But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 ASV
“But now” means “in this present state.” If we give it any other sense, as though Paul said, ‘now to sum all things up,’ then we have him saying that faith, hope and love are eternal.
The stress in this verse regards the supremacy of love, not its permanence which was treated in 1 Corinthians 13:8 in this paragraph.
“Now” in this verse meant that Paul had returned to the present situation after the digression to speak of eternal things in 1 Corinthians 13:12, which should be treated, actually, as a parenthesis.
The clause “now abideth” implies that these graces (faith, hope and love) are not always to abide; at least the graces of faith and hope shall not abide; for seeing that faith is the persuasion of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1), and hope that is seen is not hope (Romans 8:24); in heaven, where all the objects of our faith and hope are put in our possession, there can be no place for either.
The “now” of this verse as temporal, that is, a reference to the time present.
“Abideth” here has the force of saying that the miraculous spiritual gifts shall not abide; and, of course, they did not; nor do they exist now. It is in this dispensation that faith, hope and love abide; but what is especially stressed, “Love is the greatest” of the trio.
“And the greatest of these is love” It is an unqualified disaster for advocates of the “faith only” theory that love should here be ranked ahead of faith; and, consequently, it is usually interpreted as meaning “God’s love of men,” not men’s love of God and of each other.
Thus, greater than these is the love (of God).
Throughout the chapter, it has been made clear that love as a virtue of men.
It is true, of course, that the love in Christian hearts has been shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit; but by the virtue of that very fact it becomes a Christian virtue.
WHY LOVE IS THE GREATEST THING
Love is the fulfillment of the law, which was never true of faith (Romans 13:10).
Love outranks faith in the power to motivate people.
Love includes obedience (John 14:15), which is not true of faith or hope.
Love is the heart of the Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor (Mark 12:28-31).
Love, if lacking in the heart, would be a sufficient deficiency to prevent one’s salvation, even if he possessed “all faith” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Love works the greatest miracle of transformation in human hearts, distinguishing it from faith, which exists in some pretty cold fish!
There is no wonder, then, that Paul extolled the virtue of love in his wonderful efforts to correct the puffed-up Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13 may be viewed as one of the most important in Scripture, not merely for the truly marvelous things said of LOVE, but also for the firm word therein regarding the cessation of the miraculous age.
Concerning the subject of love, there is none other that so fascinates and inspires the hearts of people; for this gift ranks first among the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22ff).
It is the signature of God himself in the hearts of all the redeemed.
Love is God’s imprimatur Upon the human heart, A glorious investiture, His image to impart.
Love is chief of all the graces, The royal prothonotary, Assigning each and all their places In God’s economy.
It is the precious bridal song, The prothalamion hymn Of Jesus Bride, the ransomed throng Who have believed in him.
Upon the entire human race, To prove them born above, The Father stooped His name to trace.