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Jeremy Ham, AiG–U.S., explores the concepts of faith, hope, and love, and discusses which comes first from a human perspective.
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)
Today’s big question: which comes first from our perspective—faith, love, or hope?
You might remember the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” While today’s big question may not be as prominent, it is important (and even fun) to think about. Throughout Paul’s letters, he wrote on various topics in a deliberate order (e.g., the armor of God in Ephesians 6). When considering faith, love, and hope, Paul mentioned faith first in today’s passage (and others), but he stated in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that love is the greatest. So does the order matter, and what does this mean for us?
First, let us consider faith and hope. Hope is closely tied to faith—“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis added). However, Scripture also lists to the two separately. Do they come at the same time, do they come separately, or it is a bit of both? Consider the following passages:
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. (Romans 5:2–3)
Hope is a part of faith, but we also gain hope as a result of our faith. Ultimately, faith comes before hope. If we do not have faith, there is no hope. Now, where does love, specifically our love for God, fit in the picture?
As clearly stated in Scripture, faith and love go hand in hand (1 Corinthians 13:2). Moreover, God’s Word states, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). How can we learn to love God before knowing God? We come to know God through His Word and the Holy Spirit, which leads us to faith in Christ. One of the outcomes of being “justified by faith” is love. The realization of everything that God has done causes us to love Him for His many spiritual blessings.
In conclusion, when reading through Scripture, we find that having faith in Christ is the initial step in salvation for a person; however, love and hope are directly a part of having faith. Albeit, in our eternal home, faith will become sight, and hope will be realized so the one that will remain is the greatest of the three—love.
Today’s big idea: faith is just the beginning.
What to pray: thank God for His Word, which teaches us about faith, hope, and love.