“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-11
This is the final installment of my ramblings concerning spiritual gifts. The question we have been asking is: “Are the gifts still operating or did they cease operation when the original apostles died?
What is Paul saying when addressing the need for maturity and the leaving behind of childish ways? Many people believe he is addressing the need to move from more immature ways in the Spirit and move toward the perfection and maturity of a new era – a new day in which revelation is perfected. In interpretation of Scripture, the context in which the scripture is found is always important in deciding what the writer is saying. This passage is located right in the middle of a section in which the focus is on the importance of love in the use of spiritual gifts.
What was the problem Paul was addressing?
Is was not that the use of gifts was being rebuked but how they were being used. They were being used selfishly and Paul is addressing the motive not the tools. Paul gives the Corinthians a glimpse inside the pure motives of the child of God: faith, hope, and love. All ministry that is done by the Spirit is performed through these motives. One day, faith will become sight and will no longer be needed. One day, hope will be realized and will no longer be needed. But love, well, it will always operate among us; even in heaven, so it is the greatest of all motivations – the one which will last forever.
In chapter 14, verse 20, Paul tells the Corinthians “Stop thinking like children”. He is carrying forward the theme of chapters 12 and 13. What theme?
The gifts are to be used for the edification of the Body and not for personal gain or prominence. Children use their talents and abilities to promote themselves: believers in Jesus do not. So, let’s put childish ways behind us.
As I think about what the Bible says about the gifts and the motivations for using them, I find very little evidence to say that they have ceased operation. In the nations of the world in which we have embraced cessation, revival has ceased. In the parts of the world in which trust in the gifts is still vibrant, we find revival.
Jesus ministered with the gifts. The apostles ministered with the gifts. Do we think we will be successful trying to minister a different way?