When a sinner is saved (from spiritual death), faith, hope, and love are involved, with faith and hope being a simultaneous work in the sinner’s heart.
What happens when someone decides to say, “yes,” to God’s kind invitation to become His (Romans 2:4)? We trust He has been at work in the sinner’s heart because it is the Father Who draws men to the Lord Jesus (John 6:44). Since God loves us, He sent Jesus to save us from our sins (John 3:16), and we love Him with reason; we love [Him] because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When a sinner is saved (from spiritual death), faith, hope, and love are involved, with faith and hope being a simultaneous work in the sinner’s heart. At true conversion, a person makes a 180 degree turn from a willful, sinful life. This does not mean people will never sin (that won’t happen until heaven), but it does mean they do their utmost to obey and follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who now indwells them.
What Is the Relationship between Faith, Hope, and Love?
Faith and hope both involve trust. They both hinge on the trustworthiness of the person or object of an individual's core belief. When we drive a car, both are relevant; we have faith the car will transport us safely to our destination and we also hope no one crashes into us (or us into them).
At the moment of conversion, just about everything changes; we’re still here on earth, but our worldview and reason for living are new (Acts 17:28). It’s a hard road for us to get to the point of asking Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, but the moment of accepting Him is supernatural simplicity when the person praying is sincere. To pray to receive Jesus as Lord means acting in faith and with hope. We have faith He can save us, and we hope because of what He has done, is doing, and will do. The tandem nature of this is evident in Scripture (Romans 5:2, Galatians 5:5, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Peter 1:21).
With God, our faith and hope are in the only One we can trust for eternal life. And due to His perfect, loving nature, we love Him as our hope and faith increases.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (emphasis added) gives us a great summary of the relationship between faith, hope, and love. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” Faith involves work. It is never just faith; it is a noun that carries a verb that promotes its work (e.g., keep, display, have). Love is an active verb. When we love someone, it is never passive; it always involves doing. When we consider the Father’s love, it manifested itself in the giving of Jesus (John 3:16) and in adopting us as His children (1 John 3:1). Our patience of hope is built on Christ’s righteousness and promises (Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 2:6). Hope is looking forward to and expecting something good. For the Christian, our hope is in God’s promises. Hope enables our faith and love to endure, and our faith in Christ drives us to obey His commands in love, which endures because of the hope He gives us.
What Is the Context of 1 Corinthians 13?
The first letter to the Corinthian church has much to do with discipline within the body of believers, as Paul addresses conflicts in which they were involved. Corinth, located in the Roman province of Achaia, was infamous for its corruption. A number of the Corinthian believers were formerly involved in the local debauchery, and some were still embroiled in its wretched sin. They chose the worldliness of the culture over following the tenets of their new faith, and this caused divisions in the church. Paul addressed sexual sin, improper worship, spiritual gifts, and he highlighted the resurrection of Jesus (chapter 15). As he made his case throughout the epistle, Paul, in chapter 12, expanded on the spiritual gifts and the necessary unity within the Christian body regarding the reception and use of the gifts. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, which those in the Corinthian church sorely needed (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). His argument to the Corinthians is: Why have any spiritual gifts if they are exercised without love? Love is defined as the righteous and active pursuit of the well-being of another. Love is God’s highest value (ethic), and He expects it to permeate the church. God provides believers with gifts for individual expressions of love which effectively edifies and seeks the spiritual well-being of the body.
What Does the Bible Say about Faith, Hope, and Love?
The preeminent chapter which has the three together is 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter, Paul continues his discourse from chapter 12, prioritizing the characteristics that should (must) govern every Christian’s life. One may have various gifts, but if he does not have love, his gifts are moot—meaningless and unproductive (vv. 1-3). Love is the greatest gift, and chapter 13 is often called The Love Chapter. Many wedding vows contain the passage which includes verses 4-13. Verse 13 says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” To have them stated concurrently brings a greater emphasis on how they are to work together. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 adds to that by telling us to put on the “breastplate of faith and love” and the hope of salvation is our helmet.
Why Is Love the Greatest of These?
God made an object lesson of faith, hope, and love when He told Abraham to sacrifice, “your son—your only son, Isaac, whom you love” (Genesis 22:1-16). Abraham displayed his faith in God with his immediate, without question, obedience to the Lord. This is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible, and it is a presage of God giving, “His one and only Son” (John 3:16). We are further enlightened about Abraham’s faith and hope in Hebrews 11:17-19, where the author says, Abraham concluded that “God was able to raise him [Isaac] up, even from the dead, from which he received him in a figurative sense.” Through it all, love overwhelmed each act of obedience.
Faith is mentioned 278 times in the ESV version of the Bible. Hope? 151 times. Love trumps them both, being mentioned (and commanded at points) 551 times in 505 verses.
Love is the driving force which caused Jesus to come and “put on flesh” for us and to testify to the truth” (John 18:37).
Galatians 5:14 tells us all the law is fulfilled in love, just as Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30) and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The Bible tells us God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). It does not say God is faith. It also does not say God is hope. Faith and hope are a result of God’s love for us. Scripture does say, however, all our faith and hope may be found in Him, for only in Him and the atoning work of Jesus may we have faith (1 Peter 1:21, Ephesians 6:16).
Why, then, is love the greatest of “these?”
God has entrusted us with a divine faith in which we experience heavenly love, looking toward eternal hope in Christ Jesus. It’s His love that gives us life. That’s why it is the greatest.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Shutter2U
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
This Is the Day the Lord Has Made
Iron Sharpens Iron
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Faith without Works Is Dead
Be Anxious for Nothing