Face To Face With Tongues

A Verse by Verse Examination and Exposition On the Subject of Tongues


1st Corinthians 13

INTRODUCTION: The word, "charity," appears nine times in this Chapter.  In 1611, when the King James Translation came forth, the word, "charity," was the strongest word known for "love."  The Greek word for "charity" is the noun, "agape."  It is the love of God in the believer and exercised toward someone else.  Since Chapters 12-14 are dealing with the various gifts and their use EXTERNALLY, Chapter 13 expresses the INWARD motive and attitude with which the believer uses his gifts.

A believer may possess a gift, or gifts and abilities, and exercise them in one of two ways.  The first, out of a sincere love for others.  The second, to draw attention to himself.  The first is the "more excellent way" spoken of in Chapter 12:31.  "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet (in Chapter 13) shew I unto you a more excellent way."  A love centered on others and not on one's self.

Chapter 13 tells the believer when tongues will cease and informs us that the "more excellent way" to influence unbelievers is with our actions motivated by the love of God.

  1. The Concern of Love (1-7).

    (Verse 1).  The people at Corinth admired men who were eloquent and masterful in their rhetoric.  Apollos was such a man.  In Acts 18:24 he is said to be "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures."  In 1st Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4 he had attracted a following, no doubt because of his ability to speak and his command of the Greek language, along with his knowledge of the Scriptures.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a command of our language and using good rhetoric in presenting the Word of God.  This ability as an orator, when used for God's glory and motivated by love, is of great value to God, the speaker, and the audience.  If I spoke the English language in such an exalted and Heavenly manner as angels do, but without love, it would be as empty as clanging brass or the continuing tinkling cymbal.

    An illustration: Recently, a family related to me the circumstances of their visit to a certain church.  They said the message was Biblically sound and the minister had a great command of the English language, but something was missing.  As they left and shook hands with the pastor, they sensed he did not care if they came back or not.  This was a family looking for a church.  This would certainly lead one to question if this pastor's preaching was motivated by love, or for the purpose of ostentation.  People can sense if you have a sincere love and concern for them.  The "element" that illuminates the Word of God is the "switch" of love embodied in the presentation.  The Word then becomes sweet music to the listener, instead of empty-sounding cymbals and brass.

    (Verse 2).  "Understanding all mysteries" is referring to the doctrines of the Church which were not revealed to the Old Testament prophets.  In Ephesians 3:2-6, for example, the Old Testament prophets never knew that, upon Israel's rejection of Christ,

"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (Ephesians 3:6)

Also see: Romans 11:25; 1st Corinthians 15:51; Colossians 1:25-27; Ephesians 5:23-27,32; and 1st Timothy 3:16.

A person may possess the understanding of prophecy (foretelling and forthtelling), mysteries (the deep counsels of God--kept secret, but now revealed), and have a complete understanding of all the Scriptures; BUT, without a sincere love for others.  One's efforts are then absolutely nothing in God's eyes.  The reason: "...knowledge puffeth up (self-exaltation), but charity (love) edifieth (God)" (1st Corinthians 8:1).  This same person may have complete faith and confidence in the power and Person of God, so that he could move mountains.  He questions not the omniscience, omnipotence, or omnipresence of God; but, if his actions are motivated by self-exaltation, without love, he is nothing.  One may intellectually expound the Word of God and be as cold as a refrigerator!  He would be like a ship in the midst of the ocean without a rudder, or a new car without a motor.

The Word of God may be expounded and appear as beautiful as looking at a new car; but, without the motor of love, it is not going anywhere.  Just as "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17), so is knowledge and understanding of God's Word, without love.

(Verse 3).  This Verse would seem to make a Christian complete.  In Verses 1 and 2, he had a complete understanding of God's Word with no reservations as to God's abilities; and now, he extends himself to feed the poor and even give his life, if necessary.  Yet, all of this would bring him no rewards ("Profiteth me nothing"), if not rendered out of love.  This may seem a bit confusing, for he would have to love something in order to do this.  That something, of course, is his love of self-exaltation and the admiration of others.  He receives the glory for his actions instead of Christ.  Even though the poor profited, the giver did not; because the wrong kind of love was the motivation.  "Charity" (love) here seeks to glorify Christ with good works, not self.  A simple illustration may suffice:

Often Christians defend the Bible and, in doing so, argue, get mad and win the battle; but, lose the person.  They brag about how they put the person down and pride themselves in their knowledge and ability to do so.  They did defend God's Word; however, they got the glory and nothing was accomplished.  Why?  The wrong kind of love prevailed.  The kind of love spoken of in this Chapter would have exhibited patience and kindness to win the person to Christ.  Remember, we are rewarded for winning people to the Lord, not winning arguments.  This is predicated upon the kind of love we have; either love of self, or the love that glorifies Christ.  One has rightly said, "Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity; BUT will not live in it's Spirit, which is love."

(Verses 4-7).  These Verses give us a list of what the right kind of love will produce and serve as a mirror with which to examine ourselves:

  1. "Suffereth long" - Maintain our testimony while others are seeking to do us wrong.  This is the negative side of love--we restrain ourselves.
  2. "Is kind" - Extend good works to others.  This is the positive side of love.  It suffers evil and confers blessing.
  3. "Envieth not" - This incorporates jealousy.  Where love prevails, envy and jealousy will not be present.  Moses (Numbers 11:26-29) and John the Baptist (John 3:26-30) are two good examples.
  4. "Vaunteth not itself" - Refers to the outward actions of self-importance.
  5. "Not puffed up" - Refers to the inward feelings of self-importance.
  6. "Doth not behave itself unseemly" - The Greek word for "unseemly" is "aschemosune," and means "shamefully and indecently."  Love controls our dress, our actions, and our tongue.
  7. "Seeketh not her own" - This is seeking to build others up and not always trying to draw attention to one's self.  Love is unselfish and happy in the happiness of others.
  8. "Not easily provoked" - Patience is amplified here and means love is not easily provoked to resentment and loss of temper.  Love keeps exasperation in check.
  9. "Thinketh no evil" - Means not always jumping to evil conclusions immediately, when circumstances are not clear.  Love eliminates memory-filing of evil for the purpose of revenge.  The contrast: with love I will help you; without it, I will get you!
  10. "Rejoiceth not in iniquity" - Love does not rejoice when another is taken in sin and overcome by the same.  It does not portray joy at the mishaps or misfortunes of others.
  11. "Rejoiceth in truth" - If you see someone falsely accused, love will motivate you to speak the truth, not stand idly by.  Love can be measured by those who speak out for Christ, not caring what people will think.  Others may be too worried about their self image, popularity, etc.
  12. "Beareth all things" - Not always complaining about problems.  It endures the wrongs, adversities, troubles and trials of this life, without being a habitual complainer (1st Corinthians 10:13).  These vexations are "common to man" and recognized by the believer.
  13. "Believeth all things" - Looks at situations from the positive, not the negative.  Looks for the good, not the bad.  Believes that, even in our trials, something good will come out of them.  Love will be looking for it.  Love will construct our conduct during trying situations.
  14. "Hopeth all things" - An illustration may suffice.  When one observes a person laden with sins and evil, our love should look with eager and hopeful expectations for the day they will accept Christ.  With our love we try to lead them to Christ, expecting them to be saved.
  15. "Endureth all things" - "Endureth" is the Greek word, "hupomenoo," and means "to sustain an assault."  It is a military term and refers to heavier afflictions than those sustained by the "beareth" in Verse 7.  You resist with love, not hatred, while absorbing the most gross ill treatment, violence, and persecution.  Our actions reveal the amount of love we possess.

This love is produced by the Holy Spirit, as we yield to His will so Christ will be lifted up.  Remember what John the Baptist said in John 3:30, "He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease."  The more concerned about ourselves we are, the less Christ will be seen. The less we think of self, the more Christ will be seen as we display these attributes which reveal the TRUE LOVE of Christ in us.  It reveals our growth; whether we are spiritual or carnal, a child or an adult Christian.

  1. The Contrast of the Gifts (8-13).

    (Verse 8).  In this Verse four things are spoken of; three will come to an end, and one will remain.  Let us examine each one separately:
  1. "Charity never faileth" - Again, the word "charity" is the Greek word "agape," and was the strongest English word for "love" known at that time.  It is God's love toward the sinner.  "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  The same love is given to indwell every believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Since God is love and God is eternal, He will never die or cease to exist, and neither will His love ever fail.  This means it will never drop away, die, or cease to exist.  It will transcend and survive all things compared to, plus time itself, and faileth not to remain for everlasting.  This is the only one of the four that will remain.  It was a permanent gift.
  2. "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail" - The prophecies failing does not mean they will not come to pass.  The Greek verb is "katargeo" and has the representative meanings of "abolish, cease, destroy, vanish away, make void and reduce in inactivity."  In other words, at some future time prophecies will be reduced to inactivity by being abolished.  There is a time coming when no more prophecies will be given.  In Verse 10 we shall examine when that time arrived.
  3. "Whether there be tongues they shall cease" - "Cease" is the Greek verb, "pauo."  It means "to cease or to stop completely."  It is used in the perfect tense.  This means that when tongues do cease, the action of ceasing will never be interrupted, but will continue forever.  In plain words, once tongues cease they will never be reactivated again at anytime in the future.  The act of ceasing will remain perfect, without interruption, for eternity.  We might also add, the Greek word, "pauo," for "cease" is also in the Greek middle voice, denoting emphasis.  Therefore, the most emphatic statement in this Verse is "TONGUES SHALL CEASE."  We shall discover when they were to cease, shortly.
  4. "Whether there shall be knowledge, it shall vanish away" - "Vanish away" is the same Greek word, "katargeo," translated "fail" referring to the "prophecies" in this Verse.  It is also translated "shall be done away" in Verse 10 and "put away" in Verse 11.

    The word "knowledge" is the Greek, "gnosis," which is also translated "knowledge" in 14:6.  It denotes knowledge, especially and absolutely concerning spiritual truth.  At this time, when a group of Christians met together, they could not open the Bible to the New Testament as it has not been completely written.  God would give, at His discretion, a special knowledge of His Word to a believer who, in turn, would relate it to the group.  1st Corinthians 14:26 clarifies this,

"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation..."

This "revelation" is closely related to "knowledge."  "Revelation" is defined as "an expression of the mind of God for the instruction of the Church."  "Knowledge" is defined in the Greek as a "knowledge especially and absolutely of a spiritual truth." (Vine's Expository Dictionary)

Until the Word of God was completed, God would give a special knowledge of His Word, instantaneously, to a believer who, in turn, would speak it to the assembly.  When the written Word of God was completed, there would be no more need for this special knowledge.  Therefore, it was to be done away with at that time.

(Verse 9).  "We know in part" - This is referring to the Word of God.  "In part" is the Greek, "ek-merous," meaning "a part or portion of the whole" (Vine's).  1st Corinthians was written about 57 A.D.; while Revelation, the last Epistle, was written about 96 A.D.  Since all the Word of God had not yet been given, they only had knowledge of the portion ("part") that had, thus far, been revealed.

"We prophecy in part" - Many more prophecies were yet to be revealed.  They could only give forth what they had received thus far.  The time was coming when the consummation of all prophecies would be given.  It is the same with other portions of God's Word.  Tongues were sometimes the means of giving forth, a portion of the prophecy and knowledge of God's Word.  When the end of God's revelation to man, the Book of Revelation, was written, there would be no more prophecies.  There would be no additional knowledge outside of the Bible, and tongues would have already ceased.

(Verse 10).  The key word in this Verse is "PERFECT."  Those that endorse tongues today say it is referring to Christ's coming.  If that were true, then knowledge, prophecy, and tongues would be manifest until He comes.  If, on the other hand, "perfect," is referring to the written Word of God; then, what they claim as tongues today must be the working of a counterfeit spirit, and not the Holy Spirit.  Since the Book of Revelation was completed, God has never given the gift of tongues to anyone.  If tongues, today, were of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit would be contradicting God's Word--and that is impossible!

The word "perfect" is the Greek word "teleion" meaning "COMPLETE."  Here are the simple facts to consider:

  1. H.K. Barrett translates "perfect" as "TOTALITY."
  2. The noted Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, defines it as "FULL GROWN AND MATURE."
  3. Dr. Gromacki says, 'The word "perfect" (teleion) does refer to the end of a process or development ... the Second Coming of Christ is not a process, it is an instantaneous event, the word "perfect" cannot be referring to Christ because "perfect" definitely has reference to the end of a process or development of something.  The something, of course, is the Word of God.'
  4. Dr. Gromacki further says, "It (the word "perfect," teleion, in the Greek) is never used in the New Testament to depict the (a) Second Coming of Christ, (b) the Millennium, or (c) the Eternal State."
  5. The word, "Perfect" (teleion), is an adjective which is here used as a noun.  In the Greek it is found in the NEUTER gender.  The Greek expresses the neuter, feminine and masculine genders, depending on who or what is referred to.  If "perfect" was referring to a person, it would be found in the feminine or masculine gender.  Since it is in the NEUTER gender, it is referring ... not to a person, but an object, which is the completed Word of God.
  6. If any person is still in doubt concerning this teaching concerning the word "perfect," I would advise you to write several reputable Christian colleges and ascertain from their Greek professors the meaning of the word.

Much more could be written concerning the words "perfect" and "in part."  However, I feel if these simple facts are not conclusive enough, pages more would make no difference to those who refuse to accept the truth.  The Apostle Paul put it as bluntly and simply as it could be stated, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (14:38).  Paul wrote this after concluding Chapters 12 through 14.  In other words, Paul says, "I have written unto you the commandments of the lord, (14:37), about tongues.  Therefore, if you will not accept it, you will just have to remain deceived (ignorant)."

(Verse 11).  The first illustration of "in part" and "perfect."
(Child to Adult)

  1. Contextual Reference.  Just as it takes time for a child to reach completion, or adulthood, so God, in time, gave us His completed Word.  Just as the Church Age was a mystery to Israel, "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed..." (Ephesians 3:5).  So was God's completed Word to mankind.  "Child" is to "in part God's Word" as the "adult" is to "the completed Word of God."

    When Christ spoke in John 16:12, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," this would be applicable to the "child" and "in part."  When John spoke in Revelation 22:18, "...If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book," this, then, would be applicable to the "perfect" or completed Word of God.
  2. Spiritual Reference.  Some of the characteristics of a child are: he pouts, he cries because of little things, he must always have his own way, he throws temper tantrums, he seeks attention, he needs constant care, and etc.  How characteristic of some Christians.  The length of time one has been a Christian does not necessarily represent his growth.  One Christian could grow spiritually, in one year, more than one who has been a Christian for 5 years.

    In Corinth, they were seeking the gift of tongues, which they thought reflected their spirituality; instead of coveting earnestly the best gift that God had given them.

    The practical lesson would be: Are we desiring some spiritual gift or office in order to impress others as to how spiritual we are?  Are we acting like children, pouting when we do not get our own way?  Are we always crying about little things, losing our temper or always seeking attention?  Paul is telling the Corinthians that it is time to put away those things of a child and grow up to be a mature adult in the Lord.  As a Christian, where would you place yourself spiritually?  As an infant, adolescent, or adult child of God?   As the Word of God was completely given, so we should grow to be complete in Him.

(Verse 12a).  The second illustration of "in part" and "perfect."
(Mirror to Clear View)

The word "glass," no doubt, has reference to the mirrors that were used in those days.  The mirrors were of "polished" metallic surfaces which reflected objects, but imperfectly, since the figure seems to be behind the mirror--the observer seemed to see "through it" (David Brown), since the glass (mirror) was used metaphorically of the incomplete Word of God; i.e., we could not see the absolute clear view of things until God's Word was written in It's entirety.  Since "glass" contrasted to "face to face"; then "face to face" must also be used metaphorically in reference to the completion of God's Word

As one would watch an artist begin to draw the picture of a man, it would first be viewed as incomplete (the mirror).  As one stands and watches the artist, he finishes the drawing of the man.  You are now standing "face to face" with the completed picture.  As we stand today, we can look "face to face" at God's completed picture of this world because we are looking at it through God's completed Word, the Bible.

In Verse 9, "in part" is a reference to God's Word.  In Verse 10, "perfect" is referring to God's Word.  It would then be a gross contextual error to apply "face to face" to Christ, instead of God's completed picture as viewed through His completed Word.  Let us be as honest with the context here as we are with the rest of the Word of God.

(Verse 12b).  The third illustration of "in part" and "perfect."
("Shall know as I am known")

"Now I know in part" is the same as spoken of in verse 9, "we know in part and we prophecy in part," that is the incomplete Word of God.  Or, I know only the part of God's Word that has been revealed thus far.

"But then" is future tense and is contrasted to "now I know," which is present tense.  Since "now I know in part" is referring to God's Word, "but then" is also referring to God's Word at the time it would be completed.  When the Bible was completed, one could then know as completely about God as the Bible revealed Him to us.

Just as completely as God knew us, we may know Him as completely from the revelation of Himself to us through His Word.  Just as God created me physically, He recreated me spiritually by the new birth (John 3:3,7).  May I learn of Him and love Him as His child, as much as He loved me while I was yet a sinner.  "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."  As God has fully revealed Himself to me through His Word, may I fully give myself to Him in this world.

(Verse 13).  Three things would remain after God's Word is complete: faith, hope, and charity (love).  We can have faith in Christ, hope for the future; but, the greatest things we can do is extend the love of God to others as God has given to us.  If you are saved, you have God's love within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  The greatest thing you can do is tell someone else what Christ did for you.  If you possess this kind of love (charity), the greatest of all ... you can then say as Paul in Romans 1:16,

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

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