Temporary and Permanent Gifts
Ephesians Lesson #140
February 6, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we thank You that You have given us Your Word, that down through the centuries it was through God the Holy Spirit that the prophets were moved to accurately, precisely record Your Word, that which they recorded was without error and infallible and reflects Your character.
“Father, we are thankful that we have Your Word to illuminate our thinking, so that we can understand truth, so that on the basis of Your truth we can understand and evaluate various other claims to truth; that Your Word is infallible.
“Father, we pray today that as we look at a controversial subject, we will see that Your Word gives very clear light on the subject, and that even though it is controversial, it is very clear what You have provided and how we are to understand these things. We pray that You would help us to follow along and understand. In Christ’s name, amen.”
We will begin with a review, so if you haven’t been here, it will go by real fast because I’ve covered this for the last three or four Sundays in some detail. It brings us back to wherever we’ve been, whatever we’ve been thinking about, and maybe wake us up a little bit this morning, so that we can get back into the context of the study.
What the Bible Teaches about Temporary and Permanent Gifts.
This is controversial. It wasn’t controversial through most of the history of Christianity, but it became controversial because in the middle of the 19th century, there developed a movement mostly within Wesleyanism/Methodism that somehow we didn’t quite get everything when we got saved.
In other words, that God gave us a grace package related to our eternal life, but not necessarily for our spiritual life. Because we face all kinds of struggles and problems, and we don’t really feel like we have much victory over sin in our life. Therefore, we must have missed something which we need to get.
There were a lot of issues related to that. Mostly they were looking at the idea that there must be some “second work of grace” after salvation. They identified that as “yieldedness,” “dedication,” or just an experience of holiness. By the end of the 19th century, it began to be identified in some groups as the baptism by the Spirit.
Some said, “Well, it appears in a study of Acts that when the early Christians were baptized by the Spirit that they spoke in languages that they had not previously learned.” The King James translated it as tongues, just another English synonym for languages.
But it’s been taken out of context and abused, so I prefer to stick with a more literal up-to-date translation and translate it as languages, because that’s the context of the Scripture. That’s what it is saying.
On New Year’s Eve coming into 1901, the beginning of the 20th century, there was a group of students in Topeka, Kansas, at the Bethel Bible College, and they were being taught and influenced by a holiness evangelist and preacher by the name of Charles Parham.
He had come to this belief—and they were praying that on that night they would be anointed by the Holy Spirit and would speak in tongues. Lo and behold, just after midnight, one of the ladies by the name of Agnes Ozman spoke in what nobody could understand.
They assumed that it was Chinese, because they initially believed that speaking in tongues were legitimate languages. This was the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement. It was later discovered that it wasn’t Chinese at all; it was just gibberish.
So, the understanding of what tongues language was had to be modified, thus they came up with the idea that this was an angelic language, that wasn’t like a human language at all. Often today you will hear people say, “Oh, my walk with the Lord is so much more intense and so much more intimate now that I can pray in a prayer language.”
I once had a conversation with a Pentecostal, who made the claim that his prayers were answered so much more when he prayed in tongues.
I asked, “You understand what you’re praying for?”
“Oh, no. It’s a prayer language.”
“Well, how do you know God answers them? How do you know what you prayed for if you can’t understand what’s coming out of your mouth?” There are lots of issues with this.
The result of those events on January 1, 1901 was the birth of what became the Pentecostal Movement. That meant basically that people believed that you had a second experience of grace after salvation, it was identified as the baptism by the Holy Spirit, and that it was necessarily evidenced by speaking in tongues.
If you didn’t speak in tongues, you didn’t have this second experience, this work of grace; so therefore, you were just a second-class Christian. They were basically kicked out of most of the denominations and those are the characteristics of traditional Pentecostalism.
In 1959, an Episcopal rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California, spoke in tongues and admitted it to his congregation. They didn’t kick him out, thus the birth of the modern charismatic movement. Which meant they still believe that it’s a second work of grace, it’s the baptism by the Spirit and you spoke in tongues, but you didn’t have to leave your denomination.
Now we have a lot of oxymorons known as charismatic Baptists, charismatic Presbyterians, charismatic Episcopalians, charismatic Catholics, and so on. Then in the 70s you had a third shift, and this was people who came more out of Bible churches, and they said, “Well, not everybody gets the gift, [that was true; that’s good], and it isn’t necessary; it’s not necessarily associated with baptism by the Spirit [they had about four different definitions of what that was].”
That became known as the third wave or the Signs and Wonders Movement. Then it went gone on to something I mentioned last week, the New Apostolic Reformation, the fourth wave. All of this is intermingled, so we will just look at the Scriptures out of what we’ve been studying
Ephesians 4:11–13, Christ, “He Himself,” emphasizing that Christ is the One who gave some. That’s an accurate translation. He’s giving gifted people to the church. Now obviously they have the spiritual gifts, but they’re gifted people and they are “apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the purpose of equipping the saints.” That’s one way of expressing a broader purpose clause.
The secondary ultimate purpose is “for the work of the ministry, for edifying [that is, building up or maturing] the body of Christ until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The fact that this is talking about four spiritual gifts, three terms here are used again in the listing of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. There is also an emphasis on maturity, and this word is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:8. Then it will go on to end in Ephesians 4:16, talking about the love that characterizes the body of Christ.
All of those themes are present and developed more fully in 1 Corinthians 12, which is why we will focus there.
Just a reminder of what we have learned about the church, the basics in Scripture.
1. The use of the term “church” in the New Testament:
- The universal or invisible church, which includes all Church Age believers from the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2, AD 33, up until the Rapture of the church. This is known as the body of Christ, and it includes all those who are presently in Heaven and those who are still alive on the Earth.
- The singular word “church” in the Greek can refer to multiple churches in a city or in a region. We have evidence of that, so it doesn’t have to be plural to be speaking about plural congregations
- It also primarily speaks of a local assembly made up of those who are believers in Jesus Christ.
The importance of that is the meeting of the church is not for unbelievers. Now unbelievers will come and they will hear the gospel. But the meeting of the church is to equip believers to do the work of the ministry. There are many denominations who have failed to comprehend that that’s their mission—to train believers. And they are often those who spend all of their time trying to evangelize the unbelievers that are there.
When Did the Church Begin?
The church, the body of Christ began, on the Day of Pentecost ca AD 33.
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “… I will [future tense] build My church [meaning it was not present when Christ was on the earth].”
In Acts 5:11 we have the first use of the word EKKLESIA, and by that time the church was present. So, it is somewhere between Matthew 16 and Acts 5 and bingo! It’s in Acts 2.
What is the Sign of the Church?
2. The baptism by the Holy Spirit, unique to the Church Age:
Nobody was baptized by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. No one will be in the Tribulation or in the future. This is distinctive to the Church Age.
John the Baptist talked about it as a yet future event. Jesus said it was soon coming in Acts 1:5, and that the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came.
This is the sign of the church and indicates the beginning of the Church Age.
3. The church is not to be equated with the Kingdom. The Kingdom is a Messianic Kingdom. The word “kingdom” is used three ways:
a. The universal rule of God over all His creation.
You will look at passages in the psalms that talk about God our King. Who is speaking? An Israelite. Who’s their king? God, according to the Mosaic Covenant. He is the ultimate King. It was a theocracy, which is
b. The theocratic rule of God over Israel [in the past and then in the future in the Millennial Kingdom.]
c. The future reign of Christ is also referred to as the Kingdom, but it is not today.
We will be there ruling and reigning with Him as the bride of Christ. It begins when Christ returns at the Second Coming. He is crowned, He comes back with many crowns as the King of kings and Lord of lords, and establishes His rule upon the Earth,
Daniel 7:26–27 the kingdom has to be taken from the antichrist before it is given to the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The church is not spiritual Israel. Israel was not the church in the Old Testament. They’re distinctive entities.
We must as Church Age believers maintain this distinction from Israel, and that we’re not in the Kingdom now.
These gifted people are given to the church to equip the saints.
We saw that an apostle is the first one. He’s commissioned by Christ to the task of establishing the church. It’s important to identify who does the commissioning and what the purpose of the commissioning is. Because there are others that are called apostles, but they’re commissioned by a local church to go forth as missionaries.
I don’t think it’s good to use the term “apostle” in that sense today because it just confuses the whole issue. Because there are The Twelve and then there are these that were commissioned and sent out by the local church.
Revelation 21:14 talks about that specific group as the twelve apostles and their names are on the foundations of the city, the New Jerusalem, in the future.
An apostle had to be an eyewitness of the words and works of Christ. No one is that old today, so there are no apostles in that sense today.
There were just these others who were sent out from local congregations.
Three things indicate that the apostleship was temporary:
- It was limited to only those who had witnessed the resurrection and were called and directly commissioned by Christ.
- Apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church.
You only lay the foundation once. You don’t lay it every time you put a different floor on the building, and the church is compared to a building in several passages, but especially at the end of Ephesians 2.
The term “apostle” was used to designate someone sent by a congregation. But it doesn’t mean that they had a spiritual gift, even though they may have had that that office in the early church, and it was a missionary type of office.
The purpose of these foundational gifts was to provide spiritual direction in the early years of the church through verbal and written revelation. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet, it was necessary to have apostles and prophets who were channels of the new revelation given for the Church Age, which is the New Testament.
Once the New Testament was completed, then the purpose and need for those spiritual gifts, those gifted leaders, no longer existed.
That’s the framework.
What Does the Bible Teach about Temporary Gifts?
Our key passage we’re looking at is 1 Corinthians 13:8–13.
This is in a context, and most of you know that I put a lot of emphasis on context, that we can’t just take verses out of context, and one of the verses that is frequently taken out of context and applied in all kinds of ways that it shouldn’t be is from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I got a new mug that says, “I can do all things through any verse taken out of context.” So, we have to be careful here.
1 Corinthians 13 is usually identified as the “love chapter” because of the description of love that is given primarily in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7.
The significance of love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3, that no matter what your spiritual gift is, if you are not operating within the framework of biblical love, then it’s useless. It is worthless. It is not valuable to anyone.
1 Corinthians 13:1–7, sets the framework for what Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, which begins with this first phrase, “Love.” That is, biblical love—not the simpering, sentimental, superficial human love—that is commonly thought of by people today. When the Bible talks about love, it is a reflection of the love of God. And the love of God works consistently with His other attributes.
In the 19th century, within Protestant liberalism there developed the surgical removal of separation of love from God’s justice. But the reality is divine love operates on the ethics. It has to be ethical. Love operates on the ethic, the standard, of God’s character, which is His righteousness. And the expression of His righteousness toward His creatures is called justice.
So, righteousness expresses the standard of God’s character, justice the application of that righteous standard to His creatures, and love that surrounds all of that. A love that is not righteous is just ridiculous. All it is, is emotionalism. It has no values; it has no integrity. It has no significance.
Love that is separated from justice is nothing more than emotionalism and sentimentality. On the other hand, righteousness and justice that are separated from love also become nothing more than just a harsh tyranny—legalism. The three go hand-in-hand and work together within the character of God.
The idea for the believer is not to be loving in the way the world defines loving, but to be loving in the way the Bible defines loving in the examples that we have in Scripture of God’s love.
God’s love has freely given to us everything that we have as Christians beyond anything we can ask or think. It has freely given us a Savior who paid for our sin penalty on the cross. God’s love is forgiving to the nth degree.
But the problem that we have today is that when we separate God’s love from His justice, then you end up saying, “Well, that God in the Old Testament is just an evil, wicked God,” which was what liberal theology held to. “That God is too harsh. He called for the complete annihilation of the Canaanites. That’s racist!” Modern man says, “That can’t be loving, so we have to change that.”
Well, wait a minute!” Maybe you ought to change the way you think about love, because God’s love also works with His omniscience. He knows all of the knowable. He knows every factor, and little pipsqueak humans don’t know anything. They know about 1/10 of 1 billionth of 1%.
And on that minuscule amount of information, they are going to judge the omnipotent and omniscient righteous God, and say that’s not really loving to do that? He called for the death penalty in the Mosaic Law for someone who claimed to be speaking for Him.
“Well, why can’t we be understanding? They just had this experience, and they think they’re a prophet, so let’s not be too harsh with them. After all, maybe they’re saying a few things that are true.”
But God said if it’s not 100% true, then you decapitate them, you stone them, you do whatever. You take their life through capital punishment because they are leading My people astray. The punishment that they had under the Mosaic Law was stoning, but there were other punishments that they used along the way. But they had to understand that.
They weren’t very good along the way at stoning. If you remember, there is the example in 1 Kings 18 of Elijah and the demonstration on Mount Caramel. Those false prophets were all stoned.
Earlier you have the example of the disobedience of Saul when Saul refused to annihilate all of the Amalekites, and he brought King Agag back because he was going to be kind to him and maybe get some extra booty and plunder from him. But Samuel the prophet of God walked in, saw Agag standing there alive and unharmed, and he took Saul’s sword, swung it, and decapitated Agag on the spot.
That’s the love of God. We have to factor those events into our definition of love, “tough love” in modern parlance. The biblical concept of love doesn’t fail.
This is in a context, starting in 1 Corinthians 12–14. We need to review a couple of things about these spiritual gifts.
1. Spiritual gifts are divinely and sovereignly given gifts for the body of Christ.
You didn’t have spiritual gifts in the Old Testament. You had prophets, and you had some who healed in the Old Testament, but in the Old Testament they didn’t have spiritual gifts because spiritual gifts by definition is for the body of Christ, and you don’t have the body of Christ in the Old Testament.
Therefore, you don’t have spiritual gifts. There’s no indwelling of the Holy Spirit, no baptism by the Holy Spirit; none of that happened in the Old Testament. They are gifts from God, but they are not spiritual gifts.
A lot of people get confused on some of these particular issues. The key passages in the Bible on spiritual gifts are Romans 12:3–8, 1 Corinthians 12–14, and Ephesians 4:11–12:
Romans 12:3–8 also emphasizes love.
1 Corinthians 12 has them identified as gifts given by the Holy Spirit, distributed by the Holy Spirit, at the time of the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13 explains the gifts that are not permanent.
1 Corinthians 14 explains the regulations for the practice and the use of the gifts of languages and of prophecy during the time in which they were still in effect.
Ephesians 4:11–12 mentions four gifts.
The context talks about the gifts given by the Spirit:
1 Corinthians 12:7, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.”
Not for any kind of personal benefit! How many times do we hear Pentecostals say, “My relationship with God is so much better because I have this gift of tongues.” It’s all about me. No wonder they’re so popular!
One of the most eye-opening statements that I ever heard was when one of my professors at Dallas Seminary say that today we live in a world that focuses on self, and it’s all about knowledge from personal experience.
So you don’t have to change your worldview to become a charismatic Christian. You’re still focused on self, and you’re still basing your knowledge on experience. You don’t have to change your worldview. No wonder they’re so popular. They can keep on living and thinking like a pagan and just slap a bunch of God words on it.
It’s for the profit of all; it’s to benefit of others:
1 Corinthians 12:8–11, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit.”
“… to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” Not because you grovel down an aisle and pray for it, but because it’s given at the instant of salvation, and you aren’t consulted.
1 Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
See, it’s all about the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed these in the church [Notice the order. The first three you have similar to Ephesians 4]: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of languages.”
1 Corinthians 12:29, “Are all apostles? [No] Are all prophets? [No] Are all teachers? [No] Are all workers of miracles? [They’re all phrased expecting the answer of “No.”]
1 Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
From these passages, this list of temporary gifts:
- the word of wisdom
- the word of knowledge
- faith (in this sense, it’s not faith like trusting Christ as Savior or faith in the sense of claiming a promise. It is the faith that undergirded these miracles that the apostles and prophets and those with these temporary gifts performed.)
- gifts of healings
- the working of miracles
- to another prophecy
- to another discerning spirits
- to another different kinds of languages
- to another the interpretation of languages
The context is all about spiritual gifts. Then the point at the center of it is that the operation and use of our spiritual gifts when we serve the Lord is to be within the framework of divine love.
1 Corinthians 14 describes that and puts regulations on it.
Some people think if it’s loving you don’t have to have regulations. That’s antinomianism and lawlessness, and that’s not loving.
Regulations for the use of the gift of languages and the gift of prophecy:
The discussion of love is introduced in 1 Corinthians 13 because of all of these gifts, as well as the spiritual qualities of faith and hope, only love is permanent. Permanent means going on into eternity. All of the gifts must operate on divine love, not on emotion.
1 Corinthians 13:8 begins saying, “Love never fails, but whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will fail.”
I’ve changed the translation because the normal in the King James Version is in black here.
It translates the first one “they will fail,” and the last one, “it will vanish away.” But in both places it is the Greek verb KATARGEO, which means to abolish, to end, to cease, to bring to an end.
But when the King James translator varied the translation, the English readers failed to see that this is one of several keywords in the passage that link everything together, and you’re not going to get the unity of the argument if you don’t understand how these words are used.
It starts off identifying the fact that prophecies and knowledge, these two spiritual gifts, are temporary; they will fail. Sandwiched between them is the gift of languages, which will cease. It’s a different verb and the difference there is significant.
It’s set up like this: “But” tells us that it’s contrasting love that has just been described in the previous seven verses. It’s contrasting it with these two gifts that represent the whole of the temporary gifts. Contrasts love with prophecies, which was revelatory. It’s not foretelling.
Some of you may have come up in churches where they equate prophecy as preaching. Prophecy wasn’t preaching. They change the meaning of prophecy in the New Testament and make it different from the Old Testament, when there’s no biblical justification for that.
The first-time usage of the word “prophet” in the New Testament and all subsequent uses related to this, are never defined differently from the way it’s been used in the Old Testament. Being a prophet in the New Testament is not preaching, and it is not forth-telling as opposed to foretelling. That’s how they get around it.
“We still have the gift of prophecy.” Well, you’re not being accurate with your use of the terms in the Scripture.
1 Corinthians 13:8, “… But whether there are prophecies, they will fail [that’s KATARGEO] whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
These three will not last as long as the others; the first point we need to understand.
KATARGEO means that it will be abolished. It shows up again in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “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 [KATARGEO] set aside childish things.”
If you keep translating that word with different terms, you lose the fact that by using that word again in 1 Corinthians 13:11, you understand that this this analogy of a child to an adult is an analogy for understanding that as a child you have these gifts, the childhood of the church, but in the maturity of the church—once they have the completed Word of God—then you don’t need those gifts anymore. Their purpose no longer exists.
In contrast to this statement that they will be abolished, is PAUO, which has the idea that it will just die out on its own; it will just disappear. There’s not necessarily something that will cause it to disappear, it’s will just gradually die out.
We will learn the significance of that when we get to 1 Corinthians 13:10, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part [KATARGEO] will be set aside.”
The next verses identify the fact that prophecy and knowledge are partial and are abolished. Tongues is never mentioned again because it will just disappear.
1. The significance of the shift in verbs and voice in 1 Corinthians 13:8.
They’re all future to when Paul is speaking, so that means at the time Paul is speaking, they were still active, legitimate and viable. But there will come a time in the future when prophecy and knowledge will be abolished and tongues will cease.
2. The meaning of “the perfect,” TELEIOS, 1 Corinthians 13:10, has the idea of bringing something to completion.
That works perfectly well in the context because it talks about these two gifts as incomplete. They’re partial so it fits perfectly. When you have two things that are incomplete, then when you use the word TELEIOS, it fits it perfectly. When that which completes comes, that which is incomplete will be done away with, will be set aside.
3. In the second half, 1 Corinthians 13:12–13, is a temporal shift from “now” we have certain characteristics,” to “but then,” that is, then when this perfect has come, things will be different.
The point of the two illustrations in 1 Corinthians 13:11–12 are to illustrate condition “now” and how it will change “then” at this time in the future.
1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails. Prophecies will be set aside, knowledge will be set aside, tongues will just die out.”
1 Corinthians 13:9, “For we know in part [EK MEROUS means we know partially or incompletely], and we prophesy in part.
Three gifts: prophecy, tongues, knowledge. He says these two are partial, incomplete, which means the revelation that comes through them is incomplete. Tongues wasn’t for the purpose of revelation, but those two were, so he’s talking about something used to reveal God’s Word.
Because in the early New Testament church—and 1 Corinthians was one of the earliest books—there still isn’t much written, and it certainly hasn’t found its way around all of the Roman Empire yet. So, they needed to know how they were to live and function and operate and think within this new Church Age.
Thus, revelation was given through the apostles and prophets—those who had the gift of knowledge or gift of wisdom. This was all God speaking to give information necessary until they had the completed Word of God.
Knowledge is partial, prophecy is partial or incomplete, 1 Corinthians 13:10, “but when the perfect [meaning that which is complete] comes …”
See how that fits together? Knowledge is incomplete, prophecy is incomplete, but when that which completes comes. What’s it completing? It’s completing these revelatory gifts. That tells us that when “that which is complete comes,” it’s got to be in the same category as prophecy and knowledge, which are gifts related to the giving of revelation.
In part: partial, incomplete; and something will come that completes it.
1. Prophecy and knowledge are both partial
2. Prophecy and knowledge are both abolished or set aside
3. Prophecy and knowledge are set aside by the “perfect”—by that which completes
4. Maturity is what abolishes or supersedes childishness in that first illustration,
“For 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, those childish things weren’t necessary.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
The thing that characterized the infancy of the church was they didn’t have all of the New Testament, so they needed revelation from God to know how to think, how to act, how to live. Once that was given and the revelation was complete and sufficient, then there’s no longer a need for those two gifts.
Seven different views on the meaning of the “perfect.”
One idea is that of completion, which is what I’ve emphasized; the other is the idea of perfection. These two views basically say the same thing. One that it’s the completed Canon, and the other that it’s maturity.
I knew the scholar who wrote the article arguing for maturity, and I said, what makes it mature?”
“The completed Canon.”
OK, so they’re basically saying the same thing.
On the other side, some look at 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face.”
Notice “it’s enigmatic,” the actual word in the text. It’s incomplete, it’s enigmatic. I’m not sure what it’s all saying.
“But then face-to-face.” How many of you immediately think face-to-face with the Lord because you’ve heard that so much? But it’s not face-to-face with the Lord here. It doesn’t say that. That’s very important; don’t read it into the text.
Some think it’s death, face-to-face with the Lord. Others will say it’s the Rapture, when you’re face-to-face with the Lord. These are all basically the same thing. You’re not in this life, you’re in the next life.
The Second Coming, Christ has come and now you’re in your resurrection body, so it’s in the next life—eternal state or the eschaton, a favorite word of scholars who talk about the end times. There’s a problem with this view, which is held by almost everybody; there are serious scriptural problems.
I remember that a friend of mine, at the time one of my favorite professors at Dallas Seminary, who changed a lot over the years, but at the time was very good. Bruce Bumgardner who was in seminary, had him for a course in pneumatology, and one of the things that bothered me was he told the students, “You have to write a position paper on tongues, but I don’t want anybody taking the position that the perfect is the Canon, because nobody believes that anymore.”
The irony is that since he said that in the early 90s, there have been at least six published journal articles, including one by me and one by Andy Woods that have all argued for the completed Canon. It’s not very dead, but that’s what he said … that’s the irony!
1 Corinthians 13:11 uses the child analogy, and I’ve mentioned that already, so it’s the word “set aside,” so we move from the “now” of being a child to the “then” of being mature. When you’re mature you abolish, set aside, childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:12, another “now” and “then,” “For now we see in a mirror …” That’s what it is. When you look through a glass darkly, you see through it. You can’t see through the window. If you’re looking through a glass darkly, you’re looking through a tinted window; you can’t see what’s on the other side.
This is a term for a mirror. In the ancient world they used polished brass or polished metal. You don’t get as clear a reflection in polished metal as you do with a glass mirror, so you don’t see a clear image. That’s the illustration.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then [something will happen: when these things are set aside, we’re going to see] face-to-face.”
What are we seeing face-to-face? We’re looking in the completed Canon of Scripture, and James says we look into the mirror of the Word of God. Some people look in the mirror of the Word of God, and they walk away. They don’t do anything; they still have spinach in their teeth. They’ve still got bed-head.
But if you pay attention to what you see in the mirror, you’re going to comb your hair, you’re going to brush your teeth, get your collar right … those kinds of things. We see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word, and that enables us to know ourselves fully.
The theological term used is “the perspicacity of Scripture.” That means the Scripture is perspicuous. It shows exactly what’s going on in your life and in your thinking and calls it exactly what it is. We will be known fully just as we’ve been fully known.
Interestingly, in Numbers 12:6–7, God made a statement, speaking to Moses, “Hear now My words: If there’s a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak to him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, [because] he is faithful in all My household;”
Numbers 12:8, “With him I will speak mouth to mouth [the same imagery as face-to-face], even openly, and not enigmatically [the same Greek word AINIGMA as in 1 Corinthians 13].”
This is an illustration of the insufficiency of prophecy. You don’t get it all. Moses had part of the message, Joshua part of the message, Samuel had part of the message, Isaiah had part of the message, Daniel had part of the message. But it’s not until you get the whole Old Testament that you get all of the Old Testament message.
In the New Testament, you have Paul, Peter, John, Luke and various other prophets that are giving their part of the message. But it’s not till it is all together and put into the Canon that you see the full picture. That’s the imagery here.
1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see [ourselves] in a mirror dimly, but then [when the Canon is completed, it’s] face-to-face; now I know myself in part [prophecy is partial, knowledge is partial, and now I see myself partially], but then [when the Canon’s completed] I shall know myself fully just as I have also been fully known.”
An illustration: Here’s a child. He is not mature, and that’s now. But then, when you have a mature adult, you put aside childish things.
- “Now” is the pre-Canon period [Canon means rule, the standard; it’s a collection of the New Testament writings] from AD 33, the birth of the church, until 95.
- “Then” is the post-Canon period, the Post-Apostolic period from 95 to the present.
1 Corinthians 13:13, “But now abide faith, hope and love …”
What’s interesting here is we think that sense of perfect is, “I’m to be in the presence of God.” So the “now” and the “then,” now it’s partial; then it’s complete.
Under that view, “now” is now in this life, and “then” is when I’m face-to-face with the Lord.
There’s only one problem with that, and it’s scriptural, 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith and not by sight.”
Right now we walk by faith, not by sight. But then if that face-to-face is with the Lord, we would be walking by sight in Heaven. Uh-oh. Faith is not by sight, so faith is not operative in Heaven. Faith is for today when we walk by faith and not by sight.
Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is not operative in Heaven because we see things for what they are.
Not only that, but in Romans 8:24 Paul says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope…”
Faith and hope won’t be functional in Heaven because we will see. That means faith and hope will die out at the instant we leave this earth, whether it’s a death or the Rapture.
If it’s Second Coming, then that means that when we go to Heaven, faith, hope, and love are going to continue, but we’ve just seen faith, hope and love don’t continue in Heaven. Love is the greatest because of those three, love’s the only one that continues into the next life and into Heaven.
The purpose of tongues was just as a sign of judgment. It wasn’t really for revelation. There may have been some revelation, but the purpose was when those apostles were speaking in unknown Gentile languages—unknown in the sense that they had not learned them—Jews that were perceptive because they knew the Old Testament realized this was a sign of God’s judgment on Israel.
1 Corinthians 14:21–22, Paul quotes from Isaiah, “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues [men of strange languages] and by the lips of strangers. I will speak to this people and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then the gift of languages is not for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign [that’s what Paul says], not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.”
Isaiah 28:11 is a prophecy that the Babylonians and the Assyrians are coming, who will speak in unknown languages to you, and when you hear that in the holy places of Israel, you will know that it is My judgment on you.
Why would they know that?
Because of Deuteronomy 28:49 where Moses said, “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand.”
Tongues were a sign of judgment. Any Jew that was present, and Paul always went to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Any Jew that heard Gentiles quoting Scripture and giving the gospel, the fact that the Holy Torah of Moses was spoken in Gentile languages, served as a sign of divine judgment on Israel. That’s why they were scattered among the nations.
This is not putting God in a box. I pastored a church one time, and a guy came up to me and said, “You’re putting God in a box.”
I said, “The Bible doesn’t put God in a box. The Bible just tells us that there’s going to be some ways that God will operate and some ways that He won’t, but that’s not me putting God in a box.” He told us that He would put Himself in that box. He would do it in a certain way and not another way.
We had temporary gifts, but those of the four that are listed, the evangelists and the pastor-teacher, are the two gifts that do continue in the Church Age for the purpose of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.
That’s the role of the pastor: to teach the Word of God. Not to be a motivator. The motivation comes from the Word of God, not the motivation of the pastor. He’s not to be emoting because the emotion should come from the impact that the Holy Spirit through His Word brings to you.
Not because the pastor is manipulating through emotion, which is what happens in so many churches—because they don’t trust God to do the job so they’ve got to play God. The role the pastor is to teach the Word and equip the saints.
“Father, thank You so much that we can come together and study these things as important as they are to understand with clarity, as Ephesians 4 says, not to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but to have discernment, not to be deceived, not to be sidetracked by all of these other things.
“Father, we pray too for anyone is here who’s never trusted in Christ the Savior, never understood the free gift of eternal life, because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. That He paid the penalty, so we don’t have to do anything other than accept that free gift of eternal life by believing, by trusting, in Christ is our Savior.
“We thank You so much for this indescribable gift of eternal life: to be made alive again, to be in Christ, and to have all of these blessings You have given us. We thank You for that in Christ’s name, amen.”