9 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.”
Paul now picks up two of the three gifts of verse eight: knowledge and prophecy. He does not deal with tongues because tongues will come to a stop but prophesy and knowledge will continue, albeit with delimited capacity. The supernatural revelatory aspect of those gifts will cease but the communication aspect will continue.
The word “for” explains the limited nature of the gifts of knowledge and prophecy of verse eight. Paul deemed tongues as stopping shortly after his writing of 1 Corinthians (probably in A.D. 70) because he does not mention tongues from this point forward in chapter thirteen. There was no recorded speaking in tongues after A.D. 70.
we know in part
Paul uses the words “in part” (as opposed to the whole) twice in this verse, indicating the temporary nature of the gifts of knowledge and prophecy. This is the pre-canon period (A.D. 32-95) where the church had not gathered the canon together as a package and circulated it yet. The church passed only individual books from church to church. Until the completion of the canon, there was only partial knowledge of God’s revelation.
The Corinthian church knew God’s Word in part and fragmentarily. Paul never read the gospel of John because John did not write it until about A.D. 95. Paul never read the epistles of John or 2 Peter. That is why he said, “We know in part.” Paul died years before those writings. God used apostles and prophets to set forth divinely inspired, prophetic utterances that the apostles later reduced to writing.
Both phrases “in part” are very emphatic in the Greek, making a strong point about their temporary nature. The gift of knowledge is incomplete and offers an incomplete understanding of God’s truth until the closing of the canon (finishing of the writing of the New Testament). For example, Old Testament believers did not know anything about positional truth (Ep 3), for that was a revelation given to New Testament authors.
and we prophesy in part.
The gift of prophecy was incomplete revelation; the gift of prophecy was “in part.” We did not have complete revelation until the closing of the canon. When the “perfect” came (v. 10, the closing of the canon), then God rendered inoperative the full nature of the gift of prophecy – which then became a partial gift of prophecy.
God always revealed the Word of God progressively in piece-meal or fragmentary fashion.
God always revealed the Word of God progressively in piece-meal or fragmentary fashion. God gave extremely limited revelation to Adam but more to Moses. As God wrote the Old Testament, He revealed more and more of Himself. God revealed Himself fragmentarily until He had said everything He wanted to say. Now that God revealed Himself exhaustively in unabridged revelation, the canon was complete. If we had only Genesis through the book of Acts, how much would we know about the church?
He 1: 1God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
The three gifts of verse eight are partial in the sense that they all entail direct revelation from God. They reveal God’s thoughts “in part.” and give partial revelation. When God completed the canon about A.D. 95, then that which was “perfect” came (13:10).
The Bible was in the process of being written during the first century. Believers did not have a completed canon of the New Testament, so they relied on apostles and prophets to communicate New Testament truth before God revealed it. Once the canon was complete, then God diminished the use of the gifts of prophecy and knowledge. There was no longer a need to certify authors of Scripture by speaking in foreign languages without studying for them.