And now [in this present life] abideth faith, hope, charity - These three supply the place of that direct vision which no human embodied spirit can have; these abide or remain for the present state. Faith, by which we apprehend spiritual blessings, and walk with God. Hope, by which we view and expect eternal blessedness, and pass through things temporal so as not to lose those which are eternal. Charity or love, by which we show forth the virtues of the grace which we receive by faith in living a life of obedience to God, and of good will and usefulness to man.
But the greatest of these is charity - Without faith it is impossible to please God; and without it, we can not partake of the grace of our Lord Jesus: without hope we could not endure, as seeing him who is invisible; nor have any adequate notion of the eternal world; nor bear up under the afflictions and difficulties of life: but great and useful and indispensably necessary as these are, yet charity or love is greater: Love is the fulfilling of the law; but this is never said of faith or hope.
It may be necessary to enter more particularly into a consideration of the conclusion of this very important chapter.
10. Every holy spirit feels itself possessed of unlimited desires for the enjoyment of spiritual good, and faith in the infinite goodness of God necessarily implies that he will satisfy every desire he has excited.
11. The power to gratify, in the Divine Being, and the capacity to be gratified, in the immortal spirit, will necessarily excite continual desires, which desires, on the evidence of faith, will as necessarily produce hope, which is the expectation of future good.
12. All possible perfections in God are the objects of faith; and the communication of all possible blessedness, the object of hope.
13. Faith goes forward to apprehend, and hope to anticipate, as God continues to discover his unbounded glories and perfections.
14. Thus discovered and desired, their influences become communicated, love possesses them, and is excited and increased by the communication.
15. With respect to those which are communicated, faith and hope cease, and go forward to new apprehensions and anticipations, while love continues to retain and enjoy the whole.
16. Thus an eternal interest is kept up, and infinite blessings, in endless succession, apprehended, anticipated and enjoyed.
And now abideth - “Remains” ( μένει menei). The word means properly to remain, continue, abide; and is applied to persons remaining in a place, in a state or condition, in contradistinction from removing or changing their place, or passing away. Here it must be understood to be used to denote “permanency,” when the other things of which he had spoken had passed away; and the sense is, that faith, hope, and love would “remain” when the gift of tongues should cease, and the need of prophecy, etc.; that is, these should survive them all. And the connection certainly requires us to understand him as saying that faith, hope, and love would survive “all” those things of which he had been speaking, and must, therefore, include knowledge 1 Corinthians 13:8-9,, as well as miracles and the other endowments of the Holy Spirit. They would survive them all; would be valuable when they should cease; and should, therefore, be mainly sought; and of these the greatest and most important is love.
Most commentators have supposed that Paul is speaking here only of this life, and that he means to say that in this life these three exist; that “faith, hope, and charity exist in this scene “only,” but that in the future world faith and hope will be done away, and therefore the greatest of these is charity” - Bloomfield. See also Doddridge, Macknight, Rosenmuller, Clarke, etc. But to me it seems evident that Paul means to say that faith, hope, and love will survive “all” those other things of which he had been speaking; that “they” would vanish away, or be lost in superior attainments and endowments; that the time would come when they would be useless; but that faith, hope, and love would then remain; but of “these,” for important reasons, love was the most valuable. Not because it would “endure” the longest, for the apostle does not intimate that, but because it is more important to the welfare of others, and is a more eminent virtue than they are.
As the strain of the argument requires us to look to another state, to a world where prophecy shall cease and knowledge shall vanish away, so the same strain of argumentation requires us to understand him as saying that faith, and hope, and love will subsist there; and that there, as here, love will be of more importance than faith and hope. It cannot be objected to this view that there will be no occasion for faith and hope in heaven. That is assumed without evidence, and is not affirmed by Paul. He gives no such intimation. Faith is “confidence” in God and in Christ; and there will be as much necessity of “confidence” in heaven as on earth. Indeed, the great design of the plan of salvation is to restore “confidence” in God among alienated creatures; and heaven could not subsist a moment without “confidence;” and faith, therefore, must be eternal. No society - be it a family, a neighborhood, a church, or a nation; be it mercantile, professional, or a mere association of friendship - can subsist a moment without mutual “confidence” or faith, and in heaven such confidence in God must subsist forever.
And so of hope. It is true that many of the objects of hope will then be realized, and will be succeeded by possession. But will the Christian have nothing to hope for in heaven? Will it be nothing to expect and desire greatly augmented knowledge, eternal enjoyment; perfect peace in all coming ages, and the happy society of the blessed forever? All heaven cannot be enjoyed at once; and if there is anything “future” that is an object of desire, there will be hope. Hope is a compound emotion, made up of a “desire” for an object and an “expectation” of obtaining it. But both these will exist in heaven. It is folly to say that a redeemed saint will not “desire” there eternal happiness; it is equal folly to say that there will be no strong expectation of obtaining it. All that is said, therefore, about faith as about to cease, and hope as not having an existence in heaven, is said without the authority of the Bible, and in violation of what must be the truth, and is contrary to the whole scope of the reasoning of Paul here.
But the greatest of these is charity - Not because it is to “endure” the longest, but because it is the more important virtue; it exerts a wider influence; it is more necessary to the happiness of society; it overcomes more evils. It is the great principle which is to bind the universe in harmony, which unites God to his creatures, and his creatures to himself, and which binds and confederates all holy beings with each other. It is therefore more important, because it pertains to society to the great kingdom of which God is the head, and because it enters into the very conception of a holy and happy organization. Faith and hope rather pertain to individuals; love pertains to society, and is that without which the kingdom of God cannot stand. Individuals may be saved by faith and hope; but the whole immense kingdom of God depends on love. It is, therefore, of more importance than all other graces and endowments; more important than prophecy and miracles, and the gift of tongues and knowledge, because it will survive them all; more important than faith and hope, because, although it may co-exist with them, and though they all shall live forever, yet love enters into the very nature of the kingdom of God; binds society together; unites the Creator and the creature; and blends the interests of all the redeemed, and of the angels, and of God, into one.
The great moral powers of the soul are faith, hope, and love. If these are inactive, a minister may be ever so earnest and zealous, but his labor will not be accepted of God and cannot be productive of good to the church. A minister of Christ who bears the solemn message from God to the people should ever deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. The spirit of Christ in the heart will incline every power of the soul to nourish and protect the sheep of His pasture, like a faithful, true shepherd. Love is the golden chain which binds believing hearts to one another in willing bonds of friendship, tenderness, and faithful constancy, and which binds the soul to God. There is a decided lack of love, compassion, and pitying tenderness among brethren. The ministers of Christ are too cold and heartless. Their hearts are not all aglow with tender compassion and earnest love. The purest and most elevated devotion to God is that which is manifested in the most earnest desires and efforts to win souls to Christ. The reason ministers who preach present truth are not more successful is that they are deficient, greatly deficient, in faith, hope, and love. There are toils and conflicts, self-denials and secret heart trials, for us all to meet and bear. There will be sorrow and tears for our sins; there will be constant struggles and watchings, mingled with remorse and shame because of our deficiencies. 3T 187.1
Let not the ministers of the cross of our dear Saviour forget their experience in these things; but let them ever bear in mind that they are but men, liable to err, and possessing like passions with their brethren, and that if they help their brethren they must be persevering in their efforts to do them good, having their hearts filled with pity and love. They must come to the hearts of their brethren and help them where they are weak and need help the most. Those who labor in word and doctrine should break their own hard, proud, unbelieving hearts if they would witness the same in their brethren. Christ has done all for us because we were helpless; we were bound in chains of darkness, sin, and despair, and could therefore do nothing for ourselves. It is through the exercise of faith, hope, and love that we come nearer and nearer to the standard of perfect holiness. Our brethren feel the same pitying need of help that we have felt. We should not burden them with unnecessary censure, but should let the love of Christ constrain us to be very compassionate and tender, that we can weep over the erring and those who have backslidden from God. The soul is of infinite value. Its worth can be estimated only by the price paid to ransom it. Calvary! Calvary! Calvary! will explain the true value of the soul. 3T 187.2
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We need to strengthen our souls with hope, the twin sister of faith. God's workers must live in perfect submission to the will of God. There is danger of working at cross purposes with God, for man wants to work his way, which he supposes is the very best way in which to bring about the purposes of God. But we cannot have our own way and will. God must work in us and by us and through us. We are to be in the hands of God as clay in the hands of the potter, for Him to mold after the divine similitude. TDG 65.4Read in context »
All our powers belong to God. They are His by creation, and by redemption. God has given to every one His measure of power, and He expects each to put it forth on the side of truth. Thus it is to shine forth. The Christian is to stand with undivided interest on the Lord's side. “Now abideth faith, hope, love.” Faith looks through discouraging difficulties, and lays hold of the unseen, even Omnipotence, therefore it cannot be baffled. Faith, hope, and love are sisters, and their works blend perfectly to shine amid the moral darkness of the world. The children and the youth are to be instructed, the ignorant are to be taught by patient effort to know what is truth. It is to be given them line upon line.—Manuscript 46, May 2, 1897, “The Entrance of Thy Word Giveth Light.” TDG 131.4Read in context »
O how precious is Jesus to the soul who trusts in Him. But many are walking in darkness because they bury their faith in the shadow of Satan. They have not done that which it was in their power to do through the grace of Jesus. They have not talked faith and hope and courage. Never for a moment should we allow Satan to think that his power to distress and annoy is greater than the power of Christ to uphold and strengthen. TDG 177.6Read in context »