1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
I. THE SPECIFIC NATURE OF EACH.
1. Faith. As to its origin, it is the gift of God; as to its operation, it is the work of the Spirit; as to its object, it fastens on Christ; as to its exercise, it is the disciple's own act. the Scriptures make much of faith — "Precious faith"; "Thy faith hath saved thee"; "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Faith is the first stone of the building, but it is not the, foundation. Our help is laid on One that is mighty. But beware how you come to Christ. Any work of yours, by way of recommending you, will be a non-conductor through which the light of life from the Saviour cannot run (Galatians 5:2).
2. Hope is adapted to a transitory, imperfect state. Its office is to diminish the sorrows of the present by drawing on the stores of future joy. It is the tenant, not of a heart that was never broken, but of a heart that has been broken and healed again. A pure, bright star fixed in heaven, it reaches with its rays the uplifted eye of the weary pilgrim. But stars shine not in the day; the darkness brings them out. So grief summons hope to the aid of the sufferer. When the ransomed rise from the sleep of the grave, this gentle star, which had often soothed them in the night of their pilgrimage, will nowhere be found in all the upper firmament; for in presence of the Sun of Righteousness hope, no longer needed, no more appears.
3. Love. Some fragments of this heavenly thing survive the fall and flourish in our nature. It is beautiful even in ruins. We shall learn more about its nature when we are called to consider its magnitude.
II. THE MUTUAL RELATIONS OF ALL. Hitherto we have spoken of them as three rings lying beside each other; now we speak of them as three links within each other, so as to constitute a chain.
1. The relation between faith and hope. Faith leans on Christ, and hope hangs by faith. There is, indeed, a species of hope which has no connection with faith. If in a place of danger you saw a chain whose uppermost link was surely fixed in the living rock, and whose lowest link — a goodly, iron ring — was vibrating invitingly near, you might be induced to venture your body's weight upon its seeming strength. If that lowest link were not within the one above it, but only attached externally by some brittle twig, you would exchange the slippery place of danger for the plunge into inevitable death. It is like the fall of sinner who has risked his soul for the great day on a hope not linked to faith.
2. The relation between hope and love. Hope leans on faith, and love on hope. Love will languish unless blessed hope be underneath. Love's manifold efforts, stretching out in every direction and leaving no space unoccupied, are like the branches of a fruit tree. A single stem supports and supplies them all, while itself in turn is supported and supplied by the root. So hope, itself sustained by faith, sustains love in its turn. Hope in the heart of the Man of Sorrows bore Him through His labours of love (Hebrews 12:2). Hope is the mainspring of labouring love — hope in the Lord, first for yourself, and then for your neighbour.
III. THE SUPERIOR MAGNITUDE OF THE LAST.
1. In its work on earth. It is the only one of the three that reaches other men and directly acts upon them for their good.
(1) "Thy faith hath saved thee," but what can it do for thy brother? It operates by sustaining and stimulating other graces — "Faith worketh by love."(2) Hope in like manner begins and ends in the heart of a disciple. The less that your hope, as such, protrudes itself on the notice of mankind, the better for its own health; but the more it swells within your breast, the more of love will it send forth to bless the world.
(3) On the contrary, it is the nature of love to come out. Unless it act on others it cannot be. Love teaches the ignorant, clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, and is the fulfilling of that law which came latest from the Lord's own lips: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel unto every creature."
2. In its performance in heaven.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.