Age-Appropriate Action | 1 Corinthians 13:11 Meditation

1 Corinthians 13:11 Verse of the Day Commentary

“Act your age!”

Many a mother has given their daughter or son these words of wisdom. And many have taken Paul’s words of wisdom as an exhortation for spiritual maturity — as Paul does elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-3, 14:20).

Paul is speaking of maturity and perfection (i.e., completion), but, perhaps not in the way we would ordinarily expect.

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation
  3. Commentary
  4. Memorization

Text

11 ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος, ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος· ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ, κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου.1

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.2





C4C Translation

When I was a child, I would talk like a child, I would form opinions like a child, I would reason like a child. When I became a man, I wiped out the ways of a child

Imperfect to Perfect

The first three verbs (talk, form opinions, reason) are all in the imperfect3 (i.e., not complete) tense, indicating that the actions took place in the past continuously. The last two verbs (became, wiped out) are in the perfect4 (i.e., complete) tense, indicating that the action had taken place once and for all.5

The reason I opted for would talk, etc. is to attempt to (imperfectly!) indicate the imperfect tense of the three verbs. This hopefully makes the contrast between the tenses of the verbs in the two sentences6 more apparent (cf. NASB, “I used to speak like a child, think like a child…”).

Form Opinions

While the NIV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NLT, etc. translate the second verb, φρονέω (phroneō), as “think” or “thought,” form opinion may be a bit more precise.

This better differentiates the last two verbs (think and reason are basically synonyms),7 and it accords with another common usage of the word (i.e., “have an opinion with regard to someth., think, form/hold an opinion, judge”).8

For example, at the end of the book of Acts (Ac 28:22, NRSV), the Jewish leaders in Rome tell Paul that they want to know what Paul thinks (i.e., his opinion or his “views” (Ac 28:22, NIV)).

Paul is saying he used to talk, hold opinions, and reason (i.e., reckon, consider),9 like a child.

Commentary

Loving Structure

The beloved chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 can be structured as follows:

The Absence of Love: 1 Cor 13:1-3

The Nature of Love: 1 Cor 13:4-7

The Endlessness of Love: 1 Cor 13:8-1310

Competitive Context

In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses several issues in the church in Corinth. What seems to be the most pertinent to this chapter are the spiritual gifts (cf. 1 Corinthians 12) of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-3, 1 Corinthians 14). For apparently there was an air of competition concerning the use of spiritual gifts.11

Perhaps some members thought that there gifts were more important than others, or took an inordinate amount of pride in their gifts, or used their gifts without considering how they may be received by others. Whatever the specifics, it seems that some in Corinth were using their gifts without love. This amounts to nothing (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-3).

Paul tells the Corinthians to desire the greater gifts, yet takes an entire chapter to explain what is “the most excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31) — the way of love.

Gifts Are For The Present; Love Is Everlasting

For not only are gifts useless without outgoing love,12 this requisite love is an outlasting love.

That is, spiritual gifts are only appropriate for this present age13–the time in between Jesus’ First and Second Coming.14 In this present age we need people gifted with prophecy and knowledge and tongues — to better understand what God is saying through such imperfect lines of communication and comprehension.

But in the age to come (i.e., when perfection comes (1 Cor 13:10)), such imperfect lines of communication will be unnecessary.15 For we will see face to face (1 Cor 13:12 cf. Num 12:8, 1 Jn 3:2).16

Coupled with the mirror image (1 Cor 13:12), this seems to be Paul’s analogy: just as we put aside childish ways of thinking, forming opinions, and reasoning when we come of age, so we will put aside lesser forms of communication and comprehension with God when we come upon the age to come.

So while spiritual gifts are important for the “common good” at present (1 Cor 12:7), they are good for nothing without love. Moreover, love is the virtue of supreme value in both the present age and the age to come. 

Memorization

Memorize 1 Corinthians 13:11 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), 1 Co 13:11.
  2. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Co 13:11.
  3. “The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion.” Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013).
  4. “The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer).” Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013).
  5. Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1066.
  6. Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1066.
  7. Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1066.
  8. William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1065.
  9. “λογίζομαι G3357 (logizomai), to reckon, consider, think.” Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 123.
  10. David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 225-34.
  11. David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 223.
  12. “As [F.F.]Bruce says, ‘the most lavish exercise of spiritual gifts cannot compensate for lack of love.” David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 226.
  13. “The behavior of the child is in fact appropriate to childhood. The gifts, by analogy, are appropriate to the present life of the church, especially so since from Paul’s point of view they are the active work of the Spirit in the church’s corporate life.”

    Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 646–647.

    “As Garland writes: ‘There is an age appropriate to certain activities, but there comes a time when those activities are no longer appropriate.'”

    Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 657.

  14. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 1 Co 13:8–13.
  15. As in verses 1–3, Paul demonstrates here that love is a greater virtue than the gifts; in this case it is because love is eternal, whereas the gifts are temporary.”

    Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 1 Co 13:8–13.

  16. “Ciampa and Rosner submit that Paul’s allusion to Num 12:8 “is consistent with other early Jewish interpretations in understanding that in the age to come all God’s people would have an experience similar to that which distinguished Moses from the other prophets.”

    Mark Taylor, 1 Corinthians, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 28, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 318.

About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student