Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Cessationist Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, Part 2

When we look at verse 12 in light of all that we have already established, a clearer picture emerges. Verse 12 is the linchpin in the Charismatic argument for their supposed "proof" that that which is "perfect" refers to heaven.

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

These words are often construed by Pentecostals and Charismatics to refer to heaven. Even many who repudiate the Continuist position see here a reference to heaven. I think I can demonstrate that this is NOT the case.

1. If Paul is speaking of heaven, then he is saying that in his glorified state he would have omniscience. Since this is impossible, Paul cannot possibly be saying that. This contradicts plenty of Scriptural statements regarding God's infinitude and our finitude. Glorification is not deification. When Paul says, "then shall I know even as also I am known," he is speaking of how God knows him. So if he is referring to heaven, then we've made Paul claim that with glorification comes omniscience. This alone should put the nail in the coffin of this interpretation. Certainly our understanding will be enlarged when we get to heaven, but that is not the same as saying that glorified saints will receive a kind of omniscience. Heaven will be a perfect state, but we will not have omniscience any more than we will have omnipotence.

2. In verse 13, Paul places this in the present age. For he says, "And NOW abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." The word "abideth" means "remains." This is in direct contradistinction to what he has just said in verse 8-10 would fade away and cease. We have already pointed out how hope and faith do not survive the eternal state. I no longer need to hope to the arrival of what I already possess. So after saying that some things will fade away, he tells us about things that will remain. Spiritual graces will remain in the Church after the spiritual gifts pass away. This can only apply to the Church in this present age. Let me reiterate: The spiritual graces continue once the spiritual gifts pass away. There is no debating that point. But the spiritual graces are only applicable to the Church during this present age. Therefore, the spiritual gifts MUST pass away during this present age. This means that since "that which is perfect" comes after the miraculous gifts that do not remain, while the spiritual graces do, this places "that which is perfect" during this present age as well. 

3. To teach that "that which is perfect" refers to the state of Glory involves a contradiction. It affirms a passing away of knowledge at the very point when greater knowledge is said to be attained. If we will know perfectly in Heaven, how can knowledge pass away when we get there? Pentecostals use verse 12 to say that a perfect knowledge will be attained in heaven. In other words, we will experience an increased knowledge there. But this is said in the face of saying that our state of continuing revelation throughout the church age will only cease when we get to heaven. This is saying that A is A and not A at the same time. They make verse 8 say that when we get to heaven revelation will cease, and then they turn around in the space of a few verses, and make verse 12 say that when we get to heaven revelation will exponentially multiply!

4. To teach that "that which is perfect" refers to the state of Glory contradicts what the rest of Scripture teaches about the spiritual enlightenment of the child of God in this world. "Now we see through a glass, darkly," literally means, "Now we see as in a riddle." This is to say that until that which is perfect has come the believer does not possess a clear and full understanding of spiritual things because he only has a partial revelation, according to verse 9. If we put ourselves in Paul's position we can see this clearly. It is as if he were saying, "At this point in time, before the completion of the New Testament canon, we do not possess the entire body of revelation that God intends to bequeath to His Church, therefore we still see things as a riddle - through a glass, darkly. If the Pentecostals and Charismatics are right, then we do not nor will we ever have a complete revelation as long as the Church exists on earth. Moreover this is a contradiction of other tremendous Scriptural statements.

A. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 - "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Verse 9 is not teaching about heaven. It is speaking of the unsaved man's inability to understand the things of God. Verse 13 tells us what these things are, by a claim to Divine inspiration. The natural man left to himself will never arrive at the truth. The only reason why anyone ever arrives at the truth is because the Holy Spirit has revealed these things to the Church. The Holy Spirit has given the Church a sufficient revelation. I ask, Is that seeing through a glass, darkly? If God's Word is sufficient for all matters pertain to doctrine and practice, then we are not seeing through a glass, darkly. So back at 13:12, Paul is saying that he and his Apostolic era colleagues were still seeing through a glass, darkly because they still didn't have the full written Word of God. Paul is not teaching that when we get to heaven, only then will we receive the completed revelation, but that when "that which is perfect comes," in this lifetime - we will have a full, written revelation of all that God requires of us for faith and practice in this world. Once the New Testament was completed, the Church saw things fully. This doesn't mean that before the close of canon, the saints did not know enough to be saved; it merely means that we are in a more advantageous position.

B. 2 Peter 1:19 - "We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light in a dark place, until that dawn and the day star arise in your hearts." Neither this passage nor the above one is teaching that the Christian is presently seeing everything darkly or in riddles, but will gain a clear and full understanding when he gets to heaven. They are both teaching that God's people have a mature revelation and therefore, those things that are essential to life and godliness, doctrine and practice, here and now in this life are possessed by the Church in the Scriptures - the more sure word of prophecy.

5. In the passage, "then shall I know even as also I am known," the words, "am known," signify a knowledge without any need for additional information. This is how God knows us and all things. God is never in need of any additional information. That is what is meant by "knowing as we are known." With the closing of the canon, the Church knows in this way. That is not to say that we have omniscience, as I said earlier. It means that in the completed revelation of the Old and New Testaments, the Church has no need for additional information. Paul is juxtaposing the two conditions - the current condition of possessing the less than full written revelation, therefore seeing through a glass, darkly with the full body of revelation that has no need for additional revelation. Looking back, we see that what the spiritual gifts conveyed was fragmentary at best. Paul repeatedly uses the phrase "in part" when speaking of the state of revelation under the era of spiritual gifts prior to completion of the canon. Notice that he says, "we know in part; we prophesy in part," in the light of verse 8. Yes they were means of revelation, but it was only partial. This overthrows the whole tongue-speaking crowd whatever else one thinks about the rest of the passage; because even if tongues were still existent as in the Apostolic age, they would still be conveying fragmentary knowledge.

In conclusion, we have shown that Paul clearly states that the supernatural revelatory gifts would cease at the coming of "that which is perfect." We have further shown that this can refer to nothing else but the completion of the New Testament canon. Hence, I repeat what I have said many times on this blog: Any attempt at Continuism, in any form whatsoever, is a blatant and open denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, Reformed theological commitments notwithstanding. Continuism is a distinct doctrinal characteristic of popery, not true biblical Christianity.

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