So, we’re trying to solve the mystery of 1 Corinthians 13:8… what does Paul mean by “that which is perfect”? The answer to that question will give us an INDISPENSABLE CLUE ABOUT LOVE.
- 6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.(1 Corinthians 2:6, NKJV).
- 20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20, NKJV).
In many contexts, teleion means mature. Spiritually mature. A follower of Jesus who has sunk down deep roots into Jesus through Scripture and prayer and a faithful walk with the Master. Someone who has graduated from spiritual elementary school and is living the adult life of the follower of Christ. A teleion-Christian is no longer a baby, tossed around by life’s storms, but a steady, strong, capable example of Jesus living through you.
We should be mature Christ-followers, don’t you think?
Let’s substitute the word “maturity” for “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:8:
10 But when SPIRITUAL MATURITY has come, then SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:10, NKJV).
True enough. Our next test is to see if “maturity” works in the IMMEDIATE CONTEXT.
WAIT! Wait! Wait! Wait! Let’s remember what we’re talking about. We are talking about LOVE! Love is the ultimate goal life, for the follower of Jesus. Didn’t Jesus distill the whole Scripture into love for God and love for others? Love is the goal.
But what kind of love?
1 Cor 13 tells us… A LOVE THAT FLOWS FROM A MATURE HEART, ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN CHRIST, DISPLAYING THE LIFE OF CHRIST FROM WITHIN.
That’s my interpretation of this passage. 1 Cor 13 isn’t just the love chapter, it’s mostly THE MATURITY chapter. Watch this: here’s verse 8 with verse 9 added on. Ask yourself if “maturity” doesn’t make the most sense as a translation for teleion:
10 But when [SPIRITUAL MATURITY] has come, then [SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY] will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:10, 11, NKJV).
C’mon! Who can argue? True love MUST put away childish things. In Christ, an immature person’s love is flaky, fickle, and dysfunctional. Only a mature person’s love never fails. When you speak as a child, you speak selfishness and impulse. When you understand as a child, you understand from your own shoes only; you cannot put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you cannot deeply love. When you think as a child, you don’t get the difficulties of life, you don’t fathom the forces of the heart, and you don’t rise above the passion of the moment, or the offense of your spouse, to CHOOSE a love that endures.
Childish love is flaky. It is the opposite of Christ-like love.
If you want to display the love of Christ, you have to grow mature in Christ FIRST. That is the argument of 1 Corinthians 13. I am saying that the correct interpretation of 1 Cor 13:8, and the only one that makes sense of the context, is that “the perfect” should be translated “maturity.”
But it gets deeper, and we’ll save that for the next blog. Thanks for stopping by. If you thought this was helpful, would you please give me a mention on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog or website? Thanks.