I 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.”
This morning, man’s pride is more and more revealed during this “information age.” As the flow of information increases and the ease of acquiring it rises, man’s ego swells even more to think of how smart he is or how smart we have become in humanity at large. Some of the simple and easy points of Scripture reveal that man knows nothing as he should. (I Corinthians 8:2, 10:12) Therefore, the best way to really and truly learn and know things is to confess that we do not know everything we should: remain a student. By keeping a student’s mindset, our lives are better equipped to learn and really “get it” in life, our spiritual warfare especially. However, even with a student’s mindset, some things will remain beyond our grasp until our lives here have passed away.
Our study verse is found in what is commonly referred to as the “charity” or “love” chapter. Paul has seemingly paused his general flow of thought about church function in chapters 12 and 14 for an important point. That important point is that love and charity must be infused in all that we do – church actions and functions included – for us to hope to receive the Almighty’s favour in our walk. Yet, Paul seemingly makes an aside from this aside within the 13th chapter to talk about seemingly different things from verses 9-12. Yet, just as charity is not really an aside from discussions about church function, neither is Paul’s discussion about knowledge in this section really disjointed from his discussion about charity.
Rather, Paul’s point about knowledge and charity is that they do not necessarily go together but often do. For example, he makes the simple point that knowledge puffeth up, while charity does not. So, do we take from this that we must have little to no knowledge to be able to love and express charity as we should? No, Paul is rather cautioning us from letting our knowledge nurture a mindset that would diminish charity in our lives. However, consider what added knowledge can do. Husbands and wives are to dwell together according to knowledge. (I Peter 3:7) What does that mean? Put simply, the more husbands and wives learn about each other, the better they can live and help one another: show love and charity in the marriage.
Currently, I have been married 10.5 years, and though someone probably could not have convinced me on my wedding day, I love my wife more now than I did that day. Why? Simply put, I know her better, can better avoid hurting her and further better help her in what I do. Since I know more about her now, I know which buttons to push and which not to push. So it is with our lives here, the more we know about the Lord and His ways, the better we can show and express our love to Him for all that we learn He has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us. As Paul closes his thought about knowledge gains helping our love actions, he makes a profound statement that we would like to consider.
The last phrase of our verse says that we shall know as we are known. Many times, people want to know if we will know each other in heaven, and this verse is used to bolster the idea that we will know each other there. While I do believe that we shall know one another in heaven as one star differeth from another star in glory, this verse does not prove that. Consider the context and the language leading to that phrase. Right now, Paul says, we know in part, see in part, etc. Right now, there is a dark glass over us that prevents full and untrammeled sight into something above us. What is Paul talking about? He is talking about man’s current inability while in flesh on earth to see and know the fulness and glory of heaven and its Ruler.
The who in the expression that we will know is our Lord Himself. Paul says we will know Him, but the wondrous part is that we will know Him as He knows us! Consider this profound thought for a minute! How well does God know us? Scripture describes this knowledge in many illustrious ways. He knows our thoughts before we have them and our steps before we take them. (Psalm 139) He knows not just the thoughts but also the intents of our hearts, whilst also knowing the fulness of our frame to discern both the seen (joints and marrow) and unseen (soul and spirit). (Hebrews 4:12) There is not a thing about us that escapes His understanding and sight.
Many times I get asked “God and heaven questions” which many times generate my most common answer, “I don’t know.” I cannot say for sure what it will be like, what He will look like, what it will feel like, etc. since so much of that experience defies my imagination to contemplate. Yet, the most interesting question along these lines comes from those that do not believe our doctrine when in conversation with them. When posed with thoughts about election, predestination, and particular redemption, they will ask something to the effect, “If God chose and purposed some and not others, while loving some and not others but you say all were completely depraved, why were those chosen?” The question drives to the heart of God’s purposes and will.
Why did God choose those members of His family? Why were they the everlastingly loved, and the rest left in their state? To those questions, my answer is simply that it was God’s will who He loved, and beyond that I cannot say why. This is part of what I do not yet know about God. What does this line of thinking correlate to? It correlates to the thoughts and intents of God’s heart. He knows mine, but Paul says that one day we will know His. We will be able to look upon Him and know why He loves us. The infinite richness of His heart will be manifested unto us. He knows how many hairs are on my head right now, and though God Himself is a Spirit (John 4:24), I will one day be able to look upon that infinite fulness and glory and know His form as He knows mine.
Though we will not go to heaven to be gods, we will be the full and complete family of God. As such, we will know our Patriarch. The Ancient of Days that inhabits eternity will be known to us as we are known to Him. Wow! What a mind-bending and absolutely glorious contemplation! So now the question becomes, “Good and fine preacher. What does knowing more about Him do for love?”
When we get to heaven, we will love Him as He ought to be loved. We will spend the endless ages of eternity in total satisfaction giving Him the honour world without end that is rightfully His. As the songwriter penned, “when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.” For the first time in our existence, we will pierce through the dark veil that separates this world from that one and give Him perfection as He ought to have. How will such perfection be possible? We will be in a state that is not only free from sin but in a state of knowledge that knows exactly what pleases Him fully and wholly. Since living with my wife, I know that some things I like she does not and vice versa.
When my wife cooks fried eggs or eggs benedict, I know they are for me. Why? I am the only one that eats them. She cannot stand them, but out of love she makes them for me. She has learned what I like from living with me, and I likewise have learned what she prefers. In heaven’s bright world, we will know exactly what God desires and live forever with Him according to that knowledge. Therefore, the knowledge boost that comes in the world to come promotes the highest love possible.
Considering what we can know here, we should strive to know Him better today than yesterday. Tomorrow should be better than today. The end of our journey through this vale of tears should mark our highest knowledge of what “He prefers.” That knowledge should incite the highest love and adoration that our lives can offer while housed in this bondage of vanity. May our charity toward one another exceed and abound as we strive to live and learn better about one another to serve one another, but most importantly, may we learn more and more of Him to love Him better and better. To know and understand that He has loved us when we were unlovable is to be able to thank Him, love Him, and serve Him better than before. To know that He keeps us and preserves us forever though we still repeatedly come short is to be able to love Him higher than otherwise. Let us therefore love in both word and deed the One that knows all about us.