Is "perfection" in 1 Corinthians 13 referring to the canonization of the New Testament? I have heard that "perfection" is neuter in the Greek, and so cannot refer to Jesus' coming again--otherwise it would be masculine. But could it refer to heaven? -- Many inquirers

Here is what I usually say about 1 Corinthians 13--in addition to comments in The Spirit (IPI, 2005) in the chapter covering 1 Corinthians 12-14.

1. The passage is capable of more than one interpretation. At any rate, it's not the clearest when it comes to the presence or absence of the gifts. I encourage people not to rely on it for a definitive interpretation.

2. The arguments based on the gender of the perfect in Greek are weak at best, and in my view suspect. This I discuss in The Spirit.

3. The purpose of the miraculous gifts needs examining. This takes up a whole chapter in The Spirit. It does relate to the formation of the New Testament canon, along with the laying of the apostolic foundation for the early church. Ephesians 2:20 has the (NT) prophets at the foundation level of the church. Done, laid, not needed now. If there are prophets, then there would be apostles too.

4. To return to 1 Corinthians 13, knowing fully or in part has to do not with omniscience, but with completeness of God's revelation. The Bible nowhere guarantees we will have all knowledge in heaven, for God alone is omniscient. Paul's argument seems to be that when we know fully, there will no longer be any need for prophecy, since we will know fully. Prophecy was a necessary filler during the time most churches has only a few NT documents, and the apostles could not be everywhere at once, in person or in letter.

5. Note that Ephesians 4 is a parallel passage. There we read the apostles and prophets--both miraculously endowed gifts--would be present until/so that the church experiences "unity in the faith." Has this time already arrived? If no, then apostles ought still to be here--and as we look back at 1 Corinthians 13, so too the "lesser gifts." If yes, then we have in fact received what God promised; the foundation for maturity has been laid.

6. Finally, I personally am extremely reluctant to challenge people's experiences directly. ("You didn't see a healing; it was fake!") Only once we have laid a solid basis for future discussion through nailing down discipleship do I like to challenge the validity of experiences. (And then I keep returning to this point, emphasizing, encouraging, reminding...) On "tongues," I take a more direct approach, though, as the NT teaches they are human languages (Acts 2 onward). I have heard "tongues" many times, yet never had any reason to believe these were authentic miracles.

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