First Corinthians 13:8—10 reads, “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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
If the Bible is perfect, being both infallible and inerrant, then the ‘perfect to come’ which Paul writes about here, must be the future completed canon of Scripture.
Rather than writing my own response to this objection, allow me to post something that I found helpful when considering the force of any single case being made for the identity of the ‘perfect to come’ — written by Nathan Busenitz over at Cripplegate.
“...it seems there are almost as many views of ‘the perfect’ among cessationist scholars as there are commentators who write about 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Space in this article does not permit a full investigation into each of these, but rather a cursory explanation of the major positions.
The Different Views
(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away their childish desires.
(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v. 12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the full revelation of Scripture comes.
(3) Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the perfect. This view is primarily based on the illustration of verse 11 and on the close connection between this passage and Eph. 4:11–13. The exact timing of the church’s “maturity” is unknown, though it is closely associated with the completion of the canon, and the end of the apostolic era (cf. Eph. 2:20).
(4) Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect. This view accounts for the personal aspect of Paul’s statement in verse 12. Paul personally experienced full knowledge when he entered Christ’s presence at his death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).
(5) Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the end of this age) as the perfect. This is also the view of most continuationists. Thus, when Christ comes back (as delineated in chapter 15), the partial revelation we know now will be made complete.
(6) Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in a general sense) as the perfect. This explanation interprets the neuter of to teleion as a reference to a general state of events and not a personal return of Christ. This view overlaps with both numbers 4 and 5 above in that, according to this view: ‘For Christians the eternal state begins either at death, when they go to be with the Lord, or at the rapture, when the Lord takes His own to be with Himself’ (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, p. 366).
Of these views, I personally find the last three more convincing than the first three. This is primarily due (I will confess) to the testimony of church history. Dr. Gary Shogren, after doing an in-depth study of some 169 patristic references to this passage, concludes that the church fathers overwhelmingly saw the perfect in terms of something beyond this life (most normally associating it with the return of Christ, or with seeing Christ in heaven). Even John Chrysostom (who was clearly a cessationist) saw it this way. While not authoritative, such historical evidence is difficult to dismiss.”
Return to first article in this series: Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts
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