One translator describes what "we see in a mirror, dimly," as "a riddle and an enigma." Paul suggests that now we do not see God nearly as clearly as we would like, but the time is coming when we will see Him in startling and bold clarity. He is illustrating a time-consuming process of change that gradually transforms.
The important element for us is that now, because of His merciful revelation of Himself to us, we do see a portion of His eternal glory, even if imperfectly. Others are totally blind to even the part we see imperfectly. We are in the process of becoming just like Him, and we will share His very life in glory, as I John 3:2 assures us: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Jude 24 provides measureless encouragement if we will believe what it says: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. . . ." We will be without spot, blemish, or wrinkle; we are going to experience perfection.
This is what is promised to us to enjoy when we see Him as He is, when we have the fullness of His Spirit, when we are fully redeemed. Moreover, because of the gift of God's Spirit, we are also promised a small foretaste in this life. We can know something of the joy of holiness and the hatred of sin as Christ knew them. God wants us to experience the love, joy, and peace that passes all understanding. At the time of our full redemption, God will wipe away all tears, and our joy will be unmeasured and unmixed.
Do we love God and our brethren? As the apostle John teaches, they go together; they cannot be separated. We have our failings on both scores. Because we belong to Christ, we can experience that love. Its fruits are just budding, but in the Kingdom of God, we will experience it in full flower.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time
Paul admonishes us—by instructing us "to put away childish things" (verse 11), as well as his reference to a mirror (verse 12)—that love is something we grow in. It must be perfected. What we have now is partial. Therefore, God does not give it to us in one huge portion to be used until we run out of it. In that sense, we must always see ourselves as immature. But a time is coming when love will be perfected, and we will have it in abundance like God. In the meantime, while we are in the flesh, we are to pursue love (I Corinthians 14:1).
This indicates that the biblical love is not something we have innately. True, some forms of this quality we call love come unbidden; that is, they arise by nature. But this is not so with the love of God. It comes through the action of God through His Spirit, something supernatural (Romans 5:5).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 13:12:
2 Peter 1:19-21