These 3 Remain
As we begin this new fall season I’m sure that you have begun to notice some changes happening here at FGT
Some of them easier to notice like the change of night for our midweek program some of them more subtle like these 3 words hanging on the south wall of the sanctuary…Faith, Hope, and Love
Although those particular wooden cutouts are new, the more astute among you might point out that the words themselves are not new inside the church but that they can be found in the library, in Donna’s office, and been in different locations throughout the church over the years
They represent one of the most well known passages in the New Testament found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church
But, dare I say it, it is also arguably one of those scriptures that we do the most damage to by misinterpreting it or taking it out of context
Of course that passage is and it comes at the very end of Paul’s most poetic explanation of the superiority of living a life of love
Let’s read the verse but let’s keep it in context by reading the entire passage it belongs to beginning with the second half of chapter 12 verse 31
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It should come as no surprise because of its proximity to the verses above it, verse 13 often suffers from a narrow focus
And of course that focus is on “Love” after all that is what the whole chapter is speaking about and Paul even says that it’s the greatest thing
And so at the expense of faith and hope we read or preach this passage and all the attention goes to love
But like I said earlier I think that we are doing a large injustice to what Paul is trying to say here when we do that
Let’s look at verse 13 on its own to see what I mean
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
While it’s true that this verse follows Paul’s oration about what real love looks like, it’s equally true that we cannot separate chapter 13 from the rest of the letter and that 13:13 actually follows the rest of the letter where Paul talks about all three of these attributes, and now he singles them out and says that it is these THREE that REMAIN or as the KJV put it they ABIDETH
The Greek word here is the word “men-o” and it means to abide in, to indwell, to be in a close and settled union
It’s the exact same word used several times to record what Jesus said in
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
11 times in those 10 verses Jesus uses this word to describe the necessary relationship between us and Him which is that we “remain” we “abide” we have a close and settle “union” with Him
Now back to and we see that as Paul begins to bring this letter towards a close he wants to emphasize to the readers the necessity that they have this kind of symbiotic relationship with all three of these things
Yes it’s true that Paul argues that love is superior to the other 2 but there’s a reason for that and we will get to it when the time is right
For now we need to realize how important it is that all 3 of these “remain” that they “abide” in us
The Beatles had it wrong, Love is NOT all we need!
Something that most of you don’t know about me is that I am actually a licensed overhead crane operator
Not a tower crane like you would find on the construction site of a large building but an overhead crane like you would find inside a factory or warehouse
We had several of them at Miller and so, along with many other types of equipment, it was my job to know how to operate it
The reason I’m telling you this is not to bolster the already high opinion that you undoubtedly have of me but because it was during my training for this license that I learned that about the law of 3
You see it is a triangle lift or lifting from 3 corners that is the safest and strongest set up
Using 1 point is good and 2 is better but 3 points is the best and most efficient
Yes adding a fourth point may help to secure the load but it does nothing to add to the lifting ability or stabilizing the load
As I consider this however I am not surprised because set up the known universe with order and for whatever reason He chose, He determined that a lot of things work best and are strongest in threes
The most obvious is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, And Holy Ghost
But here’s others to consider, the arc of the covenant contained 3 objects, the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant, Daniel prayed 3 times a day, Israelite men were required to appear before the Lord 3 times a year, there were 3 crosses on Calvary, Jesus rose on the third day, and He is the one who was, who is and who is to come, and I could go on with dozens if not hundreds of Biblical examples of the significance of the number 3 but that’s enough I think to drive home my point
We cannot stress love at the expense of both faith and hope or our theology and our lives are not in balance
All three must be present !
And a part of the reason for that is that all three are interconnected and cannot be separated, nor should there be any attempt to do so
I won’t have time this morning to go into the important aspects of each part but if we can just realize that we need each one to be working and active in our lives that will be a good start
So let’s quickly take a look at these 3 things and how they interconnect
Paul first mention’s faith and I don’t think that it is by coincidence that he does so because faith is the foundation of life in Christ
Let’s go back to our text from a couple of weeks ago
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And I’m sure that we all have heard the words of ,
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Faith is foundational, the cornerstone if you will because we cannot come to Christ without it and we cannot abide in Christ without it
The word “faith” itself occurs 246 in the Bible which should be a good indication of its importance to us
But if faith is the foundation of our life in Christ, hope is the focus
The first Bible verse I ever memorized as a child was
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
And the author of Hebrews has this to say about our life in Christ,
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
And if faith is the foundation to our life in Christ and hope is the focus of our life in Christ than surely love is the follow through of our life in Christ
Listen to just how plainly John puts this in his first epistle
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
1 John 5:1
For John it’s that simple…if you have come to faith in Christ…you WILL love
And so to is the opposite, that if you do NOT love…you are not in relationship with the Father through the Son
It is the natural follow through or functioning, if you prefer a different “f” word, of life in the Spirit
And this is one of the reasons why Paul says it’s the greatest of the 3, because it is the evidence that the other 2 are in place, but it cannot function if the others aren’t there first
And so over the coming weeks we will take a look at each of these three things individually and see what it means to abide in faith, hope, and in love