1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
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(13) And now abideth . . .—Better, Thus there abide . . . The “now” is not here temporal, but logical. It is not “now” (i.e., this present life) contrasted with the future, but it is the conclusion of the whole argument. From all that has been urged in the previous verses it follows that these three graces—faith, hope, love—remain imperishable and immortal. Gifts such as the Corinthian Church rejoiced in shall pass away when the perfect succeeds the imperfect; the graces of faith, hope, love shall remain in the next life, exalted and purified. But even in this trinity of graces there is an order, and love stands first. The contrast is not between love which is imperishable and faith and hope which are perishable, but between ephemeral gifts and enduring graces. It is strange how completely in popular thinking this has been lost sight of, and hence we find such words as these—

“Faith will vanish into sight,

Hope be emptied in delight,

Love in heaven will shine more bright,

Therefore give us love;”

which express almost the opposite of what the Apostle really wrote.

There need be no difficulty in understanding that “faith,” in the sense of trust in Christ as our Saviour, may continue in the heavenly state; indeed, when we see Him face to face, and see actually how great a salvation He hath obtained for us, that faith may’ be expected to glow with a new and increasing fervour Hope, too, need never cease if that new life is to be progressive. If hope lives by feeding on the present as the promise of the future, surely it will have a more abundant sustenance in that life than in this. Yet love stands supreme; indeed, both faith and hope would perish without her. (See Matthew 26:35; Galatians 5:6.)

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 13:8
, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

We discern the run of the Apostle’s thought best by thus omitting the intervening verses and connecting these two. The part omitted is but a buttress of what has been stated in the former of our two verses; and when we thus unite them there is disclosed plainly the Apostle’s intention of contrasting two sets of things, three in each set. The one set is ‘prophecies, tongues, knowledge’; the other, ‘faith, hope, charity.’ There also comes out distinctly that the point mainly intended by the contrast is the transiency of the one and the permanence of the other. Now, that contrast has been obscured and weakened by two mistakes, about which I must say a word.

With regard to the former statement, ‘Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease,’ that has been misunderstood as if it amounted to a declaration that the miraculous gifts in the early Church were intended to be of brief duration. However true that may be, it is not what Paul means here. The cessation to which he refers is their cessation in the light of the perfect Future. With regard to the other statement, the abiding of faith, hope, charity, that, too, has been misapprehended as if it indicated that faith and hope belonged to this state of things only, and that love was the greatest of the three, because it was permanent. The reason for that misconception has mainly lain in the misunderstanding of the force of ‘Now,’ which has been taken to mean ‘for the present,’ as an implied contrast to an unspoken ‘then’; just as in the previous verse we have, ‘Now we see through a glass, then face to face.’ But the ‘now’ in this text is not, as the grammarians say, temporal, but logical. That is, it does not refer to time, but to the sequence of the Apostle’s thought, and is equivalent to ‘so then.’ ‘So then abideth faith, hope, charity.’

The scope of the whole, then, is to contrast the transient with the permanent, in Christian experience. If we firmly grasped the truth involved, our estimates would be rectified and our practice revolutionised.

I. I ask this question-What will drop away?

Paul answers, ‘prophecies, tongues, knowledge.’ Now these three were all extraordinary gifts belonging to the present phase of the Christian life. But inasmuch as these gifts were the heightening of natural capacities and faculties, it is perfectly legitimate to enlarge the declaration and to use these three words in their widest signification. So understood, they come to this, that all our present modes of apprehension and of utterance are transient, and will be left behind.

‘Knowledge, it shall cease,’ and as the Apostle goes on to explain, in the verses which I have passed over for my present purpose, it shall cease because the perfect will absorb into itself the imperfect, as the inrushing tide will obliterate the little pools in the rocks on the seashore. For another reason, the knowledge, the mode of apprehension belonging to the present, will pass-because here it is indirect, and there it will be immediate. ‘We shall know face to face,’ which is what philosophers mean by intuition. Here our knowledge ‘creeps from point to point,’ painfully amassing facts, and thence, with many hesitations and errors, groping its way towards principles and laws. Here it is imperfect, with many a gap in the circumference; or like the thin red line on a map which shows the traveller’s route across a prairie, or like the spider’s thread in the telescope, stretched athwart the blazing disc of the sun-’but then face to face.’ Incomplete knowledge shall be done away; and many of its objects will drop, and much of what makes the science of earth will be antiquated and effete. What would the hand-loom weaver’s knowledge of how to throw his shuttle be worth in a weaving-shed with a thousand looms? Just so much will the knowledges of earth be when we get yonder.

Modes of utterance will cease. With new experiences will come new methods of communication. As a man can speak, and a beast can only growl or bark, so a man in heaven, with new experiences, will have new methods of communication. The comparison between that mode of utterance which we now have, and that which we shall then possess, will be like the difference between the old-fashioned semaphore, that used to wave about clumsy wooden arms in order to convey intelligence, and the telegraph.

Think, then, of a man going into that future life, and saying ‘I knew more about Sanscrit than anybody that ever lived in Europe’; ‘I sang sweet songs’; ‘I was a past master in philology, grammars, and lexicons’; ‘I was a great orator.’ ‘Tongues shall cease’; and the modes of utterance that belonged to earth, and all that holds of them, will drop away, and be of no more use.

If these things are true, brethren, with regard even to the highest form of these high and noble things, how much more and more solemnly true are they with regard to the aims and objects which most of us have in view? They will all drop away, and we shall be left, stripped of what, for most of us, has made the whole interest and activity of our lives.

II. What will last?

‘So then, abideth these three, faith, hope, love.’ When Paul takes three nouns and couples them with a verb in the singular, he is not making a slip of the pen, or committing a grammatical blunder which a child could correct. But there is a great truth in that piece of apparent grammatical irregularity; for the faith, the hope, and the love, for which he can only afford a singular verb, are thereby declared to be in their depth and essence one thing, and it, the triple star, abides, and continues to shine. The three primitive colours are unified in the white beam of light. Do not correct the grammar, and spoil the sense, but discern what he means when he says, ‘Now, abideth faith, hope, love.’ For this is what he means, that the two latter come out of the former, and that without it they are nought, and that it without them is dead.

Faith breeds Hope. There is the difference between earthly hopes and Christian people’s hopes. Our hopes, apart from the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, are but the balancing of probabilities, and the scale is often dragged down by the clutch of eager desires. But all is baseless and uncertain, unless our hopes are the outcome of our faith. Which, being translated into other words, is just this, that the one basis on which men can rest-ay! even for the immediate future, and the contingencies of life, as well as for the solemnities and certainties of heaven-any legitimate and substantial hope is trust in Jesus Christ, His word, His love, His power, and for the heavenly future, in His Resurrection and present glory. A man who believes these things, and only that man, has a rock foundation on which he can build his hope.

Faith, in like manner, is the parent of Love. Paul and John, diverse as they are in the whole cast of their minds, the one being speculative and the other mystical, the one argumentative and the other simply gazing and telling what he sees, are precisely agreed in regard to this matter. For, to the Apostle of Love, the foundation of all human love towards God is, ‘We have known and believed the love that God hath to us,’ and ‘We love Him because He first loved us,’ and to Paul the first step is the trusting reception of the love of God, ‘commended to us’ by the fact that ‘whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us,’ and from that necessarily flows, if the faith be genuine, the love that answers the sacrifice and obeys the Beloved. So faith, hope, love, these three are a trinity in unity, and it abideth. That is the main point of our last text. Let me say a word or two about it.

I have said that the words have often been misunderstood as if the ‘now’ referred only to the present order of things, in which faith and hope are supposed to find their only appropriate sphere. But that is clearly not the Apostle’s meaning here, for many reasons with which I need not trouble you. The abiding of all three is eternal abiding, and there is a heavenly as well as an earthly form of faith and hope as well as of love. Just look at these points for a moment.

‘Faith abides,’ says Paul, yonder, as here. Now, there is a common saying, which I suppose ninety out of a hundred people think comes out of the Bible, about faith being lost in sight. There is no such teaching in Scripture. True, in one aspect, faith is the antithesis of sight. True, Paul does say ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ But that antithesis refers only to part of faith’s significance. In so far as it is the opposite of sight, of course it will cease to be in operation when ‘we shall know even as we are known’ and ‘see Him as He is.’ But the essence of faith is not in the absence of the person trusted, but the emotion of trust which goes out to the person, present or absent. And in its deepest meaning of absolute dependence and happy confidence, faith abides through all the glories and the lustres of the heavens, as it burns amidst the dimnesses and the darknesses of earth. For ever and ever, on through the irrevoluble ages of eternity, dependence on God in Christ will be the life of the glorified, as it was the life of the militant, Church. No millenniums of possession, and no imaginable increases in beauty and perfectness and enrichment with the wealth of God, will bring us one inch nearer to casting off the state of filial dependence which is, and ever will be, the condition of our receiving them all. Faith ‘abides.’

Hope ‘abides.’ For it is no more a Scriptural idea that hope is lost in fruition, than it is that faith is lost in sight. Rather that Future presents itself to us as the continual communication of an inexhaustible God to our progressively capacious and capable spirits. In that continual communication there is continual progress. Wherever there is progress there must be hope. And thus the fair form, which has so often danced before us elusive, and has led us into bogs and miry places and then faded away, will move before us through all the long avenues of an endless progress, and will ever and anon come back to tell us of the unseen glories that lie beyond the next turn, and to woo us further into the depths of heaven and the fulness of God. Hope ‘abides.’

Love ‘abides.’ I need not, I suppose, enlarge upon that thought which nobody denies, that love is the eternal form of the human relation to God. It, too, like the mercy which it clasps, ‘endureth for ever.’

But I may remind you of what the Apostle does not explain in our text, that it is greater than its linked sisters, because whilst faith and hope belong only to a creature, and are dependent and expectant of some good to come to themselves, and correspond to something which is in God in Christ, the love which springs from faith and hope not only corresponds to, but resembles, that from which it comes and by which it lives. The fire kindled is cognate with the fire that kindles; and the love that is in man is like the love that is in God. It is the climax of his nature; it is the fulfilling of all duty; it is the crown and jewelled clasp of all perfection. And so ‘abideth faith, hope, love, and the greatest of these is love.’

III. Lastly, what follows from all this?

First, let us be quite sure that we understand what this abiding love is. I dare say you have heard people say ‘Ah! I do not care much about Paul’s theology. Give me the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. That is beautiful; that praise of Love; that comes home to men.’ Yes, very beautiful. Are you quite sure that you know what Paul means by ‘love’ ? I do not use the word charity, because that lovely word, like a glistening meteor that falls upon the earth, has a rust, as it were, upon its surface that dims its brightness very quickly. Charity has come to mean an indulgent estimate of other people’s faults; or, still more degradingly, the giving of money out of your pockets to other people’s necessities. These are what the people who do not care much about Paul’s theology generally suppose that he means here. But these do not exhaust his meaning. Paul’s notion of love is the response of the human love to the divine, which divine is received into the heart by simple faith in Jesus Christ. And his notion of love which never faileth, and endureth all things, and hopeth all things, is love to men, which is but one stream of the great river of love to God. If we rightly understand what he means by love, we shall find that his praise of love is as theological as anything that he ever wrote. We shall never get further than barren admiration of a beautiful piece of writing, unless our love to men has the source and root to which Paul points us.

Again, let us take this great thought of the permanence of faith, hope, and love as being the highest conception that we can form of our future condition. It is very easy to bewilder ourselves with speculations and theories of another life. I do not care much about them. The great gates keep their secret well. Few stray beams of light find their way through their crevices. The less we say the less likely we are to err. It is easy to let ourselves be led away, by turning rhetoric into revelation, and accepting the symbols of the New Testament as if they carried anything more than images of the realities. But far beyond golden pavements, and harps, and crowns, and white robes, lies this one great thought that the elements of the imperfect, Christlike life of earth are the essence of the perfect, Godlike life in heaven. ‘Now abide these three, faith, hope, love.’

Last of all, let us shape our lives in accordance with these certainties. The dropping away of the transient things is no argument for neglecting or despising them; for our handling of them makes our characters, and our characters abide. But it is a very excellent argument for shaping our lives so as to seek first the first things, and to secure the permanent qualities, and so to use the transient as that it shall all help us towards that which does not pass.

What will a Manchester man that knows nothing except goods and office work, and knows these only in their superficial aspect, and not as related to God, what, in the name of common-sense, will he do with himself when he gets into a world where there is not a single ledger, nor a desk, nor a yard of cloth of any sort? What will some of us do when, in like manner, we are stripped of all the things that we have cared about, and worked for, and have made our aims down here? Suppose that you knew that you were under sailing orders to go somewhere or other, and that at any moment a breathless messenger might appear and say, ‘Come along! we are all waiting for you’; and suppose that you never did a single thing towards getting your outfit ready, or preparing yourself in any way for that which might come at any moment, and could not but come before very long. Would you be a wise man? But that is what a great many of us are doing; doing every day, and all day long, and doing that only. ‘He shall leave them in the midst of his days,’ says a grim text, ‘and at his latter end shall be a fool.’

What will drop? Modes of apprehension, modes of utterance, occupations, duties, relationships, loves; and we shall be left standing naked, stripped, as it were, to the very quick, and only as much left as will keep our souls alive. But if we are clothed with faith, hope, love, we shall not be found naked. Cultivate the high things, the permanent things; then death will not wrench you violently from all that you have been and cared for; but it will usher you into the perfect form of all that you have been and done upon earth. All these things will pass, but faith, hope, love, ‘stay not behind nor in the grave are trod,’ but will last as long as Christ, their Object, lives, and as long as we in Him live also.

1 Corinthians 13:13. And now — In the present world; abideth — In the hearts of holy persons, and influencing their lives, even all their tempers, words, and works; faith, hope, love, these three — The principal and radical saving graces, of most frequent use in the Christian life, and productive of all the others. 1st, Faith, whereby we receive as infallibly true, and infinitely important, the testimony of God, contained in his word concerning things past, present, and to come; especially all the truths of his holy gospel; whereby being penitent, and believing on Jesus with our heart unto righteousness, we are persuaded of God’s love to us in Christ, rely on his promises, and stand in awe of his threatenings; faith, ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων, the evidence, conviction, or persuasion of things not seen; ελπιζομενων υποστασις, the confidence, namely, of receiving, (so the latter word is rendered Hebrews 3:14,) or the anticipation, of things hoped for; giving them a present subsistence, as the word also signifies, in the heart. 2d, Hope, namely, of eternal life, Titus 1:2; of an incorruptible inheritance, 1 Peter 1:3; an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17; hope, founded on our being heirs of these blessings, in consequence of our being children of God by adoption and regeneration, John 1:12-13; Romans 8:17 : hope, productive of gratitude, joy, patience, purity, and all good works: see 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 15:58. 3d, Love, namely, to God and man, described in this chapter. It is justly observed by Dr. Macknight here, that “the clause, now abideth, &c., implies, that the graces spoken of are not always to abide; at least the graces of faith and hope.” For faith, by which we walk, that is, are directed and governed, while we are at home in the body and absent from the Lord, is (2 Corinthians 5:7) opposed to sight, by which we shall walk, when, being present with him, we shall see him as he is; (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2;) and as it is a confidence, or persuasion, of receiving things hoped for, when those things are actually seen and received, it must cease of course. Hope, likewise, that is seen, as the apostle observes, or the hope of blessings already possessed, is not hope: therefore, when the eternal life, the heavenly inheritance, &c., which were the objects of our hope, (the true and only Christian hope,) are enjoyed by us, the hope we entertained of them can have place in us no more, its object being attained. It is, however, far otherwise with love. The objects of this grace exist in the greatest perfection in heaven, and will exist there to all eternity, in a degree of fervour and purity of which we can now form no adequate idea.

“Thus constant faith and holy hope shall die, One lost in certainty, and one in joy:

While thou, more happy power, fair charity,

Triumphant sister, greatest of the three,

Thy office and thy nature still the same,

Lasting thy lamp, and unconsumed thy flame,

Shalt still survive;

Shalt stand before the host of heaven confess’d,

For ever blessing, and for ever blest.”

The greatest of these, therefore, is love — The greatest, because the most durable, and also for divers other reasons: as, 1st, Faith and hope are graces chiefly suited to our fallen state, and intended to raise us from our fall: love was in man in his state of innocence and perfection, and was then his chief excellence, as it now is, and ever has been, the chief excellence of angels. 2d, Faith and hope are only means of salvation: love is the end to which these means are intended to bring us. 3d, Faith and hope may be termed selfish graces; particularly the latter is such, having our own interest in view: love is generous, disinterested, noble, and carries us out beyond ourselves. 4th, Faith and hope are human: love is divine; it exists, always has existed, and ever will exist, in God himself, in whom the former graces can have no place, and is in him his highest glory.

13:8-13 Charity is much to be preferred to the gifts on which the Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It is a grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused notions of things, have children when compared with grown men! Thus shall we think of our most valued gifts of this world, when we come to heaven. All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us. To sum up the excellences of charity, it is preferred not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope. Faith fixes on the Divine revelation, and assents thereto, relying on the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens on future happiness, and waits for that; but in heaven, faith will be swallowed up in actual sight, and hope in enjoyment. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But there, love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing the best below! God is love, 1Jo 4:8,16. Where God is to be seen as he is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height; there only will it be perfected.And now abideth - "Remains" (μένει menei). The word means properly to remain, continue, abide; and is applied to persons remaining in a place, in a state or condition, in contradistinction from removing or changing their place, or passing away. Here it must be understood to be used to denote "permanency," when the other things of which he had spoken had passed away; and the sense is, that faith, hope, and love would "remain" when the gift of tongues should cease, and the need of prophecy, etc.; that is, these should survive them all. And the connection certainly requires us to understand him as saying that faith, hope, and love would survive "all" those things of which he had been speaking, and must, therefore, include knowledge 1 Corinthians 13:8-9,, as well as miracles and the other endowments of the Holy Spirit. They would survive them all; would be valuable when they should cease; and should, therefore, be mainly sought; and of these the greatest and most important is love.

Most commentators have supposed that Paul is speaking here only of this life, and that he means to say that in this life these three exist; that "faith, hope, and charity exist in this scene "only," but that in the future world faith and hope will be done away, and therefore the greatest of these is charity" - Bloomfield. See also Doddridge, Macknight, Rosenmuller, Clarke, etc. But to me it seems evident that Paul means to say that faith, hope, and love will survive "all" those other things of which he had been speaking; that "they" would vanish away, or be lost in superior attainments and endowments; that the time would come when they would be useless; but that faith, hope, and love would then remain; but of "these," for important reasons, love was the most valuable. Not because it would "endure" the longest, for the apostle does not intimate that, but because it is more important to the welfare of others, and is a more eminent virtue than they are.

As the strain of the argument requires us to look to another state, to a world where prophecy shall cease and knowledge shall vanish away, so the same strain of argumentation requires us to understand him as saying that faith, and hope, and love will subsist there; and that there, as here, love will be of more importance than faith and hope. It cannot be objected to this view that there will be no occasion for faith and hope in heaven. That is assumed without evidence, and is not affirmed by Paul. He gives no such intimation. Faith is "confidence" in God and in Christ; and there will be as much necessity of "confidence" in heaven as on earth. Indeed, the great design of the plan of salvation is to restore "confidence" in God among alienated creatures; and heaven could not subsist a moment without "confidence;" and faith, therefore, must be eternal. No society - be it a family, a neighborhood, a church, or a nation; be it mercantile, professional, or a mere association of friendship - can subsist a moment without mutual "confidence" or faith, and in heaven such confidence in God must subsist forever.

And so of hope. It is true that many of the objects of hope will then be realized, and will be succeeded by possession. But will the Christian have nothing to hope for in heaven? Will it be nothing to expect and desire greatly augmented knowledge, eternal enjoyment; perfect peace in all coming ages, and the happy society of the blessed forever? All heaven cannot be enjoyed at once; and if there is anything "future" that is an object of desire, there will be hope. Hope is a compound emotion, made up of a "desire" for an object and an "expectation" of obtaining it. But both these will exist in heaven. It is folly to say that a redeemed saint will not "desire" there eternal happiness; it is equal folly to say that there will be no strong expectation of obtaining it. All that is said, therefore, about faith as about to cease, and hope as not having an existence in heaven, is said without the authority of the Bible, and in violation of what must be the truth, and is contrary to the whole scope of the reasoning of Paul here.

But the greatest of these is charity - Not because it is to "endure" the longest, but because it is the more important virtue; it exerts a wider influence; it is more necessary to the happiness of society; it overcomes more evils. It is the great principle which is to bind the universe in harmony, which unites God to his creatures, and his creatures to himself, and which binds and confederates all holy beings with each other. It is therefore more important, because it pertains to society to the great kingdom of which God is the head, and because it enters into the very conception of a holy and happy organization. Faith and hope rather pertain to individuals; love pertains to society, and is that without which the kingdom of God cannot stand. Individuals may be saved by faith and hope; but the whole immense kingdom of God depends on love. It is, therefore, of more importance than all other graces and endowments; more important than prophecy and miracles, and the gift of tongues and knowledge, because it will survive them all; more important than faith and hope, because, although it may co-exist with them, and though they all shall live forever, yet love enters into the very nature of the kingdom of God; binds society together; unites the Creator and the creature; and blends the interests of all the redeemed, and of the angels, and of God, into one.

13. And now—Translate, "But now." "In this present state" [Henderson]. Or, "now" does not express time, but opposition, as in 1Co 5:11, "the case being so" [Grotius]; whereas it is the case that the three gifts, "prophecy," "tongues," and "knowledge" (cited as specimens of the whole class of gifts) "fail" (1Co 13:8), there abide permanently only these three—faith, hope, charity. In one sense faith and hope shall be done away, faith being superseded by sight, and hope by actual fruition (Ro 8:24; 2Co 5:7); and charity, or love, alone never faileth (1Co 13:8). But in another sense, "faith and hope," as well as "charity," ABIDE; namely, after the extraordinary gifts have ceased; for those three are necessary and sufficient for salvation at all times, whereas the extraordinary gifts are not at all so; compare the use of "abide," 1Co 3:14. Charity, or love, is connected specially with the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of the loving union between the brethren (Ro 15:30; Col 1:8). Faith is towards God. Hope is in behalf of ourselves. Charity is love to God creating in us love towards our neighbor. In an unbeliever there is more or less of the three opposites—unbelief, despair, hatred. Even hereafter faith in the sense of trust in God "abideth"; also "hope," in relation to ever new joys in prospect, and at the anticipation of ever increasing blessedness, sure never to be disappointed. But love alone in every sense "abideth"; it is therefore "the greatest" of the three, as also because it presupposes "faith," which without "love" and its consequent "works" is dead (Ga 5:6; Jas 2:17, 20).

but—rather, "and"; as there is not so strong opposition between charity and the other two, faith and hope, which like it also "abide."

Take us according to our state in this life, we have, and shall have, the exercise of three graces: faith, to evidence unto us those things which we do not see, either by the eye of sense or reason;

hope, by which we wait for the receiving of them; and

love, by which we delight ourselves in God, and show obedience to the will of God. But of all these, love is

the greatest, either in respect of its use and profitableness unto men, or in respect of its duration and abiding (which last the apostle seemeth chiefly to intend).

Faith shall cease when we come to the vision of God; and hope, when we come to the fruition of God in glory; love also will cease, as to some acts, but never as to a pleasure and a delighting in God; that will be to eternity.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three,.... Which are the principal graces of the Spirit of God: faith is to be understood, not of a faith of miracles, for that does not abide; nor of an historical one, or mere assent to truth; persons may have this faith, and believe but for a while; but of that faith, which is peculiar to God's elect; is a fruit and effect of electing grace, and for that reason abides; is the gift of God, and one of those which are without repentance; is the work of God, and the operation of his Spirit, and therefore will be performed with power; it is the grace by which a soul sees Christ, goes unto him, lays hold on him, receives him, relies on him, and lives upon him: "hope" is also a gift of God's grace, implanted in regeneration; has God and Christ, and not any worldly thing, or outward performance, for its object, ground, and foundation, to build upon; it is of things unseen, future, difficult, yet possible to be enjoyed; it is supported by the love of God, is encouraged by promises, and is sure, being fixed on Christ and his righteousness; it is that grace by which saints wait for things promised, and rejoice in the believing views of glory and happiness: charity designs love to God, Christ, and the saints, as has been explained, and a large account is given of it in this chapter: these are the three chief and leading graces in God's people, and they abide and continue with them; they may fail sometimes, as to their lively exercise, but never as to their being and principle; faith may droop and hang its wing, hope may not be lively, and love may wax cold, but neither of them can be lost; Christ prays that faith fail not, hope on him is an anchor sure and steadfast, and nothing can separate from the love of Christ; as not from the love of Christ to his people, so not from theirs to him: these graces abide now, during the present life: he that has true faith in Christ, shall die in it; and he that has a good hope through grace, shall have it in his death; and love will outlive death, and be in its height and glory in the other world: for which reason it is added,

but the greatest of these is charity; and is said to be so, not that it is on every account the greatest; faith in many things exceeds that, as what is ascribed to it in Scripture shows; but because of the peculiar properties and effects of it before mentioned, it including faith and hope, as in 1 Corinthians 13:7 and besides many other things, and because, without this, faith and hope are nothing: and besides, its usefulness is more extensive than either of the other two; a man's faith is only for himself; a just man lives by his own faith, and not another's; one man's faith will be of no service to another, and the same is true of hope; but by love saints serve one another, both in things temporal and spiritual, and chiefly it is said to be the greatest, because most durable; in the other world, faith will be changed for vision, and hope for enjoyment, but love will abide, and be in its full perfection and constant exercise, to all eternity. The Jews (w) say much the same of humility the apostle does here of charity;

"wisdom, fear, humility, they are alike, "but humility is greater than them all".''

(w) Piske Toseph. in T. Bab. Yebamot, art. 196.

{7} And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

(7) The conclusion: as if the apostle should say, Such therefore will be our condition then: but now we have three things, and they remain sure if we are Christ's, without which, true religion cannot consist, that is, faith, hope, and charity. And among these, charity is the chiefest because it ceases not in the life to come as the rest do, but is perfected and accomplished. For seeing that faith and hope tend to things which are promised and are to come, when we have presently gotten them, to what purpose would we have faith and hope? But yet there at length we will truly and perfectly love both God and one another.

1 Corinthians 13:13. Νυνὶ δέ] nunc autem, and thus, since, according to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, the present temporary charismata do not continue but cease in the future age, continue (into the everlasting life and onward in it) faith, hope, love. [2093] This explanation of νυνὶ δέ in a conclusive sense, as 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 12:20, and of ΜΈΝΕΙ as meaning eternal continuance, [2094] has been rightly given by Irenaeus, Haer. ii. p. 47, iv. 25; Tertullian, de pat. 12; Photius in Oecumenius, p. 553; Grotius, Billroth, de Wette, Osiander, Lipsius (Rechtfertigungsl. pp. 98, 210), Ewald, Maier, Hofmann. For, although the majority of interpreters since Chrysostom (including Flatt, Heydenreich, Rückert, David Schulz, Neander) have explained νυνὶ δέ in a temporal sense: “but for the present, so long as that glorious state lies still far off from us” (Rückert), and μένει of continuance in the present age (in the church), this is incorrect for the simple reason, that Paul, according to 1 Corinthians 13:8 ff., expected the charismata to cease only at the Parousia, and consequently could not have described merely the triad of faith, hope, and love as what was now remaining; the γνῶσις also, prophecy, etc., remain till the Parousia. Hence, too, it was an erroneous expedient to take μένει in the sense of the sum total, which remains as the result of a reckoning (Calvin, Bengel, and others).

πίστις] here in the established sense of the fides salvifica. This remains, even in the world to come, the abiding causa apprehendens of blessedness; what keeps the glorified in continued possession of salvation is their abiding trust in the atonement which took place through the death of Christ. Not as if their everlasting glory might be lost by them, but it is their assured possession just through the fact, that to them as συγκληρονομοί of Christ in the very beholding and sharing His glory the faith, through which they become blessed, must remain incapable of being lost. The everlasting fellowship with Christ in the future αἰών is not conceivable at all without the everlasting continuance of the living ground and bond of this fellowship, which is none other than faith.

ἐλπίς] equally in its established N. T. sense, hope of the everlasting glory; Romans 5:1, and frequently. This abides for the glorified, with regard to the everlasting duration and continued development of their glory. How Paul conceived this continued development and that of the Messianic kingdom itself to proceed in detail, cannot indeed be proved. But the idea is not on that account unbiblical, but is necessarily presupposed by the continuance of hope, which is undoubtedly asserted in our text. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15:24, steps in the development of the future βασίλεια are manifestly given, as indeed the everlasting δόξα generally, according to its essential character as ζωή, is not conceivable at all without development to ever higher perfection for the individual, and therefore also is not conceivable without the continuance of hope. The conception of this continued development is not excluded by the notion of the τέλειον, 1 Corinthians 13:10, but belongs thereto. [2095] Billroth is wrong in saying “faith and hope remain, in so far as their contents is eternal.” That is to confound the objective and subjective. De Wette (comp. Maier) holds that “faith and hope, which go directly to their object, remain by passing over into sight.” But in that way precisely they would not remain (Romans 8:24; Hebrews 11:1), and only love would remain. For all the three the μένειν must be meant in the same sense. Our interpretation, again, does not run counter either to 2 Corinthians 5:7 (where surely the future seeing of the salvation does not exclude the continuance of the fides salvifica), or to Romans 8:24, Hebrews 11:1, since in our text also the hope meant is hope of something future not yet come to manifestation, while the fides salvifica has to all eternity a suprasensuous (Heb. loc. cit.) object (the atoning power of the sacrifice of Jesus). Hofmann transforms it in his exposition to this, that it is asserted of the Christian who has believed, hoped, and loved that he brings thither with him what he is as such, so that he has an abiding heritage in these three things. But that is not what Paul says, but simply that even in the fixture aeon, into which the charismata will not continue, Christians will not cease to believe, to hope, to love.

τὰ τρία ταῦτα] brings the whole attention, before anything further is said, earnestly to bear upon this triad.

μείζων δὲ τούτων] is not to be taken as μείζων δὲ ἢ ταῦτα, for τούτων must apply to the foregoing τὰ τρία ταῦτα, but as: greater however (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:5) among these, i.e. of higher value (than the two others) among these three, is love. Regarding μείζων with the gen. partitivus, comp. Matthew 23:11. Hofmann has no warrant for desiderating the article; comp. Luke 9:46. Why love holds this highest place, has been already explained, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; [2096] because, namely, in relation to faith love, through which it works (comp. Galatians 5:6), conditions its moral worth (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) and the moral fruitfulness of the life of Christian fellowship (1 Corinthians 13:4-7); consequently without love (which is divine life, 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16) faith would be something egotistical, and therefore spurious and only apparent, not even existing at all as regards its true ethical nature; [2097] from which it follows at the same time that in relation to hope also love must be the greater, because if love fails, the hope of future glory—seeing that it can only be cherished by the true faith which works by love—cannot with reason exist at all (comp. Matthew 26:35 ff.)

[2093] The three so-called theological virtues. But faith and hope might also be called virtues, “quia sunt obedientia, quam postulat Deus praestari suo mandato,” Melanchthon.

[2094] If, again, it be assumed that the conception of μένει differs in reference to its different subjects, this is nothing but arbitrary importation. Osiander (comp. Theophylact before him) holds that the μένειν has different degrees; in the case of faith and hope, it lasts on to the Parousia; in the case of love, it is absolute, onward beyond the Parousia. And as distinguished from the charismata, it denotes in the case of faith and hope the constant continuance as opposed to the sporadic. What accumulated arbitrariness! Lipsius is correct in substance, but does not define specifically enough the conception of the πίστις.

[2095] Comp. also Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 473. Comp. compare. “comp. on Matthew 3:5” refers to Dr. Meyer’s own commentary on the passage. So also “See on Matthew 3:5.”

[2096] The interpreters who take νυνὶ δέ to mean, but for the present, follow for the most part Chrysostom in stating it as the higher worth of love, that it alone continues in eternity, while faith and hope, as they assume, cease. According to de Wette, Paul seems darkly to indicate the truth that love is the root of faith and hope. But even apart from the fact that this is not a Pauline thought, the reader could not be expected after ver. 7 (where nothing of the kind is even indirectly indicated) to arrive at such a thought. Baur too imports what is not in the text when he says that Paul calls love the greatest, because it is what it is immediately, in an absolute way, and hence also remains always what it is.

[2097] Justification, however, would be by love, only if perfect satisfaction were rendered to its requirements, which is not possible (Romans 13:8). Hence the divine economy of salvation has connected justification with faith, the necessary fruit and evidence of which, however, is love. Comp. Melanchthon, “Aliud est causa justificationis, aliud est necessarium ut effectus sequens justificationem … ut in vivente dicimus necessario motum esse, qui tamen non est vitae causa.” See also Form. Conc. p. 688 ff.

1 Corinthians 13:13. νυνὶ δὲ μένει κ.τ.λ.—final conclusion of the matter, μένει being antithetical to πίπτει κ.τ.λ. of the foregoing: “But as it is (nunc autem), there abides faith, hope, love—these three l” they stay; the others pass (1 Corinthians 13:8 ff.). Faith and Hope are elements of the perfect and permanent state; new objects of trust and desire will come into sight in the widening visions of the life eternal. But Love, both now and then, surpasses its companions, being the character of God (1 Corinthians 8:3, 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16); in Love is the fruition of Faith’s efforts (Galatians 5:6) and Hope’s anticipations; it alone gives worth to every human power (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The popular interpretation, since Cm[2010], has read νυνὶ as temporal instead of logical, identifying it with the ἄρτι of 1 Corinthians 13:12, as though the Ap. meant that for the present Faith and Hope “abide” with Love, but Love alone “abides” for ever. But P. puts the three on the same footing in respect of enduringness—“these three” in comparison with the other three of 1 Corinthians 13:8—pointedly adding Faith and Hope to share and support the “abiding” of Love; “love is greater among these,” not more lasting.—For μείζων with partitive gen[2011], cf. Matthew 23:11, and see Wr[2012], p. 303. For the pregnant, absolute μένει, cf, 1 Corinthians 3:14, 1 John 2:6, 2 John 1:2.

[2010] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[2011] genitive case.

[2012] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

13. And now abideth faith, hope, charity] All these will remain in the life to come. Faith, the vision of the unseen (Hebrews 11:1), with its consequent trust in God; hope, which even in fruition remains as the desire of its continuance; and love, as the necessary condition of our dwelling in God and God in us. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:31. ‘Now’ is not to be understood of time, but as equivalent to ‘so’, at the conclusion of the argument.

but the greatest of these is charity] “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” Calvin.

1 Corinthians 13:13. Νυνὶ δὲ μένει, but now abideth) This is not strictly said of duration; for these three things do not meet in it; since faith is terminated in sight, and hope in joy, 2 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 8:24 : love alone continues, 1 Corinthians 13:8 : but it refers to their value, in antithesis to prophecy, etc., in this sense: On calculating accounts [on weighing the relative values] these three things are necessary and sufficient; let only these three stand; these exist; these abide, nothing more. A man may be a Christian without prophecy, etc., but not without faith, hope, love. Comp. on the verb, μένω, I abide, Romans 9:11; 1 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Hebrews 13:1. Faith is directed to God; hope is in our own behalf; love is towards our neighbour. Faith is properly connected with the economy of the Father; Hope with the economy of the Son; Love with the economy of the Holy Ghost, Colossians 2:12; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 1:8. And this too is the very reason of the order in which these three things are enumerated. νυνὶ, now, has the effect of an epitasis[121] [and shows what are the especial duties of us travellers on the way to the heavenly city.—V. g.]—τρία, three) only. Many are not necessary. Paul often refers to these three graces. Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 1:18; Php 1:9-10; Colossians 1:4-5; Colossians 1:22, note; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; Titus 1:1-2; Hebrews 6:10, etc. Sometimes he mentions both faith and love, sometimes faith [by itself] denoting by synecdoche the whole of Christianity, 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:5. In a wicked man we find infidelity, hatred, despair.—ταῦτα, these) Heb. הם, i.e. are, viz. greater than prophecies, etc.—ΜΕΊΖΩΝ, greater) the greatest, of these, of the three. He not only prefers love to prophecy, but even to such things as excel prophecy. Love is of more advantage to our neighbour, than faith and hope by themselves: comp. greater, 1 Corinthians 14:5. And God is not called faith or hope absolutely, whereas He is called love.

[121] An emphatic addition augmenting the force.—Append.

Verse 13. - And now. The "now" is not temporal (as opposed to the "then" of the previous verse), but logical. It sums up the paragraph. Abideth. These three graces are fundamental and permanent; not transient, like the charisms, on which the Corinthians were priding themselves, but which should all be "annulled." Faith, hope, charity. It might be difficult to see how "hope" should be permanent. But if the future state be progressive throughout eternity and infinitude, hope will never quite be lost in fruition. Even "within the veil," it will still remain as "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19). The greatest of these is charity; more literally, greater than these is love. St. Paul does not explain why love is the greatest and best of the three. Various reasons may be given.

1. Love is the greatest, because it is the root of the other two; "we believe only in that which we love; we hope only for that which we love.

2. And love is the greatest because love is for our neighbours; faith and hope mainly for ourselves.

3. And love is the greatest because faith and hope are human, but God is love.

4. And love is the greatest because faith and hope can only work by love, and only show themselves by love. Thus love is as the undivided perfection of sevenfold light. Faith and hope are precious stones of one colour, as a ruby and a sapphire; but love, as he has been showing us throughout the chapter, is a diamond of many facets.

1 Corinthians 13:13And now (νυνὶ δὲ)

Rev., but; better than and, bringing out the contrast with the transient gifts. Now is logical and not temporal. Thus, as it is.


Not merely in this life. The essential permanence of the three graces is asserted. In their nature they are eternal.

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