Distinguishing Faith from Hope

This is a subsidiary post of Faith, Hope, and Love.
It is also a subsidiary post of Defining Faith.
It is also a subsidiary post of Hope.

Faith and hope are concepts associated with each other, but also distinct from each other.  This can be seen in verses like 1 Corinthians 13:13 and Hebrews 11:1.

This distinction between the two terms can be monumental at times.  For example, note that in John 5:44-47 Jesus says that the Jewish leaders hoped in Moses but did not believe him.  For all their hope in God, these religious leaders displeased God because they did not add faith to their hope (Hebrews 11:1, 6).  Therefore, let us focus on faith.  This means acting on what we know to be true – not on what we hope might be true.

Nevertheless, hope is very much connected with faith, as can be seen in these and other verses.  Therefore, let’s pay close attention to what the text says whenever both are mentioned.


1 Corinthians 13:13  –  “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  –  As important as faith and hope are, we must keep them in the context of, and governed by, love.  This trio of “faith, hope, and love” are seen also in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 5:8 below.

Colossians 1:23  –  “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard…”  –  That is, to “continue in the faith” means to be “not moved away from the hope…”  In this regard, see Hebrews 11:1 (“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for”).

1 Thessalonians 1:3  –  “…bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…”

1 Thessalonians 5:8  –  “…having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

1 Peter 1:20-21  –  “…so that your faith and hope are in God.”  –  Note that faith and hope have the same object.  This makes sense if faith is indeed in what we hope for, as the verses above suggest.


John 5:44-47  –  “…Moses, in whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses…”  –  Note that these opponents of Jesus shared His hope in Moses, but not His faith in Moses.  See also Acts 24:14-15 below.  Similarly, Jesus spoke of lawless religous people who put their hope in Him, but who would ultimately be disappointed when it was time for Him to judge them because they lacked the faith that would have led them to do His will (Matthew 7:21-23).  Let us therefore beware of putting our hope in Jesus without putting our faith in Him.    

Acts 23:6-10  –  “But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’  As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all…”  –  Paul shared a common hope with the Pharisees – resurrection of the dead – but not a common faith.  This was no minor difference; it was a life-or-death difference.  Paul makes reference to this same distinction in Acts 24:14-15 below.

Acts 24:14, 15  –  “…believing…having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves…”  –  As in John 5:44-47, the opponents of Paul share his hope, even “cherish” it – but not his faith.

Romans 4:18  –  “In hope against hope he believed…”

Hebrews 11:1  –  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for…”  –  So, while is possible to have hope without faith (as in the situation Jesus described in John 5:45-47), it is not possible to have faith without hope.
Hebrews 11:1 KJV  –  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…”
Hebrews 11:1 ESV  –  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for…”
Hebrews 11:1 NIV  –  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for…”
Hebrews 11:1 NLT  –  “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen…”
Hebrews 11:1 HCSB  –  “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for…”

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