1 Corinthians 13 Part 17: Love never Fails
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 Love endures eternally, while spiritual gifts will end.
“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.”
1 Corinthians 13:8 NASB1995
First, a brief insight into my devotional writings: I have been writing these from a non-denominational Protestant perspective, using commentary sources and insights that are aligned with that perspective when deep-diving into Scripture. This approach may not always find agreement with other Christian denominational beliefs and practices. I have no intent to offend anyone or cause grief with what I write, but I wanted to clarify my approach based on some questions I received. I use these devotionals to learn as much as I can and to force me to examine and correct my flawed and sinful state through the Holy Spirit, following Jesus and His commands every step of the way. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
We are nearing the end of the incredible chapter 13 in the epistle of 1 Corinthians. Paul has told us in many ways what love is and what it is not and my analyses show that I fail the test in many ways. His purpose in this exposition is to correct and guide the church at Corinth that was not loving in how they were using spiritual gifts like prophecies and speaking in tongues.
Let’s do a little word analysis on the phrase “Love never fails”. The Greek word for fail is pipto, according to the Blue Letter Bible. This word has many definitions, but the most relevant to the use of the word in this context are noted below:
to descend from a higher place to a lower
to fall (either from or upon)
to be thrust down
to be cast down from a state of prosperity
to perish, i.e come to an end, disappear, cease
to lose authority, no longer have force
of sayings, precepts, etc.
to be removed from power by death
to fail of participating in, miss a share in
By saying that love never fails, it emphasizes that love survives death and never perishes or loses its force or authority. Love outlasts the spiritual gifts that God gave us in this Earthly existence to gain understanding and insight; those gifts are obviously not needed when we are face to face with Him. At that point, we are surrounded by love and a full understanding.
This next discussion is really above my pay grade, but it might be important to know that there are various viewpoints surrounding Paul’s writings. There are two schools of thought about the spiritual gifts identified in 1 Corinthians 12 (reference Precept Austin for some of this discussion and some links; scroll down to this particular passage in 1 Corinthians 13). One of these is the cessationist viewpoint, that these gifts were only needed until the Bible was completed and the apostles finished establishing churches. The thought is that there is no more revelation from God and these gifts are not required, just obedience to the Lord. The other viewpoint is the continuationist perspective, that these gifts continue to this day in various degrees of manifestation. Within the non-denominational Protestant community (and even from church to church), there is serious disagreement about these viewpoints.
I have never personally experienced or seen others speaking in tongues or giving out prophecies, but I have seen healing miracles, including the healing of neck injuries from a fall and long-term cervical stenosis in Steve. I was a complete skeptic about these manifestations, but his experience was quite convincing and there have been other testimonies at our church that seem legitimate. Even the cessationists agree that healing and other miracles can still occur if God commands it. As far as knowledge is concerned, I think we can all agree that this knowledge continues to grow as long as there are people willing to learn what God’s word tells us and then sharing that information. Knowledge of His creation also continues, but when we have passed this mortal life into eternity with God, all will be made clear (more to come on that in the last verses in this chapter).
David Guzik has some thought-provoking commentary on these two verses; he appears to be more aligned with the continuationist philosophy :
Love never fails: Paul addresses the over-emphasis the Corinthian Christians had on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He shows they should emphasize love more than the gifts, because the gifts are temporary “containers” of God’s work; love is the work itself.
Therefore, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are appropriate for the present time, but they are not permanent. They are imperfect gifts for an imperfect time.
Whether there are tongues, they will cease: Many who believe the miraculous gifts ended with the apostles (such as John MacArthur) claim since the verb will cease is not in the passive, but in the middle voice, it could be translated, tongues will stop by themselves. Their analysis sounds scholarly, but is disregarded by virtually all scholars of ancient Greek.
Even if this translation is correct, it does nothing to suggest when tongues will cease. John MacArthur claims, “tongues ceased in the apostolic age and that when they stopped, they stopped for good.” But this passage doesn’t tell us “tongues will stop by themselves,” and it tells us tongues will cease only when that which is perfect has come.
John Calvin thought the will cease spoke of the eternal state. “But when will that perfection come? It begins, indeed, at death, because then we put off many weaknesses along with the body.” (Calvin)
Whether there are tongues, they will cease: In his use of will fail and will cease and will vanish away, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is not trying to say that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge have different fates. He is simply writing well, saying the same thing in three different ways. They will end, but love never fails.
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:9 For we Know in Part.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father - Thank you for eternal love, a love that never fails. This love abides when all other things shall cease. Instill this eternal love in my soul so that I can move into the joy of faith and hope.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from David Guzik on Enduring Word is used with written permission.