1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (NIV), “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. 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.”
To understand these scriptures, we have to drop back to verses 8-10. Paul, as the author, is contrasting the miraculous gifts of the spirit to the fruits of the spirit.
Verses 8-10, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.”
The early church was given gifts of the spirit to establish them. These gifts allowed the Gospel to spread much quicker due to the gift of languages, the gift of knowledge, and the ability to preach due to the gift of prophecy (or oratory).
Now, look at verse 9. All these gifts will come to an end because they are not complete or sufficient to mature the church. In order to grow, the church needed the full testimony of the Bible. It was when the complete New Testament letters had been written that believers became fully equipped to grow into Christ-likeness. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (ESV), “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
1 Corinthians 14:20 tells us, “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”
Paul says he stopped childish ways when he became an adult. He did not focus and glory on the miraculous gifts he had received. Instead, he studied, obeyed, and even suffered. Thereby, he developed the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). This is an injunction for us as well. We should not rest in the early stages of consecration, but should seek to mature in the fruits, especially in love.
In verse 12, we are promised that though now we see our God and His Plan imperfectly or somewhat obscurely, we will see and understand fully when God’s Kingdom comes. We will be able to distinguish all that has puzzled us, or confused us in that wonderful Millennial Day!