A few weeks back I wrote a post on “the perfect” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:10. I put forward the position that the perfect Paul is writing about is not Christ, but rather the perfect revelation found in the New Testament. I was discussing this via twitter with @StevenPatton and the following came to me:
Paul points out a lack of efficacy found in the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 13:1, if it is employed without love it is nothing more than a clanging cymbol. Likewise for other signs expressed through man. These would include faith (expressed through, not originating from), prophetic powers, wisdom & knowledge, or material and physical sacrifice. All of these are rendered to be so much white noise without love.
What strikes me is the contrast between the modes of revelation that are akin to a dim mirror to the complete (perfect) mode of revelation that allows us to see face to face (His Word). Though a Corinthian could speak in tongues or prophecy, there is little worth if it is done without love. God’s Word is not so handicapped.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
The most popular responses I hear to the question “How are you obeying your Great Commission? How are you showing people Christ?” is “I show by example. Leading a good life, not doing bad stuff. Stuff like that.”
While I wouldn’t ever want to discourage any Christian from leading such a life – I would point out that such a life is nothing more than a resounding gong if it is without love. And while we may be generally loving people, or at least we like to think we are, there are multiple times where our moral lives aren’t lived with love, but with judgment, annoyance, arrogance, etc. As such, there’s not much to them when it comes to showing people Christ.
But God’s word? The perfect? That’s a different story. God gave it to us as a completed piece of His revelation. It’s effectiveness is not reliant on us – but through the Holy Spirit. Romans 13:13-14 doesn’t require anything of me to be true or effective. It is both, because it is part of the completed revelatory Word of God provided for mankind. And when that is examined next to tongues, which are empty without love, it’s easy to see how one is noted to be passing and dim and the other perfect and clear.
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:13-14)