Faith, Love & Hope

  • You can listen to this sermon here.

Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 – CEB)

Since we belong to the day, let’s stay sober, wearing faithfulness and love as a piece of armor that protects our body and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  (1 Thessalonians 5:8 – CEB)

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven.   (Colossians 1:4-5a)

Most Christians quickly grow familiar with 1 Cor. 13:13, “Now abide faith, hope and love…”, but I was surprised to learn that this grouping of terms occurs in several places throughout the New Testament. I’ve listed some of these occurrences above.

But this isn’t a uniquely NT grouping. Look at these verses from Lamentations 3 describing God: Hope, Faith, and Love.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

An alternative, but similar, grouping occurs in other New Testament passages. In the verses below the concept of “endurance, or patience” replaces “hope”.

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance (2 Timothy 3:10 NIV)

Tell the older men to have self-control and to be serious and sensible. Their faith, love, and patience must never fail. (Titus 2:2 CEV)

I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. (Revelation 2:19 NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… (Galatians 5:22)

Since some of these groupings crop up only in longer lists the connection isn’t super strong. But finally… HERE’S THE POINT I’m making…

Hope and endurance seem to be closely connected terms. Perhaps in the minds of the early church they were even interchangeable. I was pointed in this direction by the Anchor Bible Dictionary article on “Hope”. It has this to say,

One may surmise that at one time faith and love were found paired without hope, perhaps as a summary of the double commandment of love of and and of neighbor. Living the commandment of love within the “already/not yet” tension brings the Christian personal experiences, denominated “trials” or “tribulations.”  At this point, there enters upon the scene a gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain the believer amidst adversity, that of “hope” which is sometimes accompanied by “perseverance.” (284)

A key verse in establishing this connection is 1 Thessalonians 1:3 “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” It would not be true to say work, labour and endurance are the equivalent of faith, hope and love. However given the previous verses I’ve quoted, this verse describes hope motivating endurance.

Hope, defined as “confident expectation”, not “wishful thinking”, motivates endurance in the face of opposition and persecution. Big picture hope gets us through our short-term struggles. It’s why 1 Cor 13 says hope won’t last: One day, God will fulfill all of the expectations he has given us.

When Christians lose sight of the big picture of God working in our lives, and in our world we will also lose the perseverance we need to reach the fulfillment of those expectations. When we allow wishes to replace hope we dilute our faith and diminish our intimacy with God. In Christ, God has given us every reason to have confidence in his promises and love for us. He wants us to live confident, not wishful, lives.

In closing, consider this statement from Hebrews 3:14 “We are partners with Christ, but only if we hold on to the confidence we had in the beginning until the end.” May hope inspire the endurance you need to complete your journey to God.

  • Do you find it difficult to think of “hope” as a term of confidence rather than wishfulness?
  • Is your perseverance inspired more by “hope” or “duty”?
  • What do you think of the suggestion that “endurance” and “hope” are somewhat interchangeable”?
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