Why is the trait of love greater than faith or hope? In 1John 5:2 and 2John we find the following critical information above love. This will help us understand why it is greatest attribute to possess.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1John 5:2, NKJV throughout)
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments (2John 6:2).
With John's definition of love as keeping the commandments of God, we can now more fully understand why the Apostle Paul, in 1Corinthians 13, stated it was more inportant than either faith or hope! Below are Paul's verses related to the subject, substituting the word with the phrase "keeping the commandments."
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not keep the commandments, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (1Corinthians 13:1).
Christians are just so much noise if they don't have love! Speaking in tongues may edify some, but tongues shall cease (1Corinthians 13:8). God will someday usher in a pure language so all the world can worship him together (Zephaniah 3:9). The commandments of love will continue.
Gift of Prophecy
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but do not keep the commandments, I am nothing (1Corinthians 13:2).
This is a powerful statement! We are nothing if we don't keep the commandments, even if we can correctly prophesy what is to come to pass. For example, Balaam was a prophet who, although he prophesied correctly, nevertheless was put to death (see Numbers 24, 31:8, 16). Knowledge is important (Proverbs 1) but keeping the commandments is still greater.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but do not keep the commandments, it profits me nothing (1Corinthians 13:3).
Why is there no profit? Because those who have not learned to keep the commandments, to have God's law written upon their hearts, to actually do them (Hebrews 8:10), will not be profited to be in the first resurrection (11:35).
Love (keeping the commandments) suffers long and is kind; . . .does not envy; . . . does not parade itself, is not puffed up (1Corinthians 13:4).
Yes, we can't just keep the commandments for two years or even ten. Ezekiel states if a righteous man stops keeping the commandments he will surely die (Ezekiel 33:13 - 19).
Love, Paul states, is kind. Kindness is defined by God in the commandments. It is kind not to kill people, steal their belongings, take their spouse, lie to them, hate them and so on. Love additonally does not parade itself nor is puffed up. There is nothing to brag about in keeping the commandments but rather it is our duty! Loving our neighbor is a debt we always owe.
. . . does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil (1Corinthians 13:5).
The commandments define what is righteous conduct. It is not lying, honoring parents, not using God's name in vain, not worshipping idols, not stealing or lying to others. Jesus said that breaking the command of not killing is engendered by having unwarranted anger toward another (Matthew 5:21 - 25). Patience means keeping the commandments even is others provoke us.
. . . does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth (1Corinthians 13:6).
The psalmist says, "I rejoice at thy word, as one that finds great spoil" (Psalm 119:162). Love is not happy in bearing false witness!
Only the Best
. . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1Corinthians 13:7).
No matter what happens, the keeping of the commandments goes on and on into eternity.
Love (keeping the commandments) never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away . . .
And now abide faith, hope, love (keeping the commandments), these three; but the greatest of these is love (1Corinthians 13:8, 13).
The end or result of the commandments is love out of a pure heart (1Timothy 1:5). The life of Jesus Christ, who never sinned and who unconditionally cared for others, is the goal of the law (Romans 10:4). It is more important to obey God than to have the faith needed to heal someone or to understand completely the hope we have in the Eternal.
Jesus kept all the Father's commandments while on the earth. He experience firsthand that love is far greater than faith or hope!