Faith, Hope, Love--The Greatest is Love
I doubt very much that many people will dispute the fact that LOVE is the greatest emotion one can possess. Every one of us has a LOVE for someone or something. However, in this discussion I want to investigate what is meant by the statement. "But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is LOVE." 1 Cor. 13:13.
How does Faith come to a person? I submit to you that there is only one way Faith in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit can come to anyone and that is through the hearing of the Word of God. Rom. 10:17 so states this fact, "So when Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I know that nature itself and the things that are made by God are clear evidence that there is a God. Rom. 1:20. These testify of God's existence, but they do not tell us what God would have us do. This is revealed to us by the Word of God. Holy men spoke these things as they were directed by the Holy Spirit. This is also a Bible fact, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." 11 Pet. 1:20-21. This Faith, or gospel, is the power of God unto salvation to all who will receive it. By it we can be made righteous. Rom. 1:16-17. Galatians 1:16-17. Galatians 1:11-12 states this fact also. Paul says, "For I would have you know brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me was not from man, but I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ."
Then in contrasting the Law and the gospel Paul states, "Therefore the Law was our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by Faith." Gal. 3:23-29. Further, this hearing the Word of God must be united with Faith. The Bible states this as a fact. "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as the rest; but the word they heard did not profit them because it was not united by Faith in those who had heard." Heb. 4:2. For faith to be acceptable it must be expressed. Therefore, Acts 6:7 states, "A great company of the priests were becoming obedient to the Faith." It is a stated fact that obedience and Faith are united in the Word of God. This is further expressed in many passages such as Rom. 1:5, Rom. 16:26, 11 Thess. 1:7-9, etc. There is One Faith. Eph. 4:4-6, it teaches just as plainly there is One Faith. Without this Faith it is impossible to please God. Heb. 11:6.
As a second part of the three, Hope is an essential part as is faith to please God. Since, as we have seen, it is impossible without faith, what part does Hope play in our salvation? These three yet abide faith, Hope and love. What is the Hope here mentioned? Again I submit to you that this Hope is the attaining of eternal life through Jesus Christ and His victory over death through His resurrection. This fact is stated in many places throughout the Word of God. In Titus 1:1-4 it says, "Paul, a bondservant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to Godliness, in the Hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His Word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, my true child in the common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour.
In 1 Pet. 1:3 the Word states, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are revealed in the last time." Notice here we are begotten by a living Hope; it is reserved in heaven, we are protected by the power of God through faith. What is this power of God? Read again Rom. 1:16. Also, 11 Thess. 2:16 says, "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good Hope by grace..." Again, 1 John 3:2-3 says, "Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is; and everyone who has this Hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." We are to rejoice in Hope. Rom. 12:12. 1 Cor. 15:19 states, "If in this life only we have Hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." Though we are all going to die physically, we still have the Hope of eternal life spiritually, if we have purified our souls in this Hope. This is done by obeying the truth. 1 Pet. 1:22. Finally, just as there is one faith, there is one Hope. Eph. 4:4. We are saved by Hope. Rom. 8:24.
Since the word of God teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that we are saved by hope, how is it that Love is the greatest of the three? Does this mean that as long as we have Love and show Love toward all men that faith and hope are not necessary? By the actions and attitudes of many, this impression is manifest. Some seem to think that it doesn't matter how one believes in Christ just so they have Love toward one another. Well, Jesus did say "By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have Love toward another." John 13:35. If that was all he had to say about it, I guess those who practice such would be all right. They are so full of Love that they refuse to discuss doctrine with anyone.
I have in mind here, though not restricted to them, those who claim to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. I have been told by them, "It doesn't matter how you believe a certain doctrine, we Love you too much to discuss this with you, as it only leads to arguments." To them being baptised in the Holy Spirit is all the "proof" they need to feel they are saved. Some do not even believe obedience is a part, or has a part, in saving one's soul. Obedience, you see demands action, and action involves some type of work or works. The Word of God teaches that we are saved by grace not works. (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:2-25; Tit. 3:5-9)
If they would just take time to study the context of each of these references, they would soon realise that the writers are all referring to the Law, both the Patriarchal and the Law of Moses. None are referring to the OBEDIENCE to Christ. Just a little common sense would show them that without obedience none can be saved. Jesus said, "If a man Loves me, he will keep my commandments...if a man Loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will Love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that Loveth me not keepeth not my sayings." John 14:15, 23, 24. Again John establishes this fact. "By this we know that we Love the children of God, when we Love God and keep His commandments. For this is the Love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." 1 John 5:2-3. Again, "By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him." 1 John 2:3-4. Faith must work through Love, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through Love." Gal. 5:6.
Love must be expressed, hence it is an obedient Love. Those who claim to have received the Holy Spirit and contend that obedience is not necessary, need to explain, or explain away Acts 5:32 which plainly states, "And we are witnesses of these; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who OBEY Him." Those who claim obedience is not essential to being saved need to explain, "Seeing you have purified your soul in obeying the truth..." 1 Pet. 1:22. They also need to explain, "Being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY Him." Heb. 5:8-9. Again, "Ye have OBEYED from the heart that form of doctrine...being then made free from sin..." Rom. 6:17-18. These Scriptures teach that an obedient faith purifies from sin; saves from sin, frees from sin. This faith working by Love. Love does not exclude faith or hope, it unites them to bring about obedience to God's commandments.
As far as doctrine is concerned, we are admonished to "speak the things which become sound doctrine." Tit. 2:1. Why? "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own desires they shall heap to themselves teachers, and having itching ears will turn their ears away from the truth, and shall be turned to myths." 11 Tim. 4:3-4. They will no longer want the truth. 11 Thess. 2:7-12, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is the one whose coming is in accord with the activity if Satan, with all power and signs of false wonders; and with all deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the Love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe that which is false in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness." There are just some who do not Love the truth. They fail to distinguish between the doctrine of false teachers and the doctrine of Christ. They are seemingly learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth 11 Tim. 3:7. They need to learn not to think more highly of men than they do of God and His Word. Rom. 12:3, Acts 5:29.
There are many kinds and degrees of Love in the world, but the Love of which 1 Cor. 13:13 is speaking is from the Greek word "Agapeo" and is the same word as is used in John 3;16, "For God so Loved..." This is the ultimate Love. This Love caused God to send His Son into the world as a sacrifice for our sins. This Love was manifested by Christ when He willingly laid down His life for all. This Love is what man expresses to God by keeping His commandments. This Love is what causes man to act upon faith, and this Love is what gives man the hope of everlasting life with God in Heaven.
Indeed, this Love is great because it motivates men to do those things God requires of them. Without this Love, faith and hope would mean nothing. Because we Love God we keep His commandments. Those who show Love towards others are showing what every individual, Christian or non-Christian is capable of showing to one another. Jesus said in Luke 6:32, "And if you Love them that Love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners Love those that Love them." In this context Jesus is teaching us to Love our enemies and do good unto them. What I am pointing out here is that Jesus recognised that Love was not always rightly founded. Love, as I said earlier, comes in various kinds and degrees. Those people who claim to be followers of Christ and yet refuse to discuss and teach sound doctrine, have only a surface Love. They Love?? you so much that they do not want to offend you because you believe something they may not agree with.
The conversation with them usually goes like this. They sit by you and engage in small talk until they finally get around to discussing Jesus with you. "Are you a believer in Christ?", they will ask; and when you answer yes and ask them if they are Christians, they quickly affirm they are. When asked if they have obeyed the Gospel, they say I believe in Jesus and turn to the Scriptures and try to persuade you that Faith alone saves you; quoting such verses as Rom. 10:9-10, Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:13. etc. When it is pointed out to them that these verses are only a part of what God commands of us, and that our salvation is based upon Faith WORKING through Love, Gal 5:6, 5:6, they then turn to such Scriptures as Rom. 4, Eph. 2:8-9, in particular: Titus 3:5-6, etc. They are familiar with these verses, but obviously not their contexts. They have the impression that God does not expect anything of man except, belief. They claim at the point of belief, without any other act on man's part, one is saved and then he keeps the commandments of God. This all sounds very reasonable and true except it just isn't so.
When it is pointed out to them that obedience is necessary to obtain the forgiveness of sins, they say, "You are trying to be saved by works." When you show them such Scriptures as Mark 16:16, and John 6:29, every case of conversion in the book of Acts, including the one of Acts 16:31-33, Acts 22:16, where Paul, even though he was a believer, was told to "Rise and be baptised and wash away his sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." They here will say, "You see calling upon the name of the Lord was what saved Paul, not baptism." turning to Rom. 10:13 again. You show them verse after verse such as Acts 5:32, Rom. 6: 16-17-18, Rom. 16:26, 11 Thess. 1:7-9, Heb. 5:8-9, 1 Pet. 1:22-23, and on and on, and on. But they are so indoctrinated with the idea that they are saved by faith lone, that they have closed their minds to all evidence that teaches otherwise in the word of God.
While they themselves believe a false doctrine, they refuse to discuss and reason out Bible doctrines. It seems they say they Love Jesus, but not his Word. As has been shown, you cannot Love Jesus and refuse to keep is commandments. James 2 states in verse 19, "Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: The devils also believe and tremble." So if mere belief saves, belief without obedience, the devils are saved. Also John 12:42 says, "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they be put out of the synagogue; for they Loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Here again we have people believing, but were they saved at the point of faith? Of course not. Neither is anyone else today saved at the point of faith, without doing all that God commands, which includes belief, John 6:28-29, repentance, Luke 24:47, Confess Jesus as being the Son of God, Matt. 10:32, Rom. 10:9, Water baptism to wash away our past sins, or for the remission of our sins, Acts 22:16, Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, live Godly lives, 11 Tim. 3:12, Rev. 2:10. 3:12, 21, Rom. 6, there is no salvation. These are all works that God has commanded. Therefore, when obeyed, they are not works of our own righteousness, but works of God's righteousness. Acts 10:35, Rom. 9:30. This is faith working by Love. We love God and therefore we keep His commandments.
Love is the greatest of the three, Faith, Hope, Love, because it is that which motivates man to do the will of God. Without this Love, Faith would be useless and we would have no Hope.
All three of these, Faith, Hope, and Love, must be expressed in word and deed or they are useless.
If you Love me keep My commandments. John 14:15. This type of Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:8.
We are saved by Love (God's) John 3:16. (Ours)1 John 4;7. If we truly Love people we will Reprove, Exhort, Teach and Correct them according to what the Word of God teaches. 11 Tim. 3:16-17, 11 Tim. 4.2.