1 Corinthians 13:12
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.
Now we see in a mirror darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know fully, even as also I am known fully. What joy, what exultation, what ardour, what longing there is in these words! They carry us far on and far away — far on beyond this present time of this passing world, far away from the scenes of this present life. "Then" — when time and change and varying seasons are past — then, when the alternations of cloud and sunshine are over — when doubt, and difficulty, and perplexity have been left behind — then I shall know fully. Then, in a sense more complete than the words have ever yet borne, I shall be able to say, "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." His vision has reached the innermost shrine. Like another St. John, a "door has been opened to him in heaven." A voice has said to him, "Come up hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." But for what was the apostle's heart yearning? He was yearning for the full knowledge of God (ἐπιγνῶσις). Yes, but what made him yearn for that knowledge? Because he had known the joy of knowledge. "Now I know in part, but then shall I know fully." But is, then, knowledge a joy? All things round us witness to the fact that knowledge is believed to be a source of happiness. And does not every advance in knowledge make us eager for a further advance still, as mountain climbers find fresh peaks still luring them on to the delight of further efforts? Are we not ready to cry out ,gain and again with the apostle, "We know only in part"? And if this be so with all forms of mere earthly knowledge, must it not be far more so with heavenly knowledge? These strange powers which we possess of thought, of reflection, of consideration, of meditation, of insight, of memory, of intuition, of investigation, were not given us that they might be spent only on what one of our poets calls so well "these earth-born idols of this lower air." Man was not made only that he might know the records of history, the niceties of language, the wonders of physical science, the conclusions of mathematics. We were created with all our powers of mind that we might know God. Not in vain has theology been called "Scientiarum Scientia." The science of all sciences is the knowledge of God. Aye, and it was the joy of this knowledge which was filling the apostle's heart when he wrote these words, "Then shall I know fully, even as also I am known fully." Already he knows God in the tenderness of His Fatherhood, in the fulness of His pardoning love, in the atonement wrought out by the Son of God, in the might of the indwelling Spirit, in the richness of the gifts poured out on, poured into the Church. That knowledge has grown upon him more and more since the day when the pleading voice of his Lord broke in upon him with the question, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Every past revelation has brought to him an increase of faith, of hope, of love, of peace, of happiness, and joy, and has taught him to realise more fully what will be the exceeding bliss of the complete revelation of God to those who are brought to see Him face to face. So rejoicing, so hoping, so expecting, so yearning, lie cries out, "Then shall I know fully, even as also I am fully known." All bars all hindrances, all veils will be withdrawn. And now let us see how the joy of this knowledge came so to grow in the mind of St. Paul. First, clearly, because he set himself with intense earnestness to receive in all its vividness and distinctness the revelation that came from God. He felt deeply the tenderness of God in making known the truth. He felt as strongly the responsibility of man for receiving into his mind the fulness of truth in all its purity, in preserving it from all error that might dim or disturb it. No doubt ever crossed his mind that God could be known. Still less did he question the power of God to reveal Himself. How should not the best of all Fathers teach His children? Then quick upon the thought of this love of God came the feeling that if God is so loving as to tell to His children the secrets of their own nature — their sin, their fall, the way of their recovery, and of their union with Himself, nay, if God goes further still and tells them even the secrets of the mystery of His own being, then the children in very gratitude must be ready to learn in its fulness the lessons that the Heavenly Father has given them. So see how jealously St. Paul ever guards the truth. Not an angel from heaven is to persuade us to receive any other gospel than that which we have received. Yes, indeed, the knowledge of God grew upon his soul because he set himself to use in their fulness and exactness all the Divine utterances of truth. He was the unswerving disciple of a Master that spoke with authority, and he taught men to observe all things which that Master had commanded. Is not this the secret of the growth of knowledge of God — the getting clearly before the soul the things that He has taught? To us, as to him, it will bring a higher joy than any other kind of knowledge can bring. In us, as in him, it will waken up a thirst for a fuller, a more complete knowledge. To us, as to him, the knowledge which we have already as a gift from God, will be a pledge that it is the will of God to carry to their highest perfection the revelations which even here have been so full of joy. "Now I know in part, but then shall I know fully, even as also I am fully known." "Even as also I am fully known." As we hear these words a new thought comes breathing out through them. It was not only because he had been so careful to receive the revelation that comes from God that the knowledge of God had grown in the soul of the apostle. No, he had known God personally, something as one friend knows another; nay, in a manner more intimate. There had been between him and God the close communion of the creature with the Creator, of the redeemed with the Redeemer, of the spirit of man with the indwelling and sanctifying Spirit. There is no knowledge which so grows, which so blesses, as the knowledge which the soul gains by living in close communion with God. Oh! live, move, act, speak, think as in His sacred, loving, penetrating presence. "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." Live with souls kept consciously ever open to His influences. In the power of the Holy Ghost press into an ever closer union with the living Christ till He lives more wholly in you and you more wholly in Him. Then, then indeed, the joy of knowing God will grow more and more upon you. The sacred doctrine of the Trinity, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost will be no mere abstract truth to you. It will be a revelation of a love personal to yourself in the light of which you will live.
(R. W. Randall, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.