“And now abide faith, hope, love” (1 Cor 13:13)

by Steven Chan
27 February 2011

The Bible tells us of the abiding importance of three things that must continue in our lives.

Faith is unquestionably important for the Christian because the Bible says in Heb 11:6:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” According to Psa. 14:1, the one who says in his heart, “there is no God” is a fool. This is “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 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”(Rom 1:19-20). The Psalmist penned it thus in Psa 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Brethren and friends, we can know for certain that there is an almighty God who created this universe. Only one who refuses to consider the handiwork of God would blurt out that there is no God.

But beyond believing that there is a God, the Christian must also have faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In John 8:23-24, Jesus said to them: “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” The writer gave his reason for recording the miracles performed by Jesus in John 20:30-31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

The Christian must also believe that God’s Word is our guide unto salvation: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”(1 Thess 2:13). We need to believe that God’s Word can work effectively in the hearts and lives of believers. 2 Tim 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

In conjunction with our faith in God, Jesus Christ and His Word, we must also have faith that God will hear and answer our prayers for help as we face the challenges of this life: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”(Heb 4:15-16). And God’s grace is powerful and adequate for our needs as testified by the apostle Paul in 2 Cor 12:9: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Do we have faith in God answering our prayers to provide for our needs and the strength to overcome whatever challenges we may face in this life?

The second important abiding thing that a Christian must possess is hope. Just as there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God, there is one hope of our calling (Eph 4:4,5). What is this hope? The Bible says in Rom 8:23-25: “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” The Bible says we eagerly wait for the redemption of our body and that is our hope which is yet to happen. According to Col 1:5, “the hope is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” 1 John 2:28-3:3: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming…Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Phil 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Titus 2:11-13: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. 1 Cor 15:50-55: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 1 Thess 4:15-18: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Let no man rob you of this precious hope that the Lord has so clearly and carefully described for us.

The Bible declares that the greatest thing that we must possess (beyond even faith and hope) is that of love: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”(1 Cor 13:13) “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”(1 Cor 13:2-4). In 1 John 4:7-12, the Bible exhorts us: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” Love is the greatest because “God is love” – this is the distinctive quality of God as also manifested by the declaration in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Whilst we may realize the importance of love in our lives, we should be careful to ensure that we truly possess the love of God in our lives. In I Cor 13, it is stated that even if one were to give all his possessions to feed the poor, it is possible that such an action is not motivated by love but by some other motives (eg. self-glory, winning the praise of men, gaining a tax benefit through tax sheltering, in exchange for power to control the lives of others, etc…). In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus taught thus: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Although it is possible to give without love, it is not possible to love without giving: 1 John 3:16-18: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Love is an incredible motivating force: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”(2 Cor 5:14-15)

Love is manifested in many ways. The bible recorded that when Jesus arrived at the grave of his good friend, Lazarus, He wept – and those who saw Him shedding tears said: “See how he loved him” (John 11: 33-36). The Bible says in Rom 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” It goes beyond just the shedding of tears.

They rally to the aid of each other: Acts 4:32-35: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” Such was the great love that the brethren possessed for each other – and it was not confined only to those in that specific location only but stretched out all over the world: Rom 15:25-27: “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”

If love is our guide, we need to carefully consider our behaviour towards others (including our spouse, loved ones, brethren, colleagues, friends and others whom we may interact). For example it would require us to be considerate towards others: “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.”(Rom 14:15). According to 1 Cor 13:4 -7, if we are walking in love as God requires of us (Gal 5:6) then we will be patient and kind; we will not envy or boast; we will not be arrogant or rude; we will not insist on our own way; we will not be irritable or resentful; we will not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. We will bear all things (do not easily give up), believe all things (i.e. believe the best in all), hope all things and endure all.

Brethren, let us make sure that we always possess the three qualities of faith, hope and love – and to always remember that LOVE is the greatest quality that we must possess in accordance with God’s nature and will.