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Bible Q

What is “the perfect” in 1 Cor 13:10?

…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”).

2 Replies to “What is “the perfect” in 1 Cor 13:10?”

  1. Luke,

    Well said in so few words. I think you have a good handle on your view of the gifts, but please allow me to encourage you in the Lord. I, too, once held the view that the gifts given by the Spirit (tongues, prophecy, etc) were for the pioneering early church. I know and commune with many strong believers who still hold this view. I would encourage you, though, when answering a question such as this, a highly debated topic and passage, not to fall prey to what may be one of Satan’s most devastating schemes. The division of the Church speaks volumes to the lack of unity that we have despite the Scriptural mandate and promises of a unified body of saints. I don’t believe for a moment that you were intending to be divisive, but to teach one view as fact when so many other biblical scholars, men and women who are sold out for the Lord and earnestly seeking to understand His word, hold another view that has good biblical credibility as well, this seems unwise, prideful, confusing, and subtly deceiving.

    Again, Luke, I am not in any way bashing or pointing fingers at you, but rather exhorting a brother by the leading of the Holy Spirit by the authority of Scripture that demands that I do so when we see the Church becoming fragmented. I can’t bear to watch the Church crumble at the hands of saints who should be walking by the Spirit in all matters of life, especially teaching sound doctrine.

    Luke, I am not even saying that you are wrong. I am fine with coming to the end of my life and being told that I had it all wrong on this one. That is, as long as I know that I have not taught as fact those things in Scripture that are so heavily debated by equally qualified and sold out saints who love and cherish Jesus as Lord and don’t mean to push an agenda. When teaching as fact a topic such as, “Spiritual gifts are no longer valid,” know first that you may just be wrong and more importantly, that you may just be immobilizing an enormous amount of brothers and sisters who we need desperately in this fight against Satan and his binding and blinding influence on this world.

    I love you, brother! Please keep teaching if that is what the Spirit has gifted you in, but please be mindful that it is a gracious and humble stance to say, “This is the way I’ve understood this subject from Scripture, but many other equally qualified believers and more qualified scholars believe another way.” I think our differing views can lend to the edification of the body if we are only willing to humbly accept that we may not have all of the answers. Obviously we hold fast to the points necessary for salvation and pray that the Spirit lead us into all truth.

    Thank you for devoting your time to making the scriptures available to those desiring to learn.