Let’s start by reading those precious verses. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 says, “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” I Corinthians, chapter 13, is properly known as the ‘love chapter’. Although the KJV uses the word ‘charity’, it is the Greek word ‘agape’ and means ‘love’.

These verses speak of the value and permanence of love as opposed to the temporary gifts. First, we’re told that love will never fail. Then we’re told that prophecies will fail, tongues will cease, and knowledge will vanish away. It’s interesting to note that the Greek word for ‘fail’ is the same Greek word for ‘vanish away’, so we can see that both prophesies and knowledge have the same end…they will be done away with. When will prophecies, tongues, and knowledge be done away with? “When that which is perfect is come.” What is this perfect thing that is to come? There are basically two trains of thought dealing with this.

Some believe that this portion is speaking of the completeness of the inspired Word of God. When the scriptures were completed, there would be no more need for new prophesies, we have the Word of God to teach us. There would be no need for ‘sign gifts’ such as tongues to authenticate the word spoken, the scriptures authenticate themselves. There would be no new knowledge to be gained, for all we need to know is in God’s Word.

Others believe that this portion is speaking of that eternal day when we are finally with the Lord. At that day, there will be no need of prophesying, tongues, or knowledge. Speaking of that eternal day, we read in Hebrews 8:11, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”

There is some credibility in both thoughts, but I believe that the main point in this portion is the importance and permanence of love above all else. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Love is greater even than faith and hope. Just as prophesy, tongues and knowledge is temporary, so is faith and hope. We cannot over-estimate the importance of faith and hope, but they are, indeed, temporary. One day, when we see the Lord, there will be no more need for faith, for faith will give way to sight. There will be no more need for hope, for hope will be brought to pass. But love will abide forever. 1 John 4:8 tells us that, “…God is love.” Galatians 2:20 tells us that Christ, “…loved me, and gave himself for me.” Throughout eternity, we will dwell in His presence and share in that great love that sought and found us and brought us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (167.3)