“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.” (Gal 5:4-6)
The Law of Love
Now, there’s one more important question left about the relationship between faith and the law. We agree that only faith that upholds the law is true faith and that our genuine faith must be shown through our lives of holiness.
James also talked about the relationship between faith and action. He strongly emphasized that faith without action is dead faith.
He said, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, If someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (Jms 2:14).
James’ answer to this question must have been ‘no.’ By using a rhetorical question, he emphasized the fact that no one can be saved through faith without deeds.
James even said, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (Jms 2:26).
A body can’t exist without a soul and vice versa. They are inextricably linked. In the same way, faith can’t be separated from works and vice versa. Our deeds must come from faith in Christ and the veracity of our faith must be proved through the fruits of our faith. In other words, deeds are not required for salvation, but true faith produces deeds.
Then, what laws should we keep and uphold?
First of all, what we need to know about the law is that we don’t keep all 613 laws in the Old Testament. There are many laws that are abolished now. We don’t observe the special days of Judaism. We no longer offer the animal sacrifices that are described in the book of Leviticus. It’s actually a crime now.
We don’t observe certain food laws. We don’t have to be physically circumcised to become God’s people. Those ritualistic laws were abolished with the coming of Jesus.
Then, what is the law that Paul is saying we must uphold with faith?
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:8-10)
The law we must uphold with our faith in Christ is not ritualistic. It’s the law of love.
Jesus also said this,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40)
The real, true law that we must uphold as Christians is the law of love—to love God and to love our neighbors. That’s all of it. We’re called to love God, love each other in our community, and love our neighbors.
And, our neighbors mean those whom Jesus saw as neighbors. Those who are like enemies to us are also included as ‘neighbors.’ Those whom we don’t know and who live in other countries far away from the States are also included in ‘neighbors.’ Prisoners, drug addicts, alcoholics, the homeless, and the marginalized are also included in the word ‘neighbors.’
We’re called to love them as Jesus loved us. I know it’s a very challenging thing to do, but that’s the law we must follow as Christians. And, we can actually do this through Jesus’ love being poured out on our hearts.
John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. You might have it memorized. It says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
This verse is very touching and allows us to know how much God loves us and what He sacrificed for us and to give us eternal life.
However, there’s one more verse that’s really important in Christian life that we should carve into our hearts and follow. The citation is really easy to remember. You can simply add ‘first’ before John 3:16. Let’s read 1 John 3:16.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1Jn 3:16)
This is the most challenging verse in the Bible. The love that Scripture requires us to have as Christians is sacrificial love. On the cross, Jesus showed us the greatest example of how to love—He laid down His life for us.
The crucifixion of Jesus lets us know not only how Jesus loves us, but also how we should love others. “We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
During the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(Jn 13:34-35)
They are not really new verses to us. You must have heard them at least once. We all know them. However, knowing them and obeying them are really different matters. Sometimes, we’re satisfied with the fact that we know God’s Word. And, it’s a great thing to know God’s Word. However, we also should know that it really means nothing if we don’t follow it in our lives.
So, let’s take a moment to look back on our faith. What kind of faith do we have? How do we obey God’s law of love? That’s a really important question in our lives.
Faith Working Through Love
Let’s read one more Bible passage, Galatians chapter 5 verse 6 and 13-14.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love… You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. (Gal 5:6, 13-14)
Faith working through love was one of theologian John Wesley’s favorite biblical themes. Wesley said that when God’s love is infused into our souls, one’s love for God and others is made pure and complete, and their lifestyle cannot help but increase in virtue, finding expression in loving, selfless actions.
That’s the faith we must have in Christ. Our faith must be shown through love. Our faith must be expressed through loving God and loving our neighbors. Real fruits of love must be born in our lives. That’s the true faith Paul referred to. I really hope that everyone here has true faith that manifests as love for God and for others. Amen!