In the very last verse of Chapter 12, Paul told these people to desire the more excellent way, and he spent chapter 13 exposing them to this way, the way of love. In the last post we saw that spiritual gifts will one day pass away. While there is debate over “when” this will occur, it cannot be denied that it will happen.
After clearly affirming that truth, Paul comes to the end of the matter. This is one of the most famous verses, if not the most famous in this chapter: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (v. 13)
The three qualities that Paul mentions, faith, hope, and love are all contrasted with the spiritual gifts in the context. The gifts of the Spirit and their exercise will one day pass away. However, faith, hope, and love will abide. They all will remain, but there is a preeminent quality of these, and it is love.
Faith could be described essentially as trusting God’s nature and word. It is believing and holding fast to Him and His promises. Faith is the gift God gives as the sole instrument to justify His people. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Much is written about faith in Scripture, but let’s look at one verse as a working definition: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Faith is an assurance that what God promises He delivers. It rests upon the character, faithfulness, and word of Almighty God. It does so without visible, tangible proofs or evidence. It is vital, essential, and non-negotiable. God is the Object of faith. Christ’s work is the basis upon which God keeps His word to justify the ungodly. Our faith looks to God’s promises and Christ’s work and rests solely upon that as the only basis for being reconciled and made acceptable to God, by God.
Hope is quite similar to faith according to Scripture. Hope is best understood as a confident expectation that what God promised will come to pass. It is not some unfounded wish, but it is a confident expectation that God will bring to pass what He has promised. It enables those who have it to endure and remain steadfast.
Hope also involves confidence when there is nothing visible to strengthen it. Consider Romans 8:23-25, “We ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Hope in the realization of God’s promises allows for patience and endurance. If one can see results, there is no need for hope. Hope in the truest sense is present when there is no visible confirmation.
Faith and hope are glorious results of the work of God in the lives of His people. They are not natural to us but the product of the new birth that has occurred in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are created, nurtured, strengthened, and upheld by God’s working in the lives of His people. In spite of their glorious nature, love is greater.
Think about this. In the age to come, our faith will be made sight. Our hopes will be realized. God will continue to sustain us eternally. We will never get to the point of self-sufficiency. However, our eyes will perceive clearly the glory and beauty of Christ. Our minds will more fully grasp the eternal and infinite although it will never be exhaustive. Faith and hope will abide, but there will be visible realities present, whereas such visible realities are not present in this age.
Love on the other hand, I believe, will continue to deepen as eternity rolls on and as we behold the Lamb of God. Our minds will steadily grasp the greatness of God and His amazing grace. We will perceive His goodness and mercy more fully. Love for Him will never reach its zenith. It will deepen, grow, and develop the more we grasp of God’s Person.
The longer I am married to my wife, the more I know her intimately; the more I know her, the more my love for her continues to grow. I love her more now than I did when I first met her and married her. If that concept is true for fallen, finite, creatures, how much more for a fully redeemed creature to love, adore, and worship an all glorious, all sufficient, holy, majestic, infinite Creator?
Does this excite you? Does this astound you? Does this intrigue you and create a sense of wonder and amazement? If it does, why stress, fight, and worry over those things that will come to an end?
Desire the more excellent way!