1 Corinthians 13:11-13

In 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 Paul wraps up his teaching on agape love. He is trying to explain to the Corinthian church the difference between gifts and love. Childish things are appropriate for children, and the gifts are appropriate for our present time. But the gifts of the Holy Spirit will not be appropriate forever. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Only love lasts forever. Paul is not trying to say that if we are spiritually mature, we will not need spiritual gifts. But he does say that if we are spiritually mature, we will not over-emphasize spiritual gifts, especially at the expense of love. Love trumps all else.

Someday we will have the clarity with Jesus that we just don’t have today in our fallen world. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” When we can fully see Jesus (not as in a poorly reflected image), the need for the gifts will have vanished, and so the gifts will pass away. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be overshadowed by the immediate presence of Jesus. When the sun rises, we turn off the lesser lights. Love will be all that we see. We won’t have need for gifts to help us build toward perfect love – we will experience it face to face.

Paul uses the term “face to face” to describe complete, unhindered fellowship with God. That’s what we will experience when we get to heaven. We shall see Jesus as He is. There will be no more barriers to our relationship with God. In the spiritual sense which Moses had a face to face relationship with God, we can have a free and open relationship with God today. But in the ultimate sense where we see Jesus completely and clearly, it will wait until we get to heaven, when we are united with Jesus in glory. What a day that will be. We should anticipate and wait with excitement and joy as to what will come for all who believe.

Paul wraps up his teaching on love this way: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The three great pursuits of the Christian life are not “miracles, power, and gifts”; they are faith, hope, and love. Though the gifts are precious, and given by the Holy Spirit today, they were never meant to be the focus or goal of our Christian lives. Instead, we pursue faith, hope, and love. Those three things are what we need to pursue with all that we are. If it doesn’t, we need to receive God’s sense of priorities, and put our focus where it belongs. What are you chasing? These are the three things that should rise above all else!

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