Love – The Greatest Of Graces
By J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Love is called the greatest of graces because it is the one in which there is some likeness between the believer and his God. God has no need of faith. He is dependent on no one. There is none superior to Him in whom He must trust. God has no need of hope. To Him all things are certain, whether past, present, or to come. But “God is love,” and the more love His people have, the more similar they are to their Father in heaven.
Love, for another thing, is called the greatest of the graces because it is most useful to others. Faith and hope, beyond doubt, however precious, have special reference to a believer’s own private individual benefit. Faith unites the soul to Christ, brings peace with God, and opens the way to heaven. Hope fills the soul with cheerful expectation of things to come, and, amid the many discouragements of things seen, comforts with visions of the things unseen.
But love is pre-eminently the grace which makes a man useful. It is the spring of good works and kindnesses. It is the root of missions, schools, and hospitals. Love made apostles spend and be spent for souls. Love raises up workers for Christ, and keeps them working. Love smooths quarrels, and stops strife – and in this sense, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Love adorns Christianity, and recommends it to the world. A man may have real faith, and feel it – and yet his faith may be invisible to others. But a man’s love cannot be hidden.
Love, in the last place, is the greatest of the graces because it is the one which endures the longest. In fact, it will never die. Faith will one day be swallowed up in sight – and hope in certainty. But love will live on through the endless ages of eternity! Heaven will be the abode of love. The inhabitants of heaven will be full of love. One common feeling will be in all their hearts, and that will be love.