1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Let us then inquire —
I. WHAT FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY ARE.
1. Faith has respect to things either unseen or future.
2. Hope is desire and expectation of good.
3. Charity is love to God and love to man. There may be in our text a special reference to love to man, including the love of complacency towards the good, and a love of compassion towards even the vilest of the vile.
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF FAITH AND HOPE.
1. Faith is excellent contemplated —
(1) Intellectually. The power of realising existing objects and past and future events is a power of incalculable value, without which man would not be man. Most of our knowledge is obtained through the medium of books and oral instruction, which we have read and heard and have believed. Even common conversation owes much of its interest to the faith which we have in one another. In commerce the importance of a promise to pay and of believing that promise is most apparent. Trial by jury, on which the question of life or death often depends, would be useless were faith in civil society impossible.
(a) A man "whose word is as good as his bond" is universally and deservedly esteemed. He is a man who can be believed.
(b) But the moral excellence of faith is most of all apparent in its reference to God. Faithfulness as clearly belongs to God as either justice or mercy; and when we trust in Him without fear, we "give to Him the glory due to His name."(c) Faith exerts a beneficial interest on the entire character of man as exposed to temptation. For his conflict the moral soldier is furnished with "the shield of faith". "This is the victory that over-cometh the world," etc.
(d) It is essential to our salvation. It is to a Christian what grasping the hand of a friend would be to a drowning man.
2. Hope is excellent, because —
(1) It is the next best thing to actual possession (Romans 8:24). It is the earnest of heaven.
(2) It neutralises if not annihilates the misery which great affliction might otherwise create; "these light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.
III. THE SURPASSING EXCELLENCE OF CHARITY.
1. It is more disinterested than either faith or hope.
2. It is the perfection of man.
3. It is eternal.
4. Although charity is before faith and hope in point of excellence, faith is first in order of time.
(J. Burder, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.