We See, In Part.

We See, In Part.

This passage grows in stature for me each year, it seems:

I Corinthians 13:9-12 ESV

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 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.

I used this passage as a tangential point to my lesson today with our Reason youth group at New Hope. We were in Romans 6 and were discussing grace and why we don’t keep sinning. As I was working up my notes for this week, the above passage came to mind. It so succinctly says, we see only in part right now. My English background (and arguably the Holy Spirit), led me to lock in on the mirror metaphor, which I will address in a moment.

So many times I feel like this passage has been cited to make a statement on the maturity of the believer. I’ve heard so many Christians use this with the “milk argument” that we essentially grow up in the faith. However, I wanted to point something much deeper out to my youth.

What Romans 6 and this passage says, is that we are on a journey. All too often, we think of getting saved (or our salvation, conversion, etc.) in the past tense. What I mean by that is we almost always refer to having been saved at some previous point in our life. (IE: Dave accepted Jesus at age 14, 25 years ago now.) My heart has grown much stronger in the Reformed notion of our assured salvation (thanks to my Pastor on his study in this), so I want to clearly state that the work of Jesus is finished and we certainly have our sins forgiven at that moment when we come to Jesus. In that sense, we are saved at that moment.

For some reason, though, we tend to leave off there. Our churches have spent decades now trying to clean people up before they come to Christ by doing the right things. I personally believe we (collectively) ignored passages like Romans 6 and tried to address the paradox of grace on our own. We thought that there was a gap where grace was in that people could continue to sin and continue to see grace. So we humans tried to fill that gap. We constructed the idea that we get saved, and any problems afterwards mean we either: 1) Need to get saved again (termed Arminiansm) or that we 2) Should clean ourselves up (dress right, act right, etc) and then come to Jesus so we don’t push him to get ticked at us and revoke our heaven card.

Enter the passage I cited at the beginning. Look at the mirror reference with me. We see, dimly, in a mirror. There’s one detail of a mirror that will always, always distort the original image. The mirror reflects the opposite of what is in front of it. The image is never facing the correct way, it’s never an exact copy because it can never face in the same direction as the subject. On top of this, Paul says it’s dim, too. It is hardly a full picture.

With this metaphor, and the reference of being a child and growing up, Paul is presenting the reality of where we are as Christians. We don’t know it all. We aren’t Jesus, although we strive to be. One day we will know it and see it, but for now, we are only there in part. Salvation is an ongoing process, and it’s something that we work through all of our lives. In many squares, they’ve used the fancy term sanctification to describe this process. You don’t just get saved, know everything, and ruthlessly battle any evil or temptation that comes your way. Instead, we’re mirroring Christ in a dimly lit manner.

We are not there, yet.

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