Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The Holy Bible introduces us to concepts which theologians sometimes call "metaphysical" concepts. These are concepts generally of "being and knowing" which are not based on "hard physical science." They include Biblical concepts like those of spirit, soul, heaven, hell, angels, demons, Satan, the Almighty God, etc. In short, the so-called "metaphysical" concepts include all to which the Bible refers as "things which are not seen." The scripture further informs us, "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2ndCorinthians 4:18). It is with things "eternal" and "not seen," things which cannot be discerned with the five senses of the fleshly body, which I am concerned in this study. Instead of the term "metaphysical things," however, I prefer to use the Biblical term "spiritual things," as does Paul in Romans 15:27.

"Spiritual things" are of such importance in the Bible that they are discussed with a special vocabulary of spiritual words. Of course, many of the spiritual words are adaptations of material words, having been given new meanings when used in spiritual settings. Words like "life," "death," "garden," "house," "armor," "body," etc. are of this type, being often used metaphorically to describe spiritual concepts. But other words like "soul," "spirit," "angel," "demon," "God," etc. have their primary meanings in the spiritual realm. Three such words, "faith," "hope," and "love," are primarily spiritual words. 

To Christians the words "faith," "hope," and "love" convey non-material concepts, being related to the functions of the spiritual "inner person," although having important effect upon functions of the fleshly body as well. It is the spiritual concepts contained in these three words, "faith," "hope," and "love," that I want to explore in this study. The great attention given to these three words in the New Testament prompts us to try to gain further understanding because of their obvious importance. 


First of all, note that "faith," "hope," and "love" are very important parts of the message for Christian living in all of the epistles of the New Testament. Moreover, they are always mentioned as being specifically related to each other, as though they form a sort of triumvirate governing the Christian life. 

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13, Paul indicated that "faith," "hope," and "love" are a related set of spiritual gifts granted by the Holy Spirit to each and every Christian. First, in chapter 12, Paul spoke of several other more special gifts and said that one Christian may be given "special wisdom" by the Spirit, another may be given "special knowledge," another "special faith," another "special gifts of healing," another "special ability to work miracles," another "special ability to prophesy," another "special ability to distinguish spirits," another "special ability to speak in various tongues," and another "special ability to interpret the meaning of those tongues." 

Paul stressed the point that various Christians are given different gifts, some one gift, some another, and perhaps, some no special gifts at all. Paul added, however, that whatever gifts are given, they are given by the same Holy Spirit who distributes to each Christian just as He wills. (1stCorinthians 12:4-30). After discussing these special gifts, Paul made it clear at the end of chapter 12 that there are greater, more excellent gifts to be received by Christians than the special ones he had just discussed. Paul then, in chapter 13, entered into his great discourse on "love," relating it to the previous chapter by intimating that the special gifts are only "partial" and will give way to "perfect" gifts like "love." The time for the "giving up" of the special "partial" gifts to a "greater more excellent way" seems to be indicated in Paul's words (historically spoken in the first century), "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1st Corinthians 13:13). 

The evidence of these two chapters, coupled with the great importance given throughout the New Testament to the specific spiritual gifts of "faith," "hope," and "love" in the fulfillment of God's purpose in Christian lives, prompts this study. The premise of the study is that "faith," "hope," and "love" are a related set of spiritual gifts granted by the Holy Spirit, not to certain individuals only, but to each and every Christian; furthermore, that God created them to work together as a system to accomplish in a specific way His purposes in the lives of His Christian servants. I will attempt to illustrate by analogy to physical systems at work in God's universe how the specific gifts of "faith," "hope," and "love" work together as a spiritual system. 

First of all, it has not always been clear to me that these three attributes, "faith," " hope," and "love," are not attributes that we don't have naturally. Must they be received as gifts from God? They once seemed like characteristics which emanated from my own soul, especially from my own human will power. Whatever else God gave to me, I once thought it was my own responsibility to supply "faith." Great faith seemed to only require great striving from me. And "love," I thought, was only mine to give or hold back. One person might seem more lovable than another, and love must depend on my own personal preference, I thought. And "hope," I thought, that was only a will-o-the-wisp, a longing with a mere possibility of coming true. I once thought I had to provide my own power to enable my own little world. What a small, meager world it was. How wrong I was! I was ignoring the greater spiritual realm in which we live, where the Almighty God enables His people with spiritual gifts appropriate for all.