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In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul discusses various different spiritual gift, explaining that most of them will be redundant in the New Creation, and therefore "fade away". He concludes his teaching by saying:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corithians 13:13

I can see how love will remain in the New Creation. But without the need to persevere through suffering, and seeing Jesus face-to-face, would faith and hope also no longer be required, and also fade away?

How would a Reformed Protestant understand faith and hope remaining?

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Richard Ostella, pastor of Westminster Reformed Church and adjunct professor at Michigan Theological Seminary, wrote a series of articles The Excellence of Christian Love on 1 Cor 12:31-13:13. The last article, 14. Heaven: A World of Love with Faith and Hope (1 Cor. 13:13), has quotes from well-published and respected Reformed scholar D.A. Carson who wrote a 1987 book Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 which includes detailed exegesis used by Richard Ostella.

Both scholars point out that although "and now" in 1 Cor 13:13 can be understood temporally (where faith is contrasted with sight per 2 Cor 5:7 and hope is swallowed up in realization per Rom 8:24-25), "and now" can also be understood logically to mean "and thus" or "therefore".

Skipping further exegetical portion to the conclusion, here's quotes from Richard Ostella's article (emphasis mine):

EXPLANATION (WHAT IT MEANS FOR THESE THREE TO ABIDE FOREVER)

Carson says some helpful things about hope and faith as “eternal, permanent virtues” (Showing the Spirit 75). With regard to hope, he states, “there is a sense in which hope is not merely the anticipation of the blessings to come, an anticipation no longer needed once those blessings have arrived, but a firm anchor in Christ himself. Our hope is in God, in Christ; and as such, hope continues forever, doubtless opening up an infinity of new depths of blessing, world without end” (74). So he asks the penetrating question, “Will we stop looking forward in anticipation to what is ahead once we begin to enjoy the new heaven and the new earth?” (74). The implied answer is obvious, “no we will not stop looking forward in anticipation.” With regard to faith he comments, “It is true that in one sense faith will be displaced by sight. But there is another sense in which faith is simply thankful trust in God, deep appreciation for him, committed subservience to him. Will there be any time in the next fifty billion years (if I may speak of eternity in the categories of time) during which the very basis of my presence in the celestial courts will be something other than faith in the grace of God?” (74-75).

Carson makes a great point here about “an infinity of new depths of blessings, world without end” that will continue out in front of us forever. There is a richness of glory beyond words. Or put another way, there is a richness to come in glory about which our words will be “in a perpetual state of beginning.” We will always find ourselves in the awesome wonder of knowing that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what God has prepared for us.

This sounds like an incompleteness of knowing akin to that developed in verses 8-12. But perhaps this informs us that the contrast of the now and the not yet is not exactly one of incompleteness to completeness but of very immature and dim incompleteness in contrast to mature and face to face “incompleteness.”

Incompleteness here is perhaps over stating in a way that does not keep in flow with verses 8-12. For in heaven, it is all there before us “face to face” but our grasp of the depths will be such that “an infinity of new depths” of glory will be forever at our finger tips. So, to try to avoid confusing knowing in part to knowing fully we have to stress the fact that the partial refers to a circumscribed and limited content regarding what may be known. Even with sixty-six books, what may be known objectively of special revelation is limited. But perfection will involve unlimited content as we behold the Lord in all His glory face to face. For Luther, our present state is like seeing the sun through a cloud because we cannot bear to look at the Lord’s brilliant majesty but the cloud will be removed and the Lord will unveil Himself (Cited by C. Brown, Miracles, 14).

This fact that hope abides into the unending future is a marvelous thought in itself. It is part of the blessing of heaven that the entry point is not a terminal point but a beginning point that opens a vast array of infinite blessings before our wondering eyes. Therefore, one of the good things of heaven is the fact that we will always have hope because there will always be things to anticipate, new depths to plummet, and new heights to scale. A fundamental quality of heaven will be expectation of greater things still to come. A profound experience of expectation will give a spring to every step that is taken in the heavenly realm.

Before this study of 1 Corinthians 13, I tended to think that the first step in heaven is the one that carries with it the greatest sense of anticipation and expectation. But this text shows us that our anticipation of the first step we will take in heaven is far lower and inferior to the anticipation that will fill our hearts to the brim beyond that first step. This is so because our expectation now is in part, immature, and dimly lit. Once we take that first step in glory into the presence of our Lord and to seeing face to face, then every subsequent step will be filled with face to face anticipation and expectation that is far superior to the dimly lit anticipation and expectation that we now have.

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  • "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Appreciate your research. – Lesley May 12 at 14:52
  • @Lesley Thank you. I enjoyed the research and really anticipate increasing my appreciation of God once we start living in the new creation. The scripture data is lacking in details of the afterlife, but I trust the exegetical conclusion of D.A. Carson. C.S. Lewis imagined the same thing as well in his book The Great Divorce. – GratefulDisciple May 12 at 16:30
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Preamble - Please bear with me while I share the relevant information I found in the Bible while trying to get my head round your question.

The spiritual gifts identified in Romans 12 are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 includes the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians chapter 12 ends with an admonition for Christians to desire “the higher gifts”. The purpose of these gifts was to spread Christianity and to build up the church. “The more excellent way” is to use the gifts in love in order to build up others within the church. Romans 5:1-6 reminds us of the purpose of building up our Christian brothers and sisters:

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Colossians 1:5-6 says that Christian faith and love spring from the hope that is stored up for us in heaven. Titus 1:2 also links faith with the hope of eternal life, which God promised before the beginning of time. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 gives thanks to God for works produced by faith, labour prompted by love and endurance inspired by the hope within us. The vast majority of people who lived in Bible times had to live by faith in what God had already revealed to them. That has not changed throughout the church age. We still live by faith, which is a gift from God. Our faith and hope sustain us through trials and tribulations while we await the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

You ask if faith and hope will no longer be required after the hope of our salvation is realised. Yes, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 says the spiritual gifts of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will “fade away”, but faith, hope, and love remain. Paul does not say faith and hope will not be required in the age to come. The NLT Bible puts it this way:

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.

You ask, “In what sense do faith and hope remain?” It’s a good question, given what the Bible has already revealed about the faith and hope of believers during the church age. We know that Abraham and the saints who lived before the incarnation had faith and hope in God’s promises, even though they were unaware of how things would work out. Since Christianity started and right up till the present time, Christians have faith and hope in God’s promises even though we do not yet know the realities to come.

Given that we do not know what will be expected of us in the age to come – how we will serve God and what He will want of us – it would be foolish for us to presume anything beyond what has already been revealed to us. All we can say with certainty is that faith, hope and love give glory to God in whose image we are created.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Source: Westminster Shorter Catechism https://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/shorter-catechism/

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