Useful Bible Studies > 1 Corinthians Commentary > chapter 13

Why prophecies are not perfect

1 Corinthians 13:9-10

‘We know in part and we prophesy in part,’ Paul writes. That statement may surprise us.

Paul is referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. By ‘prophesy’, he means that a person may speak a message from God. The Holy Spirit places those words in the person’s spirit, then the person declares that message, often in a church meeting (14:5). The kind of knowledge that Paul refers to is not normal human knowledge. Instead, it is the kind of knowledge that the Holy Spirit gives to a person.

Because these messages and this knowledge come from God’s Spirit, we might expect them to be perfect. However, Paul insists that they are not perfect. Even if a very holy person prophesies in a completely sincere manner, his message may still contain errors. That fact does not mean that the message was not from God. It only proves what Paul writes here: these messages are not perfect.

Clearly, we cannot blame God for the errors. The errors are there because of human weakness. As Christians, we all make mistakes. Perhaps the speaker has confused his own thoughts, ideas or desires with the message from God. Perhaps the speaker has tried to explain God’s message, but he has not distinguished between his own ideas and God’s message. Perhaps the speaker is not yet mature in his relationship with God, so he adds wrong things to the message.

So, we must be very careful about any message that people believe to be from God. However, we can be confident about the Bible. The Bible is perfect, and we can always trust its message. See Psalm 19:7; Psalm 119:89 and 2 Peter 1:19-21.

Next part: Do Christians still need the gifts of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 13:11)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.