8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
will fail (v.8) = reduced to inactivity
cease (v.8) = come to a complete stop
knowledge (v.8) — This knowledge which vanishes is to be distinguished from knowledge as an intelligence. This is knowledge in the sense of illumination. It is knowledge as a gift of discernment. It was the knowledge of illumination which resulted in inspiration. When the written word came into being and form, the need for this special illumination ceased. — Laurin, page 242.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Ephesians 4:11-15)
in part (2x in v.9) — stressed
that which is perfect (v.10) — the canon of Scripture — This makes sense in context because Paul is contrasting it with three ways God gave revelation before the canon was complete — prophecy, tongues, supernatural knowledge.
child (v.11) — Paul is illustrating the “in part” of verse 9.
I became (v.11) = I am become — tense indicates abiding action
put away (v.11) — same verb as “will fail” in verse 8 — reduced to inactivity
now (v.12) = up to the immediate present
in (v.12) = by means of
dimly (v.12) = in an enigma, in a riddle — Several commentaries state that the Corinthians had mirrors of polished metal which reflected an imperfect image. This is perhaps a reference to Numbers 12:8 — I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”
“In a mirror, dimly” is obviously a metaphor for not being able to see clearly. Likewise, “face to face” is a metaphor for being able to see clearly. In other words, when only a portion of Scripture was available, we couldn’t clearly see God’s entire plan for this age. But now that we have the entire canon, we can see God’s plan as clearly as we can see each other when looking at each other face to face.
face to face (v.12) — I think this also refers to the fact that, through the Scriptures, we, as individuals, come directly to God through His Word and no longer need a prophet or speaker to act as a go-between.
know (v.12) — There is a distinction between the verbs meaning to know. The first is the simple verb ginosko, the two following are the compound verb epignosko, which here signifies to know in full. This we may express as follows: “at present I am in process of knowing in part, but then I shall fully know even as I was fully known,” i.e., by God in the past. — Vine, page 96
now (v.13) = in conclusion
faith, hope, love (v.13) — This is the next logical step in the apostle’s argument that while some things will pass away to be replaced by others, there are certain basic factors which will “abide,” or remain. These are faith, hope and love, and with the passing of the sign gifts, these three give full and sufficient evidence of normal, healthy Christianity. Let those of that day posses them and they will grow in grace, passing from infancy to maturity; from “that which is in part” to “that which is perfect [fully developed].” Let the believer today possess them in good measure and they will keep him from spiritual decline. — Stam, page 225.