For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
True love is permanent. Love is eternal at its core. Because it is from God and primarily directed to God, it will never fail, never implode, never become obsolete. True love will not only survive death, but actually be perfected on the other side.
While the Corinthians had been boasting in their own spiritual giftedness, Paul reminds them that even the best of these gifts are temporary.
The gift of prophesies will pass away, of tongues will cease, and the gift of special knowledge will eventually vanish – but Love will never end.
One day our new man will be our only man.
Why will we have no more need for these spiritual gifts one day? Paul points out that their temporariness is due, not to some fault in them, but to our own imperfection. Right now we only know and prophecy in part. When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with.
In other words, the advantage of spiritual gifts is only for a time because we are only temporarily imperfect!
One day we will not need to be built up in the faith because our new man will be our only man, and we will be embracing Jesus Christ with all our heart. One day we will not need special gifts of knowledge because we will not have huge gaping voids in our understanding.
In verses 11 and 12, Paul provides two illustrations of our current imperfection: right now we are like children in our spiritual maturity, but one day we will grow up! And right now we are seeing only imperfectly, like a person trying to see himself and the world through a dim mirror of polished metal – there are smears and limitations to everything we look at.
Our knowledge is only a child’s knowledge compared with what it will be when Christ returns.
Imagine standing with your back to the Grand Canyon, and trying to take it all in by viewing that spectacle over your shoulder through a dirty, broken compact mirror. You might see some breath taking beauty, but you could never get the full picture, never see the colors truly, never put it all together perfectly.
Our need for edification and confirmation now is because our knowledge is only a child’s knowledge compared with what it will be when Christ returns.
Because our view of His glory is only a limited, tainted, shattered view. But one day, when I finally see Jesus face to face, I will grow up! My heart and head and worldview will be turned around, and my eyes will be opened to see the full, Grand-Canyon splendor of my Savior and Lord!
And so, right now faith is absolutely essential. And hope — the confident expectation of Christ’s return and the culmination of all His promises — is what keeps me going. But Love is greater still because one day faith and hope will be swallowed up in perfect knowledge and love.