Three times in the New Testament are the words faith, hope, and love (sometimes translated as charity) used together in a sentence. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). “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” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4). “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
Clearly, Paul holds these three theological virtues in high esteem, with love being the greatest of them. They are considered to be theological virtues because they are associated with salvation resulting from the grace of God. Virtues are traits or qualities which dispose one to conduct oneself in a morally good manner. In this article, we will look at all three virtues and some of the many scriptures that discuss them and see if we come to the same conclusion Paul did. Note: Spoiler alert… we did.
Faith (secular) is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Religious faith is defined as a belief in God or in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Christianity is a religion based on faith in Jesus Christ and his teachings as described in the New Testament Bible. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith in this way, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the ancients obtained a good testimony. By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
Here are a few famous quotes regarding faith:
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you” (Saint Augustine).
“Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe” (Voltaire).
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times” (Martin Luther).
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible” (Thomas Aquinas).
“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation” (D. Elton Trueblood).
“A man of courage is also full of faith” (Marcus Tullius Cicero).
“Keep your faith in God, but keep your powder dry” (Oliver Cromwell).
I always thought that faith was the most important virtue, as without it, we cannot please God. “But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). God’s grace, through our faith, is what saves us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Without faith in Jesus, no one can come to the Father in heaven. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The word “faith” is only found two times in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4. The words faithful and faithfulness are found 67 times in the Old Testament. The most famous verse in the Old Testament regarding faith is Habakkuk 2:4, “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” The truth in this verse is so significant that it is repeated three different times in the New Testament. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1: 17). “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38).
One of the most faithful servants of God was David. He wrote Psalm 31, which many scholars believe parts of it contain references to the Rapture. “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:23-24). Another psalm David wrote that may have a reference to the Rapture is found in Psalm 101:6-7, “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.”
Since the New Testament’s content is mostly about Jesus and salvation, the words ‘faith,’ ‘faithful,’ and ‘faithfulness’ are used more abundantly than in the Old Testament. They are mentioned approximately 286 times. The book of Romans has the most with 38. Jesus told the disciples how powerful faith could be when he said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Many times after Jesus healed someone, he told them “your faith has made you well.” Jesus also told the parable of the talents in which the master commended his servant with these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21). These are words all Christians want to hear from Jesus when they get to heaven.
Paul told the converts in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 1:16-17).
He explained how God imputes righteousness towards all who have faith in Jesus. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).
In Romans, Paul explains that the promise of salvation was not only to the Jews (by inheritance) but to everyone who has faith as Abraham did. “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Paul went on to say how simple it is to acquire faith. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches about what you should put your faith in. “Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). “And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). In 2 Corinthians, Paul informs us we (Christians) should not be afraid of death. “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
In Galatians, Paul tells us how we should live for Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:22-29).
42 times the words “by faith” are used in the New Testament, and 19 of them are in Hebrews. Hebrews 11 is sometimes referred to as the Hall of Faith, as it recounts all the faithful servants of God in the Old Testament. This passage of scripture first mentions the faithfulness of the antediluvian descendants of Adam: Abel, Enoch, and Moses. Then it mentions the post-flood patriarchs, Abraham and his wife Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Moses is referred to three times, Moses’ parents once, the children of Israel twice, and Rahab once. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets all receive “honorable mentions.”
Hebrews 11:33-39 tells the story of what some of these heroes of the faith accomplished and what they had to endure.
“Through faith, they subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, (out of weakness) were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
“Still, others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
The Old Testament saints did not receive the promise of the prophesied Kingdom of God under the reign of their Messiah while they were living, but they will when they are resurrected and translated after Daniel’s 70th seven. The faithful Church, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, will be made perfect at the pre-tribulation Rapture.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). Paul explains how to overcome. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has overcome the world. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (John 5:4-5).
As you can see, God the Father and God the Son place a high value on the virtue of faith.
Let’s now look at the second theological virtue, hope. Hope has two definitions. 1) to want something to happen or be true; a wish. 2) Trust in something to happen or to be true – trust is defined as assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. In this article, we will concentrate on the second definition.
Here are a few famous quotes regarding hope:
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning” (Albert Einstein).
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember what you have was once among the things you only hoped for” (Epicurus).
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
“Hope is a wakening dream” (Aristotle).
“To live without Hope is to Cease to live” (Fyodor Dostoevsky).
“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon” (Franklin D. Roosevelt).
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all” (Emily Dickinson).
Hope is mentioned 78 times in the Old Testament. Many of these are in the context of the first definition (above). However, in the book of Psalms, we see hope being used in the context of definition two. Hope or hopeful is used 27 times in Psalms, more than in any other book in the Bible. Of course, David wrote most of Psalms and is referring to his hope (trust) in the Lord his God.
“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:8-10). David was prophesying about a future resurrection and translation of the Messiah (Jesus) that would occur after His death. He knew the Messiah would not remain in Sheol but would ascend into heaven.
Three times in the book of Psalms, David writes these words, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:5,11: 43:5). David also hopes for God’s word and salvation. “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:114). “Lord, I hope for Your salvation, and I do Your commandments” (Psalm 119:116).
Regarding hope in the Lord, Solomon said, “For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18). Isaiah said, “And I will wait on the Lord, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; and I will hope in Him” (Isaiah 8:17). Jeremiah said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7), and also, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The New Testament records 74 mentions of the words hope and hopeful. In Romans, Paul explains how faith, grace, and hope all work together through Christ and the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-4).
Christians, who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, await the future redemption of their earthly bodies, and so we have this hope. “We also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees: But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:23-25). God, the Holy Spirit, provides us with the power of hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most significant chapters in all of the Bible. It’s all about hope… hope in the risen Jesus Christ and what His resurrection has accomplished. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). Jesus (and a few saints resurrected after His crucifixion) is the firstfruits of those believers who have died and then resurrected with their re-made eternal, spiritual bodies suited for life in heaven. The larger ‘harvest’ of resurrected, translated saints will occur during the Rapture of the Church as described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
1 Thessalonians 4:17 further describes the rapture of living saints immediately after the dead in Christ rise. At the Rapture, “when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15: 54). Death is the last enemy to be defeated by Jesus the Christ.
Paul also explains in 1 Thessalonians how great a hope it will be when he sees other Church members at the Rapture. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? It is not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). I can hardly wait to see my family members who passed on my way to heaven. How about you?
In Titus, Paul called the Rapture the “blessed hope.” “We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:12-14).
Peter and John sum it up well with the following: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
For Christians, our hope for eternal salvation and fellowship with our triune God is not some vague want or wish that may or may not come true but is an immutable outcome that we can trust will be realized. Upon death or the Rapture, our sure hope is guaranteed, for our salvation has been bought and paid for by the precious blood of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
Faith is essential to a meaningful life; without it, we would have no hope. Without hope, what is the purpose of life? In part 2, we will examine why love is the greatest of them all.