Wednesday, 14 January 2015
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Paul concludes his discourse on love in this verse by beginning with “And now…” Among scholars, there is division over what this means. Some take it as a temporal sequence which would place it in opposition to the “then” of the previous verse. What that would mean is that “now” isn’t speaking of our present existence in comparison to the future, such as – “And at this time abide faith, hope, and love, but someday only love will abide.” Instead, it is speaking of the logical nature of the summary thought; it is the conclusion of everything he has said. “And now when every other gift is done away with, faith, hope, and love will remain.”
Other scholars will argue the opposite by stating that only love will remain in the future. Faith will no longer be needed because it will be swallowed up in sight, and hope will no longer be needed because we will have possession of our hope in the joy of the Lord. Thus, only love will remain.
The first argument is correct; all three will remain. They are all permanent and they are all essential, even in the eternal state. What Paul is telling us here is that the “gifts” which the believers at Corinth had been arguing over were temporary and that they would pass away, even gifts such as prophecy. On the other hand, the three individual components of faith, hope, and love would continue on forever.
If eternity is set before us and yet our eternity is based on God’s willingness to maintain His created order, then our faith will remain in God who continues to sustain our existence. Tied into this is hope which will always remain as an anchor for the soul of the redeemed. It will never find its completion, but will always exist. Because God is infinite, we will infinitely hope to see more of His infinite goodness as He ceaselessly reveals Himself to us.
Despite these being eternal though, the facet of love is greater than they are. It is not greater in duration (which is impossible because all are eternal), but in logical order. The Pulpit Commentary explains why love is greater than faith and hope in four ways –
“1. Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; ‘we believe only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.’
2. And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbours; faith and hope mainly for ourselves.
3. And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is love.
4. And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love, and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one colour, as a ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the chapter, is a diamond of many facets.”
Life application: Paul has shown a “more excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13. Rather than arguing over who has the better gift, and rather than having feelings of either jealousy or contempt towards others because of their gift, we should express gratitude to God for His provision and demonstrate love towards God and others as we await our final call to eternal glory.
O God, I cannot express to You the thanks in my heart and soul for the people I worship with, work with, walk with, and who I share in life with even on the internet each day. There is always someone to lift me up in prayer or someone that I can return that favor to. When I have something exciting to share, folks are there to share in those moments. And when they have good times, I get to revel in their happiness as well. Thank You for all the people who I have had the pleasure and honor of coming to know in this life. Thank You, O God! Amen.