by J.D. Jones

The Partial and the Complete
J.D. Jones
I Corinthians 13:9-12

Strictly speaking, these four verses have nothing to do with love, which is the apostle's main theme in this chapter. They are really meant to develop and illustrate the thought expressed in the previous verse, that the gifts of tongues and prophecy and knowledge upon which the Corinthians set such store were in their very nature transient and temporary. The apostle's argument would lose nothing in clearness; possibly, indeed, it would gain, if we read straight on from verse 8 to verse 13. 'Whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away: whether there be tongues, they shall cease: whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.' The intermediate verses form a sort of parenthesis and are, as Dr. Maclaren puts it, inserted to form a 'buttress' in support of the apostle's statement that knowledge and prophecy are being done away. But though they have no direct bearing upon love, they are worth studying for their own sake, and I make no apology for making them the subject of a separate sermon.

Before I begin my exposition, it is perhaps worthwhile to call your attention to the fact that the apostle drops all reference to the gift of tongues. Knowledge and prophecy will be done away with, he says, because they are continually being absorbed in something better. But there is no future for this gift of tongues. As Dr. Charles Edwards expresses it, 'ecstatic speech is not an imperfect stage capable of being developed into a higher form. It will cease entirely, much as sounds which have no music in them die away in the air. The gift was purely individual and momentary.' And yet it was upon the possession of this gift, which had no future of any sort before it, that the Corinthians prided themselves most!

But even the nobler gifts of knowledge and prophecy were also to be 'done away,' done away by being swallowed ...

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