And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love
I Corinthians 13:13
This verse is one of my favorite verses of scripture. It is contained in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. The "love" chapter as it is sometimes called has wonderful messages to Christians about the importance of love in all we do. Love should be the underlying factor for all of our actions, including those of duty, outlined for us to follow in the New Testament. While the Pharisees and scribes followed the law of Moses out of duty, with no feeling, we as Christians are to be different. We are to make our duty to Christ a work of love.
Recently I was listening to some religious radio programming and I heard a commentator make a mistake dealing with this passage of scripture. He was talking about love being the greatest, even above faith and hope. His point was that as long as you have love you can lack faith and hope and still be in a right relationship with God. He used I Corinthians 13:13 as his "proof".
Any Christian that denies the importance of faith is denying many teachings in the New Testament. Hebrews 11 deals with the importance of faith. It teaches how we are, or should be, moved by our faith to be obedient to God. It is through faith that we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8) (Note: faith is different than mere belief. Faith MOVES us. We are told even the devils believe, but that doesn't mean they have faith.(James 2:19))
Hope is also important.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Faith, hope, and love. All three must be present to be acceptable to God. So what did Paul mean when he said that love was the greatest of the three?
Paul in I Corinthians 13:13 is speaking to the eternal nature of love. Love is the one of the three that will persist into the afterlife. Once we die, or the Lord returns, whether or not our fate is in heaven or in hell based on how we lived our life here on earth, hope and faith will come to an end.
The hope we have will see its fruition in the afterlife. The things we hope for will come to pass. The Lord will return. The books will be opened. We will be judged out of those books based on the way we lived our life here on this earth. Jesus blood, if we are in a right relationship with God at the end of our time on the earth, will be the propitiation of that hope, and we can be saved through God's grace because of Jesus. Hope will cease to be necessary because we will see hope's final working.
Faith will also come to an end on the day of judgment. Why? Because faith will become sight! All the things we have faith in, God's grace, Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, the spiritual realm, the changing into a new body, etc, will all come to fruition. Faith will no longer be required because we will be seeing, feeling, touching, and witnessing what we had faith in. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen. Since hope will have come to fruition, and since we will be seeing for ourselves the evidence, faith will no longer exist or be necessary.
Love, however, will persist forever. For one thing God is love! (I John 4:8) Since God is also eternal then love is eternal. We will bask in God's love. We will have proved our love for him by keeping his commandments on this earth. Love will last forever in heaven.
So when Paul said that love was the greatest of the three, he was referring to the fact that everything else will cease, but love will always exist. It doesn't mean that love is the only requirement of Christians in order to be saved. We have to have hope and faith along with love. To try to say that love is the overriding factor for our salvation is a false teaching. After all, to love is to obey. (John 14:15)
So make sure you have faith and hope and love.