West Point Road Church of Christ
When the Perfect is Come
  • Knowledge in the 1st Century Was Piecemeal

    In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul is instructing the Christians in Corinth regarding the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that were available to them during the 1st Century.
    1 Corinthians 12:1
    1 Corinthians 12:1 KJV 1900
    Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
    Within this instruction is a listing of attributes of love in Chapter 13.
    Paul makes a comparison between love and the spiritual gifts.
    1 Corinthians 13:8
    1 Corinthians 13:8 KJV 1900
    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.
    He continues with information that the miraculous knowledge and prophesying will go away, but that it is currently being done piecemeal.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    Different people had different gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    1 Corinthians 12:8
    1 Corinthians 12:8 KJV 1900
    For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
    It seems that even though a person may have the miraculous power of prophecy or the miraculous gift of knowledge, the information was not given in a complete way. Paul explains that:
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

    When the Perfect is Come

    However, Paul now starts the next part of his writing with “but,” letting us know that something different and opposing to what has just been said is coming next. Currently, as Paul is writing, knowledge is in part,...
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    There are two things referred to in this verse:
    That which is perfect
    That which is in part
    Through context we should easily understand “that which is in part,” because Paul had just been discussing it in verse 9.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    So, now Paul is stating that this piecemeal knowledge is going to go away in verse 10. This matches what he has already discussed about prophecies and tongues also provided by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit eventually ceasing.
    1 Corinthians 13:8
    1 Corinthians 13:8 KJV 1900
    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.
    The timing of the piecemeal knowledge going away is indicated by Paul.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    We know that the “in part” is the miraculous, piecemeal knowledge provided by the Holy Spirit, but what is the “perfect” that is indicated? Whatever it is, when it comes the miraculous, piecemeal knowledge would cease.

    What is the Perfect?

    Different ideas have been proposed as to what the “perfect” is. Some may think it is Jesus. Others may say it is the maturity of the church. We will try to figure it out and put it in context with what Paul is saying.
    The word translated “perfect” deals with the idea of completeness, or fulness.
    Matthew 5:48
    Matthew 5:48 KJV 1900
    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
    We are not able to be perfect, as in flawless, like God is perfect. But Jesus is saying to be complete, or whole.
    In Hebrews, it is translated as “of full age.”
    Hebrews 5:14
    Hebrews 5:14 KJV 1900
    But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
    Let’s look again at verse 10.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    The word translated “part” near the end of the verse is genitive in the Greek. The genitive usually shows possession. Therefore, it seems that whatever the “in part” is, it is actually a part, although an imperfect part, of that which is perfect.
    The parts were defined as knowledge and prophesy, or the knowledge gained through the miraculous.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    The “in part” is really an imperfect piece of the “perfect.” Therefore, that which is in part is partial knowledge, which is only a piece of the perfect knowledge which is to come.
    When you go into a bakery, you may get a sample of a pie. That is an imperfect part of that which is perfect. The sample you get is the imperfect, which is “in part,” but it is related to that which is “perfect,” or the whole, complete pie that you might buy.
    Now that we have examined some grammar in the passage, let’s look at some of the context.
    Paul has been attempting to instruct the Christians in Corinth on the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    1 Corinthians 12:1
    1 Corinthians 12:1 KJV 1900
    Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
    But, even though he is giving them instruction regarding the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he states that he is going to tell them about a better way.
    1 Corinthians 12:31
    1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV 1900
    But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
    He proceeds then to tell them about love in Chapter 13, verses 1 through 7.
    Then, he seems to compare the love he has just presented with the miraculous gifts about which he had instructed before that.
    1 Corinthians 13:8
    1 Corinthians 13:8 KJV 1900
    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.
    He begins the next verse with “For,” meaning that it is a continuation.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    In reference to spiritual knowledge and prophesy, the current status when Paul is writing is that it is “in part.”
    The next verse begins with “But,” which shows a contrast.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    If the part is part of the perfect, then when the perfect is come the part will be done away. Remember that we are speaking about knowledge. Also, remember that the idea of “perfect” here is the idea of completeness. Therefore, the knowledge that the Corinthians have now is good, but it is only part of the perfect knowledge that is to come later.
    So far, our grammatical interpretation seems to work okay with the previous context. Let’s continue reading to see if it fits with the subsequent context.
    1 Corinthians 13:11-12
    1 Corinthians 13:11–12 KJV 1900
    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. 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.
    There is a parallel analogy here between being “in part” and “coming to fulness” or “maturity.” When that which is perfect is come and is in fulness, that which is in part is no longer needed. I used to think as a child, and I was immature. But, now I think as a man, and am more complete.
    If you come to my house and I haven’t cleaned my windows for years, then I may look at you through a glass darkly. I may only get an incomplete picture. But, if I were to open the door and see you face-to-face, then the picture would now be complete.
    Similarly, Paul says that “now” his knowledge is partial, but “then” he shall know. When is the “then”? When the partial shall be done away. When will the partial be done away? When the perfect knowledge is come.
    That which is perfect is the perfect knowledge revealed by God. What is our source for the perfect knowledge revealed by God? The Bible.
    Remember that you have to interpret the Bible within the historical context of when it was written and to whom it was written. None of the writings of the Bible were written to you, but they were written for you.
    Here, Paul is instructing members of the church at Corinth in spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because that is what people needed in the first century to be able to teach them what was truth and to be able to confirm that what they were teaching was truth to others. Whether it was the Apostle Paul, or some member of the church at Corinth, they need to use the miracles to reveal and confirm the word.
    However, Paul tells them that something is coming later, the perfect, that will make the partial knowledge they receive through miracles no longer necessary.
    If the part they have now is knowledge, and the part is a part of the perfect that is to come later, then the perfect must also be knowledge.
    Not spiritual maturity
    The “perfect” is not the maturity of the Christian. Even though Paul talks about maturity of being a man versus being a child, he is drawing an analogy between being incomplete and being complete. That analogy is applied to the context of what is under discussion, and that is the partial knowledge being replaced by the perfect knowledge.
    Also, a problem with interpreting the “perfect” as “spiritual maturity,” is that we still have spiritually immature people in the church, whether they are new members or whether they have decided not to concentrate on spiritual meat but are content with drinking the same spiritual milk lessons over and over. If we still had the spiritually immature, then that which is “in part” would not have been done away. In other words, if the perfect is spiritually mature Christians, then we would still have miraculous gifts of knowledge and prophesy to help them because the perfect maturity of these Christians has not yet arrived.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    The point in time when the “in part” shall be done away is when the “perfect” arrives. If the “perfect” is spiritual maturity, then it has not arrived. If it has not arrived, then the miraculous “in part” would not have gone away.
    If the “perfect” references the spiritually mature, then Paul is an enigma. Was Paul spiritually mature in love and faith? He said he had kept the faith.
    2 Timothy 4:7
    2 Timothy 4:7 KJV 1900
    I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
    If so, why was he still able to speak in tongues.
    1 Corinthians 14:18
    1 Corinthians 14:18 KJV 1900
    I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
    Why was that which was “in part” not done away with in the case of Paul?
    The “perfect” does not refer to spiritual maturity.
    Not Jesus
    Those that believe that gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available today may interpret this passage as referencing the second coming of Jesus. This would allow them to continue practicing their “miraculous healing,” and “miraculous speaking in tongues.”
    However, the “perfect” does not refer to Jesus.
    When we examine the Bible we need to keep in mind two types of genders. One, we might call literal gender. Someone is either male or female. The second one is grammatical gender. Unlike English, Greek and other languages assign one of three categories to nouns. They are either masculine, feminine, or neuter. Keep in mind that grammatical gender does not necessarily indicate literal gender. For example, the word for “day” in Spanish is “el dia.” The “el” means that it is a masculine word. The idea of a “day” is neither literally masculine, nor literally feminine, but grammatically, at least in Spanish, it is masculine.
    The grammatical gender of Jesus is masculine. When He is an adult, He is referred to in the masculine gender.
    However, the grammatical gender of the “perfect” is neuter.
    When things have grammatical gender they usually must agree to be associated with each other. For example, a masculine noun will have a masculine adjective. If the “perfect” is neuter, then it would be harder to believe that is referring to the person of Jesus Christ.
    Also, remember that the “in part” is really an imperfect part of the whole. The “in part” clearly refers to knowledge.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    If when the perfect comes refers to the second coming of Jesus, that means we won’t have perfect knowledge until the end of time. If we need that perfect knowledge for our own salvation, then when it actually arrives with the second coming of Jesus it will be too late.
    The same problem would occur for those that believe the perfect state of Heaven is the “perfect.” If we only have partial knowledge now, then that means we won’t have perfect, or complete, knowledge until it is time to go to Heaven. If my salvation relies upon that complete knowledge, then how will I make it to Heaven if I don’t have complete knowledge until it is time to go to Heaven?

    Conclusion

    The miraculous gifts gave knowledge to man, but it was only in part.
    1 Corinthians 13:9
    1 Corinthians 13:9 KJV 1900
    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    That partial knowledge given by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would eventually go away when the perfect knowledge in the Bible would come.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    The grammar suggests that the “in part” is a part of the whole “perfect.” If the “in part” refers to imperfect knowledge, then the “perfect” refers to complete knowledge.
    The context matches this interpretation as Paul gives analogies of childish thoughts versus mature thoughts, and seeing partially but later seeing fully.
    Another part of hermeneutics is to compare our interpretation with other Scripture to see if it harmonizes.
    In other words, is there other Scripture that would match this interpretation of miraculous gifts giving partial knowledge to men until a more complete knowledge came?
    Ephesians 4:8-13
    Ephesians 4:8–13 KJV 1900
    Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
    Notice that the gifts were to be given “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
    This matches our interpretation over in 1 Corinthians.
    But, when did the “perfect” really arrive? It has been argued by Ted Thrasher that it “happened at the time when Jude penned his epistle - about AD 69.” (Ted Thrasher - “That Which is Perfect”) His argument stems from Jude 3.
    Jude 1:3 ASV
    Jude 3 ASV 1901
    Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.
    Jude appears to be writing to “contend earnestly” but for what? “The faith.” Had the entire faith come? Was there complete knowledge? Jude continues by saying that the faith was “once for all delivered unto the saints.” Thrasher points out that the word translated “delivered” is “in the aorist tense and indicates completed action.”
    Logically, it might be harder to contend for “the faith” if you didn’t have complete knowledge. Also, it would seem incorrect to state that the faith was “once for all delivered” if it had not totally arrived yet. If complete knowledge had arrived, then we know that the time for the “in part” had come to an end.
    1 Corinthians 13:10
    1 Corinthians 13:10 KJV 1900
    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
      • 1 Corinthians 12:1ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:8ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 12:8ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:8ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • Matthew 5:48ASV

      • Hebrews 5:14ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 12:1ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 12:31ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:8ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:11–12ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • 2 Timothy 4:7ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 14:18ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:9ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

      • Ephesians 4:8–13ASV

      • Jude 3ASV

      • 1 Corinthians 13:10ASV

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