What does 1 Corinthians 13:12 mean?
ESV: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
NIV: 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.
NASB: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.
CSB: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.
NLT: Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has been describing our knowledge of God and His ways as incomplete or partial. The use of spiritual gifts, specifically gifts such as tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, gives only a glimpse of what may be known of God. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:33–34, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord.'"

Paul now describes this partial knowledge of God as seeing a reflection in a dim mirror. Some scholars suggest that he had in mind Corinth's famous bronze mirrors, known for their imperfect reflections. After the coming of Christ, when the church is fully mature as He is, however, we will see God face to face, knowing Him in person instead of through partial revelation.

In fact, Paul adds, we will know God and His ways then as He knows us now. God, of course, is never limited in His knowledge. He knows everything there is to know about us, even what we do not see or understand about ourselves. In that day, when God comes to live among us (Revelation 21:1–5), we will know fully, as He knows us fully in this moment.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 13:1–13 is one of the most loved and well-known passages in the Bible, but Paul places it after his teaching on the spiritual gifts for a specific reason. Some of the gifts may seem impressive, but if attempted without self-sacrificing love for others, they become meaningless, even destructive. Paul uses 14 verbs to describe what love does and does not do. Love is the foundation for Paul's teaching in the following chapter on prophecy, tongues, and even orderly worship. While this section is often quoted in romantic settings, such as a wedding, the concept in mind is that of agape: a self-sacrificing, godly love.
Chapter Summary:
Paul responds to the Corinthians' over-emphasis on certain spiritual gifts by showing them that all gifts are worthless if not practiced through godly love. Paul provides 14 descriptors of love, all action verbs, all choices made out of a commitment to set self aside and serve others. Choosing to love each other in this way would solve many of the problems Paul has confronted in this letter. The spiritual gifts provide a glimpse of what is knowable, but when the perfect comes, we will know all. Love is the greatest of all the virtues.
Chapter Context:
Paul's teaching on love fits firmly into the context of 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14. These sentences have a somewhat different style than the surrounding words, suggesting Paul might have inserted something he'd written previously into this section. These are not meant to be a diversion, however. Lack of love was at the heart of most of the Corinthians' problems and divisions. As Paul describes it, God's kind of love sets self aside, over and over, endlessly, for the good of others. Spiritual gifts exist for the building up of the church now, but believers will live in love for eternity. Christ-like love is the greatest of all the virtues, and it should be the priority of every Christian.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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