By F. M. Perry, December 27, 2001.

"But now abide faith, hope, love, these three." (1st Corinthians 13:13).

"Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1st Thessalonians 1:3).

The Holy Bible introduces us to concepts which theologians sometimes call "metaphysical" concepts. These are concepts generally of "being and knowing" which are not based on "hard physical science." They include Biblical concepts like those of spirit, soul, heaven, hell, angels, demons, Satan, the Almighty God, etc. In short, the so-called "metaphysical" concepts include all to which the Bible refers as "things which are not seen." The scripture further informs us, "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2ndCorinthians 4:18). It is with things "eternal" and "not seen," things which cannot be discerned with the five senses of the fleshly body, which I am concerned in this study. Instead of the term "metaphysical things," however, I prefer to use the Biblical term "spiritual things," as does Paul in Romans 15:27.

"Spiritual things" are of such importance in the Bible that they are discussed with a special vocabulary of spiritual words. Of course, many of the spiritual words are adaptations of material words, having been given new meanings when used in spiritual settings. Words like "life," "death," "garden," "house," "armor," "body," etc. are of this type, being often used metaphorically to describe spiritual concepts. But other words like "soul," "spirit," "angel," "demon," "God," etc. have their primary meanings in the spiritual realm. Three such words, "faith," "hope," and "love," are primarily spiritual words.

To Christians the words "faith," "hope," and "love" convey non-material concepts, being related to the functions of the spiritual "inner person," although having important effect upon functions of the fleshly body as well. It is the spiritual concepts contained in these three words, "faith," "hope," and "love," that I want to explore in this study. The great attention given to these three words in the New Testament prompts us to try to gain further understanding because of their obvious importance.


First of all, note that "faith," "hope," and "love" are very important parts of the message for Christian living in all of the epistles of the New Testament. Moreover, they are always mentioned as being specifically related to each other, as though they form a sort of triumvirate governing the Christian life.

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13, Paul indicated that "faith," "hope," and "love" are a related set of spiritual gifts granted by the Holy Spirit to each and every Christian. First, in chapter 12, Paul spoke of several other more special gifts and said that one Christian may be given "special wisdom" by the Spirit, another may be given "special knowledge," another "special faith," another "special gifts of healing," another "special ability to work miracles," another "special ability to prophesy," another "special ability to distinguish spirits," another "special ability to speak in various tongues," and another "special ability to interpret the meaning of those tongues."

Paul stressed the point that various Christians are given different gifts, some one gift, some another, and perhaps, some no special gifts at all. Paul added, however, that whatever gifts are given, they are given by the same Holy Spirit who distributes to each Christian just as He wills. (1stCorinthians 12:4-30). After discussing these special gifts, Paul made it clear at the end of chapter 12 that there are greater, more excellent gifts to be received by Christians than the special ones he had just discussed. Paul then, in chapter 13, entered into his great discourse on "love," relating it to the previous chapter by intimating that the special gifts are only "partial" and will give way to "perfect" gifts like "love." The time for the "giving up" of the special "partial" gifts to a "greater more excellent way" seems to be indicated in Paul's words (historically spoken in the first century), "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1st Corinthians 13:13).

The evidence of these two chapters, coupled with the great importance given throughout the New Testament to the specific spiritual gifts of "faith," "hope," and "love" in the fulfillment of God's purpose in Christian lives, prompts this study. The premise of the study is that "faith," "hope," and "love" are a related set of spiritual gifts granted by the Holy Spirit, not to certain individuals only, but to each and every Christian; furthermore, that God created them to work together as a system to accomplish in a specific way His purposes in the lives of His Christian servants. I will attempt to illustrate by analogy to physical systems at work in God's universe how the specific gifts of "faith," "hope," and "love" work together as a spiritual system.

First of all, it has not always been clear to me that these three attributes, "faith," " hope," and "love," are not attributes that we don't have naturally. Must they be received as gifts from God? They once seemed like characteristics which emanated from my own soul, especially from my own human will power. Whatever else God gave to me, I once thought it was my own responsibility to supply "faith." Great faith seemed to only require great striving from me. And "love," I thought, was only mine to give or hold back. One person might seem more lovable than another, and love must depend on my own personal preference, I thought. And "hope," I thought, that was only a will-o-the-wisp, a longing with a mere possibility of coming true. I once thought I had to provide my own power to enable my own little world. What a small, meager world it was. How wrong I was! I was ignoring the greater spiritual realm in which we live, where the Almighty God enables His people with spiritual gifts appropriate for all.


"For in it (in the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17).
"But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ ... whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness ... that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26).
"For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." (Romans 4:16)
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."(Romans 5:1).
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17).
"The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." (Galatians 2:20).
In his Roman letter Paul makes it clear that faith in the gospel is the basis for people to receive the "righteousness of God." The phrase "righteousness of God"seems to include all the grace and favor which God has toward His creation, especially toward His human beings. It includes justification and sanctification bringing about salvation of sinful human beings, reconciling them with their Creator God. The "righteousness of God" is revealed and granted to sinful human beings through their faith.

Since the favor of God indicated by the term "righteousness of God"is so needed by sinful mankind, and since God's favor cannot be earned or merited by sinful man, God in His grace grants it simply upon the condition of man's faith in His Son who made propitiation for sins by shedding His blood. So man's faith is based on a gift from God, the gift of His Son's life. Moreover, faith comes by man's hearing His Son's word. And His Son's word is also a gift from God. Thus faith is based on gifts from God.

Paul quoted the Prophet Habakkuk, "The righteous man shall live by faith." This makes it clear that the faith of which he speaks supports a dynamic life that is lived. Paul states in his Galatian letter that he "lives by faith." Faith, then, should be an integral part of a spiritual Christian life.


"But now abide faith, hope, love, these three." (1st Corinthians 13:13).
"Every man ... ought ... to think as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." (Romans 12:3)
"And since we have gifts according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them accordingly ...according to the proportion of his faith." (Romans 12:6).
"As your faith grows, we shall be, within our sphere, enlarged more by you." (2nd Corinthians 10:15).

From Paul's letters we learn not only that "faith" is based on certain great gifts of God, "faith" is itself a gift of God. It is given to every Christian in a "measure," a "measure" that grows during the Christian life. There are other gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8 that differ according to the grace given to each individual Christian, namely: "prophecy, service, teaching, exhortations, giving, leading, showing of mercy." These other gifts are to be exercised according to the "proportion" of the"measure of faith" God has given. Thus we learn that "faith" is a very important gift that supplies the motivating force for Christian life activities, such activities as the exercising of the seven other gifts mentioned in Romans 12:3-8. And as "faith" grows in the Christian because of his continuous obedient relationship with Christ, so shall his activities under the grace given to him be enlarged. A Christian's "faith" gains potential as his spiritual relationship with Christ progresses.

Let us consider some analogies in the physical realm of God's creation which may help us understand "faith." "Faith" appears to be like water backed up behind a dam, potentially ready to provide the force to propel the current of a river. Or "faith" is like the electromotive force present in a battery providing the voltage to propel electrical current through a circuit. "Faith" is just one element necessary to make God's spiritual circuit perform. Next we will consider the place of God's gift of "love" and how "faith" provides the motivating potential to "love and good works" in God's spiritual circuit.


"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1st John 4:7-11).
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
"But whoever keeps His word, in Him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him." (1st John 1:5).
"No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." (1st John 4:12-13).
"And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5).
"For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39).

This word "love," represented in the New Testament by the Greek noun "AGAPE" or the Greek verb "AGAPAO," is not the common word we hear thrown around loosely to express human personal preference. It is an attribute of God so pervasive in His righteous makeup that the Biblical writer was inspired to declare "God is love." This "love," which God has expressed to mankind to a superlative degree in that "He gave His only begotten Son," can scarcely be defined, but only described with phrases like "all-embracing benevolence and goodwill." God's "love" always seeks the highest and best good for mankind with no requirement for merit on man's part.

This kind of love is not a natural attribute with which man is born. Man is the object of God's perfect affection, but man does not emit naturally this Godly affection toward other humans. But God wants people to have and to utilize His unique "love" in order for them to exercise it in performance of "good works" as Christians in His eternal Kingdom. So when people embrace Christianity by a "new birth of water and the Spirit," God grants to them the gift of His "love,""poured out within their hearts through the Holy Spirit." Through this gift of His perfect "love" God shares Himself with Christians. Thus this "love" comes only from God into the hearts of those who are "in Christ," with the Holy Spirit being the communication link.


"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another." (John 13:35).
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Fathers commandments, and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:9-12).
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." (1stJohn 4:7).
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (1st John 4:11).
"Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you." (Ephesians 5:2).
"I say unto you, love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44).
"Let love be without hypocrisy."  (Romans 12:9).
"Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10).
"Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails." (1st Corinthians 13:4-8).
"But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1st Corinthians 13:13).
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God created beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).

Again thinking in an analogy of God's physical creation, God's "love" appears as a current that flows like water in a channel, or electricity in a circuit. Christians receive great benefits for themselves when God's "love" flows through their hearts to react with their own "loads" of worldly life. But God's "love" is not intended to stop there in the Christian's own heart. It seeks a continuous circuit into other hearts. If it can flow through the Christian into the hearts of others it will perform the "good works" for which God has purposed, and the flowing love will continue in a closed circuit giving glory to God. But if the flow of "love" stops, the circuit is open and no "good work" is done, not even in the heart of the Christian, much less in anyone else. "Love," like electrical current, really does not exist if it does not flow or is not exercised. On the other hand, when it does flow, it is not dissipated, lost, or even diminished when it is passed on by Christians to others.


"Having a hope in God, ... that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (Acts 24:15).
"And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body, for in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." (Romans 8:23-25).
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19).
"... He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and without reproach - if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, ..." (Colossians 1:27).
"Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27).
"Christ Jesus, who is our hope;" (1st Timothy 1:1).
"... the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, preached long ages ago, ..." (Titus 1:2).
"In the same way, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:17-18).
"... born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1st Peter 1:3).

A popular use of the word "hope" expresses a mere wish that "everything will probably turn out all right." This popular use of the word "hope" is usually in reference to expectations of fleshly things. Not so, this "hope." It is a spiritual word dealing with things "not seen," or things not detected by the five fleshly senses. This "hope" is a firm, substantive "output" in a Christian's fleshly life, but it is a spiritual "output" providing a spiritual foretaste in anticipation of the fulfillment of spiritual promises of God. As a spiritual output, "hope" is realized by the spiritual parts of a Christian, being enjoyed especially in the "intellect," the "volition," and the "emotion" of the soul which will live forever with Jesus our Lord. Although "hope that is seen is not hope" seen by fleshly eyes, when this "hope" is received, it is "seen" by the "eyes of your heart."

"Hope" is an "output" of a process God sets in motion in the lives of those who are dedicated to Him. It is not a full and final realization of God's spiritual promises. But it is received through the working of a God-driven process that deems God's promises "as good as done." It is the "output" of a process involving the interaction of "faith" and "love." Following are some of the spiritual outputs of this hope to be enjoyed during the Christian life on earth:

The assurance of "a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (Acts 24:15).

The assurance of "glory" because Christ is in us. (Colossians 1:27).

The assurance that "God has not destined you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1st Thessalonians 5:8-9).

"We exult in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2).

"We wait eagerly" for the fulfillment of our hope. (Romans 8:25).

God will "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13).

"We use great boldness in our speech" with which we proclaim the gospel. (2nd Corinthians 3:12).

We receive "joy" and "crown of exultation" now because our brethren will be "in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming." (1st Thessalonians 2:19).

We receive "strong encouragement" and "refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:17-18).

We "draw near to God" even in our fleshly life through our "better hope." (Hebrews 7:19).

"Everyone who has this hope fixed on him purifies himself just as He is pure." (1st John 3:3).


Perhaps the best way for us to understand the blessed gift of "hope" is to read about its exemplification in the lives of Biblical characters. "Hope" has been a gift of God to man throughout the ages of mankind on the earth. Although we are studying it now in order to learn its practical value in the lives of Christians living in the New Testament age, there is much Biblical evidence that God has used "hope" to enable men in the leading of godly lives from the beginning. Although the word "hope" as such is not used in the following New Testament excerpts, the principles of "hope" are revealed.

For instance, in the Hebrew letter Abraham was said to have gone out from his ancestral home in Ur "to a place he was to receive as an inheritance." Yet it is said that "he went out, not knowing where he was going, ... for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10). In addition Abraham was said to have "offered up Issac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In Issac your descendants shall be called.' He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead,; from which he also received him back as a type." (Hebrews 11:17-19). The essence of "hope" is illustrated in the life of Abraham in that God made promises to him that were then "seen" by Abraham to be real and "as good as done," although their fulfillment was still in the future. Abraham accepted God's spiritual promises as real and received spiritual sustenance from them even while he lived in the flesh.

Many of the Psalms written by King David, son of Jesse, reveal the gift of "hope" ennobling David's life. One such Psalm was quoted by the Apostle Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In this case, the inspired Psalm written by David not only served to be a declaration of David's "hope"while he lived, but also a prophecy of his hope's fulfillment in Jesus Christ. (From this we learn that the evidences of "hope" demonstrated in Christian lives today also renew the prophecies of the promises of God that formed the bases for the hope,) Here is how the Apostle Peter quoted David:

"For David says of Him, 'I was always holding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken, therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy promise.'" (Acts 2:25-28; Psalm 16:8-10).


"We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." (Colossians 1:3-5).
"We give thanks to God always for all of you,... constantly bearing in mind your work of faith andlabor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father." (1st Thessalonians 1:2-3).

In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians (Chapter 1, verses 2 and 3) Paul refers in a single sentence to all three gifts, "faith," "love," and "hope," each with a single word explanation of how each gift is used in the life of a Christian. Notice the phrases "work of faith," "labor of love," and "steadfastness of hope." The single word to characterize faith is "work." The single word to characterize love is "labor." The single word to characterize hope is "steadfastness."


Let us consider the phrase "work of faith." The word "work" is translated from the Greek word ERGON which meant "a business," "a trade," or "a work." The phrase "work of faith," then, is a metaphor indicating that a Christian is to be in "the business of faith." It is often necessary for inspired writers of the Bible to describe spiritual things in the language of physical things. In this metaphor, the analogy is a worldly business. In "the business of faith" a Christian takes a "supply of faith" and does something "profitable" with it. The efficacy of the business depends upon the Christian having a supply of "faith" and using it. The "profit" to be gained from this "business" is the accomplishment of God's purposes in the life of a Christian.

In accord with our previous analogy of "faith" as the voltage in an electrical circuit, the supply of faith provides the motivating force or potential for this "business." But faith is not the only prerequisite for the starting and the running of this "business." The "business" must have more than just a motivating force. It must have something to "flow" through the "circuit" to produce "a product to be dispensed." This brings us to the Christian's use of the gift of "love."


In Paul's phrase "labor of love," the word "labor" is translated from the Greek word KOPOS, which meant "a beating," "wearing out work," or "weariness." The metaphor "labor of love," then, seems to indicate the constant exercise of "love" to the point of "weariness," of being "worn out," or of being "exhausted as from a beating." The real meaning of this may be hard to contemplate. As the perfect example let us contemplate God's exercise of His "love" toward mankind. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16). The Biblical account of the constant "labor" of God, from the time of creation through the ages to this present day, to give this gift of "love" to mankind, and the account of the grief that mankind has given to God in constant rejection of the gift, should give us some inkling of the meaning of "labor of love." Christians will never be able to duplicate God's "labor of love," but nevertheless, God's admonition is for Christians to perform this "labor of love" to the point of "exhaustion or weariness." This phrase "labor of love" seems to support quite well our use of the analogy of "love" as being a constant, never ending "current flow"in a spiritual system that works on the principle of an electrical circuit.


In Paul's phrase "steadfastness of hope," the word "steadfastness" is translated from the Greek word HUPOMONE, which meant "patience," "endurance," or "continuance." This seems to indicate that God's gift of "hope" in the Christian life is"enduring" and gives "continuing" help until the "hope" is fulfilled and is no longer needed. In terms of our analogy, "hope" is a sure "product" generated by the "business of faith," or an enduring "output" caused by the "flow of love" through the "loaded circuit" of one's Christian life.

"Hope," then, is far more than a mere wish, but is a substantive spiritual grant to be enjoyed by the soul of the Christian even while he lives on earth, satisfying to the intellect, challenging to the volition, and pleasing to the emotion.


First, let us list the working parts of the system in which Christians are called upon to exercise their gifts in "good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10). The major categories of working parts are:

1. The Triune Godhead -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. Each Christian, you and I.

3. Our brethren in the Lord's church.

4. All other people of the world.

5. God's gifts to people - especially the gifts of faith, love, and hope.

Each part of this great spiritual system has its own unique part to play in God's business of saving mankind. God the Father is the great Manager and Enabler. God the Son is the great Creator and Doer who reached out to mankind in the flesh. God the Holy Spirit is the great spiritual Communicator who gives life to mankind and speaks to their personal spirits and souls.

Each person, Christian and non-Christian alike, has been created in the likeness of the triune God with "spirit and soul and body." The "soul" is the eternal essence of a person, created to self-manage all aspects of the person with exercise of unique intellect, volition, and emotion, all in the likeness of God the Father. The "spirit" provides the person's communication terminal with the spiritual realm, receiving and transmitting spiritual messages through exercise of communion, conscience, and intuition, in the likeness of God the Holy Spirit. The "body" is a person's own unique temple for his soul and spirit, created as suitable for God's physical universe, with provision to be transformed as suitable for God's wholly spiritual realm. The "body" is created or transformed as necessary for service in a person's environment, all in the likeness of God the Son, who took on a fleshly body, sacrificed it as He saw the need, and then led the way in receiving it back as a transformed spiritual body.

God's gifts of "faith" and "love" are attributes of the Godhead which are shared with Christians to accomplish the "good works which God prepared beforehand" that they should do. God gives "hope" in order that Christian laborers may taste the results of their work even while it is being done. "The laborer is worthy of his wages." (Luke 10:7). The gift of "hope" is evidence that the grace of God provides God's promised reward for His Christian workers.

Thus, all the working parts are in place. We can now see how the motivating potential ("faith") and the current ("love") flows from the great Power Source (God the Father) through the great Communication Link (the Holy Spirit) into the active elements (spirits and souls of people "in Christ") to transmit the Gospel to mankind on earth today. In the physical analogy the force of voltage multiplied by the current equals the power developed in the load. Similarly, in God's spiritual circuit, "faith" multiplied by "love" equals the spiritual power of "hope" developed in the souls of those who receive the gospel.

With love, F. M. Perry

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© 2002, F.M. Perry