“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Faith, hope, love . . .
I’ve read this passage countless times, yet today I asked myself, “Why are these three qualities highlighted as most important?”
In reading the broader context of the passage, we see that Paul had just listed another set of three gifts that would not remain: “Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8). So, this passage is contrasting three gifts of the Spirit that will cease, and three gifts that will never end- Faith, hope, and love.
Paul was writing to the Corinthian church members who were priding themselves on the fact that they could demonstrate attention-getting gifts such as tongues and prophecy. They were also using the gifts in a disorderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:26-27). Paul wasn’t telling them not to use their gifts, but simply that there was a better way– the way of love. “So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all” (1 Corinthians 12:31).
In reading 1 Corinthians 13, I wonder if we simply quote the most beautiful verses over and over, like the one I quoted above, and skim over the greater message. We’ve all been tempted at times to live in a self seeking manner, rather than a God glorifying manner. Paul is gently reminding us that there is a better way to live, that’s the way of faith, hope, and love, the greatest being LOVE ❤️
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
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