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Duncan McColl.
Two towns, Calais, ME and St. Stephen, N.B. share an amazing history.
There is one anecdote that most residents will happily share.
During the war of 1812 we ran out of gunpowder for the fourth of July.
Calais asked St.Stephen and St. Stephen let us borrow their gunpowder so we could have fireworks that year," boasts Calais resident Chris Bernardini.[1]
These two towns, separated by the St. Croix river, also share skating rinks, fire stations and emergency services.
There are a lot of things we do together.
If they need assistance, Calais is more than helpful to run across the border and help out.
If something happens in Calais, St.Stephen is second on the scene," Bernardini mentions.
This history of comradery goes back more than 200 years.
One day during the U.S. Revolutionary War, a British soldier named Duncan McColl was sent on a mission that took him in plain view of sharpshooting Yankees.
Their musket balls shredded his clothing, tore off his cap and the heel of one shoe.
At last their officer, awed by the sight, gave the order to cease firing.
"God," he said, "must have work for that man to do."
After the war, McColl became a parson.
He built a church at St. Stephen, just across the narrow St. Croix River from Calais.
His congregation included people from both sides of the border.
When the War of 1812 broke out, he called a meeting of Americans and Canadians.
"I've christened you and married you and buried you," he told them.
"We've been like one family . .
McColl told his people that they were brothers in Christ.
So they ignored the war and continued worshipping together.
Today the same spirit of fellowship and friendliness still prevails in the sister towns of St. Stephen and Calais.
Though separated by a national border, the Americans still cross the river to attend church.
A fire in one town is a call for volunteer fire fighters and equipment from the other town.
On the Fourth of July the Canadian Mounties parade with the Americans; in return state troopers from Maine, and various bands cross the river to help their neighbors honor their Queen.[3]
The people of Calais and St. Stephen have throughout their history set certain priorities that have affected their culture for a couple of hundred years.
They have realized that their unity is of more importance than other qualities that might divide them.
And it is this that Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to understand and embrace.
Certain spiritual gifts are less significant and will diminish in value, but love will never fade.
Therefore, pursue love.
Let love tie you together.
Purpose Statement.
Love will never fail while all other gifts will, therefore pursue love as your main priority.
The point of this section is to redirect the Corinthians from a feverish, selfish pursuit of spiritual gifts to a passionate pursuit of sacrificial, God-honoring love.
This does not mean however that these spiritual gifts are bad.
In fact, the next chapter tells them to “pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” ().
Fallen Condition Focus.
The problem is that our flesh tends to pursue diminishing gifts while failing to pursue perfect love.
Love never fails (13:8).
In the future, all other spiritual gifts will diminish or be completely cut off due to irrelevance (13:9).
When the perfect (Christ) comes, the gifts will become insignificant (13:10).
First metaphor.
In the same way that childish actions cease when we become adults, spiritual gifts will cease in the future (13:11).
Second metaphor.
In the same way that looking into a foggy mirror is less effective than looking at someone face to face, spiritual gifts will be set aside as ineffective when we see Christ face to face (13:12).
Love is the greatest (13:13).
Therefore, pursue love (14:1).
Love compared to other gifts (13:8-10)
Love compared to other gifts (13:8-10)
Love compared to other gifts (13:8-10)
Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will cease.
These spiritual gifts are like torches that have offered light into the darkness and fog of this corrupt world, but will become irrelevant when the Sun shines bright as day.
Simply put, the presence of the Son will obliterate any value they may have offered.
The gifts themselves, not their content.
Knowledge itself will never pass away and “if it did, no one would know it” [4] The content produced by prophecy will never pass away.
Instead these specific gifts will no longer exist because they will no longer be relevant or helpful.
The gifts will be made to cease.
The verbs accompanying prophecy and knowledge are passive verbs and carry the meaning of being made useless, abolished, or destroyed.
Many of the modern translations are similar to the ESV in this verse.
“As for prophecies, they will pass away . . .
as for knowledge, it will pass away” ( ESV).
The NET Bible offers a more accurate rendering, “if there are prophecies, they will be set aside . . .
if there is knowledge, it will be set aside” ( NET).
So then, both prophecy and knowledge will pass away – but more strongly – they will be abolished.
On the other hand, the verb cease which follows tongues is in the middle tense.
Potential significance of different verbal forms.
Some have made a great deal out of the differences of verbal forms in this verse.
From this, some have concluded that both prophecy and knowledge will be made to cease in the future, but tongues will cease on its own accord at a point prior to the other gifts.
Those who draw this conclusion as well see that it is significant that tongues is not mentioned in verse 9.
The cessation of tongues took place a short while after Paul wrote this letter, but the gifts of prophecy and knowledge have not yet been done away, because the perfect has not yet come.
Like tongues and all other gifts, those two gifts are temporary, but they are less temporary than tongues. . . .
Paul considers tongues already to have stopped, because that gift is not mentioned after verse 8.[5]
The absence of tongues in verse 9 is not likely significant because verse 12 doesn’t include prophecy but does include knowledge.
To draw a conclusion about tongues due to its absence in verse 9 would require drawing a conclusion about prophecy’s absence in verse 12. While, it is possible that Paul purposefully used different tenses so as to make a distinction between tongues and the other two gifts, it is more likely that he was just using some creative variety in his writing.
While I personally like the idea of tongues ceasing on its own prior to the other gifts, this passage would not be the best one to use to draw that conclusion.
When tongues ceases is hardly Paul’s point in this passage.
That which is perfect.[6]
Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are going to be abolished at a very certain time – when the perfect comes.
To what is the perfect referring?
There has been a great deal of debate over this question, so we will briefly acknowledge the three main interpretations.
(1) The perfect is the mature church (or potentially the mature individual).
This word perfect most often speaks of spiritual maturity throughout the New Testament, therefore many believe that Paul was using this idea to refer to the mature church or an individual.
First, it is incredibly unlikely that the cessation of a gift would be tied to individual maturity.
Secondly, it is hard to imagine that the Corinthians would have thought of the mature church.
That which is perfect is likened to seeing “face to face” and having “been fully known.”
Neither of these concepts fits well the mature church.
(2) A second view is that the perfect is the completed canon.
There are likely many motivations for this view, some theological and others practical.
If we conclude that the perfect is the completed scriptures, then the gift of prophecy is done and we don’t need to worry about ongoing prophecy and how it should or should not be received.
As well if the scriptures are the perfect, tongues have ceased and we don’t need to wonder how those should be implemented in the modern church – after all they tend to be strange and divisive.
One passage that has been used to draw this conclusion is found in James.
In this passage you have both the concept of a mirror and “the perfect” referring to the scriptures.
There is at least one problem with using this verse to draw such a conclusion.
In James, scripture is tied to a mirror, but in 1 Corinthians, the mirror is less significant than seeing “face to face.”
It’s not referring to the perfect but instead that which proceeds the perfect.
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