For we know in part - We have here but little knowledge even of earthly, and much less of heavenly, things. He that knows most knows little in comparison of what is known by angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. And as we know so very little, how deficient must we be if we have not much love! Angels may wonder at the imperfection of our knowledge; and separate spirits may wonder at the perfection of their own, having obtained so much more in consequence of being separated from the body, than they could conceive to be possible while in that body. When Sir Isaac Newton had made such astonishing discoveries in the laws of nature, far surpassing any thing that had been done by all his predecessors in science from the days of Solomon; one of our poets, considering the scantiness of human knowledge when compared with that which is possessed by the inhabitants of heaven, reduced his meditations on the subject to the following nervous and expressive epigram: -
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man explain all nature's law,
Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And show'd our Newton as we show an ape.
These fine lines are a paraphrase from a saying of Plato, from whom our poet borrows without acknowledging the debt. The words are these: ανθρωπον ὁ σοφωτατος προς θεον πιθηκος φανειται· "The wisest of mortals will appear but an ape in the estimation of God." Vid. Hipp. Maj. vol. xi. p. 21. Edit. Bipont.
We prophesy in part - Even the sublimest prophets have been able to say but little of the heavenly state; and the best preachers have left the Spirit of God very much to supply. And had we no more religious knowledge than we can derive from men and books, and had we no farther instruction in the knowledge of God and ourselves than we derive from preaching, our religious experience would be low indeed. Yet it is our duty to acquire all the knowledge we possibly can; and as preaching is the ordinary means by which God is pleased to instruct and convert the soul, we should diligently and thankfully use it. For we have neither reason nor Scripture to suppose that God will give us that immediately from himself which he has promised to convey only by the use of means. Even this his blessing makes effectual; and, after all, his Spirit supplies much that man cannot teach. Every preacher should take care to inculcate this on the hearts of his hearers. When you have learned all you can from your ministers, remember you have much to learn from God; and for this you should diligently wait on him by the reading of his word, and by incessant prayer.
For we know in part - Compare the note on 1 Corinthians 12:27. This expression means “only in part;” that is, “imperfectly.” Our knowledge here is imperfect and obscure. It may, therefore, all vanish in the eternal world amidst its superior brightness; and we should not regard that as of such vast value which is imperfect and obscure; compare the note at 1 Corinthians 8:2. This idea of the obscurity and imperfection of our knowledge, as compared with heaven, the apostle illustrates 1 Corinthians 13:11 by comparing it with the knowledge which a child has, compared with that in maturer years and 1 Corinthians 13:12 by the knowledge which we have in looking through a glass - an imperfect medium - compared with that which we have in looking closely and directly at an object without any medium.
And we prophesy in part - This does not mean that we partly “know” the truths of religion, and partly “conjecture” or “guess” at them; or that we know only a part of them, and “conjecture” the remainder. But the apostle is showing the imperfection of the prophetic gift; and he observes, that there is the same imperfection which attends knowledge. It is only in part; it is imperfect; it is indistinct, compared with the full view of truth in heaven; it is obscure, and all that is imparted by that gift will soon become dim and lost in the superior brightness and glory of the heavenly world. The “argument” is, that we ought not to seek so anxiously that which is so imperfect and obscure, and which must soon vanish away; but we should rather seek that love which is permanent, expanding, and eternal.
Jesus is waiting with longing desire to open before His people the glory that will attend His second advent, and to carry them forward to a contemplation of the landscape of bliss. There are wonders to be revealed. A long lifetime of prayer and research will leave much unexplored and unexplained. But what we know not now will be revealed hereafter. The work of instruction begun here will be carried on to all eternity. The Lamb, as He leads the hosts of the redeemed to the fountain of living waters, will impart rich stores of knowledge; He will unravel mysteries in the works and providence of God that have never before been understood. LHU 361.4Read in context »
And then, in words which from that day to this have been to men and women a source of inspiration and encouragement, Paul set forth the importance of that love which should be cherished by the followers of Christ: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” AA 318.1
No matter how high the profession, he whose heart is not filled with love for God and his fellow men is not a true disciple of Christ. Though he should possess great faith and have power even to work miracles, yet without love his faith would be worthless. He might display great liberality; but should he, from some other motive than genuine love, bestow all his goods to feed the poor, the act would not commend him to the favor of God. In his zeal he might even meet a martyr's death, yet if not actuated by love, he would be regarded by God as a deluded enthusiast or an ambitious hypocrite. AA 318.2
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” The purest joy springs from the deepest humiliation. The strongest and noblest characters are built on the foundation of patience, love, and submission to God's will. AA 319.1Read in context »