Glass Darkly 1 Corinthians 13
Posted by adventbiblestudy on February 6, 2009
KJV 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
11. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
This is an example of an elementary Bible study. When it stands on its own, it appears to be difficult to understand. And it is. Like all texts, relying on human understanding will never reveal the depth of the subject.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13 makes it clear we begin to understand the Bible much like a child, and progresses to the higher understanding of an adult. To progress, childish things must be put away. If simple childish habits are not put away, thoughts, understanding, and expression will not progress to the adult level.
What is a child capable of learning at the beginning stages of the process? The first thing a child learns is to imitate those around them. Parents spend weeks repeating words such as daddy and mommy until they hear the first cherished words from their child. It is a proud moment for the parents, resulting in high praises for the child. After receiving praise, the child will quickly learns to imitate more and more words.
This is the same learning process used by many Christians. A member quotes a text, receives praise in the form of a shout of amen, then determines in their own mind, this must be the proper way of studying the Bible. They develop a technique to memorize verses and feel they have mastered Bible study. Like the child, they do not understand, nor are they capable of explaining the meaning of the words they are repeating. They attempt to memorize more and more to fill the void, or read the the works and thoughts of others. They never have the courage to enter into a total one on one relationship with Jesus, wondering how to fill the void without a total commitment.
How do you progress to a higher level? Just like children learn from different teaching techniques, Bible study can be accomplished using a number of methods. The ultimate goal is to draw into a closer relationship with God. An important part of the relationship is communication. How many children grow up with little or no communication skills? When they do not learn communication skills from their parents, they learn from other children. Unfortunately this process creates a division between the child and parents. The same results occur with some of the most popular methods of Bible study taught today.
When children learn to communicate from other children, they tend to create their own language, making up slang words and phrases others may not understand. When people learn to study the Bible from other people, the results can be very close to the learning process of children. In the world of Bible study it is referred to as doctrine. Children using slang have a tendency to prefer their limited dialect, ignoring the majority of the vocabulary, and proper use of the language. People leaning on doctrine prefer to repeat a select number of verses while ignoring the proper use of context and moral lessons taught within the Bible. Paul describes this as looking through a dark glass. In this example Paul is describing a limited view requiring correction. Paul adds hope in the words, “then face to face.” With whom? A simple study will reveal the answer later in this study. Paul follows with a two part statement. The first is easy to understand, “now I know in part.” Paul is saying only part of the message is understood. The second part of Paul’s message may be more difficult to understand, “but then shall I know even as also I am known.” The question is, how is a person known? A person is known by the way they express themselves, and how they apply what they have learned.
The spiritual meaning of 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 is understood simply by following the word glass through the Bible. In this case the interpretation is clearly revealed in the order the texts appear in the Bible.
KJV 2 Corinthians 3:17. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The first lesson Paul teaches is, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Paul understands how the Spirit grants liberty. Paul described himself as a chief of sinners. (1Tim 1:15). He persecuted, jailed, and executed Jesus’ followers. Who is better qualified to explain how the Spirit changes lives? Paul’s transformation was so complete, God trusted him to write the majority of the New Testament. The same Spirit is available to change the lives of everyone willing to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Paul’s dynamic change is an example of the Spirit’s ability to turn lives completely around. If the Spirit can raise Paul to a level of such heart felt expression, seen in his books preserved within the Bible, the Spirit is able to reach your heart and mind to fill it with a higher level of understanding.
Paul goes on to describe the spiritual meaning of the word glass. Paul Says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In this example Paul refers to glass as a mirror in which a person looks and sees the glory of the Lord. This is a change in life brought about by the Spirit. Paul repeats the message,” in the same image from glory to glory,” indicating a consistent change, always growing to a clearer image of the Lord. It is evident this change can only take place, “by the Spirit of the Lord.”
So much is revealed when one learns to rely on the Spirit and the Bible to explain scripture. Only the Spirit can work on the changes required to bring you to a closer relationship with God, allowing you to reflect His image. The change may be slow, requiring a consistent heart felt dedication. James explains additional steps involved in this life changing transformation.
KJV James 1:22. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Praying to the Spirit for change is only the first step. If you do not apply the lessons taught by the Spirit in your life, you will not experience a change. James describes this as looking in a mirror and seeing your own face, not the image of the Lord. This is another way of saying, you are relying on yourself, measuring your spiritual life with your own standards, not those of God. James sums this up as deceiving yourself. Hearing the word and not applying it to your life in a personal manner will result in a temporary change that is unstable.
John uses the word glass in quite a different manner. He uses it to describe scenes from Heaven he was given to share.
KJV Revelation 21:17. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
KJV Revelation 21:21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
When the word glass is followed throughout the Bible, we are shown the sequence of spiritual growth. From a child, to a man, to the image of God. The ultimate goal is to walk along the streets of Heaven, looking at your reflection in the walls of the city, seeing yourself, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.