Faith, hope and love
1 Corinthians 13:1-14:5
Heaven is a world of love. So said Jonathan Edwards in a famous sermon by that title. His text was our verse for today:
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
It’s a trio that Paul uses often in his letters to describe the Christian life. Here he names the greatest of them. “Love” is what will characterise the world to come more than anything else. And so verse 13 brings this chapter full circle. Paul began by berating the Corinthians for their neglect of love. As we saw, they held up the ecstatic worshipper, the profound prophet and the stoic do-gooder, as their models of true spirituality. But Paul maintains that none of these mean anything without love.
He concludes by looking to the future and judging our present priorities in that light. If heaven is a world of love, how can we claim to be heavenly and yet loveless? And when we know that a heaven of love is coming, how can we spend our time investing in gifts and outwards performances?
As he says from verse 8:
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
Gifts are like a torchlight. A torchlight in the dark is useful. But at noon, blazing sunshine swallows up the torchlight. In the same way, we are heading towards something so glorious that it swallows up our paltry gifts. Even the most dazzling and impressive gift today will be utterly obsolete when Christ’s future comes to pass.
Can any of us imagine being face to face with Jesus and saying: Hey Jesus, watch me speak in tongues! Hey Jesus, let me tell you my wisdom! Hey Jesus, listen to me preach! No. We will shut our mouths. And we will gaze – face to face.
The life to come is a world of love. Allow Jonathan Edwards’ description to whet your appetite:
“Love is always a sweet principle; and especially divine love. This, even on earth, is a spring of sweetness; but in heaven it shall become a stream, a river, an ocean! All shall stand about the God of glory, who is the great fountain of love, opening, as it were, their very souls to be filled with those effusions of love that are poured forth from His fullness, just as the flowers on the earth, in the bright and joyous days of spring, open their bosoms to the sun, to be filled with His light and warmth, and to flourish in beauty and fragrancy under His cheering rays.
“…And thus they will love, and reign in love… and thus in the full sunlight of the throne, enraptured with joys that are forever increasing, and yet forever full, they shall live and reign with God and Christ forever and ever!” From “Heaven, A World of Love”
We have seen the future. And the future is love. Therefore let us not be dazzled by the torchlights of our paltry gifts and performances. Instead let us live in the sunshine. And let us pass it on.
At the end of the day only love counts.
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