Paul writes, "The greatest of these is love." In its own way, faith is primary, as it precedes the others, but it does not remain the most important. Faith, however, is the foundation on which the other two operate (see Hebrews 11:1).
Hope, we could say, makes the other two fly. It gives impetus to them. We can believe or have faith in something, but if we do not hope in it, we will do nothing. We can believe that love is the right thing to do, but we will never take action on it unless we hope, unless we have a solid expectation of the fulfillment of whatever we love. Depending on how powerful it is, hope can move us along with intensity and enthusiasm to see how all our knowledge of God can be acted upon and fulfilled to its greatest capacity.
The first thing to note is that our hope did not accrue to us because of our merit; it was given to us. It was not owed to us; it came as a gift. We did not ask for it. In fact, we could not ask for it because we did not even know what to ask for.
This is important to see in light of the welfare mentality that has infected quite a large segment of society. Satan hammers this mindset into our minds from the time we are born. Governmental systems like socialism are evolved or devolved out of this mindset, but it began with Satan the Devil. It tells us that we are owed things: People owe us things, God owes us things, and governments owe us things. This plays terrible tricks on our attitude toward God, our parents, society, and government. It warps our approach to other people, making us seem far more important than we really are. It makes us neglect our duties and responsibilities, and the result is that we look for government or for God to do everything for us. It perverts our hopes by destroying initiative and the inclination to serve.
God called us with a purpose in mind, and eventually, that purpose is to serve Him and all of mankind fulltime. But we must be motivated to do so, but if our hope is always that somebody else will do it, somebody else will take care of it, somebody else will take care of me, initiative and responsibility are devastated. God has granted us the capacity to hope to motivate us to do things on our own, to use initiative to step out and act.
So God, in His mercy, gave us a living hope. Even as we had no control over our conception in our mother's womb, we had no part in this either. It was entirely a creative act on the Father's part to start us on the road toward a new creation, a creation He has purposed from the very beginning.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead
Paul penned these immortal words, which one commentator called "the eternal trinity": faith, hope, and love. We continuously need these three factors, which is what "abide" implies. Our need for them never ends; we need them throughout life, every day without end. We live by faith, and the other two are directly connected to faith. They are, in fact, the three building blocks of a successful, abundant life. They are inextricably bound, tied to our relationship with God, and they are the qualities that make us run or work correctly.
Think of it this way. We are God's invention. He built us, and as our manufacturer, He designed us to function and produce. Automobiles run on gasoline. They do what they do because of the way they were designed and built, and they move only when fueled by gasoline. Movement is a key here: We run—move—on faith, hope, and love. These qualities nourish us, giving us strength to function as God intends. Every living human being, or who has ever lived, was intended to function by these qualities, but only the faith, hope, and love that comes from God will work to produce true success.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope
Here, Paul lists hope as one of the "big three" virtues of Christianity. Whereas faith is the foundation on which the other two stand, and love is the object because it enables us to communicate, interact properly, and unite, hope is the quality that motivates, providing energy by keeping us in anticipation of greater and better things to come.
Hope, as used in Scripture, is not difficult to define. It appears as both a noun and verb, and conveys the absolute certainty of future good. I Corinthians 13:13 lists it with those things that remain, abide, or continue. In other words, even in the Kingdom of God, we will always be eagerly looking forward to some blessing or accomplishment as age upon age unfolds before us. This will occur because God's revelation never ends, as He Himself is an inexhaustible resource.
Ephesians 2:12 adds another dimension to Christian hope. ". . . that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Our hope is uniquely Christian because no other religion, no other way of life, can give its adherents a certain hope. Why? First, even though other religions may be moral in their teachings, they speak only from man's experiences. Second, their god is not living the life of God. Third, they have no expectation of the Messiah and all it implies.
The Bible leaves no doubt that our hope is a direct result of God's calling: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4). Paul clearly links our hope with our calling, which is God's summons into His presence so that we may have a relationship with Him. In the context of the first paragraph of Ephesians 4, the implication is that this hope is a factor that unites us into one body. Our calling is an end to pessimism, negativity, and despair and the beginning of a confident, bright, and optimistic life filled with endless possibilities because this unique hope gives positive expectancy to life here and now and beyond the grave as well.
All men have hope occasionally, and some frequently seem hopeful. Many peoples' hope changes as often as the weather. The frequent fluctuations of the stock market indices often indicate investors' up-and-down confidence and hope about the future. Yet, our hope can be taken to higher level altogether because Christians can have continuous hope. Our hope is not a "mere flash in the pan."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 13:13:
1 Corinthians 13:13