“For Now We See in a Mirror Dimly”
by Tom Edwards
In writing in the time prior to the completed New Testament, Paul declares, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Though some individuals might interpret this to indicate that one can never see all things clearly while here on earth, but only in heaven, yet is that what this passage is really saying?
In the days that Paul wrote this, mirrors were not like what we are familiar with today. Rather, they were merely a polished metal that would dimly reflect an image.
Going back many centuries before Paul’s time, those mirrors mentioned in Exodus 38:8, for example, had been made of bronze. And in this passage, women had been donating theirs to be used in making the laver, which would be for washing by the priests, between the tent of meeting and the altar (Exod. 30:18).
According to the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, “The first mirrors known among men were the clear fountain and unruffled lake. The first artificial ones were made of polished brass, afterwards of steel, and when luxury increased, of silver; but at a very early period, they were made of a mixed metal, particularly of tin and copper, the best of which, as Pliny informs us, were formerly manufactured at Brundusium” (which is now known as Brindisi, a natural seaport in the “heel” of southeast Italy).
In Job 37:18, Elihu questions Job: “Can you, with Him, spread out the skies, strong as a molten mirror?” Or, as some other versions render this last part, “…hard as a mirror of cast bronze” (NIV), “…strong as a cast metal mirror” (NKJV), and “…hard as polished metal” (GNB).
And so Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that having only a partial or incomplete revelation from God is like seeing an image only dimly, instead of getting the complete, clear picture. But when God’s divinely inspired word would be given in its entirety, then it would be as plain as seeing “face to face,” which is the contrasting phrase Paul uses to seeing “in a mirror dimly.” In addition, Paul also likens the mirror to knowing only “in part,” and seeing “face to face” is paralleled to knowing “fully.”
So let us note, too, that this seeing “face to face” or knowing “fully” was to happen here on earth, and attained through the complete knowledge of God’s word, which is recorded in the New Testament.
This can be compared to Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul states: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”
Again, some folks would view this as being able to be fulfilled only in heaven where everyone will be perfectly mature and in perfect unity. But look what Paul goes on to say in the very next verse as to the purpose for why these men were given to help the church grow: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (v. 14).
So if that maturity and unity can be attained only in heaven, then what are those men doing there, in that beautiful place of God’s abode, who are given to trickery, craftiness, and deceitful scheming to lead folks away from the truth by every wind of false doctrine? That most definitely won’t be going on in heaven, so it must be something taking place while here on earth; and where we, therefore, see the need to grow in the knowledge of God’s word so that we might remain on that right path and not be led astray from it.
We noted above that one of the purposes for the saints being equipped for the work of service and built up in the body of Christ is that each would become a “mature man”; and, of course, it is through the knowledge of the Scriptures that that is possible. In Hebrews 5:12-14, the Hebrew writer reproves his readership for failing to have acquired a good knowledge of “the word of righteousness.” Here, he also indicates that having attained that knowledge would not have been an impossibility for them. For he says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.” And now notice what he goes on to say, in defining what a “mature” Christian really is: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14) — and that discernment comes through a knowledge of God’s word. Yes, attaining to that maturity, that discernment, is to be true of each of us while here on earth.
In the completed New Testament, we today have the “perfect law of liberty” (Jms. 1:15), “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), and “so that the man of God may be adequate [perfect, KJV], equipped [furnished completely, ASV] for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).
So the “perfect” of 1 Corinthians 13:10 is the New Testament in its entirety that has been “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). And with that, man is no longer limited to just a dim, dark, or partial view; but can now see as clearly as viewing someone face to face. As Paul declares, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Cor. 13:9,10).
Though some believe the “perfect” to be referring to Christ, the perfect is actually the totality of the “in part” (KJV) or the “partial” (NASB) of the same verse. In other words, when the complete revelation would be given, the miraculous gifts (which had been revealing the word “in part” or partially at a time) would cease, as Paul also speaks of in 1 Corinthians 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.” Prophecy, tongues, and the word of knowledge were just three of the miraculous gifts; but the ceasing of them would also be true of the other gifts as well.
Miraculous gifts were for the church in its infancy. They were greatly needed then. For man was without the completed New Testament to turn to. Therefore, six of those nine spiritual gifts, which the Holy Spirit had given as He willed (1 Cor. 12:11), provided them with the knowledge of God’s word to grow thereby, which were “the word of wisdom,” “the word of knowledge,” “prophecy,” “distinguishing of spirits,” “various kinds of tongues,” and the “interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:8-10). And, in this same passage, we also read of the three other spiritual gifts that had been given to confirm by miraculous signs those messages from God (cf. Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3,4), which were “faith” (a miraculous kind), “gifts of healing,” and “the effecting of miracles.”
And we need to also point out that it was not the gifts in themselves that produced spiritual maturity — as evidenced by the Corinthians who abounded in miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 1:7), but were still “infants in Christ,” “fleshly,” and characterized with “jealousy” and “strife” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). Paul’s letter to them (1 Corinthians) makes mention of many spiritual problems the Corinthians had that he strives to correct them of.
So what people need today is simply God’s truth as found in the gospel. For, as we saw, it contains “everything pertaining to life and godliness” by which we may be spiritually mature (2 Pet. 1:3) and built up in the faith (cf. Acts 20:32).
Paul also shows that after the miraculous gifts would have ceased, faith, hope, and love would still continue (1 Cor. 13:13). This, however, conflicts with the wrong belief that many have today that the miraculous gifts are to continue throughout time. For if that be the case, then faith and hope will have to also be continuing in heaven. “…but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom. 8:24,25). And “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not see” (Heb. 11:1). We now hope for heaven and have faith that it is; but once there, what will happen to that hope and faith?
So now with the completed revelation of the gospel, we can see as if “face to face” — rather than merely a dim reflection on a polished piece of metal. May we each, therefore, continue to look into God’s illuminating word that we may clearly see those things He wants us to know; and faithfully respond to that which He would have us to do.
Design and the Designer
by Greg Gwin
The Journal of the American Medical Association give this interesting report: “The hummingbird is the smallest bird on earth — some species weigh no more than a dime. It has the highest rate of metabolism (at rest, about 50 times faster than man’s) and thus must consume enormous amounts of nectar to avoid starvation. Not adapted for night feeding, it must stretch its food stores from dusk to dawn. To accomplish this, nature has equipped the hummingbird with a unique energy-saving design: the ability to hibernate overnight. During the night, the hummingbird’s metabolic rate is only one-fifteenth as rapid as in the daytime, and its body temperature drops to that of the surrounding air. The bird becomes torpid, scarcely able to move. When it does stir, it moves as though congealed. By daybreak, the hummingbird’s body spontaneously resumes its normal temperature and high metabolic rate, ready once again to dart off in search of food.”
The physical world is literally full of amazing examples of design which the atheist and evolutionist cannot explain. The simple case of the hummingbird is a case in point. Just how did this incredible little creature develop its unique characteristics which allow it to function so well in this world? Could this have happened by chance? And if it came about by gradual evolution, how did the hummingbird survive over millions of years while this awesome metabolic regulator was evolving? This one simple example is sufficient to illustrate the overwhelming difficulties of the theory of evolution.
What we’re saying here is that when we see obvious design in anything — a car, a house, or a hummingbird — that design necessarily implies that there is a designer. In the case of the hummingbird (and all the rest of physical nature) the designer is Almighty God. “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4).
— Via The Beacon, July 21, 2015
News & Notes
Let those of us who are the Lord’s people continue to remember the following in prayer:
Jewell Wilson (hospice care), Rex Hadley (bypass blockage and possible stone), Danielle Howard (low blood pressure, which she recently had to spend some time in the hospital for), Dexter Roberts (cancer in lymph nodes and several places), Steve Vesta (critically ill), Shirley Davis (healing from a leg procedure to remove blockages), Pat Joyner (healing from breast cancer surgery), Eleanor Roberts (Alzheimers’), Henry Roberts (pain in back and feet), Brittany Royals (recovering well from surgery for broken hip), Judy Daugherty (slowly recovering from a fall to the head which caused a pea-size tumor), Mary Vandevander and Sue Wooten (shut-ins), Dolly Moody (fractured bone), Benny Medlock (mild stroke), Sunny Nichols (Parkinson Disease), Jean Beach (gastrointestinal problems), Michelle Rittenhouse (PVCs) Raylee Metts and Lexi Crawford (cancer), Betty Miles (stroke), Buddy Gornto, Don Hill (cancer), Colleen Henson, Donell Wells, and Kelsey Williams
There will be a gospel meeting at the Oak Grove church of Christ in Jennings, Florida, September 6-11 with Paul Earnhart (from Louisville, Kentucky) as the guest speaker. The church meets at 2922 NW 76th Terrace. Weeknight services will begin at 7:30. For additional information, call 386-938-5047.
There will be a congregational singing at the Golden Isles church of Christ in Brunswick, Georgia, September 12 (Saturday), beginning at 4 PM. The church meets at 441 Touchstone Parkway.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)