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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Blessing;   Charitableness;   Ignorance;   Knowledge;   Love;   Mirror;   Readings, Select;   Religion;   Righteous;   Righteousness;   Sanctification;   Thompson Chain Reference - Blindness-Vision;   Fuller Revelation;   Heavenly;   Knowledge;   Looking-Glasses;   Mirrors;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Revelation;   Vision;   The Topic Concordance - Charity;   Immaturity;   Maturity;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Conduct, Christian;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Face;   Glass;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Ethics;   Gifts of the spirit;   Worship;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Corinthians, First and Second, Theology of;   Know, Knowledge;   Knowledge of God;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Alms;   Love, Brotherly;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Kiss;   Riddle;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Bartholomew;   Games;   Glass;   House;   Riddle;   Thunder;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Glass;   Looking Glass;   Love;   Mirror;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Brotherly Love;   Corinthians, First Epistle to the;   Ethics;   Evil;   Glass, Looking-Glass, Mirror;   John, Theology of;   Law;   Perfection;   Spiritual Gifts;   Tongues, Gift of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Arts;   Clothes;   Kingdom Kingdom of God;   Love;   Metaphor;   Mirror ;   Omnipresence;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Glass, Looking Glass;   Knowledge;   48 To Know, Perceive, Understand;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Glass;   Obsolete or obscure words in the english av bible;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Lass;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Face;   Glass;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abstinence;   Busybody;   Charity;   Corinthians, First Epistle to the;   Darkly;   Dark Sayings;   Games;   Glass;   Hope;   Know;   Language of the New Testament;   Literature, Sub-Apostolic;   Love;   Manifestly;   Name;   Tongues, Gift of;   Wisdom;  
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for October 29;   Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for December 28;   Every Day Light - Devotion for March 12;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 1 Corinthians 13:12. Now we see through a glass, darklyδι εσοπτρου εν αινιγματι. Of these words some literal explanation is necessary. The word εσοπτρον which we translate a glass, literally signifies a mirror or reflector, from εις, into, and οπτομαι, I look; and among the ancients mirrors were certainly made of fine polished metal. The word here may signify any thing by which the image of a person is reflected, as in our looking, or look in glass. The word is not used for a glass to look through; nor would such an image have suited with the apostle's design.

The εσοπτρον or mirror, is mentioned by some of the most ancient Greek writers; so Anacreon, Ode xi. ver. 1:-

Αεγουσιν αἱ γυναικες,

Ανακρεων, γερων ει·

Ααβων ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ αθρει

Κομας μεν ουκετ' ουσας.

The women tell me,

Anacreon, thou art grown old;

Take thy mirror, and view

How few of thy hairs remain.

And again, in Ode xx. ver. 5:-

Εγω δ' εσοπτρον ειην,

Ὁπως αει βλεπης με.

I wish I were a mirror

That thou mightst always look into me.

In Exodus 38:8, we meet with the term looking glasses; but the original is maroth, and should be translated mirrors; as out of those very articles, which we absurdly translate looking GLASSES, the brazen laver was made!

In the Greek version the word εσοπτρον is not found but twice, and that in the apocryphal books.

In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon, chap. 1 Corinthians 7:26, speaking of wisdom the author says: "She is the brightness of the everlasting light, και εσοπτρον ακηλιδωτον, and the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness."

In Ecclus. xii. 11, exhorting to put no trust in an enemy, he says: "Though he humble himself, and go crouching, yet take good heed and beware of him, and thou shalt be unto him, ως εκμεμαχως εσοπτρον, as if thou hadst wiped a looking glass, (mirror,) and thou shalt know that his rust hath not altogether been wiped away." All these passages must be understood of polished metal, not of glass, which, though it existed among the Romans and others, yet was brought to very little perfection; and as to grinding and silvering of glass, they are modern inventions.

Some have thought that the apostle refers to something of the telescopic kind, by which distant and small objects become visible, although their surfaces become dim in proportion to the quantum of the magnifying power; but this is too refined; he appears simply to refer to a mirror by which images were rejected, and not to any diaphanous and magnifying powers, through which objects were perceived.

Possibly the true meaning of the words δι εσοπτρου εν αινιγματι, through a glass darkly, may be found among the Jewish writers, who use a similar term to express nearly the same thing to which the apostle refers. A revelation of the will of God, in clear and express terms, is called by them אספקלריא מאירה aspecularia maira, a clear or lucid glass, or specular in reference, specularibus lapidibus, to the diaphanous polished stones, used by the ancients for windows instead of glass. An obscure prophecy they termed אספקלריא דלא נהריא aspecularia dela naharia, "a specular which is not clear."

Numbers 12:6: If there be a prophet-I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream; Rab. Tanchum thus explains: "My Shechinah shall not be revealed to him, באספקלריא מאירה beaspecularia maira, in a lucid specular, but only in a dream and a vision."

On Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:5 : And I looked, and behold a whirlwind-a great cloud, and a fire unfolding itself, c. Sohar Chadash, fol. 33, says: "This is a vision באספקלריא דלא נהרא beaspecularia dela nahara, by an obscure or dark specular."

From a great variety of examples produced by Schoettgen it appears that the rabbins make a great deal of difference between seeing through the lucid glass or specular, and seeing through the obscure one. The first is attributed only to Moses, who conversed with God face to face, i.e. through the lucid specular; and between the other prophets, who saw him in dreams and visions, i.e. through the obscure specular. In these distinctions and sayings of the ancient Jews we must seek for that to which the apostle alludes. See Schoettgen.

The word αινιγματι, which we render darkly, will help us to the true meaning of the place. The following is Mr. Parkhurst's definition of the term and of the thing: "αινιγμα, from ηνιγμαι, the perfect passive of ισυιττω, to hint, intimate, signify with some degree of obscurity; an enigma, in which one thing answers or stands in correspondence to, or as the representative of, another, which is in some respects similar to it; occurs 1 Corinthians 13:12: Now-in this life, we see by means of a mirror reflecting the images of heavenly and spiritual things, εν αινιγματι, in an enigmatical manner, invisible things being represented by visible, spiritual by natural, eternal by temporal; but then-in the eternal world, face to face, every thing being seen in itself, and not by means of a representative or similitude."

Now I know in part — Though I have an immediate revelation from God concerning his great design in the dispensation of the Gospel, yet there are lengths, breadths, depths, and heights of this design, which even that revelation has not discovered; nor can they be known and apprehended in the present imperfect state. Eternity alone can unfold the whole scheme of the Gospel.

As - I am known. — In the same manner in which disembodied spirits know and understand.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Love is greater than the gifts (13:1-13)

The Corinthians were impressed with people who exercised the more spectacular gifts. Paul reminds them that no matter what gifts they have - tongues, prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, faith - if they lack love they are not merely unimportant, they are nothing (13:1-2). People may be so generous with their goods and money that in the end they themselves become poor. They may be so faithful to their duty that they sacrifice their lives. But without love they have gained nothing (3).
Paul then describes some of the qualities of love. Chief of these is that it thinks of others, not of self. Love is patient, kind, humble, forgiving, self-controlled and always thoughtful of the feelings of others. It is not boastful, bad mannered, resentful or irritable (4-5). At the same time it upholds God’s standards of righteousness, always rejoicing in what is true and never in what is wrong. It is trusting and persevering, and always looks positively to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s purposes (6-7).
The various gifts are temporary and imperfect, for they are limited to life in the present world. But love is permanent, and endures into the age to come (8-10). The gifts Christians exercise are likened to the changing abilities and capacities in the life of a growing child, but love is likened to the maturity of adulthood (11). In the present world Christians have only a limited understanding of eternal things. Their view of the age to come is unclear. When face to face with Christ they will know these things clearly, just as God knows them clearly (12). The important issue for Christians is not the display of their spiritual gifts, but the exercise of faith, hope, and above all, love (13).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

For now, we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

In this there surely must be a glimpse of eternal things; and it evidently occurred to Paul in connection with what he had just said of the childhood age of the church giving way to maturity, applicable to the current era of that day; but like many other examples in the Bible, it has a secondary reference to something much more remote. (Other examples of this same type of thing are in Matthew 2:15; 2:18 ... See my comments in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 18-19). We may therefore refer the words about seeing through a mirror darkly, and knowing "in part" to the present dispensation of God's grace, and the words about being "face to face" (presumably with the Lord) and knowing "fully" may be understood as descriptive of conditions in eternity. That there is, in fact, just such an emphasis in this 1 Corinthians 13:12, is proved by Paul's prompt return to the "now" in the final verse immediately after this. A failure to observe this limitation of 1 Corinthians 13:12 is fatal to any true interpretation of this passage.

In a mirror darkly ... Ancient mirrors were of polished metal, easily tarnished, and any image was only dimly seen. Paul himself referred even to the Christ as "the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15); and although it would be sinful and incorrect to suppose any deficiency in the blessed Saviour, mortal life is limited. Nothing is dim about Christ as God's image except the tarnished mirrors by which mortal men behold it. There shines in these words the essential need for people to walk by faith; because what they may "see" even under the best of circumstances must be described as seeing "darkly." See my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 209-210.

Then face to face ... In the resurrection, we shall behold the face of the Beloved. "We know that if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is'" (1 John 3:2).

Now I know in part ... Note the temporal "now"; and note also that Paul was not referring to the Corinthians who knew far less than he did; for it is of himself that this is said. What a shocking rebuke of intellectual arrogance is this! The greatest mind of the apostolic age, other than that of Christ himself, here stressed the partial and incomplete nature of that whole body of revelation which Paul, more than any other, delivered to mankind. "The permanent danger of intellectual eminence is intellectual snobbery,"[29] as Barclay said; but there is surely an antidote for it in such a passage as this.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For now we see through a glass - Paul here makes use of another illustration to show the imperfection of our knowledge here. Compared with what it will be in the future world, it is like the imperfect view of an object which we have in looking through an obscure and opaque medium compared with the view which we have when we look at it “face to face.” The word “glass” here (ἐσοπτρον esoptron) means properly a mirror, a looking-glass. The mirrors of the ancients were usually made of polished metal; Exodus 38:8; Job 37:18. Many have supposed (see Doddridge, in loc. and Robinson’s Lexicon) that the idea here is that of seeing objects by reflection from a mirror, which reflects only their imperfect forms. But this interpretation does not well accord with the apostle’s idea of seeing things obscurely. The most natural idea is that of seeing objects by an imperfect medium, by looking “through” something in contemplating them.

It is, therefore, probable that he refers to those transparent substances which the ancients had, and which they used in their windows occasionally; such as thin plates of horn, transparent stone, etc. Windows were often made of the “lapis specularis” described by Plint (xxxvi. 22), which was pellucid, and which admitted of being split into thin “laminae” or scales, probably the same as mica. Humboldt mentions such kinds of stone as being used in South America in church windows - Bloomfield. It is not improbable, I think, that even in the time of Paul the ancients had the knowledge of glass, though it was probably at first very imperfect and obscure. There is some reason to believe that glass was known to the Phenicians, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians. Pliny says that it was first discovered by accident. A merchant vessel, laden with nitre or fossil alkali, having been driven on shore on the coast of Palestine near the river Belus, the crew went in search of provisions, and accidentally supported the kettles on which they dressed their food upon pieces of fossil alkali.

The river sand above which this operation was performed was vitrified by its union with the alkali, and thus produced glass - See Edin. Encyclopedia, “Glass.” It is known that glass was in quite common use about the commencement of the Christian era. In the reign of Tiberius an artist had his house demolished for making glass malleable. About this time drinking vessels were made commonly of glass; and glass bottles for holding wine and flowers were in common use. That glass was in quite common use has been proved by the remains that have been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. There is, therefore, no impropriety in supposing that Paul here may have alluded to the imperfect and discolored glass which was then in extensive use; for we have no reason to suppose that it was then as transparent as that which is now made. It was, doubtless, an imperfect and obscure medium, and, therefore, well adapted to illustrate the nature of our knowledge here compared with what it wilt be in heaven.

Darkly - Margin, “In a riddle” (ἐν αἰνίγματι en ainigmati). The word means a riddle; an enigma; then an obscure intimation. In a riddle a statement is made with some resemblance to the truth; a puzzling question is proposed, and the solution is left to conjecture. Hence, it means, as here, obscurely, darkly, imperfectly. Little is known; much is left to conjecture; a very accurate account of most of that which passes for knowledge. Compared with heaven, our knowledge here much resembles the obscure intimations in an enigma compared with clear statement and manifest truth.

But then - In the fuller revelations in heaven.

Face to face - As when one looks upon an object openly, and not through an obscure and dark medium. It here means, therefore, “clearly, without obscurity.”

I know in part - 1 Corinthians 13:9.

But then shall I know - My knowledge shall be clear and distinct. I shall have a clear view of those objects which are now so indistinct and obscure. I shall be in the presence of those objects about which I now inquire; I shall “see” them; I shall have a clear acquaintance with the divine perfections, plans, and character. This does not mean that he would know “everything,” or that he would be omniscient; but that in regard to those points of inquiry in which he was then interested, he would have a view that would be distinct and clear - a view that would be clear, arising from the fact that he would be present with them, and permitted to see them, instead of surveying them at a distance, and by imperfect mediums.

Even as also I am known - “In the same manner” (καθὼς kathōs), not “to the same extent.” It does not mean that he would know God as clearly and as fully as God would know him; for his remark does not relate to the “extent,” but to the “manner” and the comparative “clearness” of his knowledge. He would see things as he was now seen and would be seen there. It would be face to face. He would be in their presence. It would not be where he would be seen clearly and distinctly, and himself compelled to look upon all objects confusedly and obscurely, and through an imperfect medium. But he would he with them; would see them face to face; would see them without any medium; would see them “in the same manner” as they would see him. Disembodied spirits, and the inhabitants of the heavenly world, have this knowledge; and when we are there, we shall see the truths, not at a distance and obscurely, but plainly and openly.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

13:12b: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

In the latter part of this verse Paul continued to contrast the temporary supernatural gifts with the future completion of the New Testament Scriptures. He said he (and by implication others) “knew in part” (meros). Thayer (p. 401) defined in part as “in part, partially, i.e. imperfectly.” Until the faith was once for all time revealed (Judges 1:3), Christians had to make do with partial revelation and spiritual gifts. This was even true for the apostles. These men received many special powers from the Holy Spirit, but even they had to work without a completed New Testament.

Some have said we cannot “fully know” things in this life, so the reference to “knowing fully” must be associated with Jesus’ second coming or heaven. This argument, just like the preceding arguments involving the word “perfect” (see the discussion on verse 10), is based on using English definitions for Greek words.

The term translated “fully know” (epiginosko) is used twice in verse 12 as well as many other places in the New Testament. When this word is studied, it is readily apparent that God says we can and we do “fully know” many things in this life. Here are some of the other passages in the New Testament that have this same term:

Ø Mark 7:16 - You shall “know” them by their fruits

Ø Luke 7:37 - A woman “knew” Jesus was at someone’s house

Ø Luke 23:7 - Pilate “knew” Jesus was of Herod’s jurisdiction

Ø Acts 12:14 - A woman “knew” Peter’s voice

Ø Acts 19:34 - They “perceived” (knew) he was a Jew

Ø Acts 22:29 - A man “knew” Paul was a Roman

Ø 2 Corinthians 1:13 - “Acknowledge” (know) to the end, not after the end.

Ø 1 Timothy 4:3 - Believe and “know” the truth

Ø 2 Peter 2:21 - People have “known” the way of righteousness

As these preceding references show, especially 1 Timothy 4:3 and 2 Peter 2:21, the word translated fully known and know fully in verse 12 is used to say that we can and we do know many things in life. Paul used this term here because it was the perfect word to describe the completed New Testament. If the completed New Testament does not give us full knowledge about Christianity, God has not given us all the information we need to love and serve Him. We do not have the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) that “completes us” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Neither do we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Furthermore, if spiritual gifts are still available, the following questions remain unanswered.

Ø Why claim that only some gifts are now available or now in use? Why do people claim gifts like tongue speaking, but no one raises the dead? Why do people never drink deadly poison without harm? Why do we not find instances of people handling deadly snakes without suffering injury or death (Mark 16:18)? If people still have the power first century Christians had, they should be eagerly and willingly demonstrating their gifts because Jesus said these supernatural abilities would “confirm the word” (Mark 16:20).

Ø If the “perfect” is not the word of God and spiritual gifts are still available, how do we know if the Bible is complete? How do we disprove claims that say God is still revealing His word? Since supernatural signs were directly linked with the revelation of the Scriptures, if the signs have continued, the revelation of the Scriptures is still incomplete.

Ø If God is still giving inspired messages to man, who are His spokespeople? Do we look to Joseph Smith? David Koresh? Mary Baker Eddy? Jim Jones? Mohammed? How do we determine who is an inspired spokesman for God and who is not? Also, are the “new revelations” from God superior to the 27 books of the New Testament, inferior to these books, or equal to these books? If the supernatural gifts have not ceased, the canon of the New Testament is still a work in progress.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

13:12b: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

In the latter part of this verse Paul continued to contrast the temporary supernatural gifts with the future completion of the New Testament Scriptures. He said he (and by implication others) “knew in part” (meros). Thayer (p. 401) defined in part as “in part, partially, i.e. imperfectly.” Until the faith was once for all time revealed (Judges 1:3), Christians had to make do with partial revelation and spiritual gifts. This was even true for the apostles. These men received many special powers from the Holy Spirit, but even they had to work without a completed New Testament.

Some have said we cannot “fully know” things in this life, so the reference to “knowing fully” must be associated with Jesus’ second coming or heaven. This argument, just like the preceding arguments involving the word “perfect” (see the discussion on verse 10), is based on using English definitions for Greek words.

The term translated “fully know” (epiginosko) is used twice in verse 12 as well as many other places in the New Testament. When this word is studied, it is readily apparent that God says we can and we do “fully know” many things in this life. Here are some of the other passages in the New Testament that have this same term:

Ø Mark 7:16 - You shall “know” them by their fruits

Ø Luke 7:37 - A woman “knew” Jesus was at someone’s house

Ø Luke 23:7 - Pilate “knew” Jesus was of Herod’s jurisdiction

Ø Acts 12:14 - A woman “knew” Peter’s voice

Ø Acts 19:34 - They “perceived” (knew) he was a Jew

Ø Acts 22:29 - A man “knew” Paul was a Roman

Ø 2 Corinthians 1:13 - “Acknowledge” (know) to the end, not after the end.

Ø 1 Timothy 4:3 - Believe and “know” the truth

Ø 2 Peter 2:21 - People have “known” the way of righteousness

As these preceding references show, especially 1 Timothy 4:3 and 2 Peter 2:21, the word translated fully known and know fully in verse 12 is used to say that we can and we do know many things in life. Paul used this term here because it was the perfect word to describe the completed New Testament. If the completed New Testament does not give us full knowledge about Christianity, God has not given us all the information we need to love and serve Him. We do not have the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) that “completes us” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Neither do we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Furthermore, if spiritual gifts are still available, the following questions remain unanswered.

Ø Why claim that only some gifts are now available or now in use? Why do people claim gifts like tongue speaking, but no one raises the dead? Why do people never drink deadly poison without harm? Why do we not find instances of people handling deadly snakes without suffering injury or death (Mark 16:18)? If people still have the power first century Christians had, they should be eagerly and willingly demonstrating their gifts because Jesus said these supernatural abilities would “confirm the word” (Mark 16:20).

Ø If the “perfect” is not the word of God and spiritual gifts are still available, how do we know if the Bible is complete? How do we disprove claims that say God is still revealing His word? Since supernatural signs were directly linked with the revelation of the Scriptures, if the signs have continued, the revelation of the Scriptures is still incomplete.

Ø If God is still giving inspired messages to man, who are His spokespeople? Do we look to Joseph Smith? David Koresh? Mary Baker Eddy? Jim Jones? Mohammed? How do we determine who is an inspired spokesman for God and who is not? Also, are the “new revelations” from God superior to the 27 books of the New Testament, inferior to these books, or equal to these books? If the supernatural gifts have not ceased, the canon of the New Testament is still a work in progress.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12. We now see through a glass Here we have the application of the similitude. “The measure of knowledge, that we now have, is suitable to imperfection and childhood, as it were; for we do not as yet see clearly the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, and we do not as yet enjoy a distinct view of them.” To express this, he makes use of another similitude — that we now see only as in a glass, and therefore but obscurely. This obscurity he expresses by the term enigma (800)

In the first place, there can be no doubt that it is the ministry of the word, and the means that are required for the exercise of it, that he compares to a looking-glass For God, who is otherwise invisible, has appointed these means for discovering himself to us. At the same time, this may also be viewed as extending to the entire structure of the world, in which the glory of God shines forth to our view, in accordance with what is stated in Romans 1:16; and 2 Corinthians 3:18. In Romans 1:20 the Apostle speaks of the creatures as mirrors, (801) in which God’s invisible majesty is to be seen; but as he treats here particularly of spiritual gifts, which are subservient to the ministry of the Church, and are its accompaniments, we shall not wander away from our present subject.

The ministry of the word, I say, is like a looking-glass For the angels have no need of preaching, or other inferior helps, nor of sacraments, for they enjoy a vision of God of another kind; (802) and God does not give them a view of his face merely in a mirror, but openly manifests himself as present with them. We, who have not as yet reached that great height, behold the image of God as it is presented before us in the word, in the sacraments, and, in fine, in the whole of the service of the Church. This vision Paul here speaks of as partaking of obscurity — not as though it were doubtful or delusive, but because it is not so distinct as that which will be at last afforded on the final day. He teaches the same thing in other words, in the second Epistle — (2 Corinthians 5:7) — that,

so long as we dwell in the body we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Our faith, therefore, at present beholds God as absent. How so? Because it sees not his face, but rests satisfied with the image in the mirror; but when we shall have left the world, and gone to him, it will behold him as near and before its eyes.

Hence we must understand it in this manner — that the knowledge of God, which we now have from his word, is indeed certain and true, and has nothing in it that is confused, or perplexed, or dark, but is spoken of as comparatively obscure, because it comes far short of that clear manifestation to which we look forward; for then we shall see face to face (803) Thus this passage is not at all at variance with other passages, which speak of the clearness, at one time, of the law, at another time, of the entire Scripture, but more especially of the gospel. For we have in the word (in so far as is expedient for us) a naked and open revelation of God, and it has nothing intricate in it, to hold us in suspense, as wicked persons imagine; (804) but how small a proportion does this bear to that vision, which we have in our eye! Hence it is only in a comparative sense, that it is termed obscure.

The adverb then denotes the last day, rather than the time that is immediately subsequent to death. At the same time, although full vision will be deferred until the day of Christ, a nearer view of God will begin to be enjoyed immediately after death, when our souls, set free from the body, will have no more need of the outward ministry, or other inferior helps. Paul, however, as I noticed a little ago, does not enter into any close discussion as to the state of the dead, because the knowledge of that is not particularly serviceable to piety.

Now I know in part That is, the measure of our present knowledge is imperfect, as John says in his Epistle, (1 John 3:1,) that

we know, indeed, that we are the sons of God, but that it doth not yet appear, until we shall see God as he is.

Then we shall see God — not in his image, but in himself, so that there will be, in a manner, a mutual view.

(800) The original term αἴνιγμα, ( enigma,) properly means, a dark saying It is employed by classical writers in this sense. See Pind. Fr. 165. Aeseh. Proverbs 610:0. The Apostle is generally supposed to have had in his eye Numbers 12:8, which is rendered in the Septuagint as follows: Στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω αὐτῶ ἐν ἔιδει, καὶ οὐ δι ᾿ αἰνίγματων; — “I will speak to him mouth to mouth in a vision, and not by dark sayings. ” — Ed

(801) “ Et l’Apostre, en l’onzieme aux Heb., d. 13, nomme les creatures, miroirs;” — “And the Apostle, in Hebrews 11:13, speaks of the creatures as mirrors.” There is obviously a mistake here in the quotation. Most probably Calvin had in his eye Hebrews 11:3, as a passage similar in substance to Romans 1:20, quoted by him in his Latin Commentary. — Ed.

(802) “ Ils ont vn autre iouissance de la presence de Dieu;” — “They have another enjoyment of the presence of God.”

(803) “The blessed God’s manifestation of himself,” say’s Mr. Howe, “is emphatically expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:12 — of seeing face to face, which signifies on his part, gracious vouchsafement, — his offering his blessed face to view, — that he hides it not, nor turns it away, as here sometimes he doth, in just displeasure. And his face means, even his most conspicuous glory, such as, in this state of mortality, it would be mortal to us to behold; for ‘no man,’ not so divine a man as Moses himself, ‘could see his face and live.’ And it signifies, on their part who are thus made perfect, their applying and turning their face towards his, viz., that they see not casually, or by fortuitous glances, but eye to eye, by direct and most voluntary intuition; which, therefore, on their part, implies moral perfection, the will directing and commanding the eye, and upon inexpressible relishes of joy and pleasure, forbidding its diversion, holds it steady and intent.” Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) p. 1016. — Ed.

(804) “ Comme imaginent les moqueurs et gens profanes;” — “As scoffers and profane persons imagine.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Let's turn to the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians.

The thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians actually begins with chapter 12. Paul was talking in chapter 12 about the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. How the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through the life of the believer and those various gifts that a person can possess. Not everyone has all of the gifts, not everyone has all of the ministries, obvious by the rhetorical questions. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But the Holy Spirit divides to each man severally as He wills of the gifts of the Spirit. So the Holy Spirit is sovereign as far as the dispensing of these gifts, yet we are to covet earnestly the best gifts.

Just because the Holy Spirit dispenses them does not stop me necessarily from desiring particular gifts. So Paul said, "Covet earnestly the best gifts." Again, the best gifts are determined by what is the need in your life. What is the ministry that God has called you to fulfill? Whatever your place is in the body will determine what will be the best gifts to enable you to adequately minister. And yet, Paul said, "I will show you a more excellent way." There is a better way than even having the gifts of healing or being able to work miracles, or speak in tongues, or whatever. There is something even better, superior to these. So as we enter into the thirteenth chapter, we enter into what Paul refers to as the more excellent way than the gifts, than the best gifts.

In the first few verses of chapter 13, the first three verses, he shows to us the superiority of love over the gifts of the Spirit.

For though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal ( 1 Corinthians 13:1 ).

This word translated in Kings James charity is the Greek word agape. It is a word that was coined for the New Testament. It is a word that is not found in classical Greek. The classical Greek has other words for love. Love on the physical level, the eros, love on the emotional level, the phileo. But the classic Greeks knew nothing of the agape, this divine love of God.

I was listening this morning to an interesting news commentary on how that we are having to constantly add words to our dictionary. This particular commentator was suggesting that whenever we add a new word to our vocabulary, especially those who are reporting news, that they, for the first few times, they use the word sort of definite. Then people can take it from there. But so many new terms being added. And it is necessary to give a definition. So beginning with verse 1 Corinthians 13:4 , Paul defines what agape actually is. Let's see what he is talking about when he talks about agape. We receive this translation charity, because the King James translators followed the pattern that was set by Wycliffe, who first translated the scriptures into English. When he made his translation, he was translating from the Latin Vulgate. And in Latin, the word charitos is the word for love, and thus, in translating the charitos, he transliterated it and made it charity.

The idea, originally, with the word meaning "a giving kind of love". But through the years the word charity has changed in its meaning, and it is a giving sometimes out of pressure. How much are you going to give to the United Fund this year? And it sort of takes pity on the poor, and so it is not necessarily anymore a giving that is prompted by love. And so the word charity, though it at one time may transliteration of Latin charitos did perhaps adequately express this Greek word, no longer does it express it because of the use of the word charity in our language today. So we really are sort of stuck and must go back to that well-worn word love. And as we have to go back to the word love, we immediately recognize the limitation of the English language.

Because it is a word that I use to express one of my deepest feelings and emotions, as I say, "I love my wife Kay." And expressing my deepest feelings and emotions. It is a word that I use to describe my feelings toward her. However, when I want to describe what I think about hot fudge sundaes, I have to use the same word. "Oh, I love hot fudge sundaes." But what I feel towards the hot fudge sundae is far different than what I feel towards my wife. The English language is limited. And so we take the Greek word eros and we translate it love. We take the Greek word phileo and we translate it love; stergio, we translate it love; then agape, we translate it love. And yet, it is all love on different levels, different degrees. Now it would be more proper to say, "I have a great eros for hot fudge sundaes." Because eros is an area of flesh and that is surely the area of the hot fudge sundae lies in. I have a great phileo for my wife. But this agape is indeed a love that gives, as we read its definition. And it is that word that is used to describe God's attitude towards us. God so loved the world. It is the word that is used to describe what our attitude should be towards each other. Love one another. The giving kind of a selfless love.

Now this love is superior to the gifts of the Spirit. If I have the gift of speaking in tongues, whether it be in the languages of men, or of angels, a heavenly kind of a language that is not understood by any man, if I have this kind of ability and gift, if I don't have love, my speaking becomes totally meaningless; it is just a noise. As a noise that is made when you clang cymbals together. It is a meaningless sound. It loses its meaning if there isn't love behind it.

Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge ( 1 Corinthians 13:2 );

So I may have the gift of the word of knowledge, I may have the gift of prophecy, I might have deep spiritual insights that I understand those interesting little nuances within the scriptures, the various cryptic messages that God is trying to give to us, and if I have not love, it really makes me nothing.

though I have all faith ( 1 Corinthians 13:2 ),

Now, I often wished that I had more faith. But if I have all faith, but I have people tell me they have all faith, but I haven't really met anyone yet, I don't think, that has all faith.

but if I had all faith, so that I could remove mountains ( 1 Corinthians 13:2 ),

Now Jesus said, "If you had faith as a grain of a mustard seed you could remove a mountain." Now if I had all faith and I could move mountains,

and if I had not love, I am nothing ( 1 Corinthians 13:2 ).

Love is superior to sacrifice. So many times we are called upon to make sacrifices for God. But if I made personal sacrifices,

and I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and I gave my body to be burned [for the cause of Jesus Christ], if I had not love, it profits me nothing ( 1 Corinthians 13:3 ).

Love is superior to any and all of the gifts. Love is superior to any sacrifice that I might make for God.

Now Paul does us a favor and he now defines for us this Greek word agape as he declares,

Love suffers long, and is kind ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 );

There is another definition given to us of this word by Paul in Galatians 5:22 ,where Paul said, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love." And then to define it he says, "Joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, temperance, meekness." But long-suffering is one of the characteristics, one of the marks of this love.

Peter, feeling that he was developing in his walk with the Lord, one day said to Jesus, "How often should I forgive a man the same offense? Seven times?" I think Peter was trying to show off in front of the other disciples, sort of indicating, "Lord, I think I have capacity to do it seven times for the same offense." Thinking the Lord would say, "Wow, Peter, you are really growing, that is great." But the Lord said to Peter, "Peter, seventy times seven." What was Jesus saying? Long-suffering or forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics, it is a matter of Spirit. It is an attitude, so that I don't keep track. I don't keep an account. I don't say 478, 479, until I get to my seventy times seven, and then let go. I am sure that Jesus figured that Peter would lose count by the time he got that far and would just realize that long-suffering or forgiveness is a matter of Spirit.

The characteristic of love, the agape, is that is long-suffering, but also that it is kind. That is, at the end of that period of long-suffering, its response at that time is one of kindness. Now I have heard people, myself say, "I have taken enough of that and now I am going to do something about it." It is usually in a powerful, vengeful way, not so kind. I have taken and taken and taken and I have had it. That isn't agape. The agape is that I have taken, and taken, and taken, poor soul. God help him. It is kind after it is long-suffering.

love envies not ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 );

I don't desire those good things that you have. Because I love you, I rejoice that good things have happened to you. I rejoice that your number was picked instead of mine, because I love you. I rejoice that you receive the promotion. You see, the love is so great that you rejoice in the blessings of the other. It isn't envious of what you have received. It isn't jealous of that which you have gained. But love envies not,

neither does it vaunt itself ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 ),

It isn't seeking to promote itself.

We are living in a world of hype. They are promoting everything in this world today. It seems that everything is a big promotion for this, a big promotion for that, and unfortunately, this worldly hype of promotion has crept into the church. Thus, we see too much hype within the church as man is trying to promote a program, or worse yet, trying to promote himself. True love doesn't vaunt itself,

nor is it puffed up ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 ),

That is, it doesn't have a superiority attitude. It doesn't look at itself as better than others. It doesn't look down on others. It doesn't create class distinctions. It isn't puffed up.

It does not behave itself unseemly ( 1 Corinthians 13:5 ),

In other words, it isn't weird.

Years ago when I was back in the ancient days, when I was at school, we had a gal in our class who flipped out when she was studying for opera. She had learned to really develop her voice and project her voice. You could hear her for five city blocks. But she had become weird, to put it graciously. I used to work downtown Los Angeles, and she would dress weird, feeling that it was godly. Her hair was always pulled straight back and in a bun, because that was godly, never any makeup, because that was ungodly. And she had all of these little ideas of what constituted righteousness and holiness and godliness. I used to have to ride the streetcar back out to the dorm. And sometimes as I was sitting there in the streetcar, she evidently worked down town too, and sometimes she would get on the same car that I was on. With that loud operatic voice, when she would spot me, she would say, "Praise the Lord, brother." And this through the whole streetcar. Hear this weird looking gal through the whole streetcar. You know, if she were beautiful or something it might have been different. It was embarrassing. You didn't want to be identified with something weird like that. Everyone's head in the car would turn to see who she was talking to, mine also. But whenever I would see her waiting for the streetcar that I was on . . . I got to where I knew the corner that she got on . . . and if she was waiting to get on, I would get off the back door if she came on the front door. I would take the next car home. It was worth the extra dime.

Love really doesn't behave itself unseemly. It doesn't make a spectacle of itself. It doesn't try to draw attention to itself.

it seeketh not her own ( 1 Corinthians 13:5 ),

The word way should be inserted there. It doesn't seek its own way. It defers to others. It doesn't insist on its own way.

is not easily provoked ( 1 Corinthians 13:5 ),

The word easily does not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts, unfortunately. Because I used to say, "Well, I am not easily provoked. You work at it and you can get me upset, but not easily." Then when I started looking through the Greek manuscripts, I find it doesn't appear in any of the Greek manuscripts. The translators when they were translating this thought, "Oh, that is too heavy, not provoked. Who isn't provoked at some time or another?" They, for your benefit, inserted the word easily, but unfortunately, to be true to the Word, I have to take it out. Is not provoked.

it thinks no evil ( 1 Corinthians 13:5 );

It is sort of guileless, without suspicion.

It rejoices not in iniquity ( 1 Corinthians 13:6 ),

"Oh, he has got what is coming to him. Oh, I am so glad to see that. Oh, he needed that." No, that isn't love. When my enemy is put down, wiped out, doesn't rejoice in iniquity,

but it rejoices in the truth; and then it bears all things, it believes all things, and it hopes all things. [Finally] it never fails ( 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 ):

Now, there are things that shall fail. You are dealing with the gifts of the Spirit, and again, we come back now to the superiority of this love over the gifts of the Spirit. Another area of its superiority is that it is enduring; the gifts of the Spirit are not. There is coming a time when the gift of prophecy will no longer be necessary. In heaven I will have to seek another occupation. What will there be to exhort, to edify, or to comfort when we are there with Jesus? Everything we'll need will be right there. I won't have to exhort you to seek the Lord anymore, to just commit it to the Lord; we will be there with Him. I won't have to comfort you; all of our trials are over. We are there in the glory of His presence. And so this gift of prophecy has a limited time value. It is good now; it is needed now while we are still here, but there is coming a time when this gift of prophecy will fail. It will not be necessary any longer when the Lord comes.

whether there be tongues, they shall cease ( 1 Corinthians 13:8 );

And, of course, this would be a reference to the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue, the glossialia, which, as we will point out in a few moments, is given by God to assist you in your communicating the deep things of your spirit unto God. Given to you to help you in your worship. Given to help you in your praise. We will be there in His presence, no longer will it be necessary. And thus, this gift of tongues will cease.

whether there will be knowledge, it shall vanish away ( 1 Corinthians 13:8 ).

And again, this would be a reference to the gift of the word of knowledge, where God gives to us knowledge or insight into a particular situation, to help us in dealing with that situation. The word of knowledge is always partial knowledge. We never receive total and complete knowledge of a situation. In the New Testament when this gift was exercised, they received not a total knowledge, partial knowledge of what the future held, but not all the details.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part ( 1 Corinthians 13:9 ).

These are things that are partial. These are things that one day will pass off the scene.

Love, on the other hand, never fails. Prophecies will fail. Tongues will cease. Knowledge will vanish away. For these things are all just partial things. We know in part, we prophesy in part,

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away ( 1 Corinthians 13:10 ).

Now what is it referring to "that which is perfect"? It is interesting to me that every Bible commentator prior to the twentieth century always understood it to mean the coming again of Jesus Christ. This is the historic traditional view of the church of every Bible commentator up until this twentieth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, 1906, there began a modern charismatic movement called, in those days, a Pentecostal movement, with a renewing of interest in the gifts of the Spirit. And with this modern Pentecostal movement beginning in 1906, those fundamentalist preachers who wanted to discount this movement of the Holy Spirit in these last days, they turned to I Corinthians 13 , and they brought out a new interpretation. And suddenly, "that which is perfect is come" was no longer the coming again of Jesus Christ. But now, according to their interpretation, it was the full revelation of the Word of God. When we receive the whole cannon of scriptures, then they did not need the supernatural gifts of prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge to teach the people any longer. We now have the Word of God, that which is perfect has come, and therefore, all of the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the apostles, and the end of the apostolic age. That brought an end to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit. And in order to, of course, prove from a scriptural basis their premise, they had to change the meaning of "that which is perfect" and twist it around to mean the Word of God, rather than the coming again of Jesus Christ.

In the more later commentaries you will find "that which is perfect" often being referred to as the Word of God, but that is not so prior to this century, before all of the Bible teachers understood it to mean the coming again of Jesus Christ. I agree with G. Campbell Morgan, who I believe to be a very honest commentator. I agree with him when he declared that it is obvious from the context that he has to be referring to the coming again of Jesus Christ. For he goes on to say that we are going to see Him face to face, "Now we see Him through the glass darkly, but then face to face." "Now we know in part, we prophesy in part, but then we are going to know even as we are known." When? When we see Him or meet Him face to face. Rather than this thirteenth chapter here being a proof against the exercise the gifts of prophecy or tongues or word of knowledge today, in reality, it is a support, because these are given to us until the coming again of Jesus Christ, until that which is perfect is come.

If you will turn mentally with me to the second chapter of Acts, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the church and they were all speaking in other tongues, and the devout men from all over the world who had gathered for the feast of Passover heard the noise, gathered to the room where the disciples were meeting. They were filled with wonderment and amazement, and they said, "Are not all of these that are here Galileans? How is it that they are speaking in our own languages from the nations from whence we have come? For we hear them speaking in the language of the Medes and the Parthians, and those from Mesopotamia, and they are glorifying and praising God. What does this mean?"

When Peter stood up to explain unto them what it meant, he first of all gave to them a scriptural basis, "You men of Israel, hearken unto me. First of all, your premise is wrong. These are not drunken as you suppose. It Isa 9:00 in the morning. But you are asking, 'What meaneth this?' This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, when he said, 'In the last days saith the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams, and upon my servants and handmaidens will I pour out of my Spirit in that day, saith the Lord.'" This prophecy goes right into the Tribulation period, "and there shall be blood, fire and vapor of smoke and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the sun into darkness, before the great and notable day of the Lord come." So the prophecy of Joel was a prophecy of the last days, carrying you right into the Tribulation and right into the coming of the Lord. "For it shall come to pass in those days, saith the Lord, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." From a scriptural basis, it is forcing the interpretation to say that, "that which is perfect" refers to the scriptures rather than to the coming again of Jesus Christ.

I think that those who have taken that position have only taken that position because of the previous position that they have taken that the gifts of the Spirit are not for today. And because they have taken that position, then they are forced to interpret this. But it is a forced interpretation of the text. I do believe that the correct interpretation is to interpret "that which is perfect" is the coming again of Jesus Christ. It is balanced through the scriptures, other scriptures.

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 ( 1 Corinthians 13:11 ).

There is a natural development, a maturing process. There will be a fullness when I stand in the presence of my Lord; I will be complete. Many of the things that I do today as I look back on them from that vantage will appear very childish. I won't come into that completeness and fullness until I am with the Lord. So those things, prophecy, tongues, word of knowledge, will no longer be necessary, set aside. I have entered into the fullness there with Jesus.

For now we see through a glass, darkly ( 1 Corinthians 13:12 );

Or in a mirror, but in those days they had not perfected the process of making mirrors as we have today. It wasn't until about the thirteenth century that they really began to create mirrors, using glass with a silver backing painted on. Prior to that time, the mirrors were all polished metal, highly polished metal. But you never got a true reflection in those mirrors. Quite often the reflection was distorted, so we look in the mirror, but we see sort of distortions. We can't see clearly,

but then we are going to see face to face ( 1 Corinthians 13:12 ):

We will understand completely, and we will know at that point even as we are known.

As we move next week into the fifteenth chapter, and Paul talks about the resurrection and the new bodies that we have, and the fact that they are going to be very different, the question naturally arises, will we know each other then? How will you know me, if I don't have a bald head? How are you going to recognize me with all of my curly, dark hair?

we will know even as we are known ( 1 Corinthians 13:12 ).

We will have all knowledge at that point, and we will need no introductions. We will know each other as well as we know ourselves.

There are things that are going to pass: prophecies, tongues, word of knowledge, but there are things that will always remain.

And now abides faith, hope, love ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ),

These are enduring characteristics. Faith is believing it, simply because God said it. My faith is based upon God's Word; God said it, I believe it. It is believing what God said, that will always be. Even when I am in heaven, I will continue to believe what God has said. So it is abiding, it remains. It will always be there. I believe what God has said, though I don't understand what He has said.

There are many issues where there are two sides to the issue: predestination and human responsibility. Someone says, "Do you believe in predestination?" I say, "Yes." They say, "Well, do you believe in human responsibility?" I say, "Yes." "Well how can you believe in both?" Because God said them both. I don't understand it. If you ask, "Do you understand predestination?" I would say, "No." "Do you understand human responsibility?" "No." But I believe them because God has said them. So I believe in what seemed to be conflicting, exclusive concepts. But because God's Word teaches them both, I believe them both, though in mind I cannot reconcile them together.

Now one of my problems in my early years of seminary was my endeavor to reconcile them together. I have spent hours in discussions. I have spent hours in private study, praying over, studying the doctrines of predestination, divine sovereignty, human responsibility. Trying to put it together, trying to tie all the ends. Years ago I walked out of my study, I threw my books of doctrine on the floor. I was leaving the room in disgust, and I cried out, "God, I can't understand it. I have been trying for years to do so." God spoke to my heart and said, "I never did ask you to understand it, I only asked you to believe it." I said, "Well, all right, I will believe it." I believe that God is sovereign, and that He has called me by His grace, to be His child. But I also believe that it was necessary for me to call upon the name of the Lord in order to be saved. Yet, if you want to get into a logical kind of a debate and discussion, I cannot reconcile it.

Now, the problem many people make is they get on either one side of the coin or the other, and they get on one side to the exclusion of the other. That is dangerous, because you are only dealing then with one half of a truth. But there are some people, because they can't reconcile it, get on either one or the other and they get all of these theological debates going. And that is why so many divisions in the church. People can't believe the whole truth, they will only believe what they can understand or rationalize or reason in their minds. I only will believe what I can see. That isn't faith. Faith is just believing because God said it. I believe it.

Hope is a combination of desire and expectation. Both have to be there. People, many times, desire things for which they have no expectation at all. Many times my desires are so out that I really never expect them, I just desire them, but that isn't hope. Hope also has that expectation; I not only desire, I expect it. It is coming. Now you can expect things that you don't desire. Now you may get a ticket and you are going to have to appear on the twenty-first in Superior Court to answer to the judge. So you are expecting this appearance before the judge, but you sure don't desire it, because you are guilty. Hope has both aspects: desire and expectation. Paul said, "We are prisoners of hope." We hope in the glory of the Lord. I desire the glory of the Lord, and I also expect the glory of the Lord. Waiting for the blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. I am desiring for Jesus to appear, I am expecting Jesus to appear, and so I hope for the appearance of Jesus. It is the hope that keeps you going when everything else is failing around you. It is the hope, hang in there, the Lord is going to work. I expect Him to work. I desire Him to work. Hope keeps us and sustains us.

"Why are thou cast down, O my soul? Why are thou disquieted within me?" The psalmist is talking to himself about his feelings of being upset, about the discouragement and the depression that he was in. "Why are you so depressed? Why are you so discouraged?" He said, "Hope thou in God." That is the answer to the depression, to discouragement, to being so upset over a situation. Hey, God is going to work. I am expecting Him to. I am desiring Him to. Thus, my soul, then, is at rest. Because my hope and expectation is in the Lord. So these three things abide: faith, hope and love,

but the greatest is love ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ).

Why? Because it encompasses the other two. As we were reading the definition, love believes all things. So that is encompassed in love. Love hopes all things, so faith and hope are both encompassed by love. Thus, the greatest of all is love. Greater than the gifts, greater than the other graces and characteristics of the Christian life. The greatest thing you can possess is love. Paul said, "For he who loves has fulfilled the law." As he said in Galatians 5:22 ,"Against such there is no law." If you love, you don't need any law or anything else, you have got it made. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The permanence of love 13:8-13

Paul moved on to point out that Christian love (agape) characterizes our existence now and forever, but gifts (charismata) are only for the present. The Corinthians were apparently viewing the gifts as one evidence that they were already in the eschatological stage of their salvation.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Another illustration of the difference between our present and future states as Christians is the mirror. In Paul’s day, craftsmen made mirrors out of metal.

". . . Corinth was famous as the producer of some of the finest bronze mirrors in antiquity." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., pp. 647-48. Cf. Robertson and Plummer, p. 298.]

Consequently the apostle’s point was not that our present perception of reality is somewhat distorted, but in the future it will be completely realistic. [Note: See Michael Fishbane, "Through the Looking Glass: Reflections on Ezekiel 43:3, Numbers 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:8," Hebrew Annual Review 10 (1986):63-74.] Rather it was that now we see indirectly, but then we shall see directly, face to face. Today we might say that we presently look at a photograph, but in the future we will see what the photograph pictures.

Now we know (Gr. ginosko) only partially. When the Lord has resurrected or "raptured" us and we stand in His presence, we will know fully (Gr. epignosko), as fully as God now knows us. I do not mean that we will be omniscient; we will not be. We will be fully aware. Now He knows us directly, but then we will also know Him directly.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For now we see through a glass,.... In this present life, they that are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see God, the perfections and glory of his nature, the riches of his grace and goodness, as displayed in Christ; they behold the glory of Christ, as full of grace and truth, and are filled with love to him; the desires of their souls are after him, and they are changed into the same image by his Spirit; they discern the things of the Spirit of God; the veil being removed from them, they behold wondrous things, out of the law of God and Gospel of Christ, even such things as are unseen unto, and unknown by the natural man: but then it is all "through a glass"; not of the creatures; for though the invisible things of God may in some sort be seen and understood by the things that are made; and God, as the God of nature, may be seen in the works of creation and providence, yet not as the God of grace; it is only in his Son, and through the glass of the Gospel, he is to be beheld in this light: and so it is through the glass of the word and ordinances, that the glory of the person of Christ, of his offices, fulness of grace and righteousness, is only to be seen; in these he is evidently set forth to the eye of faith, as the surety, Saviour, and Redeemer of his people, and through these the knowledge of divine truths is communicated: and through all these but

darkly: "in an enigma", or "riddle", or "dark saying", as the word here used may be rendered; that is, in this present state, in comparison of the future one; for though the sight of things under the Gospel dispensation is clear, and with open face, in comparison of the legal one, yet even this is very obscure, and attended with great darkness and imperfection, when compared with the beatific vision in heaven, which will have no manner of interruption and obscurity in it:

but then face to face: there will be no intervening mediums of vision; not the glass of the word and ordinances; there will be no need of them, God and Christ will be seen as they are; the judgments of God, his providential dispensations, will be all made manifest, and will be legible without the help of a glass; the doctrines of grace and truth will lie open and clear, free of all dark speeches, obscure hints, or enigmatical expressions: and as there will be nothing to intervene by way of assistance, there being no need of any, there will be nothing to intercept the sight; the objects will be nigh, even face to face; the view will be full and clear, the sight will be perfect, as well as the converse with the objects will be familiar; and which, without the least obstruction, will always so continue: there seems to be here a double reference, partly to what the Lord says of Moses, in Numbers 12:8 "with him will I speak, mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches"; and partly to what the Jews say of him, with a view to the same passage:

"all the prophets (say they s) looked through a glass, which did not give light; (or, as they sometimes say, which was spotted, and was not clear;) Moses our master looked באיספקלריא המאירה, "through a glass that gave light";''

or, as elsewhere, was bright and clear, and without any spot. Again, they say t,

"all the prophets prophesied by the means of an angel; hence they saw what they saw במשל וחידה, "by way of parable and riddle", or dark saying; Moses our master did not prophesy by the means of an angel; as it is said, "with him will I speak mouth to mouth"; and it is said, "the Lord spake to Moses, face to face"; and it is also said, "the similitude of the Lord shall he behold"; as if it was said, that there should be no parable; but he should see the thing clearly without a parable; of which likewise the law testifies, saying, "apparently, and not in dark speeches"; for he did not prophesy בחידה, "by way of riddle"; (in an enigmatical way, darkly;) but apparently, for he saw the matter clearly.''

The two glasses, clear and not clear, the Cabalistic doctors call "tiphereth" and "malchuth" u.

""Tiphereth" (they say) is a clear and well polished glass, by which Moses prophesied and had visions, "and saw all things most exactly", in a very singular manner; "malchuth" is the glass that is not clear; so that he that prophesies by that, prophesies "by riddle", and parable.''

Now the apostle suggests, that as there was such a difference between Moses and the rest of the prophets, the one saw clearly, the other through a glass darkly; a like, yea, a much greater difference there is between the clearest views saints have of divine things now, and those they shall be blessed with hereafter, and which he exemplifies in himself:

now I know in part; though not a whit behind the chief of the apostles; though his knowledge in the mystery of Christ was such, as had not been given to any in ages and generations past; and though he had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard words not lawful to be uttered, yet owns his knowledge in the present state to be but imperfect; which may be instructive to such, who are apt to entertain an high opinion of themselves, and dream of perfection in this life:

but then shall I know, even as I am known; in the other world and state, he signifies that he should know God, Christ, angels, and glorified saints, and all truths in a perfect manner, even as he was known of God and Christ perfectly, allowing for the difference between the Creator and the creature; his sense is, that he should have as full and complete a knowledge of persons and things as he was capable of; it would be like, though not equal to, the knowledge which God had of him; and which would be attended with the strongest love and affection to the objects known, even as he was known and loved of God.

s T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 49. 2. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 147. 2. Zohar in Gen. fol. 30. 2. & 98. 3. & 103. 3. & in Exod. x. 3. & xi. 3. & xiv. 4. & 34, 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 46. 4. & 170. 2. Shaare ora, fol. 26. 2. t Maimon. Jesode Hatora, c. 7. sect. 6. u Lex. Cabal. p. 139. R. Moses in Sepher Hashem in ib.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Charity Commended. A. D. 57.

      8 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.   9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.   10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.   11 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.   12 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.   13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

      Here the apostle goes on to commend charity, and show how much it is preferable to the gifts on which the Corinthians were so apt to pride themselves, to the utter neglect, and almost extinction, of charity. This he makes out,

      I. From its longer continuance and duration: Charity never faileth. It is a permanent and perpetual grace, lasting as eternity; whereas the extraordinary gifts on which the Corinthians valued themselves were of short continuance. They were only to edify the church on earth, and that but for a time, not during its whole continuance in this world; but in heaven would be all superseded, which yet is the very seat and element of love. Prophecy must fail, that is, either the prediction of things to come (which is its most common sense) or the interpretation of scripture by immediate inspiration. Tongues will cease, that is, the miraculous power of speaking languages without learning them. There will be but one language in heaven. There is no confusion of tongues in the region of perfect tranquility. And knowledge will vanish away. Not that, in the perfect state above, holy and happy souls shall be unknowing, ignorant: it is a very poor happiness that can consist with utter ignorance. The apostle is plainly speaking of miraculous gifts, and therefore of knowledge to be had out of the common way (see 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:6), a knowledge of mysteries supernaturally communicated. Such knowledge was to vanish away. Some indeed understand it of common knowledge acquired by instruction, taught and learnt. This way of knowing is to vanish away, though the knowledge itself, once acquired, will not be lost. But it is plain that the apostle is here setting the grace of charity in opposition to supernatural gifts. And it is more valuable, because more durable; it shall last, when they shall be no more; it shall enter into heaven, where they will have no place, because they will be of no use, though, in a sense, even our common knowledge may be said to cease in heaven, by reason of the improvement that will then be made in it. The light of a candle is perfectly obscured by the sun shining in its strength.

      II. He hints that these gifts are adapted only to a state of imperfection: We know in part, and we prophesy in part,1 Corinthians 13:9; 1 Corinthians 13:9. Our best knowledge and our greatest abilities are at present like our condition, narrow and temporary. Even the knowledge they had by inspiration was but in part. How little a portion of God, and the unseen world, was heard even by apostles and inspired men! How much short do others come of them! But these gifts were fitted to the present imperfect state of the church, valuable in themselves, but not to be compared with charity, because they were to vanish with the imperfections of the church, nay, and long before, whereas charity was to last for ever.

      III. He takes occasion hence to show how much better it will be with the church hereafter than it can be here. A state of perfection is in view (1 Corinthians 13:10; 1 Corinthians 13:10): When that which is perfect shall come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When the end is once attained, the means will of course be abolished. There will be no need of tongues, and prophecy, and inspired knowledge, in a future life, because then the church will be in a state of perfection, complete both in knowledge and holiness. God will be known then clearly, and in a manner by intuition, and as perfectly as the capacity of glorified minds will allow; not by such transient glimpses, and little portions, as here. The difference between these two states is here pointed at in two particulars: 1. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood: When I was a child, I spoke as a child (that is, as some think, spoke with tongues), I understood as a child; ephronoun--sapiebam (that is, "I prophesied, I was taught the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, in such an extraordinary way as manifested I was not out of my childish state"), I thought, or reasoned, elogizomen, as a child; but, when I became a man, I put away childish things. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused and indistinct notions of things, have children, in comparison of grown men! And how naturally do men, when reason is ripened and matured, despise and relinquish their infant thoughts, put them away, reject them, esteem as nothing! Thus shall we think of our most valued gifts and acquisitions in this world, when we come to heaven. We shall despise our childish folly, in priding ourselves in such things when we are grown up to men in Christ. 2. Things are all dark and confused now, in comparison of what they will be hereafter: Now we see through a glass darkly (en ainigmati, in a riddle), then face to face; now we know in part, but then we shall know as we are known. Now we can only discern things at a great distance, as through a telescope, and that involved in clouds and obscurity; but hereafter the things to be known will be near and obvious, open to our eyes; and our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. God is to be seen face to face; and we are to know him as we are known by him; not indeed as perfectly, but in some sense in the same manner. We are known to him by mere inspection; he turns his eye towards us, and sees and searches us throughout. We shall then fix our eye on him, and see him as he is,1 John 3:2. We shall know how we are known, enter into all the mysteries of divine love and grace. O glorious change! To pass from darkness to light, from clouds to the clear sunshine of our Saviour's face, and in God's own light to see light! Psalms 36:9. Note, It is the light of heaven only that will remove all clouds and darkness from the face of God. It is at best but twilight while we are in this world; there it will be perfect and eternal day.

      IV. To sum up the excellences of charity, he prefers it not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Corinthians 13:13): And now abide faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity. True grace is much more excellent than any spiritual gifts whatever. And faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces, of which charity is the chief, being the end to which the other two are but means. This is the divine nature, the soul's felicity, or its complacential rest in God, and holy delight in all his saints. And it is everlasting work, when faith and hope shall be no more. Faith fixes on the divine revelation, and assents to that: hope fastens on future felicity, and waits for that: and in heaven faith well be swallowed up in vision, and hope in fruition. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But love fastens on the divine perfections themselves, and the divine image on the creatures, and our mutual relation both to God and them. These will all shine forth in the most glorious splendours in another world, and there will love be made perfect; there we shall perfectly love God, because he will appear amiable for ever, and our hearts will kindle at the sight, and glow with perpetual devotion. And there shall we perfectly love one another, when all the saints meet there, when none but saints are there, and saints made perfect. O blessed state! How much surpassing the best below! O amiable and excellent grace of charity! How much does it exceed the most valuable gift, when it outshines every grace, and is the everlasting consummation of them! When faith and hope are at an end, true charity will burn for ever with the brightest flame. Note, Those border most upon the heavenly state and perfection whose hearts are fullest of this divine principle, and burn with the most fervent charity. It is the surest offspring of God, and bears his fairest impression. For God is love, 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16. And where God is to be seen as he is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height--there, and there only, will it be perfected.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Now, and Then


A Sermon

(No. 1002)

Delivered by


At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington


"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." 1 Corinthians 13:12 .

IN THIS CHAPTER the apostle Paul has spoken in the highest terms of charity or love. He accounts it to be a grace far more excellent than any of the spiritual gifts of which he had just before been speaking. It is easy to see that there were good reasons for the preference he gave to it. Those gifts you will observe, were distributed among godly men, to every man his several portion, so that what one had another might have lacked; but this grace belongs to all who have passed from death unto life. The proof that they are disciples of Christ is found in their love to him and to the brethren. Those gifts, again, were meant to fit them for service, that each member of the body should be profitable to the other members of the body; but this grace is of personal account: it is a light in the heart and a star on the breast of every one who possesses it. Those gifts, moreover, were of temporary use: their value was limited to the sphere in which they were exercised; but this grace thrives at all times and in all places, and it is no less essential to our eternal future state than it is to our present welfare. By all means covet the best gifts, my dear brother, as an artist would wish to be deft with all his limbs and quick with all his senses; but above all, cherish love, as that same artist would cultivate the pure taste which lives and breathes within him the secret spring of all his motions, the faculty that prompts his skill. Learn to esteem this sacred instinct of love beyond all the choicest endowments. However poor you may be in talents, let the love of Christ dwell in you richly. Such an exhortation as this is the more needful, because love has a powerful rival. Paul may have noticed that in the academies of Greece, as indeed in all our modern schools, knowledge was wont to take all the prizes. Who can tell how much of Dr. Arnold's success, as a schoolmaster, was due to the honor in which he held a good boy in preference to a clever boy? Most certainly Paul could discern in the church many jealousies to which the superior abilities of those who could speak foreign tongues, and those who could prophecy or preach well, gave rise. So, then, while he extols the grace of love, he seems rather to disparage knowledge; at least, he uses an illustration which tends to show that the kind of knowledge we pride ourselves in, is not the most reliable thing in the world. Paul remembered that he was once a child. A very good thing for any of us to bear in mind. If we forget it, our sympathies are soon dried up, our temper is apt to get churlish, our opinions may be rather overbearing, and our selfishness very repulsive. The foremost man of his day in the Christian church, and exerting the widest influence among the converts to Christ, Paul thought of the little while ago when he was a young child, and he thought of it very opportunely too. Though he might have hinted at the attainments he had made or the high office he held, and laid claim to some degree of respect, he rather looks back at his humble beginnings. If there is wisdom in his reflection, there is to my mind a vein of pleasantry in his manner of expressing it. "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." Thus he compares two stages of his natural life, and it serves him for a parable. In spiritual knowledge he felt himself to be then in his infancy. His maturity, his thorough manhood, lay before him in prospect. He could easily imagine a future in which he should look back on his present self as a mere tyro, groping his way amidst the shadows of his own fancy. "For now," he says, "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." Here he employs one or two fresh figures. "Through a glass!" What kind of a glass he alluded to, we may not be able exactly to determine. Well; we will leave that question for the critics to disagree about. It is enough for us that the meaning is obvious. There is all the difference between viewing an object through an obscure medium, and closely inspecting it with the naked eye. We must have the power of vision in either case, but in the latter case we can use it to more advantage. "Now we see through a glass, darkly." Darkly in a riddle! So weak are our perceptions of mind, that plain truths often puzzle us. The words that teach us are pictures which need explanation. The thoughts that stir us are visions which coat in our brains and want rectifying. Oh, for clearer vision! Oh, for more perfect knowledge! Mark you, brethren, it is a matter of congratulation that we do see; though we have much cause for diffidence, because we do but "see through a glass, darkly." Thank God we do know; but let it cheek our conceit, We know only in part. Beloved, the objects we look at are distant, and we are near-sighted. The revelation of God is ample and profound, but our understanding is weak and shallow.

There are some things which we count very precious now, which will soon be of no value to us whatever. There are some things that we know or think we know, and we pride ourselves a good deal upon our knowledge; but when we shall become men we shall set no more value upon that knowledge than a child does upon his toys when he grows up to be a man. Our spiritual manhood in heaven will discard many things which we now count precious, as a full grown man discards the treasures of his childhood. And there are many things that we have been accustomed to see that, after this transient life has passed, we shall see no more. Though we delighted in them, and they pleased our eyes while sojourning on earth, they will pass away as a dream when one awaketh; we shall never see them again, and never want to see them; for our eyes in clearer light, anointed with eye-salve, shall see brighter visions, and we shall never regret what we have lost, in the presence of fairer scenes we shall have found. Other things there are that we know now and shall never forget; we shall know them for ever, only in a higher degree, because no longer with a partial knowledge; and there are some things that we see now that we shall see in eternity, only we shall see them there in a clearer light.

So we shall speak upon some things that we do see now, which we are to see more fully and more distinctly hereafter; then enquire how it is we shall see them more clearly; and finish up by considering what this fact teaches us.

I. Among the things that we see now, as many of us as have had our eyes enlightened by the Holy Spirit, is OURSELVES.

To see ourselves is one of the first steps in true religion. The mass of men have never seen themselves. They have seen the flattering image of themselves, and they fancy that to be their own facsimile, but it is not. You and I have been taught of God's Holy Spirit to see our ruin in the fall; we have bemoaned ourselves on account of that fall; we have been made conscious of our own natural depravity; we have been ground to the very dust by the discovery; we have been shown our actual sinfulness and how we have transgressed against the Most High. We have repented for this, and have fled for refuge to the hope set before us in the gospel. Day by day we see a little more of ourselves nothing very pleasing, I grant you but something very profitable, for it is a great thing for us to know our emptiness. It is a step towards receiving his fullness. It is something to discover our weakness; it is a step essential towards our participation of divine strength. I suppose the longer we live the more we shall see ourselves; and we shall probably come to this conclusion: "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity:" and cry out with Job, "I am vile." The more we shall discover of ourselves, the more we shall be sick of ourselves. But in heaven, I doubt not, we shall find out that we never saw even ourselves in the clearest light, but only as "through a glass, darkly," only as an unriddled thing, as a deep enigma; for we shall understand more about ourselves in heaven than we do now. There we shall see, as we have not yet seen, how desperate a mischief was the Fall, into what a horrible pit we fell, and how fast we were stuck in the miry clay. There shall we see the blackness of sin as we have never seen it here, and understand its hell desert as we could not till we shall look down from yonder starry height whither infinite mercy shall bring us. When we shall be singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain," we shall look at the robes that we have washed in his blood, and see how white they are. We shall better understand then than now how much we needed washing how crimson were the stains and how precious was that blood that effaced those scarlet spots. There, too, shall we know ourselves on the bright side better than we do now. We know to-day that we are saved, and there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; but that robe of righteousness which covers us now, as it shall cover us then, will be better seen by us, and we shall discern how lustrous it is, with its needlework and wrought gold how much better than the pearls and gems that have decked the robes of monarchs are the blood and righteousness of Jehovah Jesus, who has given himself for us. Here we know that we are adopted. We feel the spirit of sonship; "we cry, Abba, Father;" but there we shall know better what it is to be the sons of God, for here it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but when we shall be there, and when Christ shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, and then we shall understand to the full what sonship means. So, too, I know to-day that I am a joint-heir with Christ, but I have a very poor idea of what it is I am heir to; but there shall I see the estates that belong to me; not only see them, but actually enjoy them. A part shall every Christian have in the inheritance undefiled and that fadeth not away, that is reserved in heaven for him, because he is in Christ Jesus; one with Christ by eternal union one. But I am afraid that is very much more a riddle to us than a matter of understanding. We see it as an enigma now, but there our oneness with Christ will be as conspicuous to us and as plain as the letters of the alphabet. There shall we know what it is to be a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; there shall I understand the mystical marriage bond that knits the believer's soul to Christ; there shall I see how, as the branch springs from the stem, my soul stands in union, vital union, with her blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, one thing that we see now which we shall see in a much clearer light hereafter, is "ourselves."


We know there is a church of God. We know that the Lord has a people whom he hath chosen from before the foundation of the world: we believe that these are scattered up and down throughout our land, and many other lands. There are many of them we do not know, many that we should not particularly like, I daresay if we did know them, on account of their outward characteristics; persons of very strange views, and very odd habits perhaps; and yet, for all that, the people of the living God; Now, we know this church, we know its glory, moved with one life, quickened with one Spirit, redeemed with one blood, we believe in this church, and we feel attachment to it for the sake of Jesus Christ, who has married the church as the Bride. But, oh! when we shall get to heaven, how much more we shall know of the church, and how we shall see her face to face, and not "through a glass, darkly." There we shall know something, more of the numbers of the chosen than we do now, it may be to our intense surprise. There we shall find some amongst the company of God's elect, whom we in our bitterness of spirit had condemned, and there we shall miss some who, in our charity, we have conceived to be perfectly secure. We shall know better then who are the Lord's and who are not than we ever can know here. Here all our processes of discernment fail us. Judas comes in with the apostles, and Demas takes his part among the saints, but there we shall know the righteous, for we shall see them; there will be one flock and one Shepherd, and he that on the throne doth reign for evermore shall be glorified. We shall understand then, what the history of the church has been in all the past, and why it has become so strange a history of conflict and conquest. Probably, we shall know more of the history of the church in the future. From that higher elevation and brighter atmosphere we shall understand better what are the Lord's designs concerning his people in the latter day; and what glory shall redound to his own name from his redeemed ones, when he shall have gathered together all that are called and chosen and faithful from among the sons of men. This is one of the joys we are looking for, that we shall come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven; and have fellowship with those who have fellowship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thirdly. Is it not possible, nay, is it not certain, that in the next state WE SHALL KNOW MORE OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD THAN WE DO NOW?

Here we see the providence of God, but it is in a glass, darkly. The apostle says "through" a glass. There was glass in the apostles' days, not a substance such as our windows are now made of, but thick dull coloured glass, not much more transparent than that which is used in the manufacture of common bottles, so that looking through a piece of that glass you would not see much. That is like what we now see of divine providence. We believe all things work together for good to them that love God; we have seen how they work together for good in some cases, and experimentally proved it to be so. But still it is rather a matter of faith than a matter of sight with us. We cannot tell how "every dark and bending line meets in the center of his love." We do not yet perceive how he will make those dark dispensations of trials and afflictions that come upon his people really to subserve his glory and their lasting happiness; but up there we shall see providence, as it were, face to face; and I suppose it will be amongst our greatest surprises, the discovery of how the Lord dealt with us. "Why," we shall some of us say, "we prayed against those very circumstances which were the best that, could have been appointed for us." "Ah!" another will say, "I have fretted and troubled myself over what was, after all, the richest mercy the Lord ever sent." Sometimes I have known persons refuse a letter at the door, and it has happened, in some cases, that there has been something very valuable in it, and the postman has said, afterwards, "You did not know the contents, or else you would not have refused it." And often God has sent us, in the black envelope of trial, such a precious mass of mercy, that if we had known what was in it, we should have taken it in, and been glad to pay for it glad to give it house room, to entertain it; but because it looked black we were prone to shut our door against it. Now, up there we shall know not only more of ourselves, but perceive the reasons of many of God's dealings with us on a larger scale; and we shall there perhaps discover that wars that devasted nations, and pestilences that fill graves, and earthquakes that make cities tremble, are, after all, necessary cogs in the great wheel of the divine machinery; and he who sits upon the throne at this moment, and rules supremely every creature that is either in heaven, or earth, or hell, will there make it manifest to us that his government was right. It is good to think in these times when ever; thing seems loosening, that "the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." It must come out right in the long run; it must be well; every part and portion must work together with a unity of design to promote God's glory and the saint's good. We shall see it there! and we shall lift up our song with new zest and joy, as fresh displays of the wisdom and goodness of God, whose ways are past finding out, are unfolded to our admiring view.

Fourthly. It is surely no straining of the text to say, that, though here we know something of THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL, AND THE MYSTERIES OF THE FAITH, by-and-by, in a few months or years at the longest, we shall know a great deal more than we do now. There are some grand doctrines, brethren and sisters, we dearly love, but though we love them, our understanding is too feeble to grasp them fully. We account them to be mysteries; we reverently acknowledge them, yet we dare not attempt to explain them. They are matters of faith to us. It may be that in heaven there shall be counsels of eternal wisdom into which no saints or angels can peer. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. Surely, no creature will ever be able, even when exalted to heaven, to comprehend all the thoughts of the Creator. We shall never be omniscient we cannot be. God alone knoweth everything, and understandeth everything. But how much more of authentic truth shall we discern when the mists and shadows have dissolved; and how much more shall we understand when raised to that higher sphere and endowed with brighter faculties, none of us can tell. Probably, things that puzzle us here will be as plain as possible there. We shall perhaps smile at our own ignorance. I have fancied sometimes that the elucidations of learned doctors of divinity, if they could be submitted to the very least in the kingdom of heaven, would only cause them to smile at the learned ignorance of the sons of earth. Oh! how little we do know, but how much we shall know! I am sure we shall know, for it is written, "Then shall I know even as also I have known." We now see things in a mist "men as trees, walking" a doctrine here, and a doctrine there. And we are often at a loss to conjecture how one part harmonizes with another part of the same system, or to make out how all these doctrines are consistent. This knot cannot be untied, that gnarl cannot be unravelled, but

"Then shall I see, and hear and know

All I desired or wish'd below;

And every power find sweet employ

In that eternal world of joy."

But, my dear brethren and sisters, having kept you thus far in the outer courts, I would fain lead you into the temple; or, to change the figure, if in the beginning I have set forth good wine, certainly I am not going to bring out that which is worse; rather would I have you say, as the ruler of the feast did to the bridegroom, "thou has kept the good wine until now." HERE WE SEE JESUS CHRIST, BUT WE DO NOT SEE HIM AS WE SHALL SEE HIM SOON. We have seen him by faith in such a way, that we have beheld our burdens laid on him, and our iniquities carried by him into the wilderness, where, if they be sought for, they shall not be found. We have seen enough of Jesus to know that "he is altogether lovely;" we can say of him, he "is all my salvation, and all my desire." Sometimes, when he throws up the lattice, and shows himself through those windows of agate and gates of carbuncle, in the ordinances of his house, at the Lord's Supper especially, the King's beauty has entranced us even to our heart's ravishment; yet all we have ever seen is somewhat like the report which the Queen of Sheba had of Solomon's wisdom. When we once get to the court of the Great King we shall declare that the half has not been told us. We shall say, "mine eyes shall behold, and not another." Brethren, is not this the very cream of heaven? There have been many suggestions of what we shall do in heaven, and what we shall enjoy, but they all seem to me to be wide of the mark compared with this one, that we shall be with Jesus, be like him, and shall behold his glory. Oh, to see the feet that were nailed, and to touch the hand that was pierced, and to look upon the head that wore the thorns, and to bow before him who is ineffable love, unspeakable condescension, infinite tenderness! Oh, to bow before him, and to kiss that blessed face! Jesu, what better do we want than to see thee by shine own light to see thee, and speak with thee, as when a man speaketh with his friend? It is pleasant to talk about this, but what will it be there when the pearl gates open? The streets of gold will have small attraction to us, and the harps of angels will but slightly enchant us, compared with the King in the midst of the throne. He it is who shall rivet our gaze, absorb our thoughts, enchain our affection, and move all our sacred passions to their highest pitch of celestial ardor. We shall see Jesus.

Once again (and here we come into the deep things), beyond a doubt WE SHALL ALSO SEE GOD. It is written that the pure in heart shall see God. God is seen now in his works and in his word. Little indeed could these eyes bear of the beatific vision, yet we have reason to expect that, as far as creatures can bear the sight of the infinite Creator, we shall be permitted to see God. We read that Aaron and certain chosen ones saw the throne of God, and the brightness as it were of sapphire stone light, pure as jasper. In heaven it is the presence of God that is the light thereof. God's more immediately dwelling in the midst of the new Jerusalem is its peerless glory and peculiar bliss. We shall then understand more of God than we do now; we shall come nearer to him, be more familiar with him, be more filled with him. The love of God shall be shed abroad in our hearts; we shall know our Father as we yet know him not; We shall know the Son to a fuller degree than he has yet revealed himself to us, and we shall know the Holy Spirit in his personal love and tenderness towards us, beyond all those influences and operations which have soothed us in our sorrows and guided us in our perplexities here below. I leave your thoughts and your desires to follow the teaching of the Spirit. As for me, I cower before the thought while I revel in it. I, who have strained my eyes while gazing at nature, where the things that are made show the handiwork of God; I, whose conscience has been awe-struck as I listened to the voice of God proclaiming his holy law; I, whose heart has been melted while there broke on my ears the tender accents of his blessed gospel in those snatches of sacred melody that relieve the burden of prophecy; I, who have recognised in the babe of Bethlehem the hope of Israel; in the man of Nazareth, the Messiah that should come; in the victim of Calvary, the one Mediator; in the risen Jesus, the well-beloved Son to me, verily, God incarnate has been so palpably revealed that I have almost seen God, for I have, as it were, seen him in whom all the fullness of the Godhead bodily doth dwell. Still I "see through a glass, darkly." Illumine these dark senses, waken this drowsy conscience, purify my heart, give me fellowship with Christ, end thee bear me up, translate me to the third heavens; so I may, so I can, so I shall see God. But what that means, or what it is, ah me! I cannot tell.

II. We proposed to enquire, in the second place, HOW THIS VERY REMARKABLE CHANGE SHALL BE EFFECTED? WHY IS IT THAT WE SHALL BE MORE CLEARLY THEN THAN NOW? We cannot altogether answer the question, but one or two suggestions may help us. No doubt many of these things will be more clearly revealed in the next state. Here the light is like the dawn: it is dim twilight. In heaven it will be the blaze of noon. God has declared somethings of himself by the mouth of his holy prophets and apostles. He has been pleased, through the lips of his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, to speak to us more plainly, to show us more openly the thoughts of his heart and the counsel of his will. These are the first steps to knowledge. But there the light will be as the light of seven days, and there the manifestation of all the treasures of wisdom shall be brighter and clearer than it is now; for God, the only-wise God, shall unveil to us the mysteries, and exhibit to us the glories of his everlasting kingdom. The revelation we now have suits us as men clad in our poor mortal bodies; the revelation then will suit us as immortal spirits. When we have been raised from the dead, it will be suitable to our immortal spiritual bodies. Here, too, we are at a distance from many of the things we long to know something of, but there we shall be nearer to them. We shall then be on a vantage ground, with the entire horizon spread out before us. Our Lord Jesus is, as to his personal presence, far away from us. We see him through the telescope of faith, but then we shall see him face to face. His literal and bodily presence is in heaven, since he was taken up, and we need to be taken up likewise to be with him where he is that we may literally behold him. Get to the fountain-head, and you understand more; stand in the center, and things seem regular and orderly. If you could stand in the sun and see the orbits in which the planets revolve round that central luminary, it would become clear enough; but for many an age astronomers were unable to discover anything of order, and spoke of the planets as progressive, retrograde, and standing still. Let us get to God, the center, and we shall see how providence in order revolves round his sapphire throne. We, ourselves, too, when we get to heaven, shall be better qualified to see than we are now. It would be an inconvenience for us to know here as much as we shall know in heaven. No doubt we have sometimes thought that if we had better ears it would be a great blessing. We have wished we could hear ten miles off; but probably we should be no better off; we might hear too much, and the sounds might drown each other. Probably our sight is not as good as we wish it were, but a large increase of ocular power might not be of any use to us. Our natural organs are fitted for our present sphere of being; and our mental faculties are, in the case of most of us, properly adapted to our moral requirements. If we knew more of our own sinfulness, we might be driven to despair; if we knew more of God's glory, we might die of terror; if we had more understanding, unless we had equivalent capacity to employ it, we might be filled with conceit and tormented with ambition. But up there we shall have our minds and our systems strengthened to receive more, without the damage that would come to us here from overleaping the boundaries of order, supremely appointed and divinely regulated. We cannot here drink the wine of the kingdom, it is too strong for us; but up there we shall drink it new in our heavenly Father's kingdom, without fear of the intoxications of pride, or the staggerings of passions. We shall know even as we are known. Besides, dear friends, the atmosphere of heaven is so much clearer than this, that I do not wonder we can see better there. Here Here is the smoke of daily care; the constant dust of toil; the mist of trouble perpetually rising. We cannot be expected to see much in such a smoky atmosphere as this; but when we shall pass beyond, we shall find no clouds ever gather round the sun to hide his everlasting brightness. There all is clear. The daylight is serene as the noonday. We shall be in a clearer atmosphere and brighter light.

III. The practical lessons we may learn from this subject demand your attention before I close. Methinks there is an appeal to our gratitude. Let us be very thankful for all we do see. Those, who do not see now ah, not even "through a glass, darkly" shall never see face to face. The eyes that never see Christ by faith shall never see him with joy in heaven. If thou hast never seen thyself a leper, defiled with sin and abashed with penitence, thou shalt never see thyself redeemed from sin, renewed by grace, a white-robed spirit. If thou hast no sense of God's presence here, constraining thee to worship and love him, thou shalt have no sight of his glory hereafter, introducing thee to the fullness of joy and pleasure for evermore. Oh! be glad for the sight you have, dear brother, dear sister. It is God that gave it to thee. Thou art one born blind; and "Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind." This miracle has been wrought on thee; thou canst see, and thou canst say: "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."

Our text teaches us that this feeble vision is very hopeful. You shall see better by-and-by. Oh, you know not how soon it may be a day or two hence that we shall be in glory! God may so have ordained it, that betwixt us and heaven there may be but a step.

Another lesson is that of forbearance one with another. Let the matters we have spoken of soften the asperity of our debates; let us feel when we are disputing about points of difficulty, that we need not get cross about them, because after all there are limits to our present capacity as well as to our actual knowledge. Our disputes are often childish. We might as well leave some questions in abeyance for a little while. Two persons in the dark have differed about a color, and they are wrangling about it. If we brought candles in and held them to the color, the candles would not show what it was; but if we look at it to-morrow morning, when the sun shines, we shall be able to tell. How many difficulties in the word of God are like this! Not yet can they be justly discriminated; till the day dawn, the apocalyptic symbols will not be all transparent to our own understanding. Besides, we have no time to waste while there is so much work to do. Much time is already spent. Sailing is dangerous; the winds are high; the sea is rough. Trim the ship; keep the sails in good order; manage her and keep her off quicksands. As to certain other matters, we must wait till we get into the fair haven, and are able to talk with some of the bright spirits now before the throne. When some of the things they know shall be opened unto us, we shall confess the mistakes we made, and rejoice in the light we shall receive.

Should not this happy prospect excite our aspiration and make us very desirous to be there? It is natural for us to want to know, but we shall not know as we are known till we are present with the Lord. We are at school now children at school. We shall go to the college soon the great University of Heaven and take our degree there. Yet some of us, instead of being anxious to go, are shuddering at the thought of death the gate of endless joy we dread to enter! There are many persons who die suddenly; some die in their sleep, and many have passed out of time into eternity when it has scarcely been known by those who have been sitting at their bedsides. Depend upon it, there is no pain in dying; the pain is in living. When they leave off living here, they have done with pain. Do not blame death for what it does not deserve; it is life that lingers on in pain: death is the end of it. The man that is afraid of dying ought to be afraid of living. Be content to die whenever the Master's will shall bid thee. Commit thy spirit to his keeping. Who that hath seen but the glimpses of his beaming countenance doth not long to see his face, that is as the sun shining in his strength? O Lord! thy will be done. Let us speedily behold thee, if so it may be only this one word, if so it may be. Do we now see, and do we expect to see better? Let us bless the name of the Lord, who hath chosen us of his mercy and of his infinite lovingkindness. On the other hand, let it cause us great anxiety if we have not believed in Jesus, for he that hath not believed in him, dying as he is, will never see the face of God with joy. Oh! unbeliever, be concerned about your soul, and seek thou after him, repair thou to him. Oh! that God would open thy eyes now in this very house of prayer. Blessed for thee to know in part. Thrice blessed, I say; for as surely as thou knowest in part now, thou shalt fully know hereafter. Be it your happy lot to know him, whom to know is life eternal. God grant it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.




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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.