God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 13:13 These three remain
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 5, 2023
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Paul finishes his chapter on the spiritual gift of love by assuring us that the three gifts to be treasured the most are these: faith, hope, and love. Paul wraps them in a bundle with the word “remains.” This means that this bundle of gifts keeps going; they continue, they endure, they will last where the others will cease to be.
If Paul had meant to say that these three, or that two of them, would not last forever, he would have found a much clearer way of saying it. As the verse stands, these three, faith, hope, and love, do not remain only in this lifetime, but just the opposite. They remain forever. Of these three, the greatest is love, but that does not mean that the other two cease. The three, we are assured by Paul, remain.
Faith remains. The essence of faith is trust. Faith is what brings out the fruit of good works, but many people have the relationship of faith and its fruit backwards. “It is assumed by some that the fruits of faith make the faith to be faith,” but it’s really that “faith makes the fruit to be fruit” (Luther, LW 54:74). For we do not produce fruit in order to be forgiven, but, trusting in Christ’s forgiveness, we want to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). In this lifetime, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), because as far as seeing God is concerned, we are still absent from him. In heaven, the worldy, sinful distractions that keep us from producing perfect fruit will be swept away forever, and our confident trust in God will never waver.
Hope remains. Hope is the desire and expectation that expects fulfillment from God. Hope is confident, and hope expects nothing but good things from God (Job 4:6). Now, hope and “what we do not see” are connected in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We do not need to worry about doubt in heaven, and we will see God’s glory and gifts in heaven, so what place does hope have there? It remains. “We will always be able to hope for the best. Since heaven is eternal, it will not be enjoyed all at once. Happy expectations will be a part of the heavenly bliss. Now, hopes are often thwarted. Then, hope will never be frustrated.” Therefore, hope also remains.
What is the difference between faith and hope? Sometimes the Bible uses these words so broadly—and so do we—that they are used interchangeably (Job 13:15). But in the narrow sense, faith is different from hope since faith is the apprehension or grasping of the promise and the benefit that is offered now (in this life), while hope is the anticipation of good things that are promised but which are yet to come.
Love remains, and love is greatest. Love summarizes why God created you. In eternity, God thought of you, loved you, cherished you, planned for you, and then set the world in motion in order to provide a home for you before bringing you home to himself in heaven. Here, we have the circumstances and opportunity to come to faith, to set aside sin, and to come to know our Maker and our Redeemer. Of all the gifts God has set in the world for us to enjoy, love is certainly the greatest of all, the prized fruit. Out of the depths the poet cries, “With the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7). Those paired blessings, love and redemption, cannot be removed one from the other.
So why is love the greatest of these? It is not greatest on account of its endurance, because faith and hope both remain just as love does. But “love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God created you and me to enjoy his love with him, forever, in Paradise. There we will each love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength, and we will love our neighbor—one another—as ourselves. What bliss to know that our emotion in all circumstances forever will be love.
Pastor Timothy Smith