February 6, 1952
Rev. H. Hoeksema
Grand Rapids, Michigan
In our Men’s Society there is difference of opinion in regard to the proper explanation of I Corinthians 13:13, especially in regard to these words: “And now abideth faith, hope and charity.”
Some of the members are of the opinion that essentially faith and hope will abide with us even in eternity, while others maintain that this is impossible, since our faith and hope will then be fully realized.
So our question is: Do these words refer only to time, or also to eternity?
Will you be so kind as to shed some light on this question in the Standard Bearer?
Yours in the Lord,
The Manhattan Men’s Society Pierre Hoekema, Sec.
I am glad that Manhattan’s Men’s Society takes the initiative to send in a question once again of this positive nature that has nothing to do with the sad, but very necessary controversy in our churches a- bout the Liberated and their Heynsian conception of the promise and the covenant. It is refreshing. I sincerely hope that many more follow Manhattan’s example.
As to the question itself, there always have been and still are the two different interpretations of the text in I Cor. 13:13 suggested by Manhattan’s question. On the one hand there is the interpretation suggested in the rhyme:
“Faith will vanish into sight,
Hope be emptied in delight,
Love in heaven will shine more bright, Therefore give us love.”
But on the other hand, there are also those that maintain that the apostle means to teach that hope, faith, and love will never cease, not even in the everlasting kingdom of heaven.
The latter is my interpretation, and I will give you my reasons.
- In the context, especially in ch. 12, the apostle wrote about the different charismata or gifts of grace, such as the gift of tongues and of prophecy. It is in distinction from these that he now writes: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” While all the other gifts shall cease, therefore, these three shall never end but ever abide.
- The verb abideth has all three: faith, hope, and charity (or love) for its subject. It is arbitrary, therefore, to make a distinction. In the sense that love abides (and there is no question about the abiding character of love) faith and hope abide too. All three, therefore, are everlasting.
- The difficulty, it seems to me, is not so much in the interpretation of the words of the apostle, as in the question: how can faith and hope be everlasting? Does not Scripture teach that “now we walk by faith, not by sight” suggesting that in the eternal kingdom faith shall be changed into sight? And does not the same Scripture teach us that “hope that is seen is not hope”? Indeed. Yet, both faith and hope abide forever, as well as love. It is true, indeed, that faith shall no more serve as an evidence of things unseen. Nor shall hope exist without seeing. Nevertheless, faith is more than an evidence of things unseen. It is essentially the bond that unites us with Christ, and by which we live out of Him. As such faith shall abide forever. Never shall we live or have anything apart from Christ. Never, therefore, shall we live without faith. And this is also the case with hope. In the first place hope is not only expectation of a future good, but also longing, principally longing for God in Christ. And although this longing shall, in glory, be constantly satisfied, it shall be longing nevertheless. In the second place, heavenly perfection does not mean that life shall be at a standstill. There is no end to the infinite beauty, goodness, and glory of the living God. And therefore, there never will be an end, even in perfection, to growth in the knowledge of God which is eternal life. And this presupposes ever abiding hope.
Hence, “now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three.”
Hoping that I have shed some light upon Manhattan’s question, I am your brother in Christ,