“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Corinthians 13:13).
It is well known that the Greek for “charity” in this famous verse is agape, usually translated “love.” Although modern translations all use “love” here, it is good to remember that the 18th century meaning of “charity” is much closer to agape than the 20th century meaning of “love.” Biblical love is a self-sacrificing recognition of the worth and active concern for the welfare of the one who is loved, and this also is true charity in its essential meaning.
Faith, hope, love-these three abiding virtues are all involved in our eternal salvation. First of all, it is well known doctrinally that faith is the means of appropriating salvation. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
In the second place, the attribute of hope is effective in salvation. “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: . . . But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:24,25). Christian “hope,” of course, is not just wishing. The Greek word means “confident expectation.” The Christian hope is a “blessed hope,” centered on Christ’s return (Titus 2:13).
Note, in fact, that the faith and hope by which we are saved are, themselves, wrought in Christ. As noted above, our faith is “the gift of God.” The same is true of our hope-“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
Now, saving faith and saving hope, though given by God, are our faith and our hope. But the love that saves is not our love; it is only the love of God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . . that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16,17). Our faith and our hope respond to His love. These three abide, and we are saved! HMM