That they are linked together in Scripture seems clear to me. An inseparable trio. Comprising a threefold cord which is not quickly broken. To have one should be to have the other two. I encountered these three amigos this morning in the opening verses of Colossians.
Paul was the consummate “follow up” guy. He didn’t plant a church without keeping tabs on that church. Didn’t birth disciples of Christ without asking, from time to time, if they were growing in Christ. While knowing that it was Christ who would build His church, part of Paul’s call was to check in on how the building was going. And what Paul heard about the church at Colossae primed the pump of thanksgiving. Whatever else was going on in Colossae, whatever doctrinal issues needed to be addressed, he gave God thanks because the threefold cord was in place. The three amigos were alive and well.
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.
(Colossians 1:3-5a ESV)
When instructing the Corinthians on what it meant to be the church (1Cor. 12-14), at the center of it all, Paul said, were faith, hope, and love. And that seems to have been true of the church at Colossae.
Faith in Christ begets hope in heaven and is manifest by love for the saints. To have trusted in the finished work of the cross once past, is to have a confident expectation concerning a glorious future yet to come, which is made evident by an authentic affection for those of likemind in the present.
“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ Jesus
(John 13:35 ESV)
How important is gospel community to the overall mission? I’m thinking, pretty important.
Faith in Christ, and hope in heaven, without love for the saints is a weakened cord. Two-thirds of a full-meal deal. Conveying only a partial message. Resulting in a less than abundant “abundant life” which Jesus came to give (Jn. 10:10).
I sometimes fear that the cultural values which seem to emphasize the individual over the collective, and the personal over the corporate, water down the church’s effectiveness. That while we might declare to a lost world that we are Christians by faith alone in Christ alone, and that our hope for a better world is not in this world, we may be less aware of the need to show a lost world that we are Christians by our love for one another.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1Corinthians 13:13 ESV)
Oh, that the church’s threefold cord would be entact and enduring.
Lord, fuel our faith, affirm our hope, ignite our affection.
By Your grace. For Your glory.