With a friend/coworker of mine, I’ve begin working through John Stott’s study of Thessalonians. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a straght-up bible study. Stott says in the preface that he intends the book to be literature, read straight through to properly develop ideas and themes. It isn’t a “commentary” proper, that is usually more of a reference work.
Anyway, in the first chapter he makes an interesting comment on “faith, hope, and love”, which, you’ll recall are found together all over the NT.
Faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future. Every Christian without exception is a believer, a lover, and a hoper (not necessarily an optimist, since ‘optimism’ is a matter of temperament, ‘hope’ of theology). Faith, hope, and love are thus sure evidences of of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Together they completely reorientate our lives, as we find ourselves being drawn up towards God in faith, out towards others in love and on towards the Parousia in hope.
-John Stott, The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 29
We have different words and meanings attached to these, but it makes me wonder if, in the spiritual world, faith, hope, and love are essentially of the same essence. We split them up to accomodate our temporal nature.
God is love, but he is outside of time. When he stepped into time, he became someone to believe IN, who acted in the past. His act toward us right now is one of love. When we love others, we do something about it right now. And we hope for what God has promised to do in the future (fully redeem us and the rest of creation).
Faith in God’s future promises could be called hope.
Hope that what God says about himself and what Jesus did for us could be called faith.
Acting after the character of God because of what we believe about him could be called love.
Acting after the character of God because of what we hope he will do in the future would be love.
Are the three really all that different?
We know God’s love toward us is a gift. We argue about whether faith is a gift from him or not. A lot of us pray for hope. Replace “hope” with psychological stability and freedom from depression. Replace a prayer for love with a prayer for patience (now!).
Perhaps he gives us all three. Has given us all three. Will give us all three (so let’s ask him).
Here what I’m saying? I think they’re the same thing.