…when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

‘The perfect’ in 1Cor. 13:10 refers to the mature church community.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given in order to help the young Christian community become established in a dangerous world. Ephesians 4 also talks about the Holy Spirit gifts, and it says they were given ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’ (Eph. 4:12-16). The early church was in danger of being derailed by false ideas from the world (v14), and perhaps even in danger of staying immature and ineffective in the world (v12,15). So God, through the Lord Jesus (v7-8), gave the Spirit gifts to help establish the young Christian community.

When the community was established — become ‘perfect’ (1Cor. 13:10) — then the Spirit gifts had served their purpose and they could ‘pass away’ (1Cor. 13:10). Notice that Ephesians 4 corroborates this: it says the gifts were given ‘until we all attain to … maturity’(Eph. 4:13). The gifts would be around ‘until’ the church reached ‘maturity’,* and then they would pass away.


* This word, ‘maturity’, is in fact translated from the same Greek word [teleios; Strong’s #5046] that ‘the perfect’ is translated from in 1Cor. 13:10. Paul is covering similar ground in both passages. For further study, find other connections between Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 (e.g. there are more connections revolving around the ideas of “maturity” and “immaturity”).

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