Faith, Hope, Love – The Greatest of These is Love
The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians describes the importance of love in the Christian’s life, but it also explains how love compares to two other important Christian characteristics; faith and hope. Paul tells us that love is the greatest. In the last verse of the chapter he says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Why is love greater than faith and hope? We know that we cannot be saved without faith, and it is impossible to please God without it (Heb. 11:6). Our hope is what drives us toward the goal of heaven everyday of our lives. Hope is what separates Christianity from all the other religions of the world. We have a true hope based on our faith in the promises that God has made. What can be greater than that? Paul says that love is greater! Let’s look at each of these words individually and consider why love is the greatest of the three.
1. Faith. The Bible defines faith for us. The writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is our belief in something we cannot physically see based on the evidence of its existence. We know God exists because we can see His creative handiwork all around us (Rom. 1:20). He also revealed Himself to us in His Word, but we have yet to see God face to face. Consider the promise that was made to Abraham and his seed. He had not seen the promise come true, but he had faith that it would based on what God had promised him. Paul spoke of Abraham’s faith in the promise to come when he said, “He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith” (Rom. 4:20). Faith is what sustains someone until the thing they believe in actually comes to pass. For example, when Christians enter into the presence of God in Heaven, faith will cease because we will see God face to face.
2. Hope. Hope is defined as, “a feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 4th ed. 2003). We have hope because of our faith. Our faith is what drives our hope. We believe in God and the glory of heaven, which causes us to desire and expect to be there in the presence of God one day. Paul also spoke of Abraham’s hope in Romans chapter four. He wrote that Abraham, “contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations” (Rom. 4:18). Abraham was one hundred years old and it would appear that he had no logical hope of having an heir. But, he had hope nonetheless because of his faith in God’s promises, and Isaac his son was born. But like faith, hope will cease as well when we enter heaven. Hope will then become a reality!
3. Love. Faith and hope will no longer be necessary one day, but love will never cease. Love will go on for all eternity. Why is that? John answered the question when he wrote, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). God is love! God is eternal; therefore love is eternal as well. We cannot know God without love, so love is vitally important to our eternal security. We must have love for God and for one another. Our faith and hope will cease when we stand before God, but love is the reason we have the opportunity to enter heaven. Remember, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). God’s love for us was great enough to sacrifice His Son. God’s love for us is the reason why faith and hope were ever needed. God’s love is forever! -Ed