It appears that we need the trio of Christian virtues:
1 Cor 13:13 - And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but
the greatest of these is love.
These same three essential virtues are repeated elsewhere as well:
- Col 1:5 - the faith and love proceeding from the hope stored up for you in heaven, of which you have already heard in the word of truth, the gospel
- 1 Thess 1:3 - remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and unceasing labor of love, and the endurance of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
- 1 Thess 5:8 - But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of our hope of salvation.
A moment's reflection reveals that it is these three virtues, given as a gift of God, that make us distinctly human. All are essential because, without any one of them we cease to be human:
- without hope, a person become suicidal, we could not love and have faith
- without faith/belief/trust (all the same word in the Greek, a person cannot function in the real world and cannot believe anything about the invisible God, we could not love and have hope
- without love the world, even this wicked world would cease to function and we would loose hope and could not have faith.
Thus, the trio of virtues, as documented above, must all exist in the human spirit together. There are numerous passages that rehearse the essential nature of each of these as Paul ably says.
FAITH/BELIEF/TRUST - The New Testament contains the phrase “faith/trust in Jesus” (“pistis en Iesous”) and in all cases the phrase is used as the basis for the Christian life and/or a cause for celebration and note by others. Gal 3:26, Eph 1:15, Col 1:4, 1 Tim 1:14, 3:13, 2 Tim 1:13, 3:15, Heb 11:6. No wonder we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God because we could not even understand that he exists!
HOPE - Without hope, humans become sick and ultimately, suicidal (Prov 13:12, 1 Chron 29:15, Job 17:15). That is, hope is an essential part of being human and no one can function without hope; and Christ is our Great Hope! 1 Tim 1:1, 2 Tim 1:1, Titus 1:1, 2, Col 1:27, 1 Peter 1:3-6, Ps 147:11, 1 Cor 15:54-58.
LOVE - The best definition of agape love is, “God so loved … that He gave His son …” (John 3:16). The “agape” love is the central most important characteristic, the very essence, of God (1 John 4:8, 16). Love’s outward manifestation is grace. It is God as love that defines God and all else about Him such as justice/righteousness tempered with kindness.
This principled love of God (1 John 4:8, 16) is to be imitated by all Christians (John 13:34, 35) and is motivated by God’s love for us (1 John 4:9, 10, 19-21, 2 Cor 5:14). Thus, love is quintessentially Christian and reached its zenith when God gave Jesus as the solution to the sin problem (2 Cor 5:14, Eph 2:4, 3:19, 5:2, John 3:16). Therefore, Christians should have as their primary focus their love of, and love to God (Matt 22:37, Deut 6:5), and secondarily love to fellow humans (Matt 22:39, Lev 19:18).
Thus, all three, faith/trust, hope and love are all essential - all are required for the others to exist at all. "... but the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor 13:13).