During February we emphasize love. Even though Hallmark has turned love into a marketing campaign Scripture agrees that it is worth celebrating.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13
Since the big three* are often grouped together, we can’t speak of love without its companions—faith and hope. The Apostle Paul describes how they intersect when he greets the church at Colossae:
We heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel.Colossians 1:4–5
The author of Hebrews defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). According to the text above, our faith is in Christ Jesus (whom we can’t see). By exercising faith, we can find eternal peace with God (Romans 5:1).
Our verses also tell us that faith arises from, or springs from, hope. Through faith we inherit the promises we hope for (Hebrews 6:12).
Next we see that hope (from which faith comes) is laid up for us in heaven and discovered in the gospel. Typical hope longs for something we want to happen but with no guarantee it will. (i.e. We hope the sun will come out tomorrow.)
Christian hope, on the other hand, longs for what we know will happen—“an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading … reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4, Romans 8:23–24). We can hope because the one who made the promises is trustworthy enough for us to put our faith in (Hebrews 10:23).
Finally, we learn in our verses above that love also arises from hope. The congregation at Corinth apparently loved one another with agape love—a giving, sacrificial love that lays down its life for its friends (John 15:13). They were “patient … kind … not envious. … not bragging … not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Love is the evidence of our hope, both God’s love lavishly poured into us (Romans 5:5) and our love for one another (Hebrews 6:10).
Since we cannot separate these three why is love considered the greatest?
I propose that love is greater because God is love and love comes from him (1 John 4:7–8) whereas God doesn’t need faith and hope in the way we do. It’s also how God feels towards us. He lavishly loves us.
In the future, when we stand in God’s presence, faith and hope will no longer be necessary since they will be fulfilled, but love will go on for eternity.
While love can be directed godward, it is best displayed horizontally to our fellow humankind (John 13:34). And love is the greatest because it is the motive behind all we do.
When our faith is in Jesus, we know that we will receive the eternal salvation we hope for. We then express the confidence of our faith and hope by loving others.
On what is your faith based? Where is your hope stored? To whom are you showing love?
Why do you think love is the greatest?
Father God, thank you that love is the greatest. Fill me with love by your Holy Spirit that will overflow to those around me.
*See also: 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Galatians 5:5–6; 1 Peter 1:21–22; 2 Timothy 1:12–13