Sermon preached on May 1, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

New Life Presbyterian Church
155 State Highway 310
Canton, NY 13617

I tend to like most stories about time travel. Even though they're pure science fiction I find the subject fascinating. It's a very intriguing and raises all kinds of questions and possibilities. Some movies have been about time travel have been great. One of the Back to the Future movies of the 1980's had a guy go back in time and give his younger self a sports almanac magazine. It contained all the scores of all the important sports games and events throughout the years. So his younger self was able to become very wealthy by betting on the games—because he knew the outcome of them all.

But that's kind of a selfish thing to bring from the future. It's just about money, greed and power.

Something better to bring back would be medicine or modern medical knowledge to cure diseases. I don't know if there has been a movie with that theme. But I remember one about a guy going back to try and prevent a worldwide plague from happening. There have also been stories about people going back in time to try to prevent certain events, like to stop Hitler from coming to power, or to prevent the assassination of JFK and so on.

Our text is not about time travel. But there is a slight similarity. Our text is about something that is characteristic of the glorious future age, after the consummation of all things—that is present here and now. It's almost like one thing from the eternal age, has, by God's grace, broken through into our age. That thing is love. Paul writes, (1 Corinthians 13:8)

"Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away."

In contrast to the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge, which will cease, be stilled, pass away—love endures forever. It will exist to all eternity. The ESV translates our text,

"Love never ends."

Love is going to be a characteristic of the future eschatological kingdom. It will endure for all eternity. Paul compares love with some of the other spiritual gifts and notes that these other gifts are temporary, designed for this present age only, and will, when the eternal age is ushered in, cease to exist. But love is not like that. Love endures forever. It will exist for all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. Thus the great truth we see here is that

love endures forever.

One of the characteristics about love, that is stated in different ways in chapter 13—is that it endures. The first part of verse 7 told us that love, 'bears all things'. The last part of verse 7 told us that love, 'endures all things'. The first part of verse 8 tells us that love never fails. It isn't going to cease to exist like some other spiritual gifts. Verse 13 tells us that faith, hope and love 'remain', 'abide'. Our text says,

"Love never fails."

If you translated the word literally, it would read,

"Love never falls."

It means to, ("πίπτω," BDAG, 815)

"fall, fall to pieces, collapse,"

Gordon D. Fee tells suggests that this phrase, 'love never fails' goes with both what comes before and what follows in 1 Corinthians 13. He sees it as more closely related to what follows and is set in contrast to the verb, 'remain' in verse 13 and the verbs 'pass away' and 'cease' here in verse 8. He writes, (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT; p. 713)

"If so, then it would mean something like [love] 'never comes to an end, becomes invalid,' and thus extends the sense of the preceding final verb, 'always endures.' "

Love never falls. It never fails. It endures forever. It is part of the 'perfection' that Paul speaks about in verse 10.

"but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

When perfection comes, love does not disappear.

But in contrast to love, some other great spiritual gifts will disappear.

They will pass away. They will cease to exist. Paul says that prophecy will cease. He uses the same word regarding knowledge at the end of the verse. It's translated different in the NIV, saying that knowledge 'will pass away'— but it's the same Greek word. It means, "καταργέω," BDAG, 525.

"to cause someth. to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside"

Prophecies will cease. David E. Garland writes, (1 Corinthians (BECNT; p. 621,620)

"The verb makes clear that these gifts do not flow into something new, like a ramp feeding onto a superhighway; they reach a dead end. On the day of the Lord their assignment will be finished and they will be scrapped as functionless."

I remember being on a road one time, I can't remember exactly where it was but I think it was Prince Edward Island. What was interesting about that road was that it was a road to no-where. It just ended at the water's edge. I think it had to do with one of those cancelled government projects. I think they had planned to build a bridge but the bridge got cancelled. But before the bridge got cancelled, they built the road that was go to the bridge. But if you take that road, it's a dead end. That's the way it is with prophecy, tongues and knowledge. Garland continues,

"In contrast to love, the spiritual gifts have a built-in obsolescence. They are not permanent and do not get perfected. Prophecy and knowledge will be brought to an end. These gifts are only partial and must give way to something beyond themselves.""The spiritual gifts are valid until the end, but they are imperfect and will come to an end. Since love endures forever, it is superior to these imperfect gifts no matter how impressive they might seem in this present age."

These gifts will be destroyed. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner tell us that the verb used of prophecy and knowledge has, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 652-653)

"eschatological connotations… having to do with failing to pass the ultimate judgment and enter into its reward, being judged and failing to 'make the cut.' "

We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 15:26, which says,

"The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Death has no place in the new heavens or the new earth. It needs to be destroyed for those in Jesus and so it will be. We also see this verb used again in 1 Corinthians 15:24. It talks about the end of the age,

"Then the end will come, when he hands over
the kingdom to God the Father
after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power."

There will be no place for any opposing power or authority in the eternal kingdom. God will be all in all. God and only God will rule. Their will be unity, peace, glory and joy in the new heaven and new earth.

We see another example in Matthew 24:29. Jesus said that just before the Son of Man appears in the sky, (See also Rev. 6:16,18:2)

"the stars will fall from the sky…"

2 Peter 3:10 tells us

"the day of the Lord will come like a thief.
The heavens will disappear with a roar;
the elements will be destroyed by fire,
and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."

That's also what's going to happen to prophecy, to tongues, to knowledge. Gordon D. Fee says of these gifts contrasted with love, (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT; p. 713)

"these are manifestations of the Spirit for the church's present eschatological existence, in which God's newly formed people live 'between the times'—between the inauguration of the End through the death and resurrection of Jesus with the subsequent outpouring of the Spirit and the final consummation when God will be 'all in all' (see 15:20–28)."

The first spiritual gift Paul in this regard mentions is prophecy. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner note, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 653)

"By starting out with his own preferred gift he makes it clear that he is not simply picking on a couple gifts that have some special flaw."

Prophecy is a great spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 14:1 Paul wrote,

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts,
especially the gift of prophecy."

He went on to tell how prophecy was given for believers. (verse 22) Prophecy was given to build up the church, to make it strong.

But prophecies will cease. There will be a time when they will not be needed. When the Lord comes again, prophecies will be silenced forever. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner tell us that prophecy is among, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 653)

"those things that do not survive the transition from this age into the fullness of the age to come…"

They ask, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 654)

"How can preachers and prophets have anything to say when the last judgment not only reveals, but evaluates and pronounces judgment upon, everything."

Prophecies will cease. There will be no need for them. Prophecy is for this age, not for the age to come. Prophecy is much inferior to love.

Next, Paul tells us that tongues will be stilled. There will be no need for speaking in tongues when the fullness comes. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write regarding prophecy, but what they write applies equally to the gift of tongues, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 654)

"the gift of prophecy provides us with a limited… understanding of and ability to communicate God's will for a given community, while we will all have a complete understanding of that will and perfect communication and communion when we are in his presence."

Tongues will have no place in the age to come. There will be no need for that gift.

The third thing that Paul says will cease is knowledge. We read,

"where there is knowledge, it will pas away."

This seems puzzling at first glance. How can Paul say that knowledge will pass away? Will we not have knowledge in heaven?

Yes, we will have knowledge in heaven. Paul makes that clear in verse 12. He wrote,

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known."

In glory we shall know fully. We will be around the throne and we will know God in a much greater way than we do now and we will praise Him for who He is, what He has done and what He will continue to do. Revelation 22:4 says of the saints in glory,

"They will see his face, and
his name will be on their foreheads."

We will be praising Him for the wonderful salvation that He has provided. Revelation 7:10 tells us that the great multitude that no one cant count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, will cry out in a loud voice,

"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 655)

"The context makes it clear that what will pass away is the gift of knowledge, and not knowledge itself. The following verses indicate that all our present knowledge, including that of those with the special gift of knowledge, is partial and will be replaced by complete and perfect knowledge when we see God face to face."

Charles Hodge writes, (1 & 2 Corinthians, p. 272)

"knowledge in that form in which it was the foundation of the office of teacher, is to be done away with. Whether this means that hereafter there will be no need of the office of teacher, and therefore that the gift which qualified for that office shall cease; or whether Paul means to say that the immediate vision of truth is to be hereafter so different from our present discursive, obscure, and imperfect mode of cognition, that it deserves to be called by a different name, may be matter of doubt. Both are probably true. There will be no ignorance in heaven to be removed through the intervention human instructors; and there will probably be as great a difference between knowledge hereafter and what we call knowledge here, as there is between hearing of an object and seeing it."

So what we see is that the other gifts that Paul mentions here are temporary. They will cease.

But love is not like that.

Love lasts, it endures. It never falls.

Gordon D. Fee writes, (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT; p. 713)

"There is a sense in which love is never brought down; it reflects God's character, after all, and cannot fluctuate from what it is. Yet that very reality is what also gives it eternal character, so that it 'remains' even after all other things have come to their proper end."

Love is part of the 'perfection' era. Charles Hodge says that love, (1 and 2 Corinthians, p. 271)

"is not designed and adapted… merely to the present state of existence, but to our future and immortal state of being."

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 651-652)

For Paul, love, as Wright explains, 'is not so much a virtue to be worked at, though it is surely that as well, as the ultimate bridge, in terms of human character, from present Christian living into the future kingdom.' Thus,'this exquisite chapter looks forward … to the final discussion, which will concern the resurrection, the new world that God will make, and the continuity between the resurrection life and life here and now. The point of 13.8-13 is that the church must be working in the present on the things that will last into God's future. Faith, hope and love will do this; prophecy, tongues and knowledge, so highly prized in Corinth, will not. They are merely signposts to the future; when you arrive, you no longer need signposts. Love, however, is not just a signpost. It is a foretaste of the ultimate reality. Love is not merely the Christian duty; it is the Christian destiny.' "

Now, what does all this mean for us?

First of all,

consider how incredible it is that love is with us now. Appreciate it and thank God for it.

True love, real love, agape love—is in our possession now.

It didn't have to be. This fallen world deserved that love be absent. What this fallen world deserved was God's justice and wrath. Yet, as incredible as it is, through God's grace, something absolutely incredible has place. God's love has come into this fallen world. Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, but even outside the Garden—they found that God's love was there. Love, which belongs to the eternal age, did not withdraw from earth after Adam and Eve sinned. Love entered our fallen, sinful age.

Where would we be without it? What would this world be like without it? How we should be thanking God for the gift of love.

Secondly, consider what a privilege it is for you to be able to exercise love. Through God's grace you have the incredible honor and freedom to show love in this present evil age. Indeed, it's the greatest thing that you can do. It's a gift from the consummation age that you can show now. This means

you should make exercising love your passion.

You are here on this earth to show love, agape love to others. Is that what you're doing? Are you ignoring this most excellent gift, this gift above all others? If you are showing love as you should be—just about everyone you come in contact with would know it. If we were to put the names of everyone who is here in a hat and draw one out— and that name was your name— and you were publicly evaluated—how would you fare?

If we were all to evaluate a person by this criteria of love—would you come out like Diotrephes? The apostle John said that he was all about himself. (3 John 9) He loved to be first. Or would you come out like Paul's words about Demas, that he loved the world? (2 Timothy 4:10) Or would you come up like Ananias and Sapphira? They wanted to be respectable but they were inwardly greed and they were deceptive and told lies.

We need to repent of our self-centeredness, of our cold hearts that we have toward others and show love. We need to stop being so concerned about ourselves and live for others.

How little love we show—and yet that is to be our whole business.

Holladay (1990: 97) observes, (Quoted from, David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians (BECNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 620-621)

"The Corinthians have erred because they have reversed this fundamental eschatological truth. For them, essentially partial gifts possess finality, and these gifts are worth making ultimate claims about, when in fact ἀγάπη alone can be seen to possess such finality. It alone reveals the interior of the Christ-event that turned the ages. The quintessential eschatological reality, then, is ἀγάπη, and it is the only such reality to have invaded the now in any absolute sense. For this reason, it alone can be called the earmark of existence "in Christ”.

Simon J. Kistemaker writes, (Exposition of the the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Baker New Testament Commentary, 463)

"Love… is endless and never loses its validity. As God's Word never 'falls to the ground,' so his love never fails. Love is eternal because it is one of God's attributes (1 John 4:8, 16). It emanates from God to all his people throughout time and eternity. While everything else in God's creation comes to an end, love continues to be an active and lasting influence."

Christians, make showing love your passion.