For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
Have Been Fully Known – Too often we read this verse as if it is a declaration of divinely-promised IQ enhancement. We think that the day is coming when we will know it all, when the mysteries of life will be plainly understood and when we will finally have answers. We are so enamored with the idea of being at least partially omniscient that we don’t actually read this verse. We apply it to our own desires. It’s time to take another look.
Paul asserts that some day he will come face to face with the overwhelming character of God understood in the actions of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). On that day, he will know fully. The Greek verb is epiginosko. It means “the intelligent comprehension of an object or matter” (TDNT). The emphasis is on understanding, not simply perceiving, and on truth, not opinion. In other words, if I experience knowing as epiginosko, I have deep and penetrating insight into the true nature of the object of my inquiry. But what is it that Paul will know? Does he say he will know the secrets of the universe? Does he proclaim that he will have the answers to theological puzzles? Does he claim that he will finally know the real numeric value of pi? No, not one of these or any questions like them. What Paul says is that he will know (in the future) what has already been known about him in the past. He will finally see himself as God sees him. Someday what God knows about Paul will be known by Paul too.
This could be a wonderful event. How thrilling it would be to know myself completely from God’s perspective. All the guilt I carry, the remorse, the shame – gone! God sees me very differently than I see myself. Yes, we employ the metaphor “when God looks at me He sees Yeshua,” but it’s a metaphor. He sees me, for sure, but He sees me as I am redeemed by Yeshua. That’s exciting. I can’t wait to know myself completely through God’s eyes. But . . .
But wait a minute. God knows all about me. He knows how many times I have failed. He knows my struggles and defeats. He knows my hypocrisy, my broken promises and my arrogance. He knows all the things that I would rather not have anyone know. Why would I want to know those things completely. Just scratching the surface of them makes me feel worthless. I’m not at all sure that I want epiginosko to be the verb for my sins. I spend enormous efforts trying to hide them. Why would I want all of God’s light to shine on them?
It’s a mind-game, isn’t it? God already knows all my secrets. What’s the point in trying to hide them from Him? Paul isn’t suggesting that we look forward to the day when all the dirty laundry is hung on the line. He says that even the worst of who I am, even the tragedy I have made of some of my life, will be filtered through the God’s love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 isn’t about weddings. It’s about me. The day is coming when I will finally understand how He could love such an unlovable man – and that will change me. That doesn’t mean all my sins will evaporate in a spiritual hard drive reformat. It means that I will see just how much God’s love overcame all those tragic failures. It means I will understand what I mean to Him – and why He pursued me in spite of my self-centered myopia. It will mean that I will know what He saw in me when He chased me down. That is worth waiting for.
Topical Index: have been known, epiginosko, 1 Corinthians 13:12
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