"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Throughout scripture the Lord uses various combinations of words to establish a pattern of unity in thought. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) is a wonderful dissertation on many principles of God's relationship with man and man's needed relationship with his fellow man and with the Lord. Peter enumerates on the graces of the Christian in 2 Peter 1:5-11. Paul outlines the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-26. The conclusion of that great chapter of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is not less important in the design of its message.
What is the relationship between faith, hope and love? Faith sees the unseen, hope measures the promises and love expresses the unseen promises. The Hebrew writer penned, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We understand the world was "framed by the word of God" (Hebrews 11:3) but only through the eye of faith. Without that faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). Paul told the Romans God had been revealed to all men "for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Faith sees the invisible as clearly as the visible.
Hope measures the promises of God. What has God promised? "In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:2). Faith gives the vision for the promise of eternal life and hope gives us character (Romans 5:1-5). As we walk by faith we measure each day with the promise of something beyond this life. We are not tied to the trappings of this world but live with the expectation of a greater place to be. Abram measured his hope with each step he took in obedience to the Father. "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Hebrews 11:8-9).
Faith and hope alone are not enough. Love is the expression of our faith (that which is unseen) and our hope (that which is promised). The manner we serve the Lord is through our love for Him for what He has done for us and what He has promised us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). The way we define love toward God says more about our relationship with God than the meaning of love. Our actions and motives define our love. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). The beloved apostle writes, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Our love for God is based upon the knowledge of faith we have in the unseen measured by the secure promises of God expressed in our hope of eternal life.
Love is the greatest because from its character is the evidence of our faith and hope. The evidence of our faith is found in our love. The measure of love is found in our hope of eternal life. To live without faith, hope and love is to live without the only peace man can know (John 14:6). Faith brings you to Christ; hope convinces you of Christ; and love brings obedience to Christ.
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