“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three” (1 Cor 13:13). We hear a lot about faith. We hear a lot about love. But we don’t hear so much about hope.
Luther in his Table Talk, transcriptions of his remarks over dinner, explains “hope” in an illuminating way, showing its relationship to “faith.”
Classical educators, notice how he uses the trivium: Faith has to do with understanding, and thus dialectic/logic. Hope has to do with the will and personal application, and thus rhetoric.
From Martin Luther, Table Talk (my bolds):
CCXCVII. Faith and hope are variously distinguishable. And, first, in regard of the subject, wherein everything subsists: faith consists in a person’s understanding, hope in the will; these two cannot be separated; they are like the two cherubim over the mercy seat.
Secondly, in regard of the office; faith indites, distinguishes, and teaches, and is the knowledge and acknowledgment; hope admonishes, awakens, hears, expects, and suffers.
Thirdly, in regard to the object: faith looks to the word or promise, which is truth; but hope to that which the Word promises, which is the good or benefit.
Fourthly, in regard of order in degree: faith is first, and before all adversities and troubles, and is the beginning of life. Heb. xi. But hope follows after, and springs up in trouble. Rom. v.
Fifthly, by reason of the contrariety: faith fights against errors and heresies; it proves and judges spirits and doctrines. But hope strives against troubles and vexations, and among the evil it expects good.
Faith in divinity, is the wisdom and providence, and belongs to the doctrine. But hope is the courage and joyfulness in divinity, and pertains to admonition. Faith is the dialectica, for it is altogether prudence and wisdom; hope is the rhetorica, an elevation of the heart and mind.
As wisdom without courage is futile, even so faith without hope is nothing worth; for hope endures and overcomes misfortune and evil. And as a joyous valor without understanding is but rashness, so hope without faith is spiritual presumption. Faith is the key to the sacred Scriptures, the right Cabata or exposition, which one receives of tradition, as the prophets left this doctrine to their disciples. `Tis said St Peter wept whenever he thought of the gentleness with which Jesus taught.Faith is given from one to another, and remains continually in one school. Faith is not a quality, as the schoolmen say, but a gift of God.
CCXCVIII. Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No husbandman would sow one grain of corn, if he hoped not it would grow up and become seed; no bachelor would marry a wife, if he hope not to have children; no merchant or tradesman would set himself to work, if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby, etc. How much more, then, does hope urge us on to everlasting life and salvation?
Of these central qualities, “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13), but love is the fruit of faith. Thus, St. Paul can say that what “counts” is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). The best part of an apple tree, as far as we are concerned, is the apples. But there would be no apples without the tree. (This is contrary to the Catholic apologists I have heard who use this text to minimize the Protestant emphasis on faith, saying that their emphasis on salvation by love is a “more excellent” way.) Similarly, as Luther explains here, hope is the fruit of faith. Thus, faith is foundational to the other two.
We need to cultivate hope more than we do, especially in times like these.
Image from Pikrepo, Creative Commons Zero, CC0.