These Three Shall Remain

You are loved “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.” St. Augustine wrote:

“…[if] in their [dreams, visions, spiritual gifts] silence He alone spoke to us, not by them but by Himself: so that we should hear His word, not by any tongue of flesh nor the voice of an angel nor the sound of thunder nor in the darkness of a parable, but that we should hear Himself whom in all these things we love, should hear Himself and not them: just as we two had but now reached forth and in a flash of the mind attained to touch the eternal Wisdom which abides over all: and if this could continue, and all other visions so different be quite taken away, and this one should so ravish and absorb and wrap the beholder in inward joys that his life should eternally be such as that one moment of understanding for which we had been sighing – would not this be: Enter Thou into the joy of Thy Lord?(Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 9, pp. 158-159) *

“Not by them, but by HIMSELF!” This is what He wants with us. As Paul wrote in his famous “love chapter” 1 Corinthians 13…

“Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear. When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13 GNB – emphasis added)

What Augustine is saying here is that once we have had sweet fellowship with the living Christ face to face, nothing else is important any longer. Have you, like many of us, started out moving in the gift of tongues or prophesy or interpretation of tongues and dreams, visions, miracles, etc.? Or maybe you were absorbed in biblical knowledge and reading books of wisdom from the writings of past saints or reformers? But then one day you awake to the fact that God is doing away with them in YOU! Paul even says that these are things that spiritual children seek after and do and that a time comes when we grow up into something far greater! I know that many who believe in and camp around these verses in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 about spiritual gifts like to say that they will not be done away with until Christ returns or we are in heaven. Then we have the other crowd that says that with the death of the last of the twelve apostles God put and end to these “spiritual gifts.” I am not here to argue either point. The whole point that the apostle Paul and Augustine are making here is that it is our Father’s desire that we grow up into the fullness of Christ! Paul says, “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face.” What now? What then? The context is spiritual children vs. spiritual adulthood. We only get a dim image of Christ through spiritual gifts. Mature saints are no longer all concerned about “their giftedness!” They have moved on. They only want to see Jesus and hear HIS voice, not their own or their own “profound” thoughts! It is so sad that carnal men have taken the gifts of God for service to one another in the body of Christ and used them to divide it and seek ascendancy over one another. How immature!

“The measure of our spiritual life is no greater than our heart; the knowledge that is in the head is not the measure of spirituality, the way for your release, emancipation, increase, abundance is the way of the heart. Spirituality is not mental agreement on things stated in the Word, it is the melting of one heart to another – to all saints.” ~ T. Austin-Sparks

When we have placed into us a God given hunger to see Jesus face to face in the Spirit and hear His sweet voice because of our love for Him, all these other things lose their appeal by comparison. Paul explains that when that which is perfect is come the imperfect will be done away with. And what is “that which is perfect” that we grow into? John wrote,

And _we_ have known and have believed the love which God has in us; God is love, and the one abiding in that love abides in God, and God in him. By this love has been perfected with us, so that we shall be having confidence in the day of the judgment, because just as that One [Jesus Christ] is, also _we_ are in this world. [There] is no fear in love, _but_ perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. But the one fearing has not been perfected in that love. (1 John 4:16-18 ALT)

We are made perfect in the love of God and it is in this love that we are as Christ in this world for God is love! In Ephesians chapter four we are often reminded by the clergy of verses 11 & 12, about the so called “five fold ministries” and their teaching ends there with the emphasis on them! But Paul did not end the chapter with verse 12! Paul went on to speak of the perfection of the saints of God IN THIS LIFE not pie in the sky by and by!

“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge [Grk. epegnosis – the full intimate knowing] of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine [Grk. didache – teaching], by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:13-15 RSVA)

We are to grow up in every way INTO Him! It is in this mature perfecting of God who makes us one with His Son that we are made perfect in the love of God for all mankind… He in us and we in Him. It is here that all these divisive doctrines made by the caprice and cunning of men from the scriptures cease to divide us any longer (Notice how Jesus never engaged in divisive arguments over the doctrines of men). We are made perfect and one in God’s LOVE just as Jesus was. Agape love is self for God and self for others, so much so that the time comes that self is no longer an element to be considered, but our lives are hidden in Christ! At this point we can rightfully say with Paul, “For me to live IS Christ and to die is gain.” “Meanwhile these three remain, faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Father, please do what you have to do to mature us in your love. Amen.

* I would like to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for bringing this quote from Augustine to our attention in her blog article, “Jumping into the Unknown”