1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
1. Why should hope be placed on a level with faith and charity? We can understand why faith should be so singled out; it is the foundation of religion, the bond between the creature and God. Still more can we understand it of charity, for charity is the likeness of God. But hope is thought of at first sight as a self-regarding quality, and something delusive and treacherous.
2. But it is not really strange that St. Paul should raise hope to a Christian temper of the first order. St. Paul was a student of Scripture, and what is on the very surface of the Bible is the way in which, from first to last, it is one unbroken, persistent call to hope. Hope, never destroyed however overthrown; hope, never obscured amidst the storm and dust of ruin, is the paramount characteristic of the Old Testament, all leads back to hope; if ever it dies, it revives again larger and more confident than before.
I. HOPE ELEVATES AND STRENGTHENS AND INSPIRES. This is why it is one of the greatest elements of the religious temper. There may be a faith almost without hope, a faith which believes though it can see nothing in God's truth and goodness; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." But hope is the energy of vigorous faith, the strong self-awakening from discouragement and despair. What gives its moral value to hope, is that, in its higher form, it is a real act and striving of the will and moral nature. Like the highest forms of courage, it is a refusal to be borne down and cowed by evil, a refusal to dwell on the dark side of things. It is thus that hope plays so great a part in the spiritual life, that it fights with such power on the side of God; for it not only receives, welcomes, trusts in God's promises, but it throws into them life and reality.
II. HOPE IS A GREAT INSTRUMENT OF SPIRITUAL AND MORAL DISCIPLINE. We are saved by hope. Long waiting is God's appointed order for the generations of men. All kinds of fortunes befall the Church, befall us all who are going through our trial time, and we often are tempted to be tired, and oppressed, and out of heart. There must often be much to distress and alarm us, evils which seem without remedy, defeats which seem final. To hope seems to us then like deluding ourselves. And yet how often has it happened in the upshot of things that, if in the very darkest times of history any one had been bold enough to hope, he would have been amply justified! We need not blind ourselves to facts; we have our part to do, and we must deal with it as we may, and as we ought. But the God of hope calls to us out of the darkness, and we are unfaithful to Him if in our wilfulness we shut our ears to His voice and dwell despondingly on the future which is in His hands.
III. BUT ALL THAT HERE INVITES AND DEMANDS HOPE IS BUT LITTLE TO THAT WHICH IS TO BE WHEN ALL HERE SHALL HAVE BEEN PAST AND OVER.
1. We may dare to look forward to be sinless. Think of what you know of your own conscience, of your own temptations, of your own fall, of your own struggles for forgiveness and restoration, and then think what it will be to have left all that behind.
2. Then, whatever the function and employment of that perfect state may be, whatever work God may have for us to do, we shall have the will and the power to do it as the angels do. The divided service, the broken purpose, the double mind, the treacheries of the will, the blindness of sell-deceit, the laggard indolence, all that now mars and cripples our sincerest obedience, will then have been purged away, and in all the fulness of truth we shall know how to serve Him with our whole heart.
3. There, in infinite measure, will be all that calls for human affection, and there human affections will he raised to new powers and strength, transfigured, purified, glorified; and there, in ways we cannot dream of now, we shall be brought near to Christ, and be like unto Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.