Faith through love is a perfect gift of grace, given as a supernatural intervention to enable us to live as we should. Through it, God can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)
Faith can be a sensitive area among Christians, and we often find ourselves feeling condemned rather than liberated. It’s all too easy to explain away why prayers ‘aren’t answered’ with the glib assumption that it has to do with a lack of faith on our part. The Bible does indicate that faith is important and that our entire walk with Him is based on it. But all too often, the inference is that our faith is ‘our’ responsibility and that we determine our ‘success’ by the lack or presence of it. This is a narrow view of something that it is supernatural by nature – faith through love. It relegates it to the sphere of the natural and therefore excludes God from the equation. We’re left with a kind of subconscious picture that that God applies some kind of ‘faith-o-no-metre’ and bases His responses on that.
The power of faith through love.
Stephen is a wonderful example of the kind of faith that leaves us breathless. Yet he was a simple man who waited tables. He was no great orator, wasn’t one of the disciples, and held no extraordinary position. But there was one thing that set him apart, and that was his faith – a faith that enabled him to rejoice even as they stoned him. As a result, he is remembered as the first Christian martyr. He is also the man that the then Saul of Tarsus would forever remember. It was the death of Stephen and the fait that enabled him to see into heaven to Christ himself that set Saul off in his zeal to persecute and destroy the Christians. Stephen displayed true faith through love, a faith that transcended the natural and broke every human law and expectation.
Yet, while we can admire this kind of faith, it also leaves us feeling a little uncomfortable. I cannot honestly say I would have sufficient faith to praise God and declare the resurrected Christ while being stoned to death. But this is the simple truth – Stephen didn’t either. What he displayed at the end was faith through love. It was released in him through a love-relationship that enabled the supernatural faith of God Himself to transcend the natural. This simple man was so surrendered to the love he found in Christ that his faith could no longer be constrained. It moved him from waiting tables to a place of honour in the kingdom of God. Faith through love transformed Stephen from ordinary to extraordinary, and played an enormous part in beginning the sequence of events that culminated in the conversion and ministry of Paul to the gentiles.
Faith through love puts God at the centre.
The reality is that God cannot be separated from faith. If we fall into that trap, we’re immediately in the place of self-reliance and of somehow earning His blessings. This is exactly what Paul refers to in raising the example of circumcision or non-circumcision. He’s making the point that religious ritual and our attempts at adherence to the law are no longer relevant. Faith through love is the supernatural outworking of the cross rather than the natural rituals of man. We must remember that under the law, mankind was required to meet over 600 ‘rules’ and was only able to do so through specified sacrifices. These sacrifices enabled the supernatural intervention of God to fill in the gaps that man could not.
Even under the law, the act of circumcision wasn’t sufficient. It was the sacrificial purpose behind it, the shedding of the blood to symbolise surrender. This was the Old Testament version of faith through love. The Israelites could have faith because the blood was shed. Without God at the centre, faith simply wasn’t possible. It was because of God’s love for His people that He accepted the sacrifices, thus empowering their faith. But it was a ritualistic and external exchange. Circumcision was an external sign of faith, a kind of outward declaration that did not depend on real relationship or faith.Faith through love, however, under the new covenant, is the intimate and complete transference of the supernatural. If we persist in going back to ritual and religious activity, we will never know the full magnitude of real faith.
God gives us faith through love.
This is the crucial truth we need to take hold of. Faith is supernatural, a gift from God. We are all given faith through love, but how we exercise it is up to us. We can continue to try to do so in our own strength and ability, or we can surrender to its supernatural power in us. It’s as simple as recognising that God loves us and has proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s no small thing that Christ should set aside His glory and divinity to die on our behalf as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. Greater love has no man than this, and that is the story of the cross. God imparts faith to us when we see what Jesus did. We cannot truly see the cross without seeing the immeasurable, incomprehensible love of God.
At that moment, He imparts the supernatural power to believe for salvation. We receive faith by receiving the truth of God’s love. This is the moment where we acknowledge that no ability, capability, intellect, or learning can ever empower us to meet the ‘conditions’ of the law. It’s the place where we confront our own weakness and sinfulness and acknowledge that we simply do not have what it takes. But it’s also the moment when we see the immense, loving grace of a merciful God who knows and gives Himself to enables us to ‘do’ the impossible. True faith through love is that which willingly surrenders and fully trusts God to do what we cannot, simply because of His great love for us. It’s almost too much to fully comprehend, but we don’t have to understand to believe. When we see God’s love, we receive faith.
Faith through love is a way of life.
The love, grace, and mercy of God are limitless. Life in His kingdom is the supernatural life, and reverting back to old rituals and ways robs us of many things, including faith. It’s critical that we take hold of the truth that faith through love is ongoing. It has God as its centre and focus. To live by faith is to live by God and His power at work in us. As we walk with Him, worship Him, connect and relate to Him on an intimate level of relationship, so more of His love is released in us. At the same time, the principle of faith through love doesn’t stop at salvation. It is part of our spiritual growth. In essence, faith is our love response to His love for us released in us as we deepen our relationship with Him day by day.
Self, however, loves to return to the old ways. It likes the idea of being in control, and pride seeks to convince us that we can do it ourselves. One of the most dangerous places to be is that in which we believe ‘we’ have faith. Whatever faith we have is not truly ours. It is of God, a supernatural infusion that we cannot claim credit for. We can either receive it with thanksgiving or revert to doing it ourselves. But faith through love is the only way. Jesus said it – He is the way, the truth, and the life. All we have to do is respond to the great love already demonstrated. If we can focus on loving God, the faith He has already released in us will rise up. When Christ and the cross remain our focus, faith will always follow as naturally as breathing.
Choosing faith through love.
It’s an enormous relief to accept that faith is out of our hands. Of course, we need to discipline the flesh and resist the devil, both of which seek to undermine what God has imparted to us. The whispered lies and old habits and thought patterns always intrude, interfering with the pure faith through love that God gives us so freely. We decide whether to live by the faith He has given or to dilute it with the natural frailty of our human nature. And it’s an ongoing struggle for all of us. It’s really difficult to relinquish control and let go of the tendency to ‘take ownership’ that the world teaches. But Jesus had incredible faith because He knew the Father’s love and put Him first in all things. He is our proof that it is possible to live in a faith that is so much bigger than ourselves.
Gracious Father, forgive us for our obstinate tendency to want to do things ourselves when You have already done them for us. Give us a new revelation of the cross and of Your infinite love. Fill our hearts and help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and to take hold of the faith You have imparted to us through love. Help us to live as we should, depending only on the supernatural grace and power that You have already released in our lives through Jesus.