Paul Fritz calls them “the triad of Christian virtues.”
Philip R. Davies wrote, “These three graces form the essential elements of the Christian character.
An unknown author referred to them as “the holy and beautiful sisterhood of Christians virtues.”
And what are they?
The apostle Paul identifies them in the conclusion of his beautiful treatise in 1 Corinthians 13.
“ So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)
The entire Christian life is all about faith, hope, and love. Our spiritual growth, our continued steadfastness, and the basis of our relationships, both with God and our fellow man are built upon faith, hope, and love.
Faith is the foundation of our Christian life. Indeed it is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not as yet seen (Heb. 11:1). Faith involves trust, confidence, and fidelity. Eugene Peterson was right when he wrote, “Christian faith is not neurotic dependence but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.”
Faith produces works in our lives that please God. Faith works. In the holy Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 God’s greats are identified as people of faith. But notice what they did. Able offered. Enoch walked. Noah prepared. And Abraham went. Faith is not a mere mental acquiescence, but is alive, active, and working.
Hope keeps faith alive. It keeps us going. The Bible calls hope “the anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19). An anchor is used in securing a ship, particularly in times of storm to prevent it from drifting. It is an invisible thing, sinking down beneath the waters and dripping firmly in the ground underneath. The winds may roar and waves may lash the ship , but it rides them steadily, being held fast by the anchor.
Our greatest danger is drifting. Our problem is not so much waking up this morning and deciding to quit. But it is a slow, imperceptible drift and you hardly know it. Our hope serves as an anchor to keep us from drifting away from our faith.
Our hope is beyond this life. It is eternal. It is heavenward. And it is anchored in Christ. It is that hope that keeps us going. Gives us endurance. And steadies us in uncertain times.
But the greatest of these virtues, Paul said, was love. Love is the bond of perfection. It is the glue that holds everything together. Love is who God is. It is defined and exemplified in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. And love is the greatest commandment.
Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt 22:37-39)
Love is the greatest virtue because of its enduring nature. One day faith will be lost in sight, and hope will be realized in the reward, but love remains throughout all eternity.
William Barclay expressed it this way. “Great as faith and hope are, love is still greater. Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.”
Love is also great because of its character. Paul’s description of love is one of the most beautiful in the Bible.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:4-8)
Faith. Hope. Love. Let them direct your thoughts. Develop your character. And drive your life. To make it to heaven you need all three.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman