A. D. until 1901 A.D. when the Pentecostal movement began.
As Paul writes this letter, the gift of spiritual knowledge and the gift of prophecy still existed. However, they only existed “in part” because the written word of God, the Bible, had not yet been completed (v. 9).
When Scripture was completed, made “perfect”, that which was “in part” was “done away” with (v. 10). Those gifts no longer existed.
Until then, Christians spoke as uneducated children (v. 11a). But after completion of the Bible they spoke as grown men who were educated (v. 11b). They “put away childish things”, the spiritual gifts that were no longer needed (v. 11c).
Until then, they understood God through a “mirror dimly”, but after completion of the Bible they were able to know God as if they were in His presence (v. 12 a). They were able to know God as He knew them (v. 12b).
At that point, the Fruit of the Spirit took precedence over spiritual gifts. “Faith, hope, love” and the Fruit of the Spirit became more dominant (v. 13a).
And among those three, faith, hope and love, love “is the greatest” (v. 13b). Love is the greatest because of its permanence. When we get to Heaven faith and hope become fulfilled. But love will continue on in Heaven.