Colossians 1:3-6 (NIV)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints–the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.
Paul points to a very interesting cause-and-effect relationship between faith, love, and hope – one that is a little different that most people think!
It seems to me that a lot of people figure that hope comes from faith, and that love (God’s agape love, not mere human love) come from faith as well. These folks believe that faith is kind of the well-spring of most of the other virtues. But Paul actually indicates that both faith and love spring from hope, instead of the other way around.
It actually does make more sense the way that Paul sees it. But this only becomes clear when we clearly (and biblically) define our terms.
Love: God’s agape love, which always has as it’s only focus the absolute best interests of the beloved, even if it costs the lover all that he or she has. This is the love that God and Jesus demonstrated so amazingly when Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified because of His unmerited love for the totally sinful and lost people of the world.
Faith: Not so much a belief in something as the action that is taken because of that belief. For example, if you really have faith in a weatherman who says that it is going to rain buckets today, that faith is not merely saying that you believe him. Real faith takes an umbrella along!
Hope: Not just a synonym for “wish” as it is often used today. Genuine hope is a settled assurance that the one who promised something will absolutely fulfill any promise that he or she has made.
In Paul’s economy, hope is the source of both faith and love, and from a biblical standpoint that makes perfect sense. If a person has within themselves the hope of the gospel, the settled assurance that this world is not all that there is – as well as the absolute assurance that our eternity will be lived out in God’s presence, then a everything else falls into proper perspective. With that settled assurance, the obedience of true faith is not only easy, it is pretty much a natural consequence: because if you know that you must be faithful (obedient to what you know is the truth) in order to get the wonderful future that God has planned for you, then obedience will be the most natural and most desireable thing to do. And the assured hope of that future with God also gets rid of the necessity to “look out for number one” that so many people of the world get caught up in. You don’t have to make your own future secure – all you have to do is to be obedient and faithful, and God will bring to pass the best possible future for you forever. Without such a heavy emphasis on trying to get ahead yourself, with your future positively set, your heart will be freed up to really love others, thinking first about the best for the other people around you, especially those who don’t have the same wonderful future locked in as you do.