Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
1 CORINTHIANS 13:13
1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abideth faith, hope, charity,
these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
I was surprised to learn how often “these three” occur together in the New Testament: RM 5:2-5; CL 1:4-5; HB 6:10-12; GL 5:5-6; 1TH 1:3, 5:8; 1P 1:21-22! They are meant as a unit. The loss of any would ruin all. That’s why Paul uses the singular “abideth” here. These three are to be seen as one. They are the triple star that will always shine. Even in glory these three will take on heavenly forms and last forever. The important things are not prophecy, knowledge, and tongues, but faith, hope, and love. They are pre-eminent, and nothing may stand with them. The three often overlap, and distinguishing between them is sometimes impossible. With this truth ever in mind, we will try to study them:
Faith, derived from a root word that means oneness, means union with God. Being saved, the first step of faith, is a matter of allowing a bond to be established between a man and God. This faith-bond makes us sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
The “man of faith” is the man who allows this process of union to progress by coming into more and more oneness with God. That means the man of faith dies more to self daily. His thoughts, wills, dreams, and desires must become identical to God’s. “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (GL 2:20). The phrases “In Christ” and “Christ in you” also denote oneness. This union provides our power. When did Moses confront Pharaoh? After meeting God at the Burning Bush. When did Elijah call down fire from Heaven? After he had listened to God (1K 18:1). When did Jacob receive the blessing? After wrestling all night with God. We are powerless because we don’t know God. People have soured on the church because they don’t see God here. Our teenagers leave by droves because the God of Elijah they have been taught is not like the God of John Marshall they see.
Where is the God of Elijah? Is He obvious in your life? Since faith abides, we can still have the power our forefathers did. It is not a thing of the past. You will find it when you get serious about knowing God. Take your Bible, find a quiet secluded spot, and tell God you are going to stay with Him until you are aware of His presence. Ask for nothing but Him. Seek re-creation rather than recreation.
The cure for our weakness and sin is not to dwell constantly on our shortcomings, but to concentrate on God. In the days before anesthetics, one surgeon would tell his patients before surgery, “Take a good look at your wound, and then don’t take your eyes off me.” The same is true for us. Look at your sin; realize its terribleness; then concentrate on God, “As seeing Him who is invisible” (HB 11:27). When we do this, we will better understand why and how our hearts are purified by faith (AC 15:9).
Hope has four component parts:
Hope always looks to the future. Hope fastens on future happiness and waits for it. Without hope, we would be miserable. Men cannot live without it. Hope is our “anchor of the soul” (HB 6:19) in times of storm.
There is always some goal to the time span. Hope’s object is the thing promised. Faith looks to the word of the thing: hope to the thing of the word. Our thoughts are not aimless, but focalized on some definite object. We don’t just look over a vast ocean and say, “It’s so pretty out there.” Nor do we only say, “It’s going to get better.” We have definite objects–the promises of God.
The goal will occur. Anticipation is certain to be filled. It’s not wishful thinking. Hope now has almost the exact opposite meaning that it had in the New Testament. In our day, it includes an element of doubt. “I hope to go to Heaven” is now a statement of doubt, not faith. Our hope is often nothing more than that which worldly men have. This is a grievous loss. Hope is the assurance that the good promised to believers will occur: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Displaying such confidence will bring at least three positive results:
1. Evangelism – First century Christianity thrived by taking people from the depressed classes–slaves, women, outcasts–and giving them living hope. We spoke to them with authority about an optimistic future. Our pessimistic generation needs that same bold message.
2. Optimism – We will know all will be well. The man of hope believes (RM 8:28).
3. Holiness – “Every man that hath this hope (assurance of second coming) in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (IJ 3:3). If you truly plan to see Jesus face to face, you’ll be more careful in this life.
The goal is valued and wanted. Faith sees things both good and bad; hope sees only the good. Faith sees heaven and hell; hope sees only heaven. Hope is the sweetest friend that could ever keep a distressed soul company. It is liberty to them that are in prison. Hope makes a dark present bright with light borrowed from a far-off future (Vince).
Hope, the next best thing to actual possession, is the earnest of heaven. It is God’s pledge that heaven will be ours. As Christians we have much in possession, but more in prospect. Hope neutralizes, if not annihilates, the misery which great afflictions might otherwise make. Hope allowed Paul to say, “. . .these light afflictions, which are but for a moment” (2C 4:17). This desire of hope is what keeps our dreams from turning into make-believe fantasies. Faith perceives what is to be done’ hope gives cheerful readiness to doing it. Without hope, we will not keep our hands to the task of making our dreams come true.
By faith, dreams are conceived in our hearts. But they have to be fulfilled in the harsh, nitty-gritty, everyday, ugly world. You won’t stay in the trench long without the confidence and desire of hope.
Dr. Johnson said that our powers owe very much of their energy to our hope. The desire to receive a blessing from God is often the element lacking in our lives. And when desire dies, hope dies; and when hope dies, the dream dies; and when the dream dies, men pass the generation gap and settle into complacency. Many believed the Reformation could sweep Scotland, but only John Knox had enough of hope’s desire to say, “Give me Scotland or I die!” God gave it to him. No wonder Mary, Queen of Scotland, once shuddered, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than an army of ten thousand men” (They Dared to be Different, McPherson, p. 82). Many in England watched the faith of John Wesley, but he alone said, “The world is my parish.” God gave it to him. Wesley’s faith combined with hope’s desire brought the blessing.
Don’t only be faithful; be hopeful. Settle upon a worthwhile goal through prayer, believe it can be achieved, desire it, and God wil give it to you.
Love–the greatest gift of all. Why?
A. LOVE CONTAINS THE OTHER TWO.
Love “believeth all things” and “hopeth all things” (1C 13:7). We join in union only with what we love and hope only for that which we love.
B. LOVE GIVES LIFE TO THE OTHER TWO.
Without love, faith is cold and hope is grim. Love is the kindling flame that brings life and warmth to both.
C. LOVE IS THE EVIDENCE OF THE OTHER TWO.
It is the celestial fruit:
FAITH says: I am His and He is mine.
HOPE says: He has prepared good things for me.
LOVE says: I must walk worthy of such blessings.
Love is our testimony that faith and hope abide within. The man of faith knows sacrificial deeds of love cannot nullify the good things promised to him by God.
D. LOVE KEEPS THE OTHER TWO UNSELFISH.
Faith and hope hold us up and keep our spirits strong. Love removes any selfish motives and translates our blessing to others. Faith and hope bring pieces of heaven into our soul, and love sees to it that those bits of heaven are shared with those around us. Whitefield was a mighty man of faith and hope. His union with God expressed itself in love through his preaching. With a big stone in hand, a ruffian once said to Whitefield, “I came to break your head, but by the grace of God you have broken my heart.” William Penn also lived in union with God and shared that inner peace with those around him. He lived for many years in the midst of six warring Indian tribes in harmony and peace. Penn loved the Indians and was so just in his dealing with them that his colony was never attacked. While others were building forts and displaying guns, and hence involved in trouble and war, the flowers of prosperity and peace blossomed in the footprints of William Penn. Do you long for things that won’t pass away? Here they are: FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE ABIDE.