1 Corinthians 13:8
Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease…
Prophecies, tongues, knowledge, - these were all matters of immense importance in the Christian community at Corinth, whose members prided themselves upon their discernment, their intellectuality, their gifts. And they were not unimportant in the view of that one of the apostles whose mind was both more highly endowed by nature, and more sedulously and effectively disciplined by study, than was the case with his brethren. But let these excellent and beautiful things be brought into comparison with Christian love, and they vanish as the stars of night when the sun arises in his splendour and power.
I. THE CESSATION AND VANISHING OF INTELLECTUAL GIFTS.
1. What they were. They seem to have been supernatural gifts, highly prized by their possessors, and eagerly coveted by the members of the Christian societies generally. "Prophecy" was the faculty of uttering forth Divine truth. "Tongues" were supernatural utterances, probably of various kinds. "Knowledge" is here used in a special sense, equivalent to a peculiar spiritual illumination. Such were the gifts of which these Corinthians were wont to boast.
2. Why it is appointed that these gifts shall cease. Because they were bestowed to serve a temporary purpose, when the barque of Christianity had to be launched upon the sea of human society, when Christian doctrine needed a special introduction and a special authentication. There are certain parts of a plant which serve to protect it for a season, which disappear when the plant is mature. A scaffolding may be useful for a time; but when the building is completed, it has done its work, and is taken down and carried away. So with these gifts; good for a temporary purpose, they may be dispensed with when that purpose is attained.
II. THE UNFALLING LIFE OF LOVE.
1. Love is the special and permanent characteristic of the Christian economy. Observe its exemplification in such characters as the apostles Paul and John. And notice that whilst the special gifts referred to have passed away, charity remains the distinctive feature of the Church of Christ in all its varying circumstances and ministrations.
2. Love is permanent in the heavenly and eternal state. If faith shall then become trust without misgiving, and hope expectation without uncertainty, love shall then be adoration without coldness, affection without interruption. Love shall be supreme, and the great Centre of worship and adoration shall call forth all the affection of the countless host, whilst the members of that vast and glorious society shall find room for the infinite exercise of this peerless grace.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF THE SUPERIORITY AND SUPREMACY OF LOVE.
1. What calls it forth is permanent; there is no limit to the appeal for love made by the conscious universe and by its Lord.
2. What fosters and feeds it is permanent; there is no limit to the supply of the Spirit, the power, the grace, of God. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.