Paul continues his discussion of spiritual gifts and love in this section, telling us that the gifts will one day pass away, but that love will remain. It is evident fairly quickly that what Paul has in mind here is that this age will pass away when the Lord returns, and after that time, the gifts of the Spirit as we now understand them, will pass away, for they will no longer be required to build the Kingdom of God. Remember, the gifts or manifestations of the Spirit are not given to puff up their recipients, but for the common good to build up the Body of Christ.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12
Using childhood as an analogy, Paul points out that when the completion comes, the things we now see from the incomplete vantage point of this world will change, and we will then see things as they truly are, from a heavenly point of view. When this happens, the manifestations given to us for this time will no longer be necessary, but love remains always, for the way of love is the way of God.
I would imagine that this point was as difficult for the Corinthians to accept as it is for most of us today. We read things like this and respond with a certain amount of skepticism in our earthly perspective. It sounds to many of us like just another academic abstraction, a nice concept, but totally unrealistic in the real world we live in.
Who can argue that point?
Maybe we should consider the possibility that this world of ours isn’t actually the “real” world at all, for this world has been corrupted by evil, and it is not at all the world God created and placed humanity into at the beginning. Maybe the fact that human nature contains a generous portion of evil desire is not the “norm” and maybe love is.
Oh yes, to have a heavenly point of view is counter-intuitive in the extreme!
I’ll leave you with a thought:
Before God created the physical universe that we know, He lived in eternity past, with no time or space as we understand them. Then He created our universe and added humanity to mix to fulfill His purpose in the Creation. After doing so, a period of time elapsed before humans were corrupted by sin in Genesis 3. Maybe that period was days or weeks, and maybe it was centuries; no one knows. We also cannot know how many years have passed since then, but it has been quite a few. Jesus is set to return to do away with evil entirely in the Final Judgment, and then we will spend eternity with Him. Notice that “eternity” is on both sides of “time”.
From an earthly time and space point of view, there is only time, for we have no frame of reference from which to comprehend eternity. Yet from God’s perspective, “time” is but a blip on the radar, so vast is eternity.
This concept isn’t easy to wrap our brains around; it may not even be possible to do so. Yet we can be sure that love endures through all of this… And that dear reader, is precisely the point that Paul is making in this chapter.