“Now we know in part…”

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…”

Perhaps no message is more needed today than the realization that “for now we see in a mirror dimly”. We know in part, we prophesy in part, we function (as the body) in part, BUT someday this “partial living” will be done away!!  Someday we, indeed, all creation, will cease “groaning” and be set free from our “slavery to corruption”,  anxiously awaiting the redemption of our bodies! (Rom 8). In the meantime, brothers and sisters, we must know – in our heads and our hearts – that in our weaknesses (ie. knowing in part, seeing dimly, etc.) the Holy Spirit proves His power. As Jesus declared to Paul: “My power is perfected in weakness!”

Try substituting the word weakness for “part” in the following Scriptures:

“For we know in part [weakness] and we prophesy in part [weakness]; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part [weakness], but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13: 9-10,12

This understanding is crucial if we are to ever see the Body of Christ truly functioning as the God-Head desires, “each one of us given [and using] the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). We must recognize, over and over again (especially “When we assemble…”) how utterly dependant we are upon the Holy Spirit and His gifts. We  undeniably live in “partial times” and our own human reasoning and ideas are NOT ENOUGH to bring down the manifestation of the Spirit that will cause “edification, exhortation or comfort.” (1 Cor 14:3).

Rather than “lower-the-bar” of Spirit-inspired utterances, if we, in our weakness, cry out to the Ever-faithful Father for spiritual gifts that will edify the brethren, will He not most certainly answer! “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desires” – will He not, therefore, also make a way whereby we can achieve His desired outcome when we come together??

I would like to (at length) highlight Gordon Fee’s excellent work– Listening to the Spirit in the Text – in this area: 

“This is why tongues, as well as prophecy and all other Spirit charismata, are for the present time only (1 Cor 13:8-13).   Tongues – and prophecy and knowledge – belong to this time of present weakness, when we “know in part” and need the Spirit’s help… The theological implications of such an understanding are large. In contrast to what is often implied in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, for Paul one does not “pray in tongues” from a position of “strength”, as though being filled with the Spirit put one in a position of  power before God. Rather, one prays in tongues from a position of weakness, because we “do not know how to pray as we ought”… I admit to wondering at times whether present resistance to [praying in tongues] on the part of so many is not a combination of both a misunderstanding of Paul’s own perspective on this matter and of our own need to be “in control”. Maybe the bottom line of such resistance is our lip-service to putting ourselves at God’s disposal in our weakness, but insisting that all of our praying should be from a stance of strength  – the form of strength found in our praying only with our minds and seldom in the Spirit… [this] ends up being a form of “living from a position of strength”, in this case in the strength of a rationalistic mind-set.”

I hope these thoughts from Fee have been as helpful to you as they were to Maria and I.

Yours for the least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

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