1 Corinthians 13:13 “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
What is the difference that leads Paul to conclude that love is the greatest of these three? It is not that love is the only one that is eternal. Unlike gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues, gifts which will pass away, Paul asserts that these three remain. They keep on going. They continue.
It is true that when we get to heaven we will see the evidences which support our faith with our own eyes. Faith won’t be based on promises alone. But saving faith is essentially trust in God. It’s not as though we will stop trusting God when we get to heaven. It’s just that our reasons for trusting him will be clearer.
It is also true that heaven will provide us the fulfillment of so many of the hopes to which we cling today. But that does not mean that heaven will be one everlasting monotony which leaves us without anything new to anticipate. Hope remains as God continues to unfold the glories he has prepared for us. Hope remains as the discovery of one new heavenly gift gives way to the discovery of another right behind it, and another one after that. Hope remains as we explore the inexhaustible and unbounded treasures of our eternal home. Like love, hope never fails.
In fact, we might even ask, “How can you top that? How can Paul put love at the very top of the list?” And Paul does not go into detail here. But I don’t believe the Scriptures leave us without an answer, at least in part. There is nothing our Lord wants for us more than that we should be like him. In the perfection of Eden he created us to be like him, in his image. All of world history since the fall into sin has been driven by his desire to bring us back to that state, to recreate his image in us once again. It is why he sent a Savior. It is why he died for our sins. It is why sent his gospel and called us to faith. It is why he will raise us to eternal life.
Faith and hope are tools by which God brings us to this point. They are the means to an end. By them we receive the gifts our Lord wants to give to us. Without them we have nothing.
But nothing is nearer the essence of God himself than love. “God is love,” John writes in his first epistle. To love– to be ever serving, to be ever giving–is to be like God. And to be like God would be the greatest thing of all.