Faith, Hope and Love. These three things will last forever. Love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 is best understood as being a way of life, lived in imitation of Jesus Christ, as focused not on oneself but on the “other” and his or her good.
Love is about action, how a person lives for the Lord and obeys him and how a person lives for others and serves them.
Yet it is also about being. This is because its foundation is in God who is love, and in Christ who shows that love and the Holy Spirit. The sense that this is about more than simply how people behave is seen in passages like Paul’s prayer of Ephesians 3:14–19, particularly as he prays that Christians will be “rooted and grounded in love.” To “know the love of Christ” is to experience his presence “through faith” in their “hearts.” God’s people are to look and become more and more like Christ, and it is this for which Paul prays here.
It is because being and actions are so closely tied together in God and in Christ, first, but then also in his people, that Paul calls love a “more excellent way” (12:31b). It is the way of the new kingdom which has been ushered in with the appearance of the Messiah, who has shown it in his life, passion, and death, but who has also exhibited it in his coming, in his being, His death and resurrection.
Love is the way of existence in the heavenlies. As this break into the present in Christ, his people, filled with the Spirit of Christ, are to take on this way of existence and develop a life where love guides their approach to all things. Of course, this will immediately be seen in how they live and speak and think. Even so, when all that is mentioned here is done, the meaning of love for the believer is by no means diminished, minimized, defeated, exhausted in its importance!
1 Corinthians 13:13 AKJV
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes various spiritual gifts and ways we can demonstrate Godly living in the world. He touches on the gift of tongues, prophecy with understanding, and faith that could move mountains.
Yet somehow, he passes all of these things for just one thing: Love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13 he says, “Three things will last forever: faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love.”
I have found myself skipping over this verse with a thought of “Yep, got that one down.” I have heard it and read it so often that I forget the application and power of it. What is this for? Why are these the things – faith, hope, love – that last forever? The greatest power of our lives is contained in this verse. We just have the high task of unfolding the purpose behind it in order to connect to it.
The Purpose of Faith
Faith is one of the first things we learn about as Christians.
It often starts with the quote from Jesus in Luke 17:6 where He says, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!” Hebrews 11:1 gives this clear definition of faith: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
In my maturing years of my Christianity, I genuinely believed these Scriptures to be that I had the power and authority to believe something “as hard as I could” and it would be done, even if it meant defying the physical realm. I did this patiently for months before I started to lose hope and I began weeping to God. “Why! I truly believe you could deny this from me! Why won’t you do it!?”
The purpose of faith is not to influence my own comfort. The purpose of faith is to lead forward to know the heart of God and then trust His ways to guide us. It is practical exercise reminding us of our place on the vine. We are the branches, and we can do nothing apart from the vine (John 15:5).
Hebrews 11:1 is a great definition of faith, but I believe Hebrews 11:6 gives us the life application of it. It states, “For we come to God in faith knowing that He is real and that He rewards the faith of those who passionately seek Him.” (TPT)
The Purpose of Hope
Hope is defined by Google as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” It can also be defined as “a feeling of trust.” So, faith is the belief that there is something significantly better to seek and to discover, while hope is the expectation, or the certainty, that it is absolutely there. Hope is the 100-octane fuel that keeps our faith alive in our quest to seek and find love.
The way that faith, which is the seeking of the Lord, connects with hope, which is the expectation of finding Him, is through wisdom.
Proverbs 24:14 says, “In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.”
Jesus is our model of constantly seeking after wisdom. Often in our spiritual development, we hit a place of complacency where we are good with what we have. It is a great thing to be grateful, but there is more for your life when you continually seek wisdom. At each level we should be graduating, moving, and growing, constantly adding to what we understand.
This is what keeps hope alive. As we seek more, we learn more, and we store up confidence in who we are on the vine. In Luke 2:52 we get a subtle, yet powerful, picture of Jesus’ character that reveals the deep foundation of his influence and confidence. It says, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Jesus is our only true King! Jesus is our Savior! We should follow his authority, lead by constantly seeking wisdom and relationship with others.
The Purpose of Love
Paul makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the greatest of all spiritual gifts is love. Based on this, we know that love is the MAX result that we see of our faith and our hope. Love is the pen-ultimate goal. How wonderful is it to understand the goal! When you start a new game, the biggest hurdle is often obtaining an understanding more than physical limitations. If you understand the goal, you can use what gifts and graces you have been gifted to get there.
The purpose of love is evident in 1 John 4:7-8 that it is the clearest picture of God that we have. It states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It goes on to say in verse 19 that “we love because God first loved us.” So, the purpose of love is twofold. First, it is revelation of identity. It tells us who God is and who we are in God, God alone.
Second, it is the very power that allows us to do the work of Jesus and even unto greater works as Jesus described in John 14:12. He says, “Whoever believes in me will also do the works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” Love has the power to help us believe again and restore hope in others. It is the ultimate momentum engine that drives all of our spiritual lives.
Faith, Hope, and Love: The Perpetual Cycle of Life
If faith, hope, and love are the things that last forever, it becomes clear these are the things we should pursue with our lives. Some may feel concerned at the thought of knowing what the end goal is, that perhaps there is no point to life if there is nothing left to discover. But there is life in these things that will never be diminished, defeated, minimized, exhausted or drowned or burned out!
In the beginning, we are born with no other understanding besides faith.
As newborn babies, we instinctively, naturally, reach out to our parents, seek care and to be nurtured. We confidently look for someone to give us the care that we need. As we earn the badges of life, we become scarred by experiences which can strip our faith and our hope away, and in turn, we forget our natural instinct to love as we become too consumed with finding a new starting point.
Finding faith, hope, and love for ourselves does not mark the end of anything.
It can, however, mark the exact beginning for someone else. If you have ever been in a broken place, you have spent time trying to find “bottom” then you know the power of someone else showing you kindness or believing in you.
It is a true progression of divinely orchestrated events. When you are shown love, you ignite a new belief of what you could be. Then you become hopeful that there is still good in this world. Then you love yourself. Then you share love with others and spark this cycle over and over again. This is our beginning, our new beginnings, and our forever and ever amen, both for us and fellow man.
Imitating Christ’s love
A further explanation why love comes to function as the marker par excellence of the true believer lies in the imitation of Christ. Christ stands as the supreme example of love through the whole of his life, but specially in his death.
In 1 Corinthians 1 the death of Christ was at the center of Paul’s understanding of God’s wisdom (his plan) to save his people. It was the “word of the cross” that was the power of God to those “being saved” (1:18). Supremely in Christ’s death the love of God and of Christ was shown. The link is explicit in Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV). It is also clear in Ephesians 5:2: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (ESV).
Finally, perhaps the great surprise of chapter 13 is the MAX depth of intimacy of the love relationship Paul described. It is surely infinitely more than could have been imagined, especially as Paul looks forward to seeing “face to face” and writes, “Then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known” (v. 12).
Through a disciplined devotion to prayer, reading, studying Scripture, we shall know God, not in the sense of having the same omniscience as God has, but “even as” he has known us personally with such extraordinary depths of love.
But this life is the first step into an eternity of love with God; the love of God and our love for God, and these three graces of faith, hope and love must of necessity all continue beyond this mortal sphere, for the attributes of God are incomparable in their beauty, His perfections are unlimited in their number, His excellence is everlasting in its duration, splendour is absolute in its span.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
A Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Love
We can start with this prayer from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for starting my cycle of life and giving me the wisdom needed to walk with you. I pray I will continually be interested in wisdom so that my faith and my hope cannot be cut off. I pray that as I stay full, I will look for ways to carry out your work to help someone else in need. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.