We will also see Paul coming “full circle” to tie in the issue concerning spiritual gifts to this brief excursion on the preeminence of love. Remember that at the end of Chapter 12, Paul told this church to of a “more excellent way.”
Paul begins verse 8 by saying, “Love never ends.” That is easy enough to grasp. This statement is true because God is love. Love is an attribute of God. God being a perfectly holy, sinless, infinite, eternal Being, He is perfect love. As long as God is, love is. He will display and pour out His love on, in, and to His redeemed for all eternity. He does this in, through, and because of Christ.
Once the bodies of the redeemed are glorified in the world to come, love will be more fully realized than ever for humans. We see the clearest revelation of God’s love to us in the cross of Christ. However, even our comprehension of and appreciation for that supreme act of love are not what they should be. There is coming a day when we will possess a fuller, deeper, more glorious apprehension of God in His fullness. That means not only will we better grasp God’s love to creation, and especially His redeemed, but we will have a fuller capacity to love Him and others. Sin will be finally and fully eradicated.
These truths, so briefly stated, should spark hope for Christians as we ponder the future when our faith will be made sight.
Paul goes on to say, “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Here Paul is explicitly tying in this chapter to Chapter 12. He returns to this theme of spiritual gifts. These Corinthians were panting after the temporary sign gifts. They were overlooking the more excellent, eternal way.
This is the point where Paul’s words are often disputed. While no one would argue vehemently (probably), that the sign gifts will eventually cease, they is a great divide on when that will be. Historically, the Church held that as the Apostles began to die, the sign gifts were already in decline and not as much as emphasized as in the earlier days of the Church in Acts. Once the Apostles were gone, the sign gifts (the gift of healing, the gift of tongues, etc.) ceased. That is not to say that God doesn’t still graciously perform healings in our day, unable to be explained by medical doctors! It is saying that the gift of healing is no longer given to Christians by the Spirit.
In the early 1900’s, the modern-day Pentecostal movement was born and began to take shape. This was followed by the Charismatic movement. These two movements stressed gifts such as speaking in tongues, performing healings, having a word of knowledge, an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, etc. Eventually some of these views crossed denominational lines, and now there are people in many denominations that stress charismatic gifts and abilities. (This is summing up much in a few lines, but it is only meant to illustrate the two views on the sign gifts.)
While there are various implications and issues at stake in the argument over the continuance or cessation of spiritual gifts, I want to point out one truth that cannot be disputed. Love will never end. It is eternal and the more excellent way. All of the gifts, especially those that seemed more desirable, will not be eternal.
The question is, “What are we seeking?” Are we seeking to grow in our understanding and practice of true, biblical love? Do we desire to grasp the depth, height, and width of the love of God which surpasses all natural human abilities to explore?
Maybe you have a different view and would rather seek those things that seem to promote yourself? Is your desire to attain one of these spectacular abilities or “sign” gifts? If so, I implore you to abandon that pursuit for the more excellent way.