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“Three Aspirations for the Arts” /

Mark Meynell wrote for the The Rabbit Room in “Three Aspirations for the Arts”:

Assuming that artists are to be visionary prophets, what might that look like? I think it means pursuing at least three separate (though not mutually exclusive) goals.

  1. Truth: Exposing the False, Reflecting the Real
  2. Beauty: Exposing the Idolatrous, Reflecting the Wondrous
  3. Hope: Exposing the Baseless, Reflecting the Future

Art that aspires to truth is informed by Scripture, the basis for personal and cultural renewal. It depicts sin’s consequences and is relevant to human needs. This aspiration to truth is the New Testament pursuit of faith, the faith that comes from hearing and heeding the truth of God’s word.

Art that aspires to beauty points away from the worship of created things and toward the wonders of the Creator. This aspiration to beauty is the New Testament pursuit of love, which spurns love of other things that are put in place of God and spurs on a love and service for others because of God.

Art that aspires to hope portrays a liberating vision that overcomes cynicism and despair. The aspiration to hope is also a main pursuit of the New Testament, alongside faith and love. We are confronted in the New Testament with how a vision of resurrection affects the way we live now.

Meynell acknowledged the place of hope even if he was unsure of what it looked like. “Our art… should surely reflect that hope, in some shape or form. I’ve no idea how — that’s your job!” And, “Surely one of our most urgent questions, and one of our society’s most pressing needs, is for us to find a vocabulary of hope.” This is normal. Scholar N.T. Wright was surprised by hope. We could even say that everyone at some point will be surprised by hope’s significance, if the apostles’ repetition in the New Testament is an indication.

Hope is the least clear goal of the three because it’s the least fulfilled, by definition. The danger comes when it’s also the least pursued. We’ll miss the prophetic warnings and blessings of those who’ve gone before us, which are a part of what helps us press on. And we’ll fail to give vision to the hopeless, to be prophetic.

The effort of artists to find a vocabulary of hope is a part of its fulfillment. Such effort itself renews us. It helps us to work out our salvation in cooperation with God, to heed his warnings and hold firmly to his promises. And the effect of the artist in this pursuit is noticeable, like a shining star, true and beautiful, in a crooked and perverted world (Php. 2:12–16). Therefore, in addition to truth and beauty, it’s vital for prophetic artists to reflect hope, even as — especially as — we are working it out.

These three aspirations echo the “faith, hope and love” pattern of the apostles’ teaching and are a noble calling for the artist.

“Faith, Hope, And Love,” Bible.org

Close-up of Ancient Greek manuscript to the Colossians
“To the Colossians,” Codex Harleianus 5557 (12th century), public domain
Faith, Hope, Love: Basic to Disciple-making /

“Faith, hope, love” is a basic part of gospel teaching and disciple-making.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel… (Col. 1:3–5)

Consider the example of Colossians 1:3–8. The Colossian letter is quite generic. It was intended for a wide audience (see 4:16). The Apostle Paul hadn’t planted or visited the church in Colossae. He wasn’t addressing a person or an urgent problem, but was encouraging believers with a pattern of teaching similar to that in his letter to the Ephesians. What Paul emphasizes in Colossians can be seen as “majors” for our own general teaching and mission.

Immediately after the letter’s greetings, Paul brings attention to the Colossians’ faith, hope and love (verses 3 through 8 form one sentence in Greek). He also did this for the believers in Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 1:3). The display of faith, hope and love in the lives of believers is what he and his disciple accompanying him, Timothy, were listening for in a report (“since we heard of…,” v. 4; “from the day we heard this,” v. 9). And it’s the basis of their thanks to God (v. 3).

The Colossian believers heard of “faith, hope, love” before, when the gospel came to them (v. 5, 7). “Faith in Christ Jesus,” “love for all the saints,” and “hope laid up in heaven” aren’t the gospel — Paul reminds them of the gospel next (vv. 15–23) — but they flow directly from it and are in his preaching of it. They’re marks of gospel understanding and growth in Christ.

Paul doesn’t introduce faith, hope, and love in the letter as advanced theological education. In fact, this teaching came earlier through Epaphras, which tells us that “faith, hope, love” is an apostolic pattern of teaching. Either it preceded Paul, Timothy and Epaphras and they were taught it, or a revelation proceeded from Paul to his companions and then to the Colossians. It’s meant to be passed on. Look for it in the apostles’ teaching.

Faith in Christ, hope in heaven and love for God’s people are basic to a disciple, and pursuing these in another person’s life is basic to disciple-making. In Colossians, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to highlight faith, hope, and love first. He uses them in the letter as an outline for his teaching and a basis for his commands. Evidence of faith, hope and love is how Paul could know and celebrate that the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world” (vv. 5–6)!

“‘Faith, hope, love’ remains, these three…”: The Best Spiritual Gifts /

Νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα

So now ‘faith, hope, love’ remains, these three…

—1 Corinthians 13:13

Consider how “faith, hope, love” are set apart in 1 Corinthians 13:13:

  • They group as “these three,” though they’re in a context in which “faith” and “hope” are not discussed.
  • The verb is singular, not plural (“remains,” not “remain”).1
  • There is no conjunction separating the three (“faith, hope, love,” not “faith, hope and love”).

The emphasis of this verse is “love.” Paul shows that it is supreme with the beautiful language of 1 Corinthians 13. Why do faith and hope go with love here? “Faith, hope, love” does not make sense as a conclusion unless the three were an established unit in Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian believers.2 The grammar says as much.

“Faith, hope, love,” is a category of gifts that is “better” (12:30) than all the spiritual gifts mentioned in this section (chapters 12–14). This triad, or triplet, is a set of gifts for all believers. Paul contrasts them with other gifts which the Spirit gives individually, like prophesy, tongues and knowledge (12:11). The other gifts are also given temporarily, but the three “remains” into Christian maturity (13:8–13).

Paul puts the three on a pedestal, so to speak. Love is among these better gifts, and is the “best.” Love is what makes every other spiritual gift good to build up others in the church (chapter 14). Love is what makes us most like God, whom we are coming to know fully (13:12). To lift love beyond compare, Paul puts it in the good company of these universal and abiding gifts of the Spirit, “faith, hope, love.”


  1. Sometimes plural Greek nouns that are neuter take singular verbs, but these three nouns are feminine. The adjective “three” is neuter and could govern the verb. Commentators and translations differ. The other points stand.

  2. Paul could have given this previous teaching when he was with the Corinthians (Acts 18:1–11) or in a previous letter (1 Cor. 5:9). “Faith, hope, love” was present in Paul’s other teachings, from early (1 Thess. 1:3) to late (Col. 1:4–5).

“Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad” Highlights /

Study the apostles’s teaching and you’ll see the pattern of “faith, hope, love.” What did this mean to the early church and missions? I’m digging in.

Here are research highlights of “Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad” in A. M. Hunter, Paul and His Predecessors (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), 33–35. Available online at archive.org.

Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad.

[S]everal strands of evidence unite to prove that the triad is not Paul’s own coinage, but a piece of pre-Pauline Christianity derived possibly from a saying of Jesus himself. ¶ The triad is found not only in 1 Cor. 13:13, but also in 1 Thess. 1:3, 5:8; Rom. 5:1–5; Gal. 5:5–6; Col. 1:4–5; Eph. 4:2–5; Heb. 6:10–12, 10:22–24; 1 Pet. 1:3–8, 21–22, and once or twice in the Apostolic Fathers. …

[T]he same sequence of the graces is observed by three different writers. ¶ All this is surely not fortuitous. It strongly suggests that the triad in Paul is not his own creation, but something common and apostolic, perhaps a sort of compendium of the Christian life current in the early apostolic church. …

Consider how it crops up in 1 Cor. 13. … [W]hy does Paul drag in faith and hope at all at the end of his hymn in praise of love? … The inference is that the mention of love suggested the other two members of what was already a traditional triad. ¶ … [T]he words ‘these three’ suggest that it is a familiar triad. …

Very significant is the almost tell-tale way in which Paul quotes the triad in 1 Thess. 5:8. … ¶ … Paul combines the old Jewish figure with the pre-Pauline Christian triad, ‘Faith, hope, love,’ and that it is only with some difficulty that he achieves the combination. …

I do think that the twofold chain of evidence formed by (1) the recurrence of the triad in Paul, Peter, Hebrews, etc., and (2) the remarkable saying attributed by Macarius to the Lord, strongly suggests that this triadic formula is not only a bit of very early Christianity, but may very possibly be derived from a logion of Jesus.

Fred Sanders, “Whence ‘Faith, Hope, and Love?’” The Scriptorium Daily (Sep 2, 2011)

See “Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad” Highlights.

“Faith, Hope and Love in the Colossian Epistle”: Highlights /

Highlights of Stephen Rockwell, “Faith, hope and love in the Colossian Epistle,” in The Reformed Theological Review, v. 72 n. 1 (Apr 2013): 36–52.

[T]his triad of faith, love and hope does not only occur in the introductory thanksgiving to the Colossians, but can be found throughout the epistle, perhaps even structuring the very core of the epistles message. …

[U]nlike any of the other triadic statements in the Pauline corpus, only here does Paul make hope the basis for both faith and love. …

The perichoretic nature of the triadic elements is evident. All three are essential to Christian living and all three are dependent on, and enriching for, each other. …

As in many of Paul’s letters, this notion of hope which is introduced in the thanksgiving is further expounded in the main body of the epistle. So the reader discovers that the source of this hope is to be found in the gospel (1:23); that the focus of this hope is the mystery of God which Paul reveals to be ‘Christ in you’ (1:27); and that which is hoped for is future glory along with Christ (1:27). This glory should be the focus of the believers’ minds and hearts (3:1–4) and shape their actions in this present life (3:5–14).

Here in Colossians, as in 1 Thessalonians, Paul seems to use the word order and the sentence structure to give the greatest emphasis to the notion of hope above the other two virtues. The flexibility in which Paul applies this triad has already been observed with love the focus in 1 Corinthians 13. It appears as if it is the context into which the apostle writes that leads him to emphasise hope in this instance. …

Much like Timothy had reported to Paul on the status of the Thessalonian believers (1 Thess. 3:6), so Epaphras has reported to Paul concerning the Colossians. The report contains good news about their faith and love…. The triad is being used here to summarise the Christian convictions and actions of the believers in Colossae and form the basis of Paul’s thanks to God on their behalf. This triadic formulation of the Colossian Christians’ lives included in the introductory thanksgiving section of Paul’s letter shows the significance of these three virtues for Paul. Martin observes that ‘Paul’s use of the pattern [of faith, hope and love] in this passage is formed by a concern to celebrate the Christian experience of his readers’.²⁰ Not only that, but the occurrence of the triad within this thanksgiving section of the epistle allows Paul to introduce what will constitute the main imperatival thrust of his teaching in the letter. …

Thus, the first three imperatival phrases which command the Colossian believers to live a life that is in line with their faith in Jesus Christ [2:6–7], shaped by the eschatological hope they possess in Christ [3:1–4] and adorned by love [3:12–14], form the basis for the remaining eleven imperatives in the letter. Faith, hope and love are what shape the structure of the Colossian letter, seen particularly through Paul’s use of the imperative mood.

DeYoung points to three signs in 1 John as evidence of salvation to counsel Christians: theological, moral, social. Are these not faith, hope and love?

On the surface, hope is the least clear of the three in his post. But the “moral” sign aligns with the treatment of hope in the epistles, that it is a persevering walk in holiness, not immorality (See, for example, Col. 3:1–5, 1 Thess. 4:1–8 and 1 Jn. 3:3).

DeYoung puts all three signs in terms of love (of God, his commands, and his people). That is the primary language of John. But that is also a sensible amplification of Jesus’ summary of the Law (Matt. 22:37–40). And it doesn’t contradict Paul’s three sign of faith, hope and love. He also emphasizes love (Gal. 5:6, 1 Cor. 13:13).

Kevin DeYoung, “How Do I Know I’m a Christian?” (May 12, 2015)

“Faith, Hope, Love” in Martin’s The Spirit and the Congregation /

Martin says that “faith, hope, love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13 is a citation, a preformed and well-known formula.

So we reach the puzzling verse 13. … Yes, love is the greatest of all attributes since faith and hope will be fulfilled in eternity while love is eternal, and while faith and hope are essential ingredients of the Christian’s existence only God may be said to be “love” (1 John 4:8) — a theological appeal Wischmeyer rightly rejects, not because it is wrong, but because it fails to respect the eschatological structure of Paul’s thinking here. …

[T]he phrase “faith, hope, love” looks to be a preformed triad of Christian “virtues” attested in Paul, who in turn derived it from his predecessors, and in other Christian literature (1 Thess. 1:3; 5:8; Col. 1:3f.; Rom. 5:3ff.; cf. Gal. 5:5, 6; Eph. 4:2–5 in the Pauline corpus; and in the NT elsewhere Heb. 6:10–12; 10:22–24; 1 Pet. 1:3–8, 21f.; outside the NT Barn. 1:4; 11:8; Polycarp, Phil. 3:2f.). The expression reads here in a way that suggests that Paul is appealing to a well-known formula. “Faith, hope, love” — these, you know, are “the three” traditional qualities that mark out the life of the Christian. The singular verb, “remains” (menei), confirms the citation of a formula.

… Perhaps they retorted to Paul that they did know the current formula: “faith, hope, love.” What they missed was to set “love” at its head since Christ’s love is the only constraining force (2 Cor. 5:14) that can enable a person to break out of the imprisoning circle of egocentricity and selfish pride and have a “genuine concern” (1 Cor. 12:25) for one’s neighbor.

Ralph P. Martin, The Spirit and the Congregation: Studies in 1 Corinthians 12–15 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), pp. 54–56.

Faith, Hope, Love: A Brief Description of Our Discipleship Process /

“Faith, Hope, Love” is the outline of our discipleship process. We implemented “Faith, Hope, Love” when we were using the practical three-thirds plan of T4T (“Training for Trainers”) by Ying Kai and Steve Smith. Although “Faith, Hope, Love” looks like T4T, we wanted our training to align more closely with Scripture. We were also informed by The Universal Disciple Pattern by Thom Wolf, who introduced us to the idea that faith, hope and love can be a part of a framework for discipleship. You could say that we mashed-up one “fruitful” and one “faithful” idea.

Faith, Hope, Love is based on a pattern the apostles used (see Rom. 5:1–5; 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3, 5:8; Col. 1:3–6; Heb. 10:19–24). It’s a summary of Christian health, a paradigm that helps us to evaluate and encourage the growth of the gospel. Faith, hope, and love are the biblical measures of missions.

This process reminds us to build up each other in these three major areas. We spend a third of each discipleship meeting focused on love for God and one another; a third on faith in learning God’s Word; and a third on hope in preparing to obey. This pattern can be followed in thirty minutes or three hours, in a one-on-one setting or large church gathering.

Faith, Hope, Love activities. These three outline Christian growth in general and so guide our discipleship meetings in particular. Here are activities we have used to build up faith, hope and love.

Love

  • Worshiping God
  • Thanking God
  • Listening to one another
  • Caring for one another’s needs
  • Reporting and being accountable
  • Inviting and welcoming others

Faith

  • Preaching and hearing God’s Word
  • Reviewing and retelling God’s Word
  • Studying God’s Word
  • Believing God’s Word
  • Singing God’s Word
  • Sharing God’s Word

Hope

  • Casting vision
  • Blessing and warning
  • Applying God’s Word and planning obedience
  • Equipping and practicing to disciple others
  • Committing and commissioning
  • Praying

The order of activities may not matter and they can weave together (as seen in the overlap of faith, hope and love in some epistles). Various people can facilitate activities and discover or apply their spiritual gifts. When we meet, we put Love first because it’s the greatest (1 Cor. 13:13) and it builds on the Faith and Hope of the previous meeting in terms of review, accountability and care (see figure below). It happens that much of what we do first, in Love, looks back and last, in Hope, looks ahead.

Faith, Hope, Love movement. The discipleship process links together meetings and supports obedience. We meet to hear the Word (Faith), prepare to obey (Hope), and check in (Love) when we meet again.

Besides encouraging spiritual growth, Faith, Hope, Love is also a diagnostic tool to evaluate it (as seen especially in 1 and 2 Thess.). This is another good reason we put Love first. We listen to others in love and discern which Scripture we need to teach or re-teach in Faith. As an example, if we listen and learn that believers are not sharing the gospel, we know to teach Scripture that builds faith, before commanding obedience; if they are not serving their families, we know to build love; if they are intimidated by persecution or temptation, we know to build hope. We know this because of how the apostles address problems in the New Testament. You can know a tree by its fruit; you can grow a tree by its root.

We aim to build faith, hope and Love with God’s Word in cooperation with his Spirit. The Faith, Hope, Love process does not replace good teaching and Bible study. We use the process early on with a set of Bible stories or lessons about the gospel and God’s kingdom. Then we continue with it as we study Mark, Acts, Ephesians and beyond. It makes obedience-based discipleship more healthy by strengthening the roots of obedience, and Bible studies and story sets more healthy by putting the products to work and cultivating the fruits of obedience.

The Faith, Hope, Love discipleship process is a simple (not easy) plan to equip believers for ministry. It works when we plan on God’s Spirit to work according to his Word. We have seen disciples grow and multiply, across languages and cultures. Notably, the disciples are themselves changed and have caused others to take notice. Personally, it’s helped my own growth in Christ and in ministry to others in many discipleship contexts: in Bible studies and Sunday school classes, as an outline for prayer and songs for worship, in conversations and letter writing, and in personal and family devotions.

In short, we meet regularly and be accountable to each other for what God taught us in his Word. We look for obedience that is grounded in faith, filled with love and inspired by hope. We celebrate when this happens and patiently warn, encourage and help each other when it doesn’t (1 Thess. 5:12). We model this process to equip others to make disciples. We aim to fulfill Jesus’ command together to, “Go… make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).