Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, known as the “love chapter” and what I refer to as the “Book of Love”. Verse 13 is the culmination of the chapter, stating, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” The word charity in the Bible is almost always a translation from the Greek word ‘agape’ meaning love. Therefore, faith, hope and love abide, or endure, but the greatest of these three is love.
The dictionary defines faith as “belief that is not based on proof; confidence or trust in a person or thing; belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.” The Bible tells us, in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse if followed by many examples of faith throughout the remainder of this chapter, including such Biblical heroes as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and Moses, among others. In verse 6, we find that “But without faith, it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently (earnestly; persistently) seek Him.” Romans 10:17-18 tells us, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the word of God. But I say, ‘Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.’” Our faith is increased by hearing and studying the Bible. Therefore, we are encouraged in 2 Timothy 2:15 to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
It is our faith that helps us to withstand all the trials of this world. James tells us, in chapter 1, verses 2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We know by faith that we will have eternal life with our Heavenly Father, receiving the ultimate reward at the end of our earthly life. We are reminded of this in 1 Peter 1:8-9, when he says, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” Let us hold on to our faith, so that we may say, as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not only to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”
The dictionary defines hope as a noun meaning “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or the events will turn out for the best”. As a verb, it is defined as “to feel that something desired may happen; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.” But the use of the word hope in the Bible does not carry the concept of doubt. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘batah’ has a meaning of confidence, security, and without care. This use is seen in verses such as Psalm 16:9 and Ecclesiastes 9:4. In the New Testament, hope comes from the Greek word ‘elpis/elpizo’ meaning “to anticipate, usually with pleasure; to hope (in a religious sense, to wait for salvation with joy and confidence); hopefully to trust in”. So, when we read about hope in the Bible, we see it as a confident expectation or assurance based upon God’s promises.
Looking back to Hebrews 11:1, we see that hope carries the confidence of knowing that what God has promised He will provide. In Ephesians 1:17-18, we read, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” When we understand, through hearing and studying the word of God, that the shed blood of Christ is salvation to all who believe, we can be confident in our hope on all the promises of God, including eternal life.
Biblical hope is more than a feeling; it is a reality upon which we base our lives. In John 6:47, Jesus tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.’” And in Romans 15:13, we are told, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” When we accept Christ as our Savior, our hope loses all doubt, being replaced with confidence in our Heavenly Father. His righteous character, His unchanging word, and the finished work of Jesus Christ give us a sure foundation on which to stand.
The Bible is filled with verses about love. Although there are several Hebrew and Greek words for love, the one used for the basis of 1 Corinthians 13 is ‘agape’. I have read several definitions of this word, but I prefer the one from a Greek-English lexicon that defines it as “to have a warm regard for and interest in another; to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something; cherish, have affection for, love, take pleasure in.” The true depth of love in the Bible is best understood when we read and study the scriptures for ourselves, learning about the love shown in stories such as that of the Good Samaritan or in the scriptures about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, suffering and dying so that we might have eternal life.
In 1 John 4:7-8 we read, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Love is a fundamental characteristic of God, and everything He does is because of His love for us. Most of us can recite John 3:16 by memory, and know that, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God’s love for us is so great that according to Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our own love for our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ is a response to the love given to and for us. In 1 John 4: 10-11, we read, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His son to be a propitiation (atonement) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-39, when asked what the greatest commandment was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like, unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Going back to 1 John 4, we read in verses 16-17, 19-21, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.” “We love Him because He first loved us. If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are left with no doubt that, as children of God, we are to be kind, loving people.
Paul, speaking about becoming a new creation in Christ, tells us in Colossians 3:12-14, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies (a compassionate heart), kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” In Romans 12:9-10, we are told, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” And in Matthew 5:44, we once again are instructed, “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Our Father leaves nothing to chance and tells us clearly what He means when He says to love one another. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13:4-8 (NKJV), we read the biblical definition of love. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: love never fails.”
Love begins with God, and He wants us to share that love with others, as we are instructed over and over in scripture. Jesus says clearly in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” And in Romans 8:35-39, we learn just how deep and lasting that love is, when we read, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For they sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
May God bless you all, and fill your hearts and homes with love, now and always!
Grace and blessings on your path,