FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, THESE THREE.By F. M. Perry, December 27, 2001.
"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.
FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE, A TRIUMVIRATE OF GIFTS FOR SUSTENANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
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.
"FAITH" IS THE BASIS FOR THE REVEALING OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS IN A CHRISTIAN'S LIFE.
"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.
"FAITH" ITSELF IS A GIFT OF GOD THAT GROWS DURING THE 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.
"LOVE" IS A GIFT FLOWING CONTINUOUSLY FROM GOD THROUGH HIS HOLY SPIRIT.
"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.
"LOVE" IS TO FLOW THROUGH THE CHRISTIAN OUTWARD TO PERFORM GOD'S WORK IN PEOPLE AROUND HIM.
"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.
"HOPE" IS A SPIRITUAL GIFT PROVIDING PRESENT ENJOYMENT OF THE FUTURE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISES OF GOD.
"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."
MEANING OF "HOPE" EXEMPLIFIED IN THE LIVES OF GOD'S PEOPLE.
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 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).
"FAITH," " LOVE," AND "HOPE" ARE USED TOGETHER BY CHRISTIANS IN THE SPIRITUAL PRESENCE OF GOD.
"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
MEANING OF "WORK OF FAITH."
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.
MEANING OF "LABOR 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.
MEANING OF "STEADFASTNESS OF HOPE."
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.
HOW THE TRIUMVIRATE OF "FAITH," "LOVE," AND "HOPE" OPERATES IN GOD'S SPIRITUAL SYSTEM.
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:
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.