This Bible study came to me by revelation as I am being subdued by pain that is resistant to all forms of medical treatment. If ever I believed for a miracle, now is the time. I Nevertheless, I can honestly say, “Not my will Father, but Your will be done.” He knows what is best. I want all of my friends reading this to know how cherished and special and loved you have made me feel. You are too many to name. I am honored that you have shown me by your actions God’s perfect love. Each of you know what we share as friends, brothers and sisters in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus and together with him, I have experienced the Father’s perfect love from you. I can hear the King say to each one of you, “Come, you blessed of My Father, you favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation, inherit and receive as your own the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…because, when Craigo was sick and suffering so much pain, you prayed—and more than prayed—with help and ministering care you loved him. And when you love Craigo, you’re loving ME, and when you’re loving me, you’re loving the One that sent me…Well done, your heartfelt deeds reveal that you are truly genuine, sincere, honorable, admirable and faithful servants! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy, the delight, and the blessedness, which your master enjoys!”
Thank you all for your love poured out for my sweet Pammy; she is continually amazed at the goodness and kind acts, and comfort, and generosity you have shown us. She is God’s greatest gift to me, next to Jesus. I know she has touched many of your lives—some in ways you are unaware of.
Together, Pammy and I feel like the most blessed, most honored and cared for people in God’s kingdom. Thank you all for being conduits of His care, and for sharing in the fellowship of His son’s sufferings with us. We stand by faith in Him because you are there with us. You accept and love us, in spite of our many shortcomings and failures. I thank my God because I have been a material witness to the fulfillment of the prophetic words of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13:35, (Amplified), “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another; if you keep on showing love among yourselves.” Thanks you guys! I love you! Craigo J
The truth of what the perfect is…is simple. The “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is the love of God. It is His “perfect” love as described in the context below; as you read the text, please note the words that are highlighted, as they will be the focus of later study.
My suggestion is that you read this study all the way through the first time, then go back over it several times, and key into certain words. If you have Bible software, this will add even more depth and richness to your study, especially if you have Englishman’s Greek Concordance, because this study tool shows you all the different places in the New Testament that key words are found. You’ll be discovering spiritual nuggets and diamonds everywhere you look; this study is as simple and in-depth as you want to go.
I begin this study with 1 Corinthians 12:31 because Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church is addressing the necessity for individual expression and contribution to the whole. We must not lose sight of this or else the entire thirteenth chapter is misconstrued. First read the text and then continue with my comments below. Notice that I did not insert chapter breaks, but included the verse numbers for reference. I did this to keep the narrative linear, just as it was written. Bible translators, for ease of reference, added the chapter and verse numbers; my goal is for you to read this narrative AS A LETTER, not as a few chapters in the Bible.
12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
13:3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
13:5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
13:6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
13:7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
13:10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13:13 But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
14:1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.
14:3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
14:4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.
14:5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. NAS
I began this study trying to rediscover what the ‘perfect” was in I Corinthians 13:10. A dear friend and brother in the Lord asked me to expound on this verse, but because I had never really researched it personally, I was somewhat at a loss to comment. Like so many other topics in the Bible, I only knew as much as someone else had taught me, but had never dug any deeper. To my delight and sobriety, I discovered the “perfect” is God’s love.
Is the Christian church ready for a revelation of perfect love? I thought I was ready for it, until it came knocking at the door of my life in terms that can only be described as “agonizingly painful.” Isn’t that how it usually works? We receive this awesome revelation from the word of God, and get all enthused and want the whole world to know. Then suddenly find we are in a spiritual washing machine set on “heavy duty” and “extra-wash cycle” and “double-rinse” and “high speed spin dry.” In other words, we get the crap knocked out of us so that we might see God is serious about His word and wants us to be on the same page as Him.
Understanding what “perfect” love is means this: God the Father requires me (us) to forgive and love those that cannot, and will not love me (us) in return; even AFTER they did something very cruel and harmful to me (us). Ouch! It takes more than human willpower to love this way. The commitment must be there, to be sure, but without the infusion of divine enablement (dunamis), I know I (we) cannot do what He is commanding me (us) to do.
In realistic terms, perfect love is patient and kind; perfect love does not act unbecomingly and it doesn’t seek its own. In fact, perfect love is not provoked, and perfect love doesn’t even take into account a wrong suffered! Everyone can agree intellectually this is the right definition, but when something bad happens to us, and someone else is responsible for the damage, hurt, pain or financial loss incurred, is it REALLY possible to behave this way toward our offender?
I suppose there’s always going to be self-righteous folks that revel in their own commitment, drive and determination to be obedient to God’s commandments. That’s great, and I commend obedience, but understanding perfect love involves character. Perfect love is not something that we suddenly and permanently receive one day and then effortlessly walk in it every day.
Like so many delusional Christian beliefs, I once bought into the lie that one day God would raise up this select body of Christian believers who would be miraculously infused with His spirit and love, going forth as a conquering army defeating every foe in Jesus’ name. In reality, I found out the true walk of faith is one that involves sorrow, suffering and pain. It is the road less traveled, the narrow way. It is finding God’s purpose in the midst of affliction, at the time when I’m the weakest, when I finally give up, and let God be God, and quit trying to do His job for Him!
The scriptures are the final authority and teach clearly that ALL of us have gone astray, and if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. This fact alone is a testament to the human impossibility of walking in “perfect” love 24/7. No human being, except Jesus Christ himself will ever do this, because perfect love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth,” and perfect love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” and perfect love NEVER fails!
Therefore, since the scripture teaches that we DO fail, if anyone claims different, he or she is a liar and the truth is not in them (and neither is perfect love).
· 1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. NAS
I preface this study with a dialogue that acknowledges my own personal and woeful failure to be a “good” Christian man. While I’m at it, I will go ahead and acknowledge the same for the rest of all humanity because I don’t want anyone to read this study and then walk around with regret and shame, feeling like a loser because they have not “attained” the perfect love of God. Having said this, I do believe perfect love IS possible for the believer to experience and to exercise—with GOD’S help. In fact, I believe God has revealed something awesome in His word through this study that gives all of us an aspect of God’s blueprint for manifesting His perfect love to each other and to a lost and hurting world.
It has become quite apparent that the first thing needed is humility, something I have not done very well at. Some people have a distorted view and concept of humility; believing humble people are those who pray daily, and know their Bibles from cover to cover. While it is important to do both, humility comes when you have gone through the threshing process and had the chaff of sin and self knocked out of your character in the furnace of affliction.
True humility isn’t something you work at, and then finally God says, “Okay, here’s the gift of humility.” No siree! I’m talking about good old humble pie folks—when your health has been on the line, and your financial future is no longer secure, when more than one person has seen the way you act at home, and you get so embarrassed, you feel forced to repent of your wicked ways—and that’s just the beginning!
Humility comes when everything that can be shaken is shaken, and then after it is shaken, it’s thrown into the furnace to purge it of some more dross. When you come up for a breather in between trials, you find out you’re still saved by amazing grace, and you know for SURE that God is in control, and not you. That’s humility.
What I am seeing happen in my little corner of the world is individual believers who are living out an ongoing commitment to keep one’s heart transparent. By transparent, I mean they are friends I have come to know through reciprocal willingness to build meaningful relationships in the body of Christ. God has blessed me with Christian brothers and sisters who are genuine, sincere and getting progressively uncluttered and unencumbered from their past, with all of its religious infection.
I believe the perfect love of God is being revealed to anyone and everyone who is maintaining friendships developed with others, where we feel safe bringing our dark areas into the light by confessing our faults one to another. There is something extremely rich and personal about this kind of love, but it comes at a high price. Jesus gave his own lifeblood for us to have access to the Father’s love, and to understand from experience what he meant when he said, “love one another as I have also loved you.”
Knowing the perfect love of God is not a ministry or something you will get touched or blessed with at the next renewal meeting or men’s retreat, or by attending the right Women’s Aglow meeting. Perfect love is possible IF and only if you begin at home. Let’s face it, home is the place where the “real” you lives; home is where your heart is, and where there are generally no secrets. I may never see you there, and your friends may never see you there, but your wife or your husband sees you and knows you like no other!
If we don’t begin our commitment to pursue the perfect love of God by showing it to our families, then aren’t we being a bunch of phony-baloney Christians, having only a form of godliness? If we don’t obey the commandments to love our wives and husbands, according to the criteria God sets forth in scripture, I believe we are denying the very power of God from being manifest in our lives and the lives of those in the body of Christ we interact with.
Husbands are commanded to love their wives in the same way Christ loves his church. It would be utter folly to think one can love with perfect love unless he begins first by treating his wife like Jesus treats his church. The starting point for husbands is to begin loving his wife as much as he nurtures his own flesh…God can take it from there! (Read Ephesians 5:28-29).
Some husbands have neglected to nurture their wife’s heart for so long she has become almost numb to him. She is the weaker vessel guys, and she NEEDS to be nurtured and tenderly spoken to and handled gently. At this point, if you have neglected to be the warm, affectionate, man of the house, then step up to the plate and start loving her with NO EXPECTATION of a response. She may be so damaged that she doesn’t know HOW to respond to you, so just love her, expecting nothing in return. In the end, even if she fails to respond, great is your reward, because God will infuse you with the characteristics of love mentioned in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians!
I’m not going to get all preachy, smug and self-righteous on you here; there was a time in my own marriage where I was NOT exactly the nicest person to live with. I was bossy, insensitive, and often so wrapped up in all I was “doing for God” I forgot I was a married man. I got so busy with work and outreach and Bible study that I forgot my poor little wifey needed me!
You see, I could have prefaced this Bible study series with all kinds of Greek and Hebrew rhetoric, but I’m talking about the place where the rubber meets the road. I came from that generation of men that held to the stupid notion that my manly “love” for my wife is best demonstrated by the ways I provide for her. You know, working a steady job, bringing in the bacon, taking care of the “guy” stuff like cars and roofs, etc.
Now all of those things ARE important and there are some men that need to get convicted about sitting on their dead butt while their wife frets about how they’re going to pay their bills. I know there are extenuating circumstances, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Sure, some wives work a good paying job and their level of skill enables them to bring home a paycheck that takes care of the bills and buys the groceries, so please don’t think I’m jumping on everyone.
My main point is this: Don’t continue doing what I did. I failed my wife, not as a financial provider and not as a mechanic taking good care of her car. My failure is that I didn’t take TIME to share ME with my wife. It’s not rocket science, but it has taken me all of the 50 years God has allotted to get it through my thick outer shell that my wife married ME and that she loves ME and she wants to spend time talking to ME every day.
I know there are lots of men to whom the words I just wrote will not even register; but to the rest of you, let’s break the generational cycle and the knuckle-headed mentality that our dads passed on to us that says, “Well my wife knows I love her, because I take good care of her, and I’ve never missed a day of work since we got married.” I found out something once I became physically disabled and could not work…my wife likes it when we just sit and talk…hmmm? Why is that such a big deal? Comments are welcome, I’m sure I’ll get a few.
Do you ever wonder why Jesus warned the people saying, “Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'“ (Matthew 7:22-23; NAS)
These people Jesus is describing HAD to be CHRISTIANS because they were calling him, “Lord, Lord.” Does this mean we are not eternally secure? Does this mean even the best of us can actually lose his or her salvation? Or does it mean that there are people that are self-deluded, equating the “power” of God with signs and wonders, such as those defined by Christ above? Or maybe it’s any combination of these questions that Jesus alluded to—what do YOU think?
I used to read Matthew 7:22-23 and other New Testament passages like it from the gospel accounts, but always felt the warning applied to “somebody else.”
After all, I couldn’t be THAT deceived, could I? Could I? Could you? Could we? Yes, I could, you could, and we could. I’m not trying to promote scare tactics here, so please bear with me a while. I’m laying the groundwork for this study, showing by clear text of scripture, that gifts of the spirit, as awesome and wondrous as they are, do NOT fulfill the requirement set forth by God the Father or the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told the ones warned, “I never knew you.” Thayer’s Lexicon Dictionary defines “never” so that it would read, “I NEVER, not EVER knew you.”
I’ll let the Greek scholars hammer that one out; for me, it is sufficient understanding that deception runs rampant wherever the gifts are being used/exercised because the tendency is to take one’s eyes off of his or her first love, and redirect it to that which draws more attention, “feels” good, and is praiseworthy in the sight of men.
Just turn on your television set and glimpse at the so-called ‘Christian network’ stations. Observe the wild and egotistical antics of men and women who have become ministers of greed, preaching the gospel of gain. Sadly, much of what is now purported to be “charismatic,” (i.e. operating in the gifts of the Spirit), is tainted by this evil and/or aligns itself with some form of ‘health and wealth’ preaching or teaching.
On the opposite extreme of the spiritual perspective are the dead, dry and lifeless churches that deny anything associated with the moving of God’s spirit. These use 1 Corinthians 13:10 as an excuse to deny that speaking in other tongues is for today. They say the “perfect” is the completed canon of scripture and that once the last apostolic epistle was written, tongues ceased to exist.
I won’t waste time trying to convince them otherwise; if they don’t want to speak in tongues, that’s okay with me. I do speak in tongues and it was one of the most important elements in my initiation to a spiritual life and relationship with God. Before I spoke in other tongues, I had no Bible training and no concept whatsoever of glossalaliá (the Greek word for tongues, or languages).
Recently, in the hard press and distress of great physical and emotional pain, I have found that I have returned to a much more active use of my prayer language. I would love to boast that I renewed my prayer time in the spirit from some spiritual motive, but the reality is I was getting the stuffing knocked out of me and all I could do is let my spirit cry out to God in what my mind perceived as “inaudible.” That’s a longwinded way of saying, “I didn’t know how to pray as I should, so I just prayed in tongues.”
What I discovered is that my prayer language is one of the key ingredients God uses to prepare my heart to love others with HIS perfect love. I MUST pray in other tongues in order to build my spirit up, return to my first love and draw from His unending supply of supernatural ability (dunamis) in order to love “perfectly.” There are some, ‘not-so-nice’ people inflicting various kinds of hurt and pain on me, and I need God to help me love them, because I know if I try to do it in my own strength, it just won’t work. I’m not abnegating my own responsibility to love my enemies and bless those that despitefully use me. I am simply acknowledging that I need God’s love infused into my being in order to carry out successfully the sharing of His perfect love.
How often do we Christians equate God’s dunamis power with His perfect love? Charismatic and Pentecostal believers attribute God’s power to gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy and miracles. Can you recall the last time you heard a sermon about God’s dunamis power enabling us to love? Challenging us to be divinely enabled to love so that when someone intentionally causes us grief or loss we can maintain an attitude that is not provoked?
We charismatics want healing, prophecy, and a “word” of knowledge from somebody, but recently I learned something from a young man and it seems appropriate to share it here. Last summer I took Ryan, who had rededicated his life to the Lord, with me to the streets to set up the Bible Answer Stand. Throughout the summer we’d show up on Tacoma’s waterfront to do outreach evangelism and share the gospel. Ryan was noticeably shy and had difficulty conversing with different people. At the time I attributed this shyness to his inexperience. I was surprised at this show of timidity because he is ordinarily a real talker.
Recently, Ryan told me about his life, growing up in a typical Christian home: going to church and Sunday School and even Christian School for a time and being involved with Christianity his entire life. He said the reason he had difficulty getting involved with people last summer was simply because he had never seen the power of God until he got out at the Bible Answer Stand.
“Power?” I thought to myself, “What power? There were no miracle healings, prophetic utterances, or word of knowledge gifts flowing…what could he possibly be referring to?”
This really surprised me because I didn’t really think there were any “power” gifts exercised last summer, and to be quite honest, to me it was just like every other year that I’d been out on the streets evangelizing. That was MY big mistake! I was looking at God’s power through my charismatic-colored glasses, which have been heavily tinted by the doctrinal prejudice of Pentecostal dogma and practices.
Curious as to what he meant, I asked, “Ryan, what did you see last summer that convinced you it was the power of God?” His reply was so simple that is was uniquely profound. He said, “I saw people that were total strangers that were being loved, accepted, cared for and prayed for…I’d never seen anything like that happen before in all my years growing up in Christian churches. No one was judging them for being different, but you guys just listened to them, and actually prayed for them, right then and there. Never before had I witnessed anything like that in church, and quite frankly, it scared me.”
My paradigms were suddenly confronted with the reality that I had been experiencing God’s supernatural power for years, but dismissed it simply as being “anointed” to share the gospel! My mind reeled! How often I’d seen and experienced God’s power from others who loved me—a nd yet the vast majority of these beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus consider their walk weak and impotent because they have never done anything “miraculous” or spectacular in the Spirit.
I got saved in 1974 and immediately after I spoke in other tongues; then I got involved with Pentecostal or charismatic churches, which laid a distorted foundation for what I did and didn’t believe and practice. Most of my Christian life, I was taught from the pulpit that the “power” of God was something evidenced by the miraculous, such as supernatural healing, or a “word of knowledge” which revealed some unknown fact about a person’s life.
Worse yet were the ‘tongues-and-interpretations’ that amounted to little more than the pre-qualified “gifted” hollering at the top of their lungs in tongues (a practice found nowhere in scripture) and then interpreting the same at the top of their lungs on behalf of God! Looking back at these so-called ‘prophetic utterances’ I can’t think of anything that was prophesied as being fulfilled or coming to pass. Yet nobody seems to want to admit or talk about it; I guess being neutral is a whole lot easier.
How reminiscent the words of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians ring true, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
For the past 30+ years of being a Christian I have misidentified what is truly important… love! I have actually experienced the “perfect” love of God without recognizing its powerful effects on the lives of others! Now that I know what love is, my heart cries out for a more “perfect” or “complete” expression of that love.
Finally I understand why it is so necessary to “Pursue love!” I have loved, but only “in part”; now that the revelation of the “perfect” has come, I want to put away, “childish things” and seek the mature and fully completed love of God. I don’t say this lightly either, because I realize the pursuit of perfect love is an invitation to die to self in some of the most painful ways imaginable. What I mean is this; to love (as defined in the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians) means that Craig Bluemel has got to get OUT OF THE WAY in order to seek God’s heart in EVERYTHING. I need to quit relying on my past experience and seek each day a fresh revelation of God’s perfect love.
I now realize to love with God’s “perfect’ love means I must love my enemies and love those who cannot and will not love me in return. Anyone who knows me very well knows this is a tall order!
The Greek word for “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is téleión, a cognate of téleiós, (NT: 5046); in defining this Greek word, I have decided to change my usual format, which is limited to the rigid definitions in typical Greek lexicons and dictionaries. The basic meaning of téleión is “complete” but I think this definition falls woefully short of describing agápe love. I have used Strong’s, Thayer’s, Zodhiates, and a few others to verify word meanings, and then I consulted Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, Encarta’s Dictionary, and Microsoft’s online dictionary to render fuller, more useable definitions that our contemporary vernacular can relate to.
· Perfect love is complete and comprehensive; this love is that which is evident in our toil, growth, mental and moral character, etc.
· Perfect love is also extensive love; that is, full and replete with God’s required characteristics or attributes, such as patience, kindness, bearing all things, and believing all things at the time when it is most needed. By extensive, I also mean that it “extends” itself to even the undeserving, the unlovable, the unloving, and one’s enemy. Just like a telescope “extends” to adjust the lens and get a clearer picture, so too the one that exercises perfect love extends himself or herself, trusting God to give them what is needed to love others with the right heart and spiritual perspective. Jesus had perfected love on the cross when he cried out in his agony, “Father, forgive them.” This is perfect love.
· Perfect love is ample and sufficient to meet the need; it won’t fall short because His supply is plentiful and abundant. God builds a morally blameless character in His child that seeks to love with forgiveness and mercy, and who is willing to love impartially, knowing as such it is the greatest expression of his or her love for God.
· Perfect love can be surprisingly profuse; when given to others, it is always bountiful. I once loved someone who had deeply wounded me and repeatedly abused me as a child. God answered my prayers to help me love and forgive, and even worked to help provide an opportunity to love with an abandonment of how I felt. At first it was the most difficult thing I had ever done to make that first gesture of forgiveness, laying aside decades of hurt, anger, and pain. But when I did, God poured out His perfect love through me profusely and surprisingly! What is even more remarkable is that as I continued allowing it to flow, His love was also bountifully supplied, and continues to be given from above to this very day for that person.
· Perfect love is adequate, unstinted, generous and wanting in nothing.
· Perfect love is generated from character that has been refined in the fire; developed in a baptism of humility through obedience in what we suffer. Perfect love is experienced through our caring; perfect love is that which has reached its maximum potential for the particular age. It is God's expectation of us in a moral and ethical sense and in this context it means completely blameless. It is experienced in stages of our growth, and we press on for more.
· God’s perfect love should be viewed as a perfect gift, as in James 1:17, HOWEVER, it is not arbitrarily dispensed, because the context of James means love with all the indispensable qualities, traits and character seen and experienced through faith that WORKS by love. It is not just God’s love received, but also God’s love given to others.
· Perfect love is no longer actuated by self-serving motives; it is full-grown and mature in mind and understanding, seeking to edify the other instead of self (1 Corinthians 14:20). Perfect love is only for the servant in heart.
· Perfect love is formed through perseverance in the midst of suffering and fiery ordeals, purging sin and self, particularly ego and pride; then in humility and sincere dependence on God, it is love that is described as fully developed and lacking in nothing (James 1:4)
· Teachers are to be an example of perfect love, exemplifying Christian virtue that is fully developed in character and therefore “perfect” (téleiós) The essential quality required of teachers in James 3:1ff is to control the tongue, subsequent to providing scriptural instruction for the body of Christ.
· Perfect love is spiritually mature, for Christians who are seasoned in understanding (1 Corinthians 2:6; Philippians 3:15; Hebrews 5:14)
If this list of characteristics did not convict you, please repent, confess your lukewarmness, and ask God to examine your heart, try you, and see if there is any wicked way in you. I got so convicted just writing this list, I felt compelled to stop and frequently pray that God would deepen my roots.
In 1 Corinthians 13:10, the word “perfect” (téleión), is from the Greek word téleiós and should not to be confused with the Greek word anamárt¢tos (NT: 361), which means, “without sin or sinless.”
We can never be called experientially “sinless” because Jesus the Christ is the ONLY MAN that can lay claim to being completely without sin. I like the Amplified version of 2 Corinthians 5:21:
· 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake He (God) made Christ virtually to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in and through him we might become endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of the righteousness of God; what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness. AMP
Many Bible translations erroneously render téleiós as “perfect.” In so doing, they mistakenly distort the intended meaning and cause the readers to dismiss the portions of the Bible that command them to be “perfect” because they think perfect means sinless.
It is common among Christians today to mistakenly equate perfection with being sinless. Multiple translation errors throughout the New Testament which render the Greek téleiós as “perfect” have undoubtedly caused countless Christians to dismiss any pragmatic application of the verses using this word. If people feel it’s an expectation to be sinless—w ich they KNOW is impossible—why even try?
For the past 30 years I was stumbled whenever I read Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The reason I was tripped up is due to the fact Jesus is COMMANDING us to be PERFECT just like God the FATHER is perfect. Knowing this is a commandment I would allegorize the passage away, hoping against hope that I was unknowingly being obedient. I wonder how many other Christians read portions of scripture and feel ashamed, condemned or hopeless because they feel unable to live up to an unrealistic expectation.
In 1 Corinthians 13:10 the words, “But when the perfect comes,” read in Greek as, “hótan dé élthee tó téleion.” The passage is short, and should be relatively simple to translate and interpret…NOT! I have spent countless hours than ran into days determining, with God’s help, the INTENDED meaning through etymology, discovering a wide range of definitions for each word, depending on the context and specific use.
I didn’t want to become like so many Bible scholars who spend so much time and effort trying to decipher the correct etymology of téleiós that they fail to notice the KEY elements to understanding the text. Unfortunately, Bible translators, unduly influenced by their dyed in the wool doctrinal prejudice, overlooked the importance of properly translating the words before and after téleiós. As I will prove, these words are instrumental in unlocking a treasure of understanding. In this understanding the scriptures provide a network of commands, exhortations, and promises that will help us to implement His perfect love.
In Greek, etymology simply means true discourse; it is the part of philology, which explains the origin, and derivation of words, with a view to ascertain their primary signification. In grammar, etymology comprehends the various inflections and modifications of words and shows how they are formed from their simple roots. The deduction of words from their originals and the analysis of compound words into their primitive root words are essential for study and interpretation of the scriptures.
The “perfect” is a noun describing one critical aspect of the agápe love discussed in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen. Of special interest to me was the meaning of the Greek adverb hótan (NT: 3752), erroneously translated as “when” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. The supposition made by every single one of the Bible versions I researched is that they render hótan as “when” instead of “whenever” or “at whatever time.” Below are a few examples:
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when the perfect comes… NAS
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when that which is perfect is come… ASV
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when that which is perfect is come… KJV
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when that which is perfect has come… NKJV
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when perfection comes… (From New International Version)
· 1 Cor 13:10 - But when the complete and perfect (total) comes… AMP
By mistranslating this one word, the remainder of the passage has failed to be recognized in its simplicity as describing love. If you say, “But WHEN the perfect comes,” it sounds so undefined, so obscure, so mysterious. No wonder this is the most misinterpreted verse in the entire Bible! I believe Satan, that old snake in the Garden of Eden, was up to his dastardly deeds when he blinded the eyes of Bible translators so they would mischaracterize what is REALLY being taught by God through the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.
I must mention also, the devil has worked overtime to keep me from getting this first study out to you, so I’m going to end part One here, but you can look forward to some real gems in the upcoming series. My next study will break down the word meanings, and show you plainly the many places that God’s “perfect’ love is mentioned! Here’s a juicy morsel for you to chomp on until I get the next study out:
· Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect (téleiós), just as your Father in heaven is perfect (téleiós). NKJV
Notice in verse 48 the command to “be perfect (téleiós), just as your Father in heaven is perfect (téleiós).” This word téleiós is the exact same word used in 1 Corinthians 13:10, “When the PERFECT comes.” Notice how the context in Matthew chapter five is dealing with LOVE for one’s enemies and impartial love for those who are unable to reciprocate. That is simply another way to live out the “perfect” love of God described in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen. Stay tuned folks!
Links to the Entire "When the Perfect Comes” Series:
To Be Continued in Part 4