Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

The Greatest of These

In Uncategorized on 24/09/2011 at 10:57


Rev. Harold S. Laird, D.D.

[The Independent Board Bulletin 7.5 (May 1941): 3-4.]

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: and the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).

The supremacy of love suggests at once to those of us who know the love of God in Christ nothing other than God’s love for us. To be sure, this love is supreme, for God is supreme, and God is Love.

Yet there is a realm in which the love of the human heart is supreme—the realm of human possessions. It is supreme among man’s natural talents—”though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” It is supreme among the supernatural gifts to man—”though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge . . . and have not love, I am nothing.” It is supreme even among the very chiefest virtues of man—”now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.”

On what ground is love supreme among these virtues? On the ground that it is the end to which the others are but the means.

Faith is not an end in itself, but rather a means toward an end. In Romans 6:22 Paul declares that it is by means of faith in Christ that “ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Neither is hope an end in itself, but rather a means to an end, and that end an uncompromising steadfastness to the will of God. “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). Love, unlike faith and hope, is an end in itself. Not only so, but love is an end which is reached by means of faith and hope.

The supremacy of this grace of Christian love is emphasized in the fact that this love is the very crown of spiritual maturity. “Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14). Its supremacy is still further emphasized in that love is both the evidence and the proof of the possession of faith and hope. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Such love is supreme though it be the love of the human heart, because it is the very love of Christ Himself, whose love is “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 5:5).

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