Friday, March 30, 2012

Love, Law and Faith


The apostle Paul has some interesting things to say about the relationship between love, law and faith. We find these relationships in his letter to the Jesus believers in Galatia.
All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Someone asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. He answered,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Love fulfills the law God gave through Moses to Israel. God intended for that law to instruct the people of Israel in how they should live. But it could never produce in them what it instructed — it was never meant to. That is why God promised to cut a new covenant with His people:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah … I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31, 33)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
These two prophecies speak of the same reality. God promised a new heart and a new spirit — His own Spirit — to produce in us what the law of Moses never could. This is fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, who by His faithfulness is the mediator of the new and better covenant, which is cut with His own blood (Hebrews 8:6; Luke 22:20). At Pentecost, just as He promised, God gave us His Spirit, who dwells in us to produce the faithful character of Jesus in us. Paul speaks of it as the “fruit of the Spirit.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Love fulfills the law, but the law could not produce that love in us. Only God can.

What matters now, Paul says, is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6) and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). The Greek word for “work” is energeo, which is where we get the word “energy.” We might say that faith is energized through love. The word “walk” speaks of a consistent manner of living. Walking in the Spirit is continually yielding to the Holy Spirit and letting Him do His work in us.

If you find that your faith is weak, check how your love is doing. If your love is weak, check how you are doing in your daily walk with God. God is love, and when we yield to His Spirit, we are yielding to the Spirit of Love. As we do, His love will become strong in us and our faith will become powerful and effective.
Faith works through love, and love fulfills the law.