In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he discusses the various miraculous spiritual gifts that existed in the infant church. In chapter 12 he names 9 gifts (vs. 8-10) and mentions the fact that they were given by the same Spirit “for the profit of all” (v 7). In chapter 14 he discusses how those gifts were to be used in the assembly for the edification of the church. He also had to address their improper attitude toward these gifts especially in regard to the gift of tongues. In chapter 13, Paul shows the duration of these gifts, stating, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (vs.8-10). But he tells them that when those gifts cease to be needed, there are three things that will abide: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (v. 13).
This faith that remains is not the gift of faith mentioned in 12:9 and 13:2, but it is the faith that is required of all to be pleasing to God and to enable us to go to heaven (Heb. 11:6; John 8:24). It is the faith that “comes by hearing the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This “hope” is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:18-19). Speaking of the importance of this hope, Paul writes to the saints at Rome, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25).
But Paul tells us that the greatest of the three is “love.” Why is this true? Love is “the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Love is the heart of the two great commandments to love God supremely and one’s neighbor as he loves self (Matt. 22:37-39). Love includes obedience, for Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And John also speaks of this, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3). Love, if lacking in the heart, would be a sufficient deficiency to prevent one's salvation, even if he possessed "all faith” (I Cor. 13:2). The writer of the Book of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). John speaks of the importance of loving the brethren also: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (I John 3:14).
Paul also instructed on this subject of love in Romans 12:10 when he wrote, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Jesus said that this is the way the world can tell that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).
“But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Therefore, let us “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22).
Paul M. Wilmoth