1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Explanation and Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:13
The graces of faith, hope and love towards God and our fellow humans are preferable to all the spiritual gifts, and the greatest of these is love.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul explained to the church in Corinth that there was something better than the spiritual gifts they had received. The spiritual gifts were wisdom, knowledge, faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). The people of the Corinthian church had an abundance of these spiritual gifts, but which of the gifts were superior to other gifts became a source of divisiveness among them (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Paul tells the Corinthians that three principal graces – faith, hope and love – are superior to all the spiritual gifts. Some commentators believe that Paul only named three spiritual gifts – prophecy, tongues, and knowledge – because these three gifts emphasized the revelation of God.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of 1 Corinthians 13:13
#1: “And now these three remain…”
Paul had just finished telling the Corinthians in the preceding verses that the spiritual gifts of prophecy would fail, tongues would cease and knowledge would vanish. The Bible does not tell us when these gifts will end. There are two major views on the timing of cessation of these gifts. One is that it is when the Lord returns. The other is when all the books were added to the Bible, and no more could ever be added. Some refer to this as the “closing of the canon” or the “completion of the canon.” It is commonly believed that all churches in the West accepted the New Testament canon as closed after the Damascene Council of Rome in A.D. 332 and the Third Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Churches in Greece then accepted it by the year 500.
“Faith” is the belief in the divinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the living of one’s soul in Him.
“Hope” is the expectation of future happiness through one’s reliance on God (1 Corinthians 2:9).
#4: “…and love.”
“Love” in this context is a choice to be truly devoted to God and other humans, and show kindness toward other Christians that grows out of that love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
#5: “But the greatest of these is love..”
The graces of faith and hope are only for oneself, whereas love produces the service of others. The graces of faith and hope will cease when one dies, whereas love is eternal. Faith will be replaced by clear knowledge of the divinity of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Hope will be replaced by happiness in God. In heaven, this Godly love will be in its perfect form and will be the principal characteristic of what we experience for all eternity.
Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 13:13
Expert Overview of 1 Corinthians
Biblical Translations of 1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.