"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away." (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NKJV)
What is the perfect that was mentioned in this passage? There is a lot of disagreement on the matter, and more than a few various viewpoints on the perfect in this passage. In order to understand what the perfect is however, we have to know what it is that is in part. If we know what it is that was in part, then we can logically conclude what it is that is replacing it, that being the perfect.
Many skip over that which is in part, and start guessing at the perfect and come to the wrong conclusion. Some say that the perfect is Christ, and while Christ is in deed perfect, He is not the perfect mentioned in this passage, as logic denies it. If Christ is the perfect, than what is that which is in part? What is it that He is replacing? Paul talks about the perfect as if it has yet to come, and yet to replace that which is in part. If this is the case, we cannot say that the perfect is Christ, unless we say that Paul believed that He has yet to come. Paul died for his beliefs in the resurrected Christ, and nobody would die for something they knew was not true. Therefore, the perfect could not be Christ
Still others declare that the perfect is the church, stating that one day the church will be perfect. This is a noble thought, and a great goal to strive towards but is not what Paul was referring to either. If the church were to ever become perfect, what would it be replacing at that point? It could not be replacing the current church, as it would be the same church. There is nothing for the church to replace besides what it has already replaced. The Church was already established and had already replaced the law of Moses at the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians, so he could not be looking forward to the coming church, as it was already there.
At the same time, we know that the church cannot be perfect anyway as it is made up of imperfect individuals. We will always be striving towards perfection, but we will never gain that objective in this life. There is no way that Paul would be looking forward to a perfect church, because nobody is perfect, and there is every guarantee that mankind will remain imperfect instead of becoming perfect in the future, therefore the church could not be the perfect in this passage.
What was that which was in part then? The answer is simple: look at the context. Tongues will cease, knowledge will vanish away, and prophesies will fail. These were those things that were in part. What were these things used for though? In order to know why they were being replaced by a perfect, in order to know why they were imperfect and would fail, we must understand why these things were needed to begin...