First Corinthians 13.8-13


1. The title of my message this evening is "The Nobility Of Love." Please turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 13.8. Weíll read tonightís text shortly.

2. Now for the reasoning behind the title of this sermon. We use the word "noble" to describe those things which are of superior quality or value.

3. Metals such as gold, silver and platinum are called noble metals because they are rare and valuable. In like manner, charity, or love, is both rare and valuable. So, with regard to its rarity and its value, charity, love, is noble.

4. You might also be aware of the fact that certain gases are called noble gases. These gases, also called inert gases, such as argon, neon, helium, krypton and radon, do not normally react chemically with other materials. In this noble gases are quite unusual. It is these noble gases which are put into "neon" signs to give them their different colors.

5. Like the noble gases, we have discovered that love, or charity, simply does not react as some might expect. So, with regard to its unique behavior charity, love, is truly noble.

6. In our text for this evening, First Corinthians 13.8-13, we shall see the evidence which establishes for us the nobility of love:

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


1B. In Verse 8 A Comparison Is Made

"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."

1C. Paul writes, "charity never faileth."

1D. Let me remind you once again, "charity" is Paulís word for one of the several Greek concepts of love. Not an emotion, really, this love is taught in the Bible to be an attribute of God that reaches out through believers to meet the needs of other people.

2D. The next word in that phrase, "never," means never. Not ever!

3D. "Faileth" literally means "to fall off," and carries with it the idea of becoming weak and failing.

4D. Conclusion? Charity never weakens. Charity never fails to perform its task and never fails to come through.

2C. But what of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge?

1D. Obviously, Paul shows us that these things were not intended to last forever. These three items simply do not possess the noble qualities inherent in charity, which does endure forever. But notice some interesting items raised by Paul.

2D. First, notice that there are not three spiritual gifts mentioned by Paul, but two. "Prophecies" is not the gift of prophecy, but only that portion of the gift of prophecy that deals with revelation from God concerning future events.

3D. You see, the gift of prophecy encompasses both revelation concerning the future and the preaching of those portions of Godís Word already revealed. The primary aspect of the gift, preaching, is not referred to by Paul here.

4D. As for tongues and knowledge, these are gifts. The gift of tongues only manifests itself through tongues and the gift of knowledge only manifests itself through knowledge of Godís revelation. Prophecy manifests itself in two ways: predicting the future as God reveals it to the gifted person, and preaching the Word of God effectively.

5D. So, at least two spiritual gifts, and one portion of another spiritual gift, are less noble than love is because they do not endure as love endures. This means that sometime in the future, from Paulís writing of First Corinthians in 50 AD, tongues, knowledge, and prophecies would come to be no more.

6D. And Paul gives a clue as to how they will end. He says, "prophecies, they shall fail," and "knowledge, it shall vanish away." These phrases translate the same Greek word. Paul is indicating that prophecies and the gift of knowledge will be gradually phased out. Why? Their reason for existing will gradually diminish.

7D. But what about tongues? Already enraged at Paulís teaching that tongues is less noble than love, the tongues crowd at Corinth were probably stunned when they read "whether there be tongues, they shall cease." This means they shall just stop . . . on their own.

8D. But donít lose sight of Paulís thrust. He isnít downing these three gifts. Neither is he criticising them. Rather, heís exalting love by showing how noble it is in comparison.

2B. Now, In Verses 9-12, A Consideration Is Given

1C. Paul considers knowledge and prophecies, first (13.9)

"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part."

1D. Knowledge and prophecies are in part. The word "part" refers to the part of a whole, like a slice of a pie.

2D. This came as quite a shock to the Corinthians. You see, they honestly thought they had it all . . . the Scriptures and the gifts. But, no.

3D. First Corinthians was only the first of the New Testament Scriptures they had, with the possible exception of James. The fact is, their teaching had come from Paul and those in their Church who had the gifts of prophecy and knowledge. That was the extent of their New Testament truth. What a jolt, then, that what they had access to was only "part."

4D. Then on top of that, according to verse 10, these two partial gifts would be done away with when the "perfect" is come, whenever that is:

"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

5D. And what is the "perfect"? We have two strong clues to follow-up on: First, the word "perfect" is a neuter noun, which means the "perfect" is an "it" and not a "he" or a "she." Therefore, "perfect" does not likely refer to the person of Jesus Christ, say, at His second coming.

6D. The second clue is this: Whatever "perfect" is, it absolutely must be related to that which is partial, which is knowledge and prophecies. You see, Paul tells us that the perfect will replace the imperfect, the full will replace the part.

7D. Think about it. If I gave you something partial, something imperfect, something incomplete, say, a right front quarter panel and a transmission, that which is perfect or complete could not possibly be a house. It would have to be a vehicle of some kind. Right?

8D. Some people think that the "perfect" refers to the second coming of Christ or getting to heaven or the eternal state. But letís examine the partial and see if that makes sense. Those partial things are supernatural abilities to communicate divine truth, revelation, however imperfectly. The "perfect" must also, therefore, communicate truth, but fully and perfectly.

9D. For these two reasons, I believe the "perfect" to which Paul refers is the completed Word of God, not yet fully given at the time of Paulís writing.

10D. Is there any other evidence to support this claim that the "perfect" which was to come was the completed revelation of Godís Word? Sure. Read James 1.25 [Read]. The phrase "perfect law of liberty" is the Word of God. And the word "perfect" that James uses to describe the Bible is our word "perfect."


1. What conclusions can we draw from our study? There are several which are so obvious that it is amazing Christians differ on the matters.

2. About tongues, we have learned that they were to abruptly cease, on their own. We have not yet come to Paulís teaching on when that cessation of tongues was to occur. But we must be agreed that tongues will not endure. The whole point of the passage is that only love endures.

3. About prophecies and knowledge, we know that they gradually fade, being completely withdrawn when the Bible was finished with Johnís revelation, probably about 95 AD. The complete and final revelation of Godís Word replacing the expedient and partial revelation that came through those two gifts.

4. And about love. Oh, we really knew that already. Love is superior. Love is the very best. It lasts the longest and it never fails . . . if itís really love, that is.

5. You fail and I fail, but love never fails. It canít fail. Why? Cause God is love and God canít fail.

6. Afraid to get saved because you think youíll fail? Donít worry. You will fail. We all do. But God wonít fail.

7. Christian? Afraid to serve because youíre afraid youíll fail? You may fail, but thatís okay, too. You see, He wonít.

8. I invite you into the arms of a God Who doesnít fail and Who delights to succeed through our failures. Wonít you come? Come to God by coming to Christ.

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