Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel. (Colossians 1:4,5)

Here Paul links the trinity of graces for believers: (1) faith - past; (2) love - present; and (3) hope - future.

These believers had faith toward God. Faith rests upon historical facts; it is based on the past. It was based on what they had heard before "in the word of truth of the gospel." This refers to the content of the gospel, the great truths that pertain to the gospel of the grace of God. God has us shut up to a cross, and He asks us to believe Him. You haven't really heard the gospel until you have heard something to believe. The gospel is not something for us to do. It tells what He did for you and for me over nineteen hundred years ago. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith is not a leap in the dark. It rests upon historical facts; it is believing God.

"And of the love which ye have to all the saints" — faith is based upon the past, but love is for the present. It is nonsense to boast of the fundamentalism of our doctrine and then to spend our time crucifying our brethren and attempting to find fault with them. There are too many "wonderful saints" looking down on their fellow believers who have not measured up to their high standard and who are not separated like they are separated. My friend, the world is not interested in that kind of approach. The world is looking to see whether Christians love each other or not. It is hypocrisy to consider oneself a Christian and then not to demonstrate love for the brethren. If we have disagreements with our brethren, we are to bear with them, we are to pray for them, and we are to love them. Remember that a Christian is a sinner saved by grace. None of us will ever be perfect in this life.

These Colossian believers had their good points. They were sound in the faith toward God. They were fundamental in their belief, and they also had love for the brethren. And Paul says that they had hope for the future — "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven."

In 1 Corinthians also Paul lists these three graces, but he lists them a little differently: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Corinthians 13:13). He puts hope in second position and love is listed last. Why? Because love is the only thing that is going to abide. Love is for the present, it is true, but it is also going to make it into eternity. It is very important that we begin to exhibit love down here upon this earth.

—From Edited Messages on Colossians by Dr. J. Vernon McGee