Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"PERFECT" IS NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT, 1 CORINTHIANS 13:10

"but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away." - 1 Cor. 13:10
Nearly everyone on first reading of 1 Corinthians 13 thinks the words "when the perfect comes" means the future coming of "Jesus" and "Heaven". If that were correct, it would mean the continuance of the supernatural gifts like tongues and prophecy until the 2nd Coming, (See 1 Cor. 12:8-10). But most people recognize that the miracles of the Bible like raising the dead, walking on water, feeding thousands with a few loaves, and miraculously speaking in a foreign tongue don't happen today. The absence of miracles today (note I did not say that God is not working providentially, answering prayers, etc) makes us doubt that Paul was speaking of supernatural gifts continuing until Jesus returns.

Most people misunderstand what Paul and the Holy Spirit have in mind with the adjective translated "perfect". A closer look at the Greek word TELEIOS found in 1 Cor. 13:10 shows us why. To interpret TELEIOS, "perfect", to mean Jesus Christ or Heaven is inconsistent with both the context and with the usage in the rest of the New Testament.

Here is a look at the adjective TELEIOS as it is used in the New Testament. TELEIOS is translated as perfect, complete, mature. The meaning almost exclusively describes a mature Christian. When describing things instead of people, the gender will be neuter or, in one instance, feminine gender. Most of the time, the adjective has a named subject that it modifies. But in the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, only the context can determine because the adjective stands alone: "the perfect." So the meaning of the adjective is determined by the context. I believe that the "perfect" of 1 Cor. 13 is the completed word of God.

New Testament usage:
WHEN THE ADJECTIVE DESCRIBES BELIEVERS
  • Mt. 5:48 (describing Christians and God) “ye (plural) are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The adjective "perfect" is masculine gender. Since it is speaking of God, neither the neuter nor feminine are appropriate.  
  •  Mt. 19:21 “If you wish to be complete (TELEIOS), go an sell your possessions.” Again, the adjective is masculine describing the rich young ruler had he followed Jesus.
  • 1 Cor. 2:6 “yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature. . . .” "Wisdom" is the direct object, "to the mature" (is plural, masculine)" is the indirect object of the sentence. The “mature” are the disciples who, unlike the self-righteous and wise of the world, believe the Gospel.
  • 1 Cor. 14:20 “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. The adjective describing mature thinking is (masculine)."
  • Eph. 4:13 “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, to a MATURE MAN, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (With this passage, note the similarity between the section from verse 8-15 and 1 Cor. 13). The “mature man” is the direct object and is masculine gender. There is no doubt that this perfection, maturity, completeness is describing the Church and not Jesus. The Church matures, becoming like Jesus. This section in Ephesians is describing the Church in its infancy, just as is 1 Corinthians 13. In both passages the use of the miraculous (through Apostles and Prophets) is present to help bring the church to the place of maturity.
  • Phil. 3:15, “Let as many of us as are mature, have this attitude. . .” The adjective is again (masculine) and it is clear that Paul is talking about mature Christians.
  •  Col. 1:28, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man COMPLETE in Christ.” To be “complete” is the direct object describing his mission. “In Christ” is the indirect object, showing specifically WHERE completeness is found. Again, the adjective TELEION is in the masculine gender.
  • Col. 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand PERFECT and fully assured in all the will of God.” The subject PERFECT is in the masculine gender.
  • Heb. 5:14, “But solid food is for the MATURE . . .” Again, it is masculine gender describing mature Christians.Jas. 3:2, “the perfect man.” The adjective is in the masculine because the adjective must agree withmasculine “man”.  
WHEN THE ADJECTIVE DESCRIBES THINGS
  • Rom. 12:2, God’s will (Note that God's will learned through the New Testament revelation), “the perfect” will of God. The adjective here is neuter. God is not neuter, but His perfect will is neuter??? 
  • 1 Cor. 13:10, ____________ (fill in the blank since that is the point of this discussion) “But when the TELEION comes, the partial will be done away.” The adjective, translated “perfect”, is the subject of the sentence and the gender is neuter. The gender neutral would not be used if God or Jesus Christ were in mind.
  • Heb. 9:11, Heavenly Tabernacle; Jesus went into the more PERFECT tabernacle in heaven. The adjective here is the feminine gender. It is not Jesus who is feminine, but the tabernacle. The feminine PERFECT is a place.
  • Jas. 1:4, The outcome of trials, perfected faith, The PERFECT (neuter) result of endurance is to make you PERFECT(masculine) and complete (masculine). The neuter PERFECT is an outcome or result.
  • Jas. 1:17,  God's gifts.  "Every good thing given and every PERFECT gift is from above, coming down fromthe Father of lights. . .” The perfect gift is neuter gender.
  • Jas. 1:25, The Law of Liberty.  “The pefect Law”. Here, the thing or the noun is the “Law”, that the adjective isclearly describing. Because the “law” is masculine gender, then the adjective (teleion) must agree. Itwould not be proper for it is be neuter or feminine. But in 1 Cor. 13, the subject is unnamed, and onlyindirectly arrived at as being the ‘knowing’ no longer ‘in part’, but in full.
  • 1 Jn. 4:18, Agape Love.  “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . .” Here it is an adjectivedescribing a mature love.The usage of the word in 1 Cor. Is contrasted to the infant period of the church when childish things liketongues, knowledge, and prophesy were still necessary. 
CONCLUSION:
 I believe that both the Greek and the context of 1 Corinthians 13:10 do not lend to the idea that Jesus or heaven are in mind. Instead, the gender neutral THING that the Holy Spirit indicates is the completed Word, the Bible. That goes in the blank for 1 Cor. 13:10. I don't want to be dogmatic on this point except that I am certain that Paul is not talking about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit remaining active until the return of Jesus Christ and Heaven. There is no evidence that the gifts continued. Paul is saying that the gifts will cease. If they were not going to cease until Jesus' returned, would he even need to say that? Also, there is no one I know who is speaking in tongues or healing or raising the dead as occurred in the New Testament. I know that people are claiming otherwise, but where is the proof? What Jesus and the Apostles did was undeniable proof of their claims. No such thing exist today.

Having said all of this, it's important for people to know that we believe in a great and awesome God who watches over us. He hears and answers our prayers. The amount of help He gives by providence is beyond measure. Christians believe in angels and in the work of the Holy Spirit through His Word. Christians are not Sadduccees who rejected the spiritual things and blasphemed the Spirit. Nope, we believe with all of our heart that God is active in the affairs of men. The only distinction that we must communicate is that God has caused the outward, supernatural gifts to cease. Now that the Word of God is completed, we have no more revelation being given. God's people do not have anything authoritative to say beyond what is written in God's Word. And that is enough. The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit and it is powerful to convict and save those who receive it with humility (Eph. 6; James 1:20).
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10 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:49 PM

    HI WHEN I FIST READ 1 COR 13:10 I SAID PERFECT WAS JESUS OR THE ADVENT(WHICH IS NEUTER SINGLER) OF THE COMING OF CHRIST 1COR 1:7-8 UNTO THE END. 1 COR 15:23-26 1COR 14:37 OF GOD NOT ME. 1 COR 12:7 EVERYMAN NOT JUST APOSTLES. 1 COR 14:11 AGAIN EVERY MAN. HEB 3:1 AN APOSTLE IS STILL ALIVE. READ ROMANS 14:17-18 FOR THE KINDOM OF GOD IS NOT MEAT & DRINK BUT RIGHTEOUS AND PEACE AND JOY IN THE (((HOLY GHOST))) FOR (HE) THAT IS IN THESE THINGS SERVETH CHRIST (((IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD))) AND APROVE OF MEN . ROM 14:17-18 IS THE WILL OF GOD. I SEEN TRUE DOCUMENT MIRACLES. I ALSO SPOKE IN TONGUES AS THE HOLY SPIRIT GAVE THE UTTERANCE. SUDY SOME MORE. ROM 8:14 SAME HOLY SPIRIT THAT LED JESUS.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous12:09 PM

    This Is Very Accurate Perfection Is GOD'S Holy Word

    There Are Only 4 Things That Are Perfect GOD HIMSELF JESUS HOLY SPIRIT And The Bible

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous11:26 PM

    How does a thing "come?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In answer to your question, it's simple:

      The "thing" called Judgment Day is "coming". And when the Judgment Day "comes", everyone must be ready. When Paul was writing by the Holy Spirit, the completed Scriptures were coming. When the completed Bible "comes", there will be no more to add to it or to take from it.

      Delete
  4. What about these verse's

    1 Corinthians 14:14, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays,..."
    1 Corinthians 14:17, "For you verily give thanks well,..."
    1 Corinthians 14:28,"...let him speak to himself, and to God"
    1 Corinthians 14:39, "...forbid not to speak with tongues."
    All of the sudden our spirits stop praying?
    We quite giving thanks well?
    We no longer speak to God?
    We are now forbidden?

    Think your wrong!

    ReplyDelete
  5. well, I am not a scholar, although I work a ministry with some for the Truth Society. We have a blog. What we believe, is that this "thing" is still inconclusive. I mean, the context is unimportant. A change of discussion and a new context is happening here. But Paul never mentions what this "thing" is! None of you and the author of this page and blog answer clearly what the thing is. You are all guessing and bringin your presuppositions. the only sure way to know this meaning, would be to ask the "church fathers" who lived during those times and see what they wrote and believed about that passage. Oh, wait, those writers were mainly catholic. Bummer. Sorry protestants, I will listen to the cath church's interpretation of this meaning, since you protestants were not even alive or existed..yet... during those 2nd century times. All early christian writers supported the catholic view. Well?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I know this is an old post but I just wanted to comment...

    You might want to study up on your Koine Greek before you exhaust yourself with such a post. I have read this argument in other published works and they all leave out one glaring fact. The use of Teleios in the neuter speaks of being complete or completeness. Notice that Paul uses the phrase "To Teleios" (The Perfect). "To Teleios" is neuter noun and it means completeness. What Paul is not referencing this to the Coming of The Lord, but to the completion of all things. One cannot argue that this means the completion of the Bible, because this would be erroneous. The completeness of all things refers to the conclusion of "everything." When everything is finished...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erroneous conclusion because you say so? The Bible was completed at a certain point so nothing could be added to it. Why would that be erroneous. Maybe you want to rethink your position. There's clearly going to be a doing away with some things contrasted with things that will remain. He does not mean remain in heaven. But the miraculous things mentioned in ch. 13 and earlier would cease long before the heavenly completeness when not even faith and hope would remain. You are bringing your prejudice to this discussion.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Hi there, I log on to your blogs on a regular basis.
    Your writing style is awesome, keep doing what you're doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment

      Delete

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