1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
These three graces form the essential elements of the Christian character. They are principles implanted in the heart of every true Christian by the Holy Spirit, and always exemplified in his outward walk and conversation.
I. THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY.
1. Faith, in its general signification, is credit given to testimony. It is a principle upon which we are continually acting in the ordinary concerns of life. Now the faith spoken of in the text is precisely the same principle, only having a different object and resting upon higher testimony. We cannot penetrate the recesses of the Divine counsels. Faith is a cordial assent to the truth of all the declarations of God's Word. "Entering into the daily habits and experience of the Christian, this principle is the spring of his most holy tempers, exertions, attainments, and consolations. He lives — he walks — he stands — he perseveres — he fights — he conquers and triumphs, by faith."
2. Hope is a lively expectation of obtaining those things which we desire; and when we are led by faith to a knowledge of our real condition, we shall obviously desire nothing so much as deliverance from that condition. The principal object of hope will, therefore, be the attainment of eternal salvation through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Hope differs from presumption. When thus grounded upon the everlasting covenant which has been confirmed by the oath of Jehovah, it does afford strong consolation to the true Christian.
3. Charity, like faith and hope, is a stranger to the natural heart. And oh! what a splendid character does it present to us! "How glorious is it as an emanation of Divine goodness when compared with the usual habits of men; when viewed in contrast with the habitually selfish doings of many men, who even profess and call themselves Christians!" It is, at the same time, a character so elevated, that it needs a certain measure of Christian grace to perceive and to love its excellencies.
II. IN WHAT THE SUPERIORITY OF CHARITY CONSISTS.
1. It is more excellent in its nature. Perfect excellency can be found only in God Himself. It is by this grace, then, that the restoration of the Divine image takes place in our hearts.
2. It is more advanced in order. That is, it ranks higher in the scale of attainment. We must possess faith and hope before we can be actuated by the principle of love. They are the means; this is the end. It is the prize itself of which faith and hope must gradually put us in possession. A magnificent edifice cannot be erected without scaffolding; yet the building is greater than the scaffolding, being the sole end for which that is necessary: and when it is finished the scaffolding is removed as an useless encumbrance.
3. It is more expansive in its exercise. There is a degree of selfishness in faith and hope. They benefit him only who possesses them.But love, like the sun in the firmament, diffuses its blessings far and wide, and sheds a kindly influence all around.
1. Let us, in conclusion, first, use these graces as a test of our state.
2. Let us seek to abound more in them.
(R. Davies, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.