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Q Cor. 13: 12:Now we see through a glass, darkly’. What does this mean?



A In this expression, beautifully and pithily rendered in the King James Bible, the comma does more than punctuate: it reinforces the Apostle’s arguments set forth in chapters 12 and 13.


Writing to the primitive Church, when Christian theology was being refined, errors and misapprehensions corrected, Paul lays down rules of behaviour and belief for the congregations under his pastoral care.

In chapter 12 he dwells on ‘charity’ more accurately, ‘love’ of the unselfish, disinterested variety, which takes delight in godly principle for its own sake, the heart of altruism and sacrificial love.

In chapter 12, the Apostle enumerates the ‘gifts’ of the spirit  miraculous attributes peculiar to the early Church.

Amongst these were ‘healings’, ‘prophecy’, ‘tongues’ the power to speak in languages unlearned and its companion gift of ‘interpretation’.

For the full list see 1 Cor. 12: 4-10. Other scriptures show that these preternatural abilities were bestowed only through the ‘laying on of hands’ by an Apostle.


When John, the last of the Apostles died, the manifestation of these gifts tapered off and eventually disappeared, sometime in the first century, casting doubt on the legitimacy of such practices today. See 1 Cor. 13: 8.


Many in the local ecclesias had become enamoured of these gifts, which had no doubt conferred some celebrity status on those who exercised them, and incited envy in others.


But, says Paul, these powers were blessings designed not to exalt the self, but to serve the interests of the wider Church, supplementary to the apostolic teachings transmitted by the spoken word and letters (epistles).

Much more important, he emphasises, are the graces of character the ‘fruits’ of the spirit.

‘We know in part, and we prophesy in part’, he writes, ‘but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away’, predicting that the Church was to advance from their current childish phase to manliness (1 Cor. 13: 9-11).


Until then, their insight into the divine plan would be fuzzy, blurred, akin to a scene observed through the rudimentary windows of the day.

That which is ‘perfect’ (complete) would arrive after the death of the Apostles, when their writings would be compiled and allied with the Hebrew scriptures to form the principal source of divine revelation  the full Word of God.

The Church (the Body of Christ) would then see clearly (‘face to face’), understanding the broader scope of God’s plan. Thenceforward, they would walk only by faith, with no need for miraculous gifts. Christ Himself, as Illuminator to the symbolic seven churches (periods), would supply messengers and reformers figurative angels in each respective period, to teach the Church during their long journey through the ages. See Rev. 1: 11, 12, 20.


Nov 2018 – – no copyright


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