“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The “now” links love to the discussion on gifts. The words “and now” are temporal – “Now at the present time.” This contrasts the temporary gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge with faith, hope, and love in the church age. Faith, hope, and love are all permanent functions for the believer in time, while certain kinds of gifts will cease in time. Paul began his discussion on the contrast between temporal gifts and the permanence of love in verse eight:
1 Co 13:8, Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
Certain revelatory gifts ceased at the end of the apostolic age and the close of the canon, but the virtues of faith, hope, and love continue in the present time. By contrasting these virtues with temporary revelatory gifts, Paul makes the virtues superior because they are longer lasting. Faith, hope, and love continue throughout the church age. Love is superior to faith and hope because it continues into eternity.
The word “abide” is in the singular, making faith, hope, and love a unit and set apart from temporal gifts. The word “abide” indicates continuity, for it literally means remain. Love, while permanent eternally, is not the only lasting virtue, for faith and hope endure in time as well. Those who take the “perfect” to be the eternal state have a problem with “faith” and “hope” existing in heaven. The reason for that problem is that “perfect” does not refer to the eternal state but the closing of the canon. We need faith and hope for the remainder of time.
Faith here is the function of faith, not the gift of faith. Faith is an enduring virtue. We exercise trust because we are finite creatures. Faith is the believer’s response to God’s promise or provision. Presently we walk by faith, not by sight, but in eternity, we will walk by sight.
2 Co 5:7, For we walk by faith, not by sight.
“Hope” in the New Testament carries the idea of confidence. It expects God to fulfill His promise or provision. God will set aside hope in eternity, but it is essential to function for believers in time. God sets hope aside in eternity.
Ro 8:24-25, 24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is superior to faith and hope because it will continue into eternity. Faith and hope operate in time.
God cannot trust or hope; otherwise, He would not be God, for God is absolute and needs nothing. However, God is a God of love, and His love does not depend on anything or anyone outside itself.
The permanent has greater value than the temporary.
Christians should put spiritual gifts in perspective to the qualities of faith, hope, and love. Temporal gifts function for a period in time while faith, hope, and love continue to function throughout time, directing faith towards God, hope towards self, and love towards others. Although temporal gifts will die away in time, love will remain the highest priority for Christians to pursue (14:1). The reason for this is that it is in the very nature of God to love (1 Jn 4:18). Faith will dissolve into sight; hope will melt into stark reality, but love will exist for all eternity. God poured His love into our hearts when we became Christians (Jn 3:16). The Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us (Ga 2:20). That is why we love as we never loved before.