Present Defect and Future Perfection
1 Corinthians 13:9-10
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.…


1. The gifts themselves.

(1) The knowledge is not ordinary but extraordinary, being the effect of supernatural influence (1 Corinthians 12:8).

(2) The gift of prophecy comprehended much. Sometimes it meant the power of foretelling future events; sometimes celebrating the praises of God by a Divine afflatus; sometimes the power of teaching the doctrines of the gospel by the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. So it means here.

(3) We may, however, apply the terms to that more ordinary knowledge and teaching which is the present qualification of all who have received the Spirit and have the knowledge of the truth of God. This is knowledge which none can possibly surpass, and which very few can equal.

2. The imperfection ascribed to these gifts.

(1) The Spirit of God never gave a full development of all His revelations. Even the apostles themselves did not know all that it was possible to know respecting Jesus Christ. Paul, with all his knowledge, says, "I have suffered the loss of all things — that I may know Him." And as the knowledge was imperfect, so was the prophecy. The inspired apostle found himself on the shore of a boundless ocean, and exclaimed, "O the depth of the riches!" etc.

(2) And so to us the same imperfection attaches most strongly. The pride of our nature may induce us to imagine otherwise; but that pride will very soon be checked. The man who has studied the hardest, who has been most frequently wrapt into visions of future times — even he must still say, "I know in part — I prophesy in part." And I would ask a Christian of the highest class, if any illuminations, in which he has been enabled hitherto to rejoice, have permitted him yet to say, "That which is perfect is come"? Consider what you know of God — of His government of the universe, of the councils of His will, and of the connection of these with His actions — and then say how incomplete is your knowledge! Consider what you know of the mediatorial influence of Christ — of the fall transformation of the soul into His image — of the future state. You have, it is true, facts to believe, but you cannot comprehend their fulness; you study, you meditate, you explore — but you are soon lost; and you come to the conclusion, "I know in part."(3) And then some will say, "Where there is so much mystery, there should be no faith." But if you will reason thus on religion, extend your reasoning to life, to nature, to all around you. You know that you live; you sit, you think, you hear, you speak; but how soon will you find your knowledge, even on these subjects, limited and nonplussed! Here we must be content to see imperfectly — to comprehend as in enigma. We can only stand as it were on the threshold of the temple; it is in the future age that the veil will be rent, that the inner sanctuary will be open to our gaze, and the fire that burns on the golden altar revealed.

3. The reasons on which this imperfection is founded.

(1) Man's moral pollution. The most sinful are always the, most ignorant. Adam by transgression lost much of his knowledge; and in proportion as transgression increased, ignorance abounded. Sin has a tendency to pervert the imagination, and forms an hindrance in the way of attaining the pure and sublime knowledge of religion.

(2) Man's intellectual weakness. There is much in Divine knowledge that we have not a capacity for knowing. Engaged as we all are on material objects, and able to see only through the medium of our senses, what wonder is it if we be compelled to confess, "We know in part"?

(3) The designs of God in connection with man's present and future state. It is not the design of God that we should know all. The future state is to make up for the defects of the present. It is this which makes heaven an object of such ardent desire to the Christian.


1. In regard to some future state of the Church upon earth. Look at the Church in our own day; see how abundantly our information has increased. Yet the Church is now in a very imperfect state compared with what it shall be in the last days; then "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." None shall say to his neighbour or his brother, "Know the Lord," etc.

2. In reference to the state of the Church in heaven. Then it will be truly said, "That which is perfect is come."

(1)  A perfection of purity.

(2)  Of power.

(3)  Of knowledge.

(4)  Of happiness.

(J. Parsons.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

WEB: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;

Partial Knowledge
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