Love is the greatest. Why does Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians, say that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love? All three are characteristics of the Christian life. How can one be greater than the other two?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am
a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give
away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not
love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13, ESV
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthains 13:13
Why does Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians, say that of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest? All three are characteristics of the Christian life. How can one be greater than the other two?
What is faith? The Bible defines faith in Hebrews 11:1.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is the basic characteristic of the Christian life here on earth. By faith, we turn our hearts to God and accept Christ's sacrifice as the true payment for our sins. By faith we live the Christian life in spite of the derision and disdain of the world around us. We cannot see God; we cannot talk to anyone who has left this earth who can share with us the joys of heaven, but, we believe them just the same. Will faith last forever? When the end of time comes and we are ushered into God's marvelous presence, we will no longer walk by faith. Faith is not needed in eternity, because everything we have faith in now will have come to pass.
What is hope? Hope and faith are close neighbors, but there is a subtle difference. Faith gives birth to hope! How is hope used in the Bible?
But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged. 2 Corinthians 10:15
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, . . . having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Hope always needs a reason to exist; we are said to have hope if we are Christians, but non-Christians are said to have no hope. Hope in what? In this case, our faith gives us hope that one day we will live with Christ forever. If you hope your friends will come to visit, the reason for hope is the prospective visit of your friends. Hope does not exist alone. However, our eternal hope in Christ will no longer be hope, but will rather become a reality when we reach Heaven.
Faith and hope, therefore, are not eternal; they exist only while we are here on this earth. Love, however, exists now and will continue to exist forever because God is love. Love is the greatest.
Pray today for faith, hope, and love, understanding that without the love of God toward us, we would have no hope; faith would be non existant as well, for the eternal substance of that faith would be gone.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.