1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 94
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|This chapter has been so phenomenal in how it’s focused upon the one way in which you can know a person is surrendered to Christ—that is the love that God’s Spirit produces in their life. This love is a love that will not let us go. That’s what I want us to think about, “His Love That Will Not Let Us Go.”|
1 Corinthians 13:12-13
His Love That Will Not Let Us Go
We’re going to finish chapter 13 in this study. This chapter has been so phenomenal in how it’s focused upon the one way in which you can know a person is surrendered to Christ—that is the love that God’s Spirit produces in their life. This love is a love that will not let us go. That’s what I want us to think about, “His Love That Will Not Let Us Go.”
Paul has shown us what life is like without this love in verses 4-6a. Then he turns around and shows us what life is like with this love in verse 6b and 7. Then he makes a powerful statement. It’s one of the hinges of this whole chapter. He says in verse 8 that God’s love never fails. And in using that term “fails,” he uses a term that is sometimes used of a ship that has gotten off course and has shipwrecked. It did not get to the port for which it sailed. What Paul is saying is God’s love gets the ship to the port that it’s destined to go to. In other words, there’s a hope for every believer. There’s a port that we’re headed towards. God’s love that caused us to be saved and is sustaining us and sanctifying us now, is the same love that will get us to that port that we’re destined to go to.
What is that port? What is the hope of every believer? It’s one day in seeing Jesus Christ face to face. John says in his epistle, “When we see Him, we shall be [What?] like Him.” That’s what we’re looking forward to. We can mature down here. We are to mature down here. It’s progressive. We grow and grow and become more and more conformed to His image. But there’s coming a day when the ultimate maturity is going to take place, when we are glorified, when we see Him, like I said, we will be like Him.
How do you know Paul is talking about the event of seeing Jesus face to face, that event that John said would change us where we’ll be like Him? Look at verse 12. The context is very clear. He says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then.” You’ve got to ask yourself “when.” Drop back a couple of verses and he says, “when the perfect comes.” We’ve identified the perfect, not as being the Word of God, not as being the Lord Jesus Christ, although certainly He is, but when that full maturity comes, when that glorified states comes that we’ll enter into. He says that when the perfect comes we shall see Him face to face. When that time comes we shall see Him face to face.
On the day when the perfect comes, on that day when we’re finally glorified and changed forever to be like Him, he says, “but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away.” Literally, it’s not gifts of prophecy, it’s prophecies. In other words, there’s going to come a day when there’s not going to be any more need for sermons. There’s going to come a day when you can go back even beyond that. There’s not going to be any need for any prophesies from the New Testament prophets or prophecies of the Old Testament prophets. All of them will be absorbed into the fullness of the whole because each prophecy now is only a part. On that day they’ll be set aside, future passive. God Himself will set them aside, not in the sense of done away with because they’ll still exist, but they’ll sort of disappear when you see the full picture.
On the day when the perfect comes all languages will be dismissed. They will only have need for only one language. He says, “if there are tongues, they will cease.” Of course, we’ve identified tongues as known, understandable languages. They will cease, future middle—on their own they will cease because we’ll all just speak one language.
On that day when the perfect comes if there’s knowledge, any kind of knowledge that we have, it will be done away, or set aside. It’s the same exact verb that’s used with prophecies. All the knowledge that we think we have right now of Christ and His love for us will one day be set aside because it will be so overwhelming the knowledge that we don’t have even while we’re here. It will be simply set aside. Then Paul shows why in verse 9. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” Any knowledge that we have, any prophecy or sermon that we have or proclamation of God’s Word is simply a fragment of the whole. But one day when we see Him, the one who is the fullness of knowledge, the One who is the embodiment of all prophecy, all of that will be set aside.
Then Paul shows how we are progressively moving towards that. Maturity is a part of being reborn, just like when you are physically born. There’s a progressive maturing in a child’s life. It’s the same way in the spiritual life. You don’t want somebody to remain as a baby. In 1 Corinthians 3 he talked about them and chided them for being babies in the nursery. He’s telling them to grow up. Now I think he sort of brings a subtle rebuke back to them. While we are here, we are progressing toward the port that we are destined toward. We are maturing, but there’s going to come a day when see Him that a full maturity will take place.
He says in verse 11, “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” To me, he’s not just mentioning that at random because his whole context has been, “Corinthians, grow up. Come on. Move out of that chasing after emotional experiences. Move out of attaching yourself to gifts. Attach yourself to the Giver and grow up. And as you do, you’re progressing toward that day that you’re promised to arrive at.” You see, love never fails. We’re going to get there. The implication of this whole passage, to me, is you can determine how you’re going to arrive. Even right now we can choose. I can either surrender to Him and grow up and live in the sufficiency of who He is, or I can fool around here and chase after attaching myself to flesh and experiences and be miserable the whole way. What he’s basically saying is if you’ll just go on and attach, it’s a lot sweeter journey and you will arrive. God’s love never fails. God’s love that set us on this journey will cause us to arrive one day when we see Him face to face. Oh, what a day it’s going to be when we see Him one day. We’re going to be looking at this very closely.
As a matter of fact, look at verses 12 and 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Let’s talk about this love that will not let us go, this love that even though we’re up upside down like the church of Corinth sometimes in love, we will arrive. We will arrive. It will see us through. It will get us there. Let’s look at that love.
We have a dim view of God’s love
The first thing I want us to see is at the very best, at the highest spiritual pinnacle of your life or my life, when we think we have a grasp of God and His love for us, at the very best, we have but a dim view of God’s love. Look what he says in verse 12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly.” The mirrors we have today have to be gotten out of your mind. When I look in a mirror, I see very clearly. I don’t like what I see very clearly, but I see very clearly.
The kind of mirrors they used in Corinth were not the same kind we have today. Ours are glass which are coated on the back, and we set them in frames. That kind of mirror wasn’t developed until the 13th century. The kind of mirrors they had then were made of burnished metal or polished stone. If you’ve ever looked into a mirror like that, you realize you don’t get a clear picture of what you’re looking at. There’s a distortion there. So at best you have a dim view of what you’re looking at. That’s the imagery that Paul uses here that they would understand. He says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly.”
You can take this in just about any direction you want to go when it comes to what we’re going to be like when we see Christ. We look in a mirror today, we’re not seeing what it’s going to be like. We only see a part of that. We’re going to be changed and glorified one day. But more than that, all of our attempts to look at the truth of God’s love in this life, in God’s truth as it’s reflected in creation, as it’s reflected in history, as it’s reflected in Scripture, as it’s reflected in our own conscience, as glorious as it is, it’s but a dim and imperfect view of what it will be one day. Why? Because of our human failure. That’s why. Because of our own sin, that’s why. We couldn’t handle it all if it was all given to us. Our perception of reality is real as far as we can see, but yet it’s still dim and imperfect in light of what is coming.
He says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly.” The fact that Paul puts himself into that mix caught my attention. There’s nobody in the New Testament, to me, as intelligent as the apostle Paul, no one who has had any greater experiences than he has. We know the apostle John got to go into the third heaven. We have the book of the Revelation as the result of it. But nobody had any greater experiences than the apostle Paul. As a matter of fact, he’s seen the Lord face to face. He said, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” Paul could look at them and say, “I’ve already seen Him face to face.” When was that? On the Damascus Road when God stopped him, and he was changed and converted. That became the basis of his apostleship—you had to be a witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
But then again, look over in 2 Corinthians 12:2. I want to show you another time that he saw Him face to face, right in the very abode that God is in now, in Heaven, in the third heaven. Second Corinthians 12:2 says, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.” You know, there are the lower heavens, which we see as we look up in the daytime. We see the sky and the clouds. There’s the upper heaven above that, which is what we see at night, the universe and the stars. And then there’s a third heaven. The first two heavens we can see with our eyes. The third heaven we believe by faith that it’s there. It’s where God dwells.
He says in verse 3, “And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” Now, Paul had seen Christ face to face on the Damascus Road. He had been somehow brought into Heaven in an experience. He had seen Heaven. He had been there in the mighty place of beauty there in Heaven. The point is Paul could have looked at them and said, “Now, you see through a mirror dimly. I’m a little different because I’ve already seen face to face.” But the apostle Paul doesn’t do that. He puts himself into the mix and says, “You take my experience,” and the Corinthians didn’t hold a candle to the knowledge that Paul had and certainly looked after these kinds of experiences. He said, “You take that experience of going into heaven and seeing Him. You take that experience of the Damascus Road. You take all that I have come to understand as an apostle. You put it together and I’m in the same mix. I’m looking in a mirror dimly. I don’t see it yet. I can’t see it yet. But there’s going to come a day that we will.”
When there’s so much to know, the one who knows the most should be the first one to be humble enough to say of what he doesn’t know. It seems like the older you get the more you learn about what you don’t know. The apostle Paul said, “I’m in that mix. I see through a mirror dimly. I see imperfect things as I look into it.” We must ask a question that’s relevant to what Paul is saying here. What mirror is he talking about? When you look into a mirror you see dimly. Well, the mirror, to me, would be anything that reveals Christ and His love to us. It’s anything that reveals that in our present life.
We could look in Romans 1:20 at the visible creation. He said He’s revealed an invisible creation around us. It would have to include the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ even though He emptied His glory. He still came and there were men who saw Him. He was here on this earth. You would have to include Scripture itself, anything that brings to light the revelation of Jesus and His truth and His love for us. John said in His epistle in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I want to submit to you that what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 13, when they did behold the Lord Jesus Christ, it was only to the degree that God allowed them to behold the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in that it was a dim and imperfect view of what they’re going to see one day when we see Him.
It’s the same thing when we are living in our spiritual lives. The word “dimly” there is the word we get the word “enigma” from. We see in a mirror dimly. An enigma is a riddle or a dark saying. In Numbers 12:8 the Lord said He would not speak to Moses in dark speech. In other words, “I’m not speaking to you, Moses, in things that you can’t understand. Because you want to hear, therefore I’ll tell you what I have to say to you.”
It’s interesting how Jesus spoke in parables. He even told His disciples in Matthew 13:13 that He did this intentionally. If you’ll study them, what He’s doing is He’s taking the people who want to know and telling them. He will not cast His pearls before swine. What He does reveal and once a person grasps it, it still is looking into a mirror and seeing dimly and imperfect.
I’ll tell you what. He just took all the roots of pride right out of us. Anybody who thinks they know something about the Lord immediately has to be humbled by the fact that the best of knowledge that we can ever have, the apostle Paul putting himself in that situation, is but a dim and imperfect view of what yet we will see and know one day. Make sure you get the picture here. As we choose to yield to Christ, God reveals more and more truth to us. It’s a walk. It’s a progression. Years down the road as you’re a Christian you’ll understand and have revealed to you much more than you had when you first got started, even at the pentacle when you just can’t take any more. Dwight L. Moody said, “Oh, God, stop it. I can’t take any more.” When you get to that place and you think there cannot be any more, Paul says, “No, no. You have to understand. What you see at that point, at that pinnacle, is nothing but a dim and imperfect view of what He has reserved for us.” As a matter of fact, it’s His love that limits that revelation because we couldn’t stand it if He gave it to us. So He just deals it out in proportion and in part in pieces and says, “Hey, there’s coming a day when all of that is going to change and you’re going to know as you have been fully known.” The fact that Paul includes himself in the mix obviously includes all of us.
The older I get the more I realize this truth. I was down in the Caribbean. We decided one afternoon we were going to go swimming. So we got our masks on and our snorkels and our flippers. We walked down to get in the water and as soon as we got out there it was wonderful. The sand was just beautiful white. We’d go down about thirty feet and you could feed the fish around the coral. It was so much fun.
I looked out and saw it had gotten dark out there. I asked “When you get out there and it gets dark, is that coral? Is that what makes the water look dark?” He said, “Oh, no. I want you to find out what it is. You swim out there.” So we started to swim about two hundred yards out. We got out and oh, I found out why it got dark out there. It wasn’t coral. It was a drop off of about five or six hundred feet. It was a main channel.
When I got out there, I felt like I was hanging suspended. It was like I was hanging six or seven hundred feet up above what? I don’t know what’s down there. I could see light rays go down as far, just way down, and then it just got pitch black, kind of syrupy black. I saw fish that were as big as I was. We swam out over there, which it seemed like was so unsearchable below us. It made me cautious of every move I was making. Back near shore it was easy. I could see. I could do what I wanted to do. But when I swam out over that, it was like something overwhelmed me to the place that made me cautious of every move that I made.
The apostle Paul does this to me in 1 Corinthians 13:12. I don’t know what he does for you. But he walks me out over the depth of something that’s so far beyond my comprehension. He says, “You think you understand, but you don’t have a clue of what you’re going to know one day when you see Him and you’re made like Him.” God’s love that will not let you go is going to bring you to that place, and one day you will see Jesus as He is. We see through a mirror dimly. Does anybody want to stand up and applaud yourself for what you know? I dare not. I dare think that anyone would do that because what Paul has just done by putting himself in the mix is saying. “I don’t care how smart you think you are, and you may have a handle on truth and as far as you’re concerned it’s true, but you don’t know what’s out there that’s one day going to absorb it all into itself.” You’re going to understand one day what you don’t understand right now. Well, we get a dim view.
We will love Him forever
Secondly, but what we will know, when the perfect comes, will cause us to love Him forever. I don’t know if this will ever get out of me like it got into me. Sometimes when I’m studying that’s the biggest frustration. You get something inside of you and it’s so overwhelming to you, you can’t find the words to express it. But this verse here, folks, will overwhelm you if you’ll just let it do it.
When I first interpreted this verse, I thought it meant that I’m going to know everything God knows. That’s ridiculous to start with and I knew it was but I couldn’t figure out what’s he saying. Let’s just walk through it and I think it will bless you. He says, “now I know in part, but then.” Once again, Paul’s not suggesting we can’t know now. It’s a progressive knowledge every day. He’s simply stating that all the knowledge we’ll get down here on this earth is nothing to compare with what’s coming when we see Christ face to face.
I want to illustrate one more time. A fish can be swimming in a creek and it will know every rock and every log it can get under, but it has no idea of the ocean that stream is flowing into. That’s what Paul is trying to say. There’s an ocean of knowledge that you don’t have and can’t have until you see Christ face to face.
What is it that we do know? Even though it’s a dim view, it’s still a pretty good view. What do we know? Well, we do know for starters that when Jesus died on the cross that He totally has taken the load of sin and guilt off of us when we have received Him by faith. I hope you know that. I hope you’re not going around beating yourself up for what you did before you came to know Christ. I hope you understand He took that load of sin off of you. He took that guilt off of you. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Romans 5:1 reads, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and so on, and so on.
But I want to tell you something. That’s enough, but we don’t understand even all of that. We just have a dim view of it. These people who are always trying to figure God out when it comes to the matter, for instance, of election and predestination. People have God so boxed in that they have figured Him out from A to Z. Friend, to me, I back off and I say, “Lord God, here’s my lightning rod. When you strike them, don’t hit me.” Because what we know of salvation is a mystery. Paul, the most intelligent man in the New Testament, said in Ephesians 3 that it’s a mystery. It’s beyond me. I cannot fathom salvation. But what we do have and what we do know about salvation is absolutely adequate and sufficient to get us from here to the port to which we are destined. But at that port we’re going to find out a whole lot more than we ever dreamed could possibly be a part of this salvation. That’s what Paul is saying.
Not only do we know that. We also know from Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.” I’ll tell you what. We don’t understand suffering. But we can at least understand what God just said. One hundred people, at least, have asked me over the years, “Explain to me suffering.” I shoot at it. The only thing I know is what God’s word says. But I fall far short of being able to explain to somebody why their infant child they just prayed for, God took on to be with Himself. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand how a godly person living on the street here can be absolutely molested and beaten to death. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand how the unrighteous sometimes seem as if they don’t even suffer. I don’t understand. But what I do understand is sufficient to get me through this life. Anybody who says they can figure all that stuff out bothers me because Paul, himself, said, “Whatever we do know is but a dim and imperfect understanding of what will come one day.”
Paul’s is pointing again, now, to seeing Him face to face. He says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” Have you ever met someone through an acquaintance? Maybe you’ve written them, called them, e-mailed them, whatever, and you thought you knew them. Finally came the day when you could sit down face to face and you found out what you thought you knew wasn’t anything close to what you found out because they’re much more wonderful than you ever thought they would be.
The thing that encourages me is that one day we shall know Him as He knows us. It’s like the closest I can get to Him on this earth just gives me a little glimpse of what it’s going to be like one day when I see Him face to face. That ought to encourage every single person in this place. God’s love will see to it that we’ll arrive at that point. Now we know in part. The part we have is very thrilling and there’s nothing to down play that. But it’s just to encourage us that there’s much, much more to come.
One day we shall know as we’re known. As we look at that phrase, that’s the key to this whole understanding. “We shall know” is epiginosko. Some people say that simply means to know. But I believe it would absolutely be slanderous to the whole text for it to just be simple knowledge. I believe it’s fully known, to fully know something. Epi means that intensifier, to fully know something, knowledge above knowledge. We think we have knowledge now. We have a certain fullness of knowledge now, but on that day it will be the fullness of knowledge when we see Him.
The verb is future middle, but it’s used as a deponent verb which just throws in an added thought here which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with his direction. Some people think that when they see Him, they’ll be so radically changed they’ll lose their identity, their personality. Nobody will even know who they are when they see Christ. No, because by the way he uses the verb it has the idea Wayne’s still going to be Wayne, but a transformed Wayne, a glorified Wayne, a glorified body. Thank the Lord! I need that—a glorified mind to understand what it’s never understood before, but very quickly recognizable and very quickly identifiable. I just threw that out in case you’ve ever asked that question. It’s very clear. You’re not going to lose who you are. If you’ve lost a loved one and you’re looking forward to seeing them one day, don’t worry. You’ll recognize him. But the difference will be the glorification of that person, the fullness of maturity that has finally come. He’s been maturing all along down here, but then that full maturity will come, whether it will be at our death down here or simply when the Lord Jesus comes. I don’t know. But somehow it’s equated when we see Christ, we shall be like Him.
The last part of the verse clears up what Paul’s saying. This is to clear any thinking that you have that one day you’re going to know everything that God knows. That’s not what the verse is saying. However, it appears to read that way. Look very carefully: “but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” Oh, son. Look at that last phrase, “I have been fully known.” My wife thinks she knows me. She really doesn’t. But there’s someone who fully knows me. Do you know who that is? It’s in the past tense. This is the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 139 David is being overwhelmed in the fact that God has known him before the foundations of the world. God designed him. God created him. God knows everything about him. And the apostle Paul understands the same understanding here. He says, “God, I have been fully known.”
You’ve got to think with me. You’ve got to put your thinking cap on and don’t move too far. We’re in a chapter on love. What he has just done is so beautifully tie together God’s love with God’s knowing. Somehow loving someone has something to do with knowing that person, understanding that person. You see, in the enigma here is that Paul says, “I will fully know as I am fully known.”
He didn’t use the term “we.” He says “I.” He uses the personal pronoun. By the way, until you personalize this into your life, you can’t see what he’s talking about here. The apostle Paul had stood there before he was converted and saw Stephen stoned to death. He had absolutely brought havoc to the Christian community. He was on his way to arrest Christians when God arrested him on the Damascus Road. The apostle Paul, Romans 7 seems to indicate, still struggled with his own flesh as you and I struggle with our own flesh. Yet he can come here and say, “God has fully known me,” in a context when he’s just been talking about God fully loving him.
Think with me. God loves us fully because he knows us fully. I’ll tell you what that will do to your theological bubble. It will pop it when you think you have to do something to make God love you. God loved you before you were ever born, friend. That’s the thing that’s incredible to me. That’s the thing that humbles me. Progressively, I’m to be maturing every day. Progressively, I’m to be obeying so that more revelation can come into my life. But do I do that every day? No. Do you? Wow! Will you help me? How many times do we absolutely turn our backs on Him like David and commit willful sin knowing that that’s shutting down the process of our maturing? And yet God knew that before we were ever born. God knew that. God knew every wart. God knew every sin. God knew everything about us. He has fully known us and in spite of that has fully loved us. So in loving comes the knowing. The point is that God fully knows and understands us and yet He still loves us.
Spurgeon was asked the question one time, “How in the world could God hate Esau?” And Spurgeon said, “That has never bothered me.” He said, “Well, what does bother you?” He said, “How in the world could God love Jacob?” You think on that for a few minutes. We live in a society that believes we deserve to be loved by somebody, especially God. We pray that way. God’s our cosmic bellhop. We name it and claim it, and we think He’s going to do it. But yet anything short of hell is grace. He knows us, folks. He knows you. He knows the thoughts that went through your mind this past week before you even said it. Maybe you didn’t say it. God knows the thoughts that you didn’t say. God knows the things that you did in the dark and you think nobody else saw it. God knows that. Darkness is light to Him. God knows everything about us. You can’t put on nice clothes and go to church and cover up what God doesn’t know about you. God knows everything about us. He fully knows us. Thank God, He fully loves us. In spite of us, He loves us because to know is to love and then it goes in a cycle. To love is to know and to know is to love.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? One day when I see Him, when the perfect comes, when I see Him face to face, I will know as I am fully known. What do you think he’s talking about there? What comes to my heart and the only thing I can rest on is the fact that Paul says, “One day, in spite of my flirty and fleeting will, one day when I see Him, I will understand something about Him that I could never has understood down here. When I see Him, the knowledge of Him and the love of Him combined will take my will and His will and make it one and we will be one forever. This body will be shed and I’ll walk in perfect harmony with Him forever and ever and ever because I will love Him because I will know Him as He has known and loved me.”
He has fully known us. He has fully loved us, and yet we don’t fully know Him. We don’t fully love Him, but one day we will, and we’ll walk in harmony and oneness with Him forever. Do you realize what this is? This is the fulfillment of the prayer the Lord Jesus Christ in John 17 when Jesus prayed that they would be one. He said, “Oh, Father, as we are one.” One day we will, not only with Him but with each other. Do you realize that? We’ll be so enmeshed into His will at that time that we will be also that same way with one another. Is that not incredible?
Love is the greatest gift
Well, what I know and the most excited I can be in the midst of a sermon is yet but a dim and imperfect view of what’s coming. But what I do know or what I will know when He comes will cause me to love Him forever. Then finally, you can see why he closes the chapter the way he does—although they didn’t have chapters and verses; we’ll just make it out like he concluded it. This thought kind of ends here. You can see now why love is the greatest gift. Do you want to chase after a gift? Chase after the Giver, and He’ll give you the greatest gift which is love.
The Corinthian church thought prophecies (not the kind of prophecy of preaching, but the kind of foretelling), speaking in other tongues, miracles and healings was the proof of spirituality. He says, “No, it is not.” The proof of spirituality is the love that’s produced in your life, not only to you, but through you. That love will not let you go. It reaches out and touches others and changes their life and one day will ultimately change us all to be like Christ. Nothing touches love. Nothing touches it. It will never be in your life or my life until we surrender and break before Him, never. The invisible line that God draws a thousand times in your life and my life everyday and says, “Okay, My way or your way,” is the line we have to deal with every day of our life. It’s choices. When we choose to bow before Him, His Spirit then produces that divine quality of love through our life, that love which will not let us go.
Verse 13 reads, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” When you walk surrendered to Christ, there will always be these three things: faith, hope, and love. The word “abide” means they’ll stay put. They’ll stay right where they are. They’re not going to be set aside like prophesies. They’re not going to be set aside like knowledge. They’ll always be there. For eternity they will be there. Paul says these three will abide.
Some people say, “No, no. I can see why, maybe, one of them can abide. I can understand why love will always be there. It’s the greatest. But faith and hope, I don’t see why they’ll be there because faith is replaced by sight and hope is replaced by the eternal presence.” No, no. That’s a yes and no. Faith to us down here is standing on God’s word. The world we live in certainly does not give us any sight to go on. We stand on it. But the very root meaning of faith is to trust in the character and testimony of God, forsaking all and trust Him. Certainly, it’s a yes in the sense that we won’t have all the other things around us that will cause it to be there. We can see why some people say we won’t need faith any more. But in a sense we do because that faith doesn’t decrease but it increases when we see Him. When we see Him, we have that much more reason to trust Him in all things, even for all of eternity.
The word hope has by implication in it the root meaning of expectancy. We live in hope. It’s a certainty. Since we don’t know everything God knows, but we’ll know Him as He knows us. It will be a marrying of our wills together. There are still things to learn and for all of eternity I believe we’ll be learning. I think a million years, once we see Him, we’ll be walking by Him and fall on our face one more time and thank Him for this eternal redemption that we just cannot get over. We’re always learning of Him. So hope has got to be the expectancy of the things that will be revealed to us down the road. We keep continuing to see that for all of eternity.
In the first place, the reason love is the greater than the faith and hope is because faith and hope would not even be there without love. Love has got to touch a person’s life before they can ever have faith or hope. You don’t have faith until you, first of all, get touched by the love of God. Then the character of God so speaks to your heart that it quickens faith in you to trust Him and then to hope and expect the things He’s promised. Faith and hope are really a part of what love produces. That’s why love is even greater than that. Faith and hope, however, are essential, are still a part of the whole that we would call love. Love has a lighter application. You can be the only person on this earth. Faith and hope is between you and God. But love has a wider sphere. It reaches out to others.
Somebody told me years ago, and I see it in Scripture over and over, you cannot contain God’s love. You have to release it. So if it’s being produced in you, somebody is going to be benefiting by it because you can’t hold on to it. It’s too hot to handle. You’ve got to release it. Faith and hope is just between you and God, but love is between you and God and others who are around you. Love is the debt that we always owe and are consistently paying. Therefore, though faith and hope are enduring, just as enduring as love, they’re going to be there forever, love is the greatest of all these.
Somebody might ask, “Why did he single out those three? Why didn’t he mention wisdom, courage, patience, obedience, zeal, purity?” Keep on going with the list; because if you’ll look at it, these words encompass every other virtue in the Christian life. Everything else is wrapped up in that one word, love, which branches off into faith and hope. If you look carefully, you see if one possesses faith, hope, and love, all the other characteristics will also be there.
There was quite a bit of confusion going on in Corinth about prophecy and knowledge and all this kind of stuff. I think, perhaps now, you might be able to see why Paul does what he does, why he brings them back and shows them that this love that will not let you go is a love that will not let others go. It’s a love that will get you from here to here and if you’ll submit to the Giver, you can walk in that love. That love will change you. That love will radically transform you and others and then you’re enjoying the journey and then, with the expectancy that one day when you see Him, you’ll know love like you’ve never known it before when your will and His will are married together forever.
As Christians we’re very sorely in need of understanding 1 Corinthians 13. What is the basis you’re resting your faith on? It’s a sad day when people say, “I know I’m saved because I walked an aisle, said a prayer, and was baptized.” That’s a sad day. Because, folks, anybody can do that. That does not mean you’re saved. It could mean you are, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it. Look at your life. Is faith, hope, and love evident in your life? You can’t have one without the other. The love will produce the other two. Are they evident in your life?
If it’s not, you don’t know Christ or you’re a Christian who has chosen to attach yourself to everything but Christ and you’re one miserable upside down person. God says, “Let My love change you. Come back to Me. You don’t have to prove anything to Me. Come back to Me. Attach yourself to Me. Surrender to Me and I’ll produce a love in you and then teach you how to release that love through you. Then that love will encourage you and put that hope and the faith in your life.” And one day when you see Him you’ll know it to its fullest because your will and His will be one forever. A great day is coming.