THE AUSTRALIAN PRESBYTERIAN BIBLE CHURCH - April 9, 2006
I Corinthians 13:8-13 ...
BETTER A PART THAN A PARTITION
BETTER SET ALIGHT THAN SATELLITE
BETTER A FLAME FROM THIS FIRE
THAN A BLAZE FROM ANY OTHER
"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will come to an end;
whether there are tongues, they will cease;
whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when
that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child,
I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I THE MEANING OF PART - 8-9
Having shown the method of working, the class of categories, the ways of life of love, the Lord through Paul then moves to its eternity, immoveability, sheer splendour. What more wonderful than the written word of God, but God Himself! Indeed, it shows WHO He is, WHAT He wants and the WAY of life. Yet, like a train approaching a station, as dawn first arises, and the night lights fade before the splendour of the day, so when the fulfilment of this life, in heaven, at the coming of Christ for His elect, will come, then even the written word of God will yield to the day's direct vision, just as one treasures a fine photograph until one MEETS its subject! If a wife treasures her husband's photograph while he is away at war, she will still treasure its faithful depiction when he returns; but then, then she will no more need its outlines because the MAN HIMSELF is there!
(On the translation of verse 8, above, and the care needed, and the clarity conveyed, consult this link.)
II THE WONDER OF PART - 10-11
So at the return of Christ, the Man of Sorrows, the One Acquainted with Grief (Isaiah 53) will come in the robes of royalty, and in that sense, the depiction yields to His own face. Tongues of praise by faith will become tongues of praise by sight! Knowledge, so precious, as it is a barrier between light and darkness now, the knowledge of spiritual things, it will yield to open-faced and direct observation!
Paul then uses the illustration of a child becoming, in time, a full-grown man. When a child, did not one's thought have a certain ... simplicity, being clear and sharp, yet not comprehending as it now is at maturity ? Manhood, maturity, however, meant that the preliminary clarity becomes a broader awareness, a surer understanding and while the sheer extravagant wonder of BEING A CHILD was a joy, yet the strength and sagacity, if the Lord will, of being capable of the rounded orb of thought is rather like moving from some bush waterfall to the Victoria Falls. One looks aghast in wonder at the sheer power and magnificence of it all. One does not disdain what went before; but now sees its perfection.
III BEING PARTIAL TO THE WHOLE - 12
The other day as I shaved, there was a degree of misting of the mirror. Hence there was, certainly a clear outline of my face and adequate access to it with the blade, yet a certain obscuration, or diminution. When however the mist was wiped away, how clear! So now it is as in a mirror that one sees; but then, when the COMPLETED and FINAL (the Greek term is of this kind) is come, the flower is at full bloom, the day is at noon, perfection has arrived in realisation. When we know the Lord, see God FACE TO FACE, then the limits of the mirror become the glory of the personal majesty of God, complete, unmoved, not as in a vision, coming and leaving, but permanent and manifest! Then, says Paul, I will know as I am known. No satellite, you become established in heaven itself as a child of God!
The stores of reality will be opened up; whereas before there were tins of sound nourishment, now the eye roves and the feeding is full, for manifest on all sides is the startling splendour of God Himself, and person to person communication is unsullied, unlimited, undimmed. As the depth of a chasm appals by its going downward, so the glory of God exhilarates by its supernal heights that do not end.
As Paul explains in I Corinthians 15, then as in a moment, when the resurrection occurs, we are changed, this corruptible putting on incorruption, like a raincoat to cover the body, this mortality finding the gift of immortality. Victory over sin, death and the limitations of discipline will be permanently expressed; and as in the spectacular rejoicing in Melbourne, that one remembers after WW II was over, so there is coming for Christians the climax of liberty, joy and triumph flowing to its finale from the work of faith in the Crucified Christ. The Cross was the crucial, central and the first instalment, His resulting resurrection the final exhibit while His coming brings the recognition of the redeemed, Himself their sure passport into heaven itself (Hebrews 6:19, John 10:9,27-28, Romans 5:1-12), as previously into the kingdom of heaven, in which many have worked for many years.
Who would not be partial to that! But first, be partial to Christ, whose it is (cf. John 16:13-15), and in the power of His Spirit, operate NOW as a child should, of such a Father as that. You are not alone! He has not left you an orphan! (John 14:18).
IV JOURNEYING INSTRUCTIONS - 13
So now, abide in Him, with faith to receive Him, His power, His Spirit, with hope to look for this glorious transition to come, like that of a dragon fly from its pupal stage, to the shimmering new wings and wonderful eyes that see so much with hundreds of lenses!
Especially however, abide in and with LOVE. It is the greatest,
and it is this which led to your redemption if you know Him,
and points to it, if you do not.
It is not just human love, which is an index of its source, any more than a waterfall IS the stream, but simply its mighty work at one juncture.
Many may confuse drains with waterfalls, so great is their confusion and limitation. When however you know God, the source and original of life, from whom all human love takes its meaning, there is that immediacy and purity, that inspiration with majesty and delight in His design, there is that sheer appreciation in all the vitality He gives (Isaiah 40:26-31) and desire to maximise your service for HIM who so served YOU, there is that delight in being kind and not seeking your own fulfilment, power, excitement, dream, but pleasing Him: there is that blessedness in abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ that becomes as natural as breathing. Just as that at times may be difficult, however, therefore maintain your spiritual lungs with much deep breathing of pure air, the environment of God, the grace of His Spirit, the Gospel of His grace, the prayer of depth.
FILL the spiritual lungs, for rendering more exuberant the life which serves Him and seeks the good of His body, His Church: and this, not by pretending it is pure when it is not, nor carping, but by being charitable and involved, fearless in function, intractably for truth, merciful to the fallen, considerate towards all. As a member of His body, however, remember at all times your Head; the headless or heedless alike are disfigured, and lack the life of God. If the parts of your body are mutually pleased, good; but it is the head which directs. Remember then that it is HE, whose word is truth and written, whose Spirit is good, who leads into the 'land of uprightness' whom you revere, above all, for all, despite any. It is for HIM that you live (Colossians 3:1-4).