All you need is ...
The Beatles sang, 'All you need is love!', and that didn't seem to work real well for them; they broke up two years later. So they needed something more than love.
In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul reminds Timothy about the goal of his ministry:
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
And in his great chapter love, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul ends by stating that
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In context, this chapter on love comes between two chapters where Paul is asking the Corinthians to adopt a proper perspective on spiritual gifts. They tended to over-priortise gifts they thought were exciting, like the ability to speaking in heavenly languages to God, and discounted the importance in public settings of speaking encouraging words in a language that people understood (prophecy).
So rather than ignoring or over-valuing gifts, Paul wants every believer using what God has given them to build up other Christians. It's like a human body - every part has a role to play. And then Paul shows them 'a more excellent way', the way of love. And the chapter on love ends by saying that love is the greatest.
Love is the greatest because, as an intrinsic part of God's character, it is eternal; when we are united with Christ in God's presence in eternity, we won't need faith and hope the same way we do now. But in following Jesus here on planet earth, faith, hope and love define the Christian life.
Many different verses bring these three pillars together. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, Paul writes that
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So when we talk about faith, hope, and love, this is a power triad that frames the Christian life. It's like a three-legged stool, and without one of them, the stool tips over.
So what are faith, hope, and love about? Here's a short summary:
- Faith is about our relationship to God: we believe that Christ died for our sins.
- Hope is about our relationship to the future: we have a joyful, confident expectation to be united with God in eternity.
- Love is about our relationship with others: we share with others the agape God shares with us in Christ.
If any one of these is missing, our life in Christ is distorted.
So, all you need is faith, hope and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.