Faith, Hope, Love – Part 9

They stand as three beautiful high peaks.  Yet, one rises even higher than the other two.  It is love.

The three words sum up what living the Christian life “under the sun” or “under the heaven” is all about.  However, one of these three is even superior to the other two.  It is love.

Today, we’ll finish off the series.  We’ll do so by considering a few thought provoking passages on love.

A More Excellent Way (1 Corinthians 12:31)

The Corinthians brethren were prideful and arrogant over their miraculous gifts, which God had given unto them (1 Corinthians 4:7 cf. 12:4-12, 14-27).  “A more excellent way” concerns love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:7).  Love is more excellent than miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 13).  They were to use their gifts, not to boastfully build themselves up, but instead, to build up (or edify) one another (1 Corinthians 14).  “Let all things be done for edification” [1 Corinthians 14:26 (Note: the term “edify” occurs, in some form, a multitude of times in 1 Corinthians and especially in chapter 14 of the book.  See: 8:1; 10:23; 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 26)].  “Let all things be done decently and in order” [1 Corinthians 14:40 (that is, in a manner which is conducive to edification cf. v. 26)]. ”Let all things be done with love” [(1 Corinthians 16:14).  Notice, the connection between ‘love’ and ‘edification’ (1 Corinthians 16:14 cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26)].  “A more excellent way” has to do with lovingly using miraculous gifts to edify others.

May we each decide to use whatever abilities and talents we possess in a positive way, not in exaltation of self, but in edifying others.  This is “a more excellent way.”

Now Abide (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The context concerns the passing of miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-ff).  (1) Prophesies would “fail” (NKJV), or “be done away” (NASB) or, “pass away” (ESV).  (2) Tongues would “cease” (NKJV, NASB, ESV).  (3) Knowledge would “vanish away” (NKJV), or “be done away” (NASB), or “pass away” (ESV).  The reference is to the miraculous knowledge (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8).  These three are used as a figure of speech (synecdoche) to stand for all miraculous gifts.  {(Note: There are three categories mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.  This may not be obvious in the English but it is in the Greek [The term ‘heteros‘ separates the list into 3 categories: (1) Word of wisdom and word of knowledge; (2) faith; healings; miracles; prophecy; discern of spirits; (3) tongues and interpretation of tongues].  In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul mentioned one item out of each category previously mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 to speak of all types of miraculous workings coming to an end]}.  It is beyond our purpose today, to establish the time of termination of miracles.  It is sufficient for our purpose to simply state that the point being made by Paul is that miracles will not last.

Standing in sharp contrast, there are things more enduring in Christianity.  “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).  “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three…” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  The word rendered “abide” is translated elsewhere in the New Testament by such words as “continue,” “tarry,” and “remain.”  Miraculous gifts would not endure – faith, hope, and love would.  They are enduring characteristics of Christianity.

The Corinthian brethren needed to examine their emphasis.  They needed to place greater emphasis on those enduring qualities of Christianity, and less on the temporary tools they had been given, and alas, over which they were so egotistical.

The Greatest of These (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Why is “love” even greater than “faith” and “hope”?  The common explanation is: (1) Faith one day will disappear into sight (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1).  (2) Hope one day will become realized and thus no longer be hope (Romans 8:24).  (3) However, love will endure even into eternity.  This explanation has some vitality to it.  Hope and sight do not go together (Romans 8:24).  Moreover, the kind of faith which we have now is without sight (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1).  This type of faith will be no more.  Further, it is true that love will continue in heaven for “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  Love existed even before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

However, there is some difficulty with this common explanation.  While it is true that faith and sight do not currently go together, they are not mutually exclusive.  Mac Deaver points out, “There was a time when faith and sight went together (cf. John 20:29)…  We now have faith in absence of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But, the day is coming when faith and sight will be together again” (Faith and Knowledge: A Refutation of Agnosticism, p. 11-12).  We won’t stop believing in Him just because we see Him! (Note: I grant that it is possible that faith in 1 Corinthians 13:13 refers to the kind of faith we currently have, faith without sight).

There is another possible explanation.  “Love” is the greatest, because of the effect that it has on the other two.  (1) Love causes faith to become action (Galatians 5:6).  It is the great motivator.  A man may have dead faith (James 2:17), that is inactive faith; however, when faith is mixed with love (love for God, and love for humanity) it will act.  (2) It is due to the love of God that man has any hope at all (2 Thessalonians 2:16; cf. John 3:16; cf. 1 Timothy 1:1; cf. 1 Peter 1:3-4).  Add to this, it is only when our love is what it should be, that we truly have hope (1 John 4:12, 17-18).  So, “how is your love life?”

God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16)

“The Bible makes the unique revelation that God in His very nature and essence is love… Christianity being the only religion thus to present the Supreme Being” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary, p. 493).  The God of the Bible is a God of love.

Are we a people of love?  I leave each of us with this assignment: (1) Read the following sections of scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; 1 John 3:10-24; and 1 John 4:7-21.  (2) Recognize how genuine love should behave.  (3) Replace the word “love” with your personal name when reading of the qualities of love (e.g., “love is patient…” etc., becomes “Bryan is patient…”).  Ask yourself honestly if such truly describes you. [Illustrations: (a) In math, if a=b and b=c, then a=c. Thus if you are a loving person, and love has a given characteristic, then you too should have that characteristic. (b) In language, the definition of a word can be used to replace a word in a sentence. Thus, if love is best described by its behavior characteristics, then if you are loving, as you should be, you should possess the same behavior characteristics]. (4) Resolve to grow in love, working especially on any obvious shortcomings.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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2 Responses to Faith, Hope, Love – Part 9

  1. W. Wayne Hodge says:

    Excellent series, very thought provoking, well done. Thanks.

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