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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Romans 12:3-4 by Robert Dean

Would you like to know more about "speaking in tongues"? Listen to this lesson to learn what it means, the history of the "tongues" movement, and whether this is a legitimate spiritual gift today. Find out the difference between permanent and temporary spiritual gifts. Discover if prophecy in the Old Testament is the same as the temporary gift of prophecy in the New Testament. See how Paul indicates love is permanent but prophecy, knowledge, and tongues are temporary. Understand that the deaths of all the apostles and the completion of the canon of Scripture abolished the temporary gifts.

Note that the video is incorrectly labeled as Romans Lesson #132 on the opening screen.

Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 32 secs

Spiritual Gifts Introduction – Part 3
Permanent vs. Temporary Gifts
Romans 12:3-4

The last couple of lessons we've gone through spiritual gifts so this is the third lesson by way of introduction. I'm just giving a summary here. Then as we get into the exegesis in the next couple of verses it'll go fairly quickly because we understand the Biblical framework. As we'll see tonight, there are three basic passages in the Scripture that talk about spiritual gifts. They're easy to remember if you can remember the number 12. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and then Ephesians 4 which is 12 divided by 3. You've just got to remember that and then you've got it. Okay, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are your main passages and they're both 12 so that's an easy way to remember it.

The last time we got through the sixth point on spiritual gifts, which was that spiritual gifts are not earned or deserved. The gift is given at the point of salvation. The gift is not developed or learned but using it effectively may be learned, depending on the gift. We become more effective in our use of the gift. I used the example last time of a pastor-teacher. A man receives the gift of pastor-teacher at the instant of salvation but he still has to go through seminary, still has to go through classes related to teaching, education, and Bible study. He has to learn the languages. He has to learn theology. He has to learn how to think critically.

 I'm always amazed when I run into people who think that if someone has the gift of pastor-teacher they can just pick up the Bible and teach it. No, it's not a gift of knowledge. It's a gift of communication and pastors have to go through education. There was a time in this country when pastors held a high standard and no church worth its salt would hire a pastor who was not well trained in the original languages. I don't know if I've told this story or not but in my first church, which was down in LaMarque. LaMarque is the last little city on the mainland before you cross over to Galveston. The pastor of that church who had been pastor there from 1933 to 1973 was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Austin Presbyterian Seminary. When he was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor in 1933 he had to pass reading exams in Greek and Hebrew. He had to answer oral questions from his ordination council relating to the exegesis of the passages in the Greek and Hebrew that he had just read and translated as part of his exam. If he wasn't competent in Greek and Hebrew, then he would not get ordained.

Now in many churches all you have to do is have the gift of gab and be able to gather a crowd of people together or recite what some pastor has taught you and you're ordained. You don't have to demonstrate competency. This is why in the last thirty years pastors have become some of the least respected among the professions in the U.S. Now that's due to some other factors as well but part of it is that they have lost the professionalism that was once there because churches no longer require the high standards that was once there. In many denominations they brought that on themselves because rather than teaching content in the seminary they teach them a lot of "how-to" courses related to management, people skills, counseling, and everything but the Word of God. This leads to a dilution of the integrity of the pulpit. So we need to demand quality.

This is just an example that spiritual gifts are given to us. We don't learn a spiritual gift to get it but you have to develop and mature in your ability to utilize your spiritual gift. In the seventh point there are two categories of spiritual gifts and we'll probably spend most of our time tonight and sometime next week talking about this issue. It is an extremely controversial issue in some circles, not as controversial as it once was. Some places just quit having a controversy over it but we have to explore what the Word of God says.

The best classification of these two categories coming from the way the Scriptures talk about them is to call them permanent gifts and temporary gifts. Sometimes people talk about "sign" gifts but the Bible doesn't necessarily classify all of these as "sign" gifts. But the Scripture does indicate that some of them are temporary, that they were not designed to be part of the life of the Church throughout its history. They were temporary in nature. So two categories we're going to talk about a little bit.

It helps to be able to compare the passages that list the gifts. In Ephesians 4:11-12 it lists apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. Apostles and prophets are also listed in 1 Corinthians 12: 28 and in Romans 12:6-8 you have the gift of prophecy mentioned. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 at the beginning of the chapter gives a list that includes all temporary gifts. Some of these we're not sure how they function or what they were because this is the only mention of them in the Scripture and there's not even a reference given anywhere else. Due to the influence of the charismatic ministry, such as the more extreme Word of Faith heretics on the extreme end of the charismatic movement, they really defined for contemporary culture "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge." They didn't get their definition out of the Bible. They generated it out of their own experience. That's not how you do Biblical theology.

We don't know what a "word of wisdom" was. We don't know what a "word of knowledge" was. It has to do with some sort of message. It might be that it's not even a revelatory gift. They may be gifts related to wise application of Scripture, a message related to wise application of Scripture, or a message related to knowledge in terms of understanding or insight into Scripture. The fact that they're called "a word of" indicates that they may be related to some sort of special revelation. Since special revelation ended at the end of the 1st century, then these would no longer continue. So they're more than likely related to revelatory gifts and that would mean they would have a certain authority. Since it would be revelation derived from God then it would have the same level of infallibility and inerrancy as any other divinely-enabled utterance. Therefore it's not subject to error so someone can't have a mistake. This would violate a number of principles. We'll get into that as we look at the prophecy gift.

Faith is listed, healing, that's obvious, miracles, again obvious, prophecy, we'll discuss some of the things related to that so prophecy is listed in every list. Discerning spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Later in 1 Corinthians 12 there's another list, apostles, prophets, teachers, healing, miracles, tongues, administrations. A better translation of that Greek word might be leadership. Helps which uses the word ANTILUPSIS, which means giving assistance to someone. That's a different word from the word in the Romans 12 list for helps which is service. Service and helps in English may be very close to one another. The Greek words may even be synonyms but they're not the same words so it's not the same gift.

Then Romans 12 mentions the gift of leading. The Greek word has the idea of management there, as well, so it's probably very close to the idea of administration. Romans 12 also mentions mercy, exhortation, and giving. So that's all the spiritual gifts that are listed in Scripture and I'm not sure that this is even meant to be exhaustive. There may be other gifts. As I pointed out before, it's not really necessary to know what your spiritual gift is to function in your spiritual gift. If we have the attitude as believers to serve the Lord and to serve in the local church in whatever way we can then over the process of our spiritual growth and maturation then our spiritual gifts will be manifest in whatever we do. We'll be strengthened in those particular areas.

Now, we break these categories down into temporary gifts and permanent gifts. The temporary gifts were distributed initially to the apostles and certain disciples who were closely associated with the apostles. They served as giving credentials and authentications to the message of the apostles during the time that the Canon of Scripture was being developed. Since the Canon was incomplete and revelation was incomplete, Scripture was not sufficient. An incomplete Canon of Scripture could not be thought of as sufficient so during the New Testament period from when Jesus dies in A.D. 30 you don't have the first epistle which was probably James. It was probably not written until the late 40s, 15 and more years after the crucifixion. Most of the Pauline epistles are not written until the late 50's, say around 58 to 68 and then you have several others written during that period. The Petrine epistles are written during that period. The Johanine epistles and the Gospel of John are not written until the late 80s and completed by A.D. 95 so during much of the New Testament period, about 25 years after the crucifixion, less than half of the New Testament has been written and these books had not had time to circulate among the churches at that time. So they're operating on a foundation of insufficient revelation about the new dispensation of the Church, the new dynamics of the spiritual life related to the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, so it is through the gifts of prophecy, and possibly the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom that believers are taught the truth about what is going on until the Canon is complete. These gifts functioned during that particular time.

The permanent gifts are given and distributed throughout the body of Christ for the on-going mature ministry of believers to one another within the body of Christ. If you think about the different gifts, whether its evangelism or teaching, administration, helps, service, mercy, exhortation, and giving these also represent responsibilities that should be carried out by every believer. Every believer is expected to give. Some believers have a spiritual-enhancement in that area. Every believer is expected to encourage one another. We're commanded to encourage one another but some people are specially gifted in that area. We're also to teach one another, not necessarily in a formal sense but we're to teach one another. Some are given a special enhancement in the area of teaching. Same thing in areas of helps and service. We're to serve one another. We're to help one another but some people are given special spiritual enhancements and giftedness in those particular areas. So those gifts are permanent gifts for the edification and maturity of the body.

Now there are two other terms you often hear when talking about the permanent versus the temporary gifts. One is to classify or differentiate between the temporary gifts and revelatory gifts. Gifts of healing and gifts of miracles are not revelatory so revelatory is not a perfect synonym for temporary gift. Revelatory gifts are those which involve some form of special revelation from God. That would include prophecy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and I believe in my opinion, the gift of apostle. I believe the apostles had all the gifts. That was part of their foundational ministry in the early church. I can't prove that but I think that when you look at what they did, they seem to exhibit many, if not all, of the gifts in their ministry.

Now I want to talk a little bit about why we classify these gifts as temporary. There's a lot of debate over this. This really didn't bubble up to the surface in the history of Christianity until the beginning of the 20th century. There were people who were seeking some of these gifts, gifts of healing, gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, by the late 19th century. That primarily grew out of a revival movement that began in the middle of the 19th century and is usually classified under the terminology of the "holiness" movement. The holiness movement had its start within a Methodist background in the mid-19th century as a desire to reform the Methodist Church from the inside out due to a misguided perspective that somehow the Methodist Church had lost its passion, lost its drive, and some of this was based on the fact that many of the churches in America were growing smaller from what they had been at the beginning of the 19th century.

We now have historical perspective. They were shrinking because people were listening to the advice of Horace Greeley and they were going west. So people were leaving their home churches on the Eastern seaboard and they were heading west. So the churches in the east were shrinking to some degree as people left and headed for the west. Whenever you see churches shrink and churches all go through ebbs and flow of church life. At first membership comes along for a while and the church grows and something happens. A lot of people have to move or they get older, whatever the cause is, the population of the church drops a little bit and we go through these ups and down.

What happened was, they asked the question "What are we doing wrong?" Well, they really weren't doing anything different or doing anything wrong, there were demographic factors, American expansion factors that were affecting the demographics of the local church. Once you start asking "what are we doing wrong" if you're not doing anything wrong, you often come up with the wrong answer which is exactly what they did.

This was particularly traced to a woman Bible study teacher in New York City who was the wife of a physician there. Her name was Phoebe Palmer and they began to go back to the perfectionist teaching of Charles and John Wesley, that somehow they had missed the boat and they needed to have a "second work of grace" that came after salvation. So this dedication or second work of grace was identified with the Baptism of the Spirit. So now what they've done is that you have one work of grace at salvation when you trust in Christ as Savior but you have to have a second work of grace for spiritual blessing, for spiritual growth which elevates you to a higher level of spiritual experience, whether you call it dedication or yieldedness or whatever it is, that's what they labeled it.

By the end of the 19th century they began to associate the possibility of speaking in tongues as the sign of that experience. No one was speaking in tongues. The first modern example of anyone claiming to speak in tongues was on New Year's Eve, 1900, as you were shifting into a new century, 1901, when a young Bible college student in Topeka, Kansas by the names of Agnes Ozmon suddenly started speaking what she claimed to be Chinese. It's interesting that in the early stages of the charismatic movement, they assumed that on the basis of the Bible that when the apostles spoke in tongues they were speaking in legitimate languages. It's only after a while that they realize in the early 1900's that the people doing this weren't speaking Chinese or Arabic or Hebrew, that they changed their understanding and interpretation of Scripture.

The problem is they had correctly interpreted the Scripture that speaking in tongues is the word GLOSSIA means a language, a known or recognizable language even though the person may not have gone through the normal process of learning it. He had a miraculous ability to speak in a normal human language. So that was the beginning of the charismatic movement. At that time it was simply known as the Pentecostal movement and it was marked by the idea that you had a second work of grace after salvation that they identified as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and it was signified by speaking in tongues.

In the history of that movement it changes again around the 50s and instead of being separated out from other denominations they stayed in denominations so you had charismatic Episcopals, charismatic Presbyterians, charismatic Baptists, charismatic Methodists and that became known as the charismatic movement.

The terms charismatic and Pentecostal are technically different although often they're used together as the charismatic/Pentecostal movement. It was very controversial in the 60s and the 70s and there were a lot of people who tried to utilize linguistic studies and recordings of glossalaic utterances in order to substantiate these as legitimate languages. Many of these studies were conducted by people who were in the Pentecostal/ charismatic movement. A number of these were published. A couple of years ago I read through a number of these and found that no one could ever substantiate it. They never came up with any documented evidence of someone speaking a verifiable language. So they often came up with other ideas, such as they were speaking a Holy Spirit language, a prayer language, or an angelic language but the reality was that a linguist who examined any of these utterances would come away saying that they weren't speaking any language at all. They said whether or not you could understand the language was not necessary for linguistic analysis. Someone who is a specialist in languages and linguistics can spot patterns and determine whether or not someone is speaking gibberish or speaking a language. All of these turned out to be simply gibberish. There's no miracle there.

I remember when students at Dallas Seminary would memorize the Lord's Prayer in Greek or Psalm 23 in Hebrew or some other passage. At the time there was a huge conflict over a Baptist Church in Dallas. They would go over there to their evening service and recite something from the Hebrew or Greek text and get a myriad of different interpretations. It was just a field test to see if anyone actually had the gift of interpretation or were even performing according to the standard of Scripture and of course they weren't.

So this is a problem. The issue comes down to understanding what the Scripture teaches. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 it's very clear that the Scripture itself recognizes these distinctions between temporary gifts and permanent gifts. It also ultimately comes down to a recognition of the growth factor, the maturity factor, in the church. We'll look at that before we finish.

1 Corinthians 13:8 comes at the end of Paul's remarkable explanation of the wonders of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. We will notice in our passage in Romans 12 that once Paul discusses the gifts he's going to come back because they have to be balanced with love. One of the weaknesses with spiritual gifts is that people get all self-absorbed and full of themselves in terms of what their own spiritual gift is. This is one of the things that was manifested a lot within the charismatic movement. It's also been manifested a lot in other churches where they put a lot of emphasis on training people in terms of their spiritual gift. So it always has to be balanced with love.  

Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians 13:8 by saying, "Love never fails." He's making a contrast between the permanency of love and the impermanence or the temporary nature of some of the gifts. Now if you look at 1 Corinthians 12 you'll note that Paul begins with a blanket statement that love never fails and then when he ends this discussion he says that faith, hope, and love abide but the greatest of these is love. Why is love the greatest? Because love is permanent. Everything else is temporary but love is permanent. So your topical sentence shapes our understanding of this section that love never fails.

He's going to give three examples of things that are temporary: prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. He says in 1 Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails; but if {there are gifts of} prophecy, they will be done away; if {there are} tongues, they will cease; if {there is} knowledge, it will be done away." When he says knowledge will be done away [vanish away], he's not talking about knowledge per se that will vanish away because in the eternal state there will be a lot of knowledge, a lot of things to learn. We will not be mindless in eternity. It's not going to be just an absence of intellectual activity. He's talking about the gift of knowledge or the word of knowledge mentioned earlier in the context.

The first thing he mentions in verse 8 is prophecy. Now how in the world are we to understand prophecy when it's mentioned in the New Testament? The frame of reference should be the Old Testament but in recent years you have two erroneous views of the New Testament gift of prophecy. One has been around a lot longer than the charismatic movement and that is the view that prophecy in the New Testament is equated to preaching or the proclamation of the gospel. Prophecy is never to be identified as preaching. There are a lot of people, non-charismatic, evangelicals, as well as others, who try to identify prophecy in the New Testament as preaching.

Prophecy must be understood in terms of its Old Testament reference. There's no change. There's no place anywhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Acts where the writer comes along and says, "Ah, we're talking about prophecy now but it's not what you've heard before. We've spent 4,000 years where prophecy meant one thing and now all of a sudden it means something else." There's no place where there's a re-definition of the term or the concept. So prophecy must be understood in terms of that Old Testament reference. It's also not some lower-grade guess at what God's going to do.

Now I'm making a little bit of fun of this and I'm going to give you some documentation in a minute but in the mid-80s there was a scholar that came out of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago by the name of Wayne Grudem. Today he's the president of Phoenix Theological Seminary. He's a well-respected scholar in a number of areas. A few years ago he published a systematic theology which is highly recommended and touted by a number of people. I have serious problems with a number of things in that theology. This isn't the least of it but a lot of people talk about him as if he is really great. His claim to fame, what put him on the map, was his doctoral dissertation where he claimed that the New Testament gift of prophecy was not the same as the Old Testament gift of prophecy.

Here are some of the things he said about it. He said, "Prophecy in ordinary New Testament churches was not equal to Scripture in authority." See in the Old Testament, prophecy which is speaking "this is the word of the Lord" is equated to Scripture. But he says that the New Testament gift doesn't have to pass the same quality standard. It doesn't have to pass the same test. He continues, "[This prophecy] was simply a very human and sometimes partially mistaken report of something the Holy Spirit brought to someone's mind." In other words you have an idea just pop into your mind and you say, "Ah, the Lord put this on my mind so I'm going to say it and attribute it to the Lord." But it may not be true. You may get it wrong. That's okay, but he says that's New Testament prophecy and has nothing to do with the Old Testament standards. He says, "New Testament prophecy is telling something God has spontaneously brought to mind." In another place he says New Testament prophecy is an unreliable human speech act [note that he says it's unreliable] in response to a revelation from the Holy Spirit. Finally he says, "This is a somewhat new definition of the nature of Christian prophecy." He recognizes that no one else has ever defined it this way in all of Church history. Further he says, "Much more commonly prophecy and prophets were used of ordinary Christians who spoke not with absolute divine authority but simply to report something God had laid on their hearts or brought to their minds."

The trouble with this is that there's no place in the Scripture that uses that kind of language. He goes on to say, "There are many indications in the New Testament [I want to know where because I've never found them] that this ordinary gift of prophecy had authority less than the Bible or less than the recognized Bible teaching in the early church." So he is basically saying that the Holy Spirit puts a perfect thought in your mind but when you're reporting on it you just get it all messed up and make mistakes about it and so it's not exactly accurate. I treat this kind of lightly and I poke a little humor at this because I just find this so absurd. I just see the contradictions in this to be so self-evident. The trouble is this has become a dominant view among evangelical Christians today.

But it just flies in the face of all kinds of evidence, not only Biblical evidence, but also evidence from the early church. From writings we have, such as one particular writing we have called the DIDACHE which is a short form which was the teaching of the apostles. There were even some teachings of the early church fathers who thought that the DIDACHE was so beneficial to people that it should be included in the Canon of Scripture. Dates as to its origin differ. Some think it's as early as A.D. 60. Some think it's A.D. 80 but it was clearly written during the early apostolic period when the Canon of Scripture wasn't closed. So in the DIDACHE they recognized that there were people who still claimed prophetic utterance. They claimed they were speaking by means of God the Holy Spirit and according to what was said in the DIDACHE, they were held to the same high standard as prophets, as anyone who claimed to be saying, "thus sayeth the Lord" from the Old Testament.

There are other examples that I could go into from early church writings that demonstrate that in the early church they did not view prophecy functioning in the early church as anything less authoritative than the Scripture itself or than the Old Testament so this is clearly a problem. When we come to the New Testament we have to recognize that the New Testament gift of prophecy is not redefined in the New Testament. It means the same thing it meant in the Old Testament.

Second, New Testament prophets were seen as equal in divine authority as New Testament apostles, according to Ephesians 2:20 where it states that "apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church". Third, early church writings from the late 1st century understood the New Testament gift of prophecy to be identical with the Old Testament gift.

Finally, we must recognize that New Testament prophecy died out with the closing of the Canon and the passing of the last apostle. The ultimate group that you would appeal to for validation of your claim that God had revealed something through you was to the apostles. Once the apostles were no longer on the scene, there's no one to appeal to, there's no board of verification to go to anymore and when the Canon was closed the content of the Canon, then, became the standard or the rule of faith in the early church.

Now Paul recognizes that these three gifts, prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, are temporary. When you look at the way the text is written, two of these gifts, prophecies and knowledge, are said to be nullified or abolished. The same word is used in the Greek to describe what will happen to them. It's a future passive indicative. The future means that at some point in the future this will be abolished. Passive means that something is going to happen to cause it to be abolished. It's going to be the recipient of an action. It doesn't state what that will be but something will happen to cause prophecy and knowledge to be abolished.

Tongues, however, is treated a little differently. Tongues uses a different word, the word PAUO, which indicates cessation. This means it will cease, it will die out on its own. It's used in a middle voice which would intensify that and it indicates that whatever causes knowledge and prophecy to be abolished is not the same thing that causes tongues to die out. There's an indication that that could be related to the purpose of tongues which is what we get from 1 Corinthians 14.

So just a couple of observations that prophecy and knowledge are both abolished but tongues stops. Secondly, we see that prophecy and knowledge are both partial. This is very important in 1 Corinthians 13:9 which states that we know in part and we prophesy in part. In other words these are viewed as having some element of incompleteness or insufficiency to them. Prophecy and knowledge are both considered to be partial and these partial gifts are what is abolished. So the second point is that prophecy and knowledge are both partial but the gift of languages is not said to be partial. I would say that is because prophecy and knowledge are both related to the giving of revelation and tongues was not a revelatory gift.

Third, Paul states that the partial prophecy and the partial knowledge are abolished when something called the "perfect" comes. We're going to have to figure out what in the world the "perfect" is. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:10, "But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done." What's in part? Knowledge and prophecy? The word "done away" there is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that prophecy be done away." It's all the same word even though it's translated differently in the English. It's all the same in the Greek.

Fourth, Paul specifically uses this verb KATARGEO a final time down in verse 11 when he's giving an illustration to make sure the reader realizes that the putting away or the abolishing of childishness is related to the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. It's important if you're doing Bible study to tie these things together because by using that same word throughout this section the Holy Spirit is bringing our attention to it so we understand the thread of his argument.

In fact, Fred Toussaint, professor at Dallas Seminary for many years, has said that KATARGEO means to render inoperative or to supersede. In the active voice KAO means to cease. Why is there a change? Toussaint says, "The change of verbs cannot be accounted for by saying that Paul does this to avoid repetition." You often find that among scholars. They'll say, "Well, that really doesn't mean anything. It's just a stylistic change." The problem is that the Holy Spirit doesn't function according to rules of modern English writing. Modern English writing says to change up your words and don't use the words too often or the reader will get bored. Sometimes the Holy Spirit uses the same word again and again and again because He wants the reader to connect the dots. The way they did that was to repeat the word again and again and again, something that the Holy Spirit would be graded down on by a modern English teacher in an American school.

Paul did not fear overuse of a word as seen in this passage because he uses KATARGEO four times in verses 8, 10, and 11 in order to make this particular point. So in 1 Corinthians 13: 9 and 10 he says, "For we know in part…" The spiritual gift of knowledge is partial. Partial is a term related to completeness. That's the opposite. It's incomplete or it's complete. It has to do with quantity. He says also, "We prophesy in part…" Prophecy gives us a little bit of a picture here, a little bit of a picture there, but it doesn't give us the complete picture. It's partial. So knowledge and prophecy are both partial. Then he says, "But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away [abolished]." Again that verb KATARGEO means rendering it to no effect. Now the thing we have to really pay attention to is this concept of "in part." In Greek that's EK MEROUS meaning something is partial or incomplete. Now that's going to be contrasted by that which is "perfect". The word perfect in the Greek is TELEIOS.  Usually it means complete as compared to incomplete. In one or two places it means perfect in the sense of flawless. Flawless is a qualitative idea. If it's not flawless, it's imperfect so it's not the same quality. If it's complete it's a quantitative idea. If it's incomplete it doesn't have enough quantity there.

So I'm going to use this term qualitatively and quantitatively. If perfect is contrasted to partial, do we have a qualitative idea or a quantitative idea? We have a quantitative idea, incomplete versus complete. So what we're talking about here is that something comes along that completes that which is incomplete. Well, prophecy and knowledge have to do with giving of revelation. Giving of revelation has to do with giving a "little here and a little there." It was incomplete until the Canon of Scripture was complete so the term complete has to do in context most likely with the completion of revelation.

Now as we look at the structure here we see that prophecies which are incomplete will fail or be abolished. Knowledge will be abolished. They will be abolished according to 1 Corinthians 13:10 when the perfect comes. So it's the arrival of this thing called the perfect that's going to end these gifts. Now some people have come along and come up with all kinds of ideas of what the perfect means. Completion is one view and it's either the complete Canon or the mature Church. I argue these are two sides of the same coin.

The other meaning is perfection and under that some say this happens when we die and we're face-to-face with the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we read, "For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face-to-face." See, that's face-to-face with the Lord. Some people say it's at the Rapture which is similar to death and we're face-to-face with the Lord. Then we're going to have clear insight. Others say it's the Second Coming or the eternal state or if you just want to be nebulous or academic enough you just call it the sometime in the future when we'll see perfectly. None of those actually work as I'll show in a minute.

Now in James 1 the Word of God is referred to as a mirror. A person looks in a mirror and you see a self-reflection. You get up in the morning. You've got bed-head. You haven't shaved. You need to comb your hair and shave because you're paying attention to what you see in the mirror. You respond to it. So the Bible is compared to a mirror that you look in the Word of God and it reflects what you see. Now the King James Version didn't translate it in this manner. It said, "Now we see through a glass darkly." Well, glass and mirror are different things. If you're looking through a glass you're looking to something on the other side. But is the glass is a reflecting glass or a mirror then you're not looking through it at your own reflection.

The word used in James 1:23 is the Word of God being compared to a mirror. In James 1:25 it describes it as a perfect law of liberty, so what we have here just to review is that love is permanent but some of these spiritual gifts are temporary. In fact there's a lot more than spiritual gifts that are temporary. Prophecy and knowledge are incomplete type of spiritual gifts and when something that is complete comes it's going to end those incomplete gifts.

Now he's going to give two illustrations. In 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. In verse 11 he says, "When I was a child I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child but when I became a man I did away [abolished] with childish things." Using that word KATARGEO again, he connects it back to the abolishment of prophecy and knowledge, making us understand that what we're talking about here is that when you move from immaturity to maturity some things that were necessary at the immature phase are done away with and set aside when you hit the mature phase. Now the question we need to ask is what is it that is thought of as making us mature? The hint is it's a complete Canon of Scripture, the completed revelation of God. That's what makes the Church historically mature.

Then in 1 Corinthians 13:12 we see this "now" and "then" comparison. "For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face-to-face to…" Some people think this is face-to-face with the Lord but that's looking at someone else. That violates the mirror analogy. What we see in a mirror, we see ourselves. We come face-to-face when we look in the mirror of God's word. You're face-to-face with yourself when you look in the mirror in the morning. So Paul is talking about that there's a current situation where we see ourselves but it's an incomplete thing. But in the future it will be complete. Is that a future in time, right now in history in our life or is that future when we're face-to-face with the Lord? We see that now we speak in tongues, now there's prophecy and there's knowledge. But when the perfect arrives, these temporary things are set aside and as we become an adult the characteristics of childhood, that is the necessity for these gifts was removed.

In the second part of I Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, "Now I know in part." That word "now" is important. There are two different Greek words for "now". One word means right now in the immediate sense. The other means now in a general sense. When we look at 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul says, "And now abide faith, hope, and love..."  The "now" there is a different word than the "now" used in verse 12. That's really the key to understanding this passage. What Paul is saying is that right now in this period of history in his lifetime because he didn't have a complete Canon of Scriptu4re this is what it's like. He didn't see the whole picture because he didn't have the whole Word of God yet. Then he says but what will abide in this age is faith, hope, and love.

Okay let's look at this. The "now" that's used here is the Greek word ARTI and it's used in both of these sentences, indicating an immediacy, meaning now, right now. He says we see in a mirror dimly. This is the Greek word AINIGMA where we get our English word enigma, which refers to something that takes a certain special insight in order to understand it because it is expressed in a somewhat puzzling manner or it refers to something that's indistinct as the mirror is incomplete. When it talks about face-to-face this could easily relate to the imagery in Numbers 12:6 because there God is speaking face-to-face with Moses. It's a situation where God has appeared to Moses. He says, "I don't talk to those other guys mouth to mouth like I talk to you." In other words, "I get in your face and I'm talking directly to you but I don't talk to any of the other prophets that way."

So this idea of "seeing in a mirror dimly but then face-to-face" is an illustration of prophecy. I Corinthians 13:11 is an illustration related to the ending of knowledge. In Numbers 12:6 God says "Hear now My words. If there is a prophet among you I, myself shall make known to him in a vision, I shall speak to him in a dream but not so with Moses. He is faithful in all My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth even openly and not in dark sayings." That's the word enigma which is where Paul gets it and uses it in 1 Corinthians 13. Though he's contrasting this. God is speaking through visions to the other prophets but He says that's not as clear as mouth to mouth or face-to-face so there's it's related to giving revelation.

So the child has partial knowledge, partial prophecy, and has an incomplete reflection from the Word of God because the Word of God is incomplete but when the perfect come the characteristics of childhood are removed and we see face-to-face. So now in this current age when we don't have a complete Canon of Scripture Paul says he knows in part. See that's knowledge. "But then I shall know just as I am also known." When is this knowledge going to be?

Okay, let's wrap this up. As a child we know in part, as an adult we know fully. It doesn't mean we're going to know exhaustively. It doesn't mean we're going know omnisciently because we never will, even a billion years into eternity we won't know everything God knows. We're still creatures with finite knowledge. But this is talking about complete understanding of who we are as described in the Scripture. So in contrast to the incomplete nature of prophecy and tongues, Paul concludes by saying, "But now…" He changes the word for now to a word that has a broader sense, NUNI, which means now in this age. "But now what continues is faith, hope, and love. These three. But the greatest of these is love."

Now let me tell you something. A lot of non-charismatics and most charismatics say that the face-to-face is face-to-face with the Lord. All of the gifts will continue, knowledge, prophecy, and tongues, will continue until we go into the eternal state and then they won't be needed anymore is what they believe. But the contrast here is between prophecy, knowledge, and tongues that are going to stop at some point and faith and hope and love will continue beyond prophecy, knowledge, and tongues. Now will faith, hope, and love continue into the eternal state? That's the model from the Pentecostal side, that prophecy, knowledge, and tongues all continue until the eternal state and faith, hope, and love continue.

It's obvious from the passage that faith, hope, and love continue beyond knowledge, prophecy, and tongues. The problem is that when we're in heaven there won't be faith. Because now we walk by faith and not by sight but then we walk by sight. We'll be face-to-face with the Lord. Faith ends when we're absent from the body and we're face-to-face with the Lord.  So faith doesn't continue into eternity. Not only that but hope doesn't continue into eternity. Romans 8:24 says, "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?" When we're face to face with the Lord there won't be hope because we're seeing it. So that means that if faith, hope, and love continue beyond prophecy, knowledge, and tongues then prophecy, knowledge, and tongues have to end at some point in history and faith, hope, and love continue beyond that point throughout the rest of the age and then when we're face-to-face with the Lord the only thing that continues into heaven is what? Love. Because love never fails.

So what we see here in terms of a time line is that now in this early pre-Canon period, prophecy, knowledge, and tongues are operational. But then something comes along and stops that. It's the completed Canon of Scripture. Then faith, hope, and love continue through the rest of the Church age and into the tribulation. They are the dominant virtues. Quit worrying about prophecy, knowledge, and tongues. The issue is faith, hope, and love. Then when we go into eternity whether at the time of death when we're face-to-face with the Lord or at the Rapture or whenever what continues into eternity is going to be love.

So based just an understanding of the passage and Scripture it's impossible to have the temporary gifts continue beyond the early Church Age. Now some people have said that there's prophecy in the Tribulation. There is. There's prophecy in the Old Testament. But those are not spiritual gifts by definition. We're talking about spiritual gifts which are enhancements given by God the Holy Spirit to the Church, the body of Christ. The Church began on the day of Pentecost. The Church ends at the Rapture. What happens during the Tribulation is related to the same thing that happened in Israel in the Old Testament. It's prophecy but it's not a spiritual gift.

That's what we're talking about in these passages, spiritual gifts related to the body of Christ. Not God's ability to raise up prophets as He did in the Old Testament. Those weren't spiritual gifts, by definition. So that establishes our boundaries. We'll come back and cover that a little bit more next time and then finish out the introduction and then talk about our passage in Romans 12.