The Greatest of These
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Paul has often been called the apostle of faith, in distinction from John, the apostle of love. This declaration, therefore, coming from Paul is the more valuable. No doubt what he saw of the Corinthian Christians, who disputed much concerning gifts, natural and supernatural, made the apostle specially sensible of the supreme necessity of charity. What men are - their character - is of more importance than what they have - their abilities. Paul was not the man to disparage faith, which holds so high a place in his writings, nor hope, which was so prominent a feature of his character. But the higher the estimation in which he held these virtues, the loftier was the position to which he raised the grace of love when he pronounced it the greatest and the most enduring of all virtues.

I. BECAUSE OF ITS NATIVE SOURCE AND ORIGIN. God cannot exercise faith or cherish hope; but he not only has love, he is love. Our virtues are largely creature virtues; this is the great attribute of the Creator himself.

II. BECAUSE OF ITS SUPREME MANIFESTATION TO MANKIND IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST. The Lord Jesus brought down the love of the Father to this world of ignorance, error, and sin. He revealed Divine love, which was indeed the motive of his advent, but which was also the prevailing and undeniable characteristic of his ministry, and the secret explanation of his willing and sacrificial death.

III. BECAUSE IT IS THE SPECIAL LAW OF THE LORD JESUS. His "new commandment" was this: "Love one another." And he made obedience to this commandment the great test of discipleship: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." What takes so pre-eminent a place in the mind of the Monarch, what stands so obviously supreme among his laws, must necessarily be regarded by his loyal subjects with an especial reverence.

IV. BECAUSE IT IS THE END TO WHICH THE OTHER VIRTUES ARE MEANS. Faith is not an end; it is faith in a Divine Deliverer and in his promise of salvation; it is the means towards life eternal. Hope is not an end; it is hope of final and eternal fellowship with God; it is the means to steadfastness and to heaven. But love is an end in itself. Charity is the bond of perfectness; beyond this even Christianity cannot carry us. As the grace of faith and the grace of hope realize their purpose when they produce the grace of Christian love, it is obvious that the virtue which is their final purpose is greater than they. And this conviction is confirmed when we consider that, of all virtues, love is usually the most difficult and the last to be acquired. There have been confessors and martyrs Whose faith was firm and whose hope was bright, who yet did not arrive at the acme of perfect love. This is the test and the crown of spiritual maturity.

V. BECAUSE OF ITS SUPREME UTILITY. Society needs above all things to be penetrated with the spirit of charity, sympathy, and brotherly kindness. This is the radical cure for all its ills - this, and only this. What gravitation is in the physical realm, that is love in the moral Without it, all is disorder and chaos; with it, all is regularity and beauty. It represses hatred, malice, envy, and uncharitableness; it cultivates considerateness, pity, gentleness, self denial, and generous help.

VI. BECAUSE IT IS THE PECULIAR ELEMENT OF HEAVENLY BLESSEDNESS. Disputes have arisen as to whether or not faith and hope are found in heaven. But there is no difference of opinion as to the prevalence and eternity of the grace of love. For -

"Love is heaven, and heaven is love!" T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

WEB: But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.

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