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Now I Know in Part
1 Corinthians 13:12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday after the Epiphany—January 17, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is a selected verse from today’s epistle reading in 1st Corinthians.  St. Paul writes, “Now we see but a poor 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.”

One question I as a pastor am asked most frequently is that little three letter word, “Why?”  At a hospital bedside or in the family waiting room, “Why?”  Why this illness, why this accident, why me, why my loved one, why now?  When things are going badly within a marriage or family, when difficulties with work or finances loom on the horizon, “Why?”  Why these problems, why us, why now, why don’t things work out the way we hope and plan?  Especially when a loved one dies, “Why?”  Why this pain, why this loss, why this death?

All I can answer is, I don’t know the reason why.  As St. Paul says in our text, “Now I know in part.”  I know all these things somehow fit into God’s plan, but God has not fully revealed his plan to me.

Although I don’t know the reason why such things happen, I do know what is not the reason why.  I am certain, and you can be certain too, that when such things happen to those who trust in Christ as their Savior, it is not ever a punishment from God.  As Psalm 103 says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”  How can we be certain that the troubles and trials and tribulations in our lives are not ever a punishment from God?  Because God’s Son, Jesus Christ, fully suffered for our sins and paid for all our guilt on the cross. 

As the Book of Isaiah says, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.  We observed him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Because of your Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, God forgives you all your sins.  That is the central message of the Christian faith: God is not angry with you.  I’ll say it again: God is not angry with you.  As St. Paul says in Romans, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  On account of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, God forgives you, God loves you, God promises you eternal life.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

But the question remains, “Why?”  If God is not angry with me, if God is not punishing me, if God forgives me and loves me, then why do these things happen to me?  I still don’t know the reason why, but God knows.  Psalm 139 tells us, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  All these things are part of God’s plan for you.  In this life, his plan is beyond our comprehension, our understanding. 

As the Lord says in Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.”  As Psalm 40 says, “Many, O Lord, my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you.”  And as St. Paul says earlier in 1st Corinthians, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has comprehended what God has prepared for those who love him.”

In this life, God has not fully revealed his plan to us, because in this life his plan is simply beyond our comprehension, beyond our limited understanding.  But in the life to come, in heaven, we shall have a perfect knowledge and a complete understanding of God’s plan for our lives.  That’s what St. Paul is saying in our text, “Now we see but a poor 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.”  

We take high-quality glass mirrors for granted.  But in ancient times, mirrors were usually made not of glass but of polished bronze.  It’s hard for us to comprehend that most people in ancient times really didn’t have any idea what they themselves looked like, for mirrors were a luxury, and even the best mirrors gave a poor, distorted reflection.  St. Paul is saying that in this life, that’s all we can see of God’s plan.  From God’s word we have some idea what his plan is, but we often have a fuzzy picture, and we usually can’t see how it all fits together.  “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.”  But, in the life to come, in heaven, God shall communicate to us directly and give us perfect understanding of his plan for us.  “Then we shall see face to face.”

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  Jesus said, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  In this life that kind of perfect knowledge is simply beyond our ability to comprehend.  But just as the Lord now fully knows us even to the point of numbering the very hairs on our heads, in heaven we shall fully know and fully understand his plan for our lives.  “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

So what about that oft asked question, “Why?”  Like a poor reflection in a mirror, sometimes in this life we are able to see a little glimpse of God’s plan, sometimes we are able to partially understand why.  But for the most part, the question “Why?” must wait.  In heaven we won’t be asking “Why?” anymore, because we will know and understand why.

But there is one aspect of his plan that even in this life God has clearly revealed to us.  St. Paul puts it this way in Romans. “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.”  Know for certain that you are in the Lord’s hands, and there is no better place to be.  Know for certain that he is working all things together, not for your punishment, but for your good. 

But how can the troubles and trials and tribulations I endure be for my good?  Why does it have to be this way?  Why can’t it happen some other way?  Why, why, why!  “Now we see but a poor 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.”

Amen.

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