Saturday, March 15, 2014

Faith That Expresses Itself Through Love


The apostle Paul has a lot to say about faith in his letter to the Jesus believers of Galatia. He writes to exhort them, and even rebuke them, concerning the gospel. They have tolerated Jewish Christian legalists coming in and teaching that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough, but that certain elements of the law such as circumcision are necessary for Gentile converts to be identified as being in right relationship with God. However, Paul is adamant that faith in Christ is not only sufficient but is the only thing that counts.
  • “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
  • “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:16).
  • “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2). The implied answer is that is was by faith.
  • “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Again, the implied answer is that it was by faith.
  • “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).
  • “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:8-9).
  • “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘The man who does them shall live by them.’”(Galatians 3:11-12).
  • “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us ... that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
  • “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:22-26)
So Paul is very clear — and very insistent — that it is not by keeping the law that we are identified as being in right relationship with God. Rather, it is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But now look at what Paul says about the nature of faith, particularly in contrast to the law and circumcision:
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:4-6 NIV)
The contrast here is between trying to justified by the law of Moses, particularly in the matter of circumcision, and being justified by faith. The only thing that counts is faith, and the nature of that faith is that it expresses itself through love.

That is what faith does in our life — it results in love. Love for God and love for others. For by faith in Jesus Christ we are not only reckoned as right with God, but we also receive the Holy Spirit by that same faith. And the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us, is love (Galatians 5:22). That is something the law could never produce in us and yet what perfectly fulfills the law (Galatians 5:14).

The faith in Christ that justifies us is not merely a mental agreement with the facts of who Jesus is or what He has done. That kind of faith is really nothing more than a head fake. But the faith in Christ that justifies us is the faith that expresses itself through God-formed love.