“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13, ESV).
As Paul spoke with the church in Corinth, his purpose was to correct many false ideas and many problems within the church. In chapter 12, he addresses problems about spiritual gifts. It would seem that the church was unusually fixated on what gifts each person had and how some were easily seen by all. Much like today, their favorite seemed to be speaking in tongues because Paul spends a great deal of time focused on that one problem.
To help the church understand spiritual gifts and their place within the church; Paul reminds them that the Holy Spirit is who decides which gift you get and even then the purpose was the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7). Then he tells them that the church is one body in Christ, one body with many different members; each valuable, each essential to the success of the church as a whole. Therefore, we cannot say that one part is more important or needed while the rest is not. 1 Corinthians 12:31 summarizes Paul’s lesson for them, “Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (ESV).
What is that more excellent way? What could be so important that Paul would say it was greater than spiritual gifts? The more excellent way is the way of love. In chapter 13:1-8, Paul recounts for us just how powerful and all-encompassing it can be. Devotion, dedication, spiritual gifts, even giving up your body to be burned; without love is worthless. Love will never end but the spiritual gifts (the problem they were struggling the most with) would end (1 Cor. 13:8). At the end of the day, when all has been said, all that would remain was “faith, hope, and love.”
These three things encompass the whole of Christianity. Much like Jesus taught that love for God and love for your neighbor was the entire meaning of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:37-40); Paul teaches us that faith, hope, and love lies at the heart of what New Testament Christianity is about.
Why is this such an important message today? Because like the church in Corinth, we tend to allow our arguments over things that ultimately have no lasting value, to divide and destroy the body of Christ. Losing sight of love for Jesus and love for others, we allow disagreements to distract us from what is really important.
Faith, hope, and love is at the core of pure New Testament Christianity, which cannot be truly restored until the heart of Christ is restored within the Christian.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (ESV)