The epistle we’ve just finished studying, 1 Thessalonians, mentions this beautiful triad twice, and so a conversation about these three concepts seems both appropriate and delightful.
Our minds might quickly turn to 1 Corinthians 13:13, in which we remember that the ‘greatest of these is love.’ Yet we must remember it is not greatest in the sense of “most worthwhile” or “of more value” or “chronologically first.” It is the greatest because it is unchanging.
God’s ἀγάπη does not change. Our faith will one day become sight. Our true hope will be fulfilled in His timing. Yet, His love will not change and will endure. 1 Cor 13 is a chapter almost entirely about love, yet we are not therefore to understand it apart from the other two–they stay together. The order, and the emphasis, differs; yet all three are together in our experience here.
All three are gifts, given to us from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. When we keep this in mind, we will better understand each, and how they impact our life, and especially our fellowship. We are grateful recipients, He is continually our Source, the Fountainhead from which we drink. The promised Spirit has been poured out upon us, and He has poured out upon us all that we have. We have it in Him, not apart from Him.
A few passages to walk through with all three closely linked:
1 Thess 1:2f, 5:8;
Romans 5:1-5; 1 Cor 13:13;
Galatians 5:5-6; Colossians 1:4-5;
Hebrews 6:10-12; 10:22-24;
1 Peter 1:21-22.
Here, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 are one sentence, one long thought, all culminating in election or being chosen–the ground of our assurance that our faith, hope, and love and real and lasting is in His choosing us.
The order is not always the same, as we read through these passages, be careful not to assign an importance to keeping them in any particular order. Do you notice, as you read, that all three are active? These are gifts, but they are not static possessions.
They are gifts acting within you, making you more like Christ–bringing you into communion with the Triune God; but also gifts given actively working out in the fellowship of your local body. (If you are His, you are part of His Body; do not forsake the fellowship within His Body; you cannot love God and abandon His Body; you cannot be an island unto yourself)
For reflection or discussion:
What are your works of faith, faith working through love, labors of love, and perseverance of hope? How are these three being seen in the community around you?
If discussing this in a group, we enjoyed a time of recalling passages that teach about either faith, hope, or love, looking up passages in the Gospels, in Hebrews, in other epistles.
Faith, hope and love, all given, all from their original Source–all flowing into us, part of our salvation experience. And then always the prayer that we would abound in each! Or exult in each. Or grow in each. Or excel still more… As you’ll see in Romans 5:1-5, each gift encourages the growth of the others; as you exult (and we are flirting with hypocrisy if we think we ought not to) in tribulations, faith, hope, and love work together for your growth and steadfastness. What trials and tribulations can you look back on, and see Him at work, and exult? Looking back like this will help you in future tribulations, as you will be more apt to exult in those times, rather than only after the time.
Hope does not disappoint! It is grounded in certainty (see 1 Thess. 5:8 and Romans 5:1-8). Calvin comments: he who is provided with faith, hope and love will be found in no department unarmed. We lack nothing that we need for life and godliness! (2 Peter 1)
There are many other passages that use only two of these words together, or that expound upon one. A lovely journaling exercise, fruitful in helping you exult, is to begin copying these verses, and leave space for more as you come across them. Spend time pondering them together. As you abide in these words, ask the Spirit to grow you in grace and knowledge and wisdom and understanding–He will, it is His deep desire to do so!