1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Do not mistake Paul, as though he derogated from faith and hope. He says they are great, though love is the greatest.
I. IN POINT OF RANK. Faith and hope are of the operation of God, but love is from His heart: by love we are let into God. We are called to be strong in faith, to abound in hope, but to be perfect in love! We are to put on the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, but, above all, put on charity.
1. It decides the genuineness of faith and hope. Faith cannot work without love — it is the animation of faith. And hope maketh not ashamed, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Faith some. times has doubts, hope has fears, charity always hopes; yea, when faith and hope both stop, charity believeth, hopeth, does their work.
2. It is the end, of which faith and hope are but the means; the labour of love raises the top stone. Faith is the root, hope the buds, love is the fruit of the Christian's tree.
3. Faith and hope are essential to man as a sinner, but love was his religion before he was a sinner, and it is now by love that he rises above his fall and forms alliance with heaven. Love is the religion of heaven 1 Wonder not, then, that love is the foremost fruit of the Spirit, the end of the commandment, the fulfilling of the law — the royal law — that it sits on the throne — the queen of graces.
II. IN POINT OF UTILITY. Faith and hope are selfish graces — private props. Charity is to others like the sun in the firmament — goes about doing good. Personally, she visits the sick, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked; has a wise head, and attentive ear, a quick eye, a heart! makes others' woes, etc.; has an eloquent tongue, an open hand: "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." Thus she pursues her way; if contradicted, is not easily provoked; whatever is said of her, she thinketh no evil; she overlooks not the temporal interests of man, but chiefly regards the spiritual, and such as take in the good of the world.
III. IN POINT OF DURATION — abideth for ever. Faith and hope are Moses. Love is Joshua. Faith and hope supply here the place of vision: "We see through a glass darkly," etc. In an evangelical sense, faith and hope are not in heaven; we are to hope to the end; but no end in heaven. Learn —
1. Wherein real Christianity consists. In creeds? professions? No! but in Divine principles, holy tempers, benevolent actions. Orthodox opinions, etc., unaccompanied with faith, hope, and charity, are fruitless.
2. The excellency of real Christianity. It brings faith, it inspires hope, it fills with the love of God; and when this principle is universal in the world!
3. Is this religion ours? A man is better known by what he loves than by his faith and hope. Who loves strong drink, we know who he is. So, if man love God, we know who he is! Now we look for the effects of this love in his life and conversation. Does your faith work by love?
(J. Summerfield, A.M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.