1 Corinthians 13:12
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Explanation and Commentary of 1 Corinthians 13:12
God has given spiritual gifts to the Church. There are those who are prophets, and there are those who speak in tongues. Prophesying and speaking in tongues are nothing if done apart from loving (1 Cor 13:2).
The New Testament teaching on Spiritual gifts is that they must be handled with care and subordinated to love for God and people. It is a blessing to have a prophecy, but prophecy and the interpretation of a tongue should always be tested and discerned. First of all, the words themselves must be tested to see whether or not they agree with Scripture. Then, it must be discerned as to whether or not that particular prophecy or interpretation, though it aligns with the Bible, was really said by God at that moment, and not just from the mind of the one prophesying. This can be difficult and should not be entrusted to just one person for the same reason that prophecies and tongues should be tested. Spiritual discernment and testing are also fallible. The final test may be that the thing prophesied actually comes to pass, which may take a good deal of time to know (Mt 7:15).
That said, it is wrong to despise prophecy and tongues (1 Thes 5:20), and we should pray to receive such gifts in order to be a blessing to the local church that we are a part of and the world that Jesus came to save. But always walk humbly in this arena. A mountain of damage has been done by false prophets and their wayward doctrines.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 Corinthians 13:12
#1 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;”
Even mirrors of today don’t show an accurate reflection since everything in a mirror is backward. In the days the Bible was written, the reflection was much dimmer. God has revealed himself progressively over the course of the history of the Bible and humanity, and the picture of God became most clear in the face of his Son, Jesus Christ (Jn 14:8). Revelation became clear in the hindsight of the Word canonized, but even then, there is disagreement as to interpretation. We should look at all revelation, whether biblical interpretation or the exercising of the Spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues, as fallible until the return of Jesus.
#2 “then we shall see face to face.”
“Then” refers to the day of Jesus’ return, when we hear revelation from his mouth. When the New Heavens and the New Earth appear, the “dwelling place of God” will be with men (Rev 21:3). There will be no more dim reflection of God. We are being fitted as we speak for such an encounter with the throne.
#3 “Now I know in part, then I shall know fully,”
Again, our sight on earth in this age is dim, so our knowledge of God and reality, however great, can only be in part because God’s revelation has only been in part. We will know so much more “then.” However, there is reason to believe that we will still have things to learn about God and what is even after that, or at least after we have died and gone to be with God in Heaven. In the Revelation, the saints who are there with God are still asking the question, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood” (Rev 6:10)?
#4 “Even as I am fully known.”
What an amazing truth. To the extent that God knows you, you will know God. First, take heart that he fully knows you. He made you fearfully wonderfully (Ps 139:14). He sees you. He knows your heart, your pain, your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your future. He knows every hair on your head (Mt 10:30). And he has so much more about himself to reveal to you. If you have put your faith in him for salvation, you will spend an eternity getting to know him in detail.
Bible Study with Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:12
Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13
An 8 Minute Expert Overview of 1 Corinthians
Biblical Translations of 1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
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.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.