Faith Working Through Love
Topic: Faith Passage: Galatians 5:4–5:6
Grace Community Church
June 9, 2019
Faith Working Through Love
Albert Einstein once said, “Many of the things you can count, don't count. Many of the things you can't count, really count.”
Last week we were talking about this God-given desire to be great we all have, and I said that we all want our lives to matter, we all want our lives to count. But whatdoes that really mean? What makes a life count or not count? What if in the end we find out the things we thought counted in life, don’t count and the things we didn’t think counted, really count? How sad that would be. How tragic.
Paul knows that the only thing that counts is what God says counts. God is the final word on what counts, the Measurement and the Measurer of what counts. So we should pay attentionwhen in verse 6, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paulsays the only thing that counts (to God) is faith working through love. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
What doesn’t count
To understand what the phraseneither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything meanswe need to take a step back and see what’s going on in the Galatian church. When Paul traveled to Galatia to preach the gospel, many Gentiles there believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and received the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. God was doing amazing things in their midst and they were going strong until a group of teachers known as the Judaizers came and taught them that believing in Jesus was a great first step towards salvation, but to complete their salvation they also needed to keep the law. The Judaizer’s message was “Jesus + Moses law=salvation”, and they said the way that the Galatian Gentilescould show they were serious about obeying Moses was to get circumcised.
The Judaizer’s message was simple: keeping the law is what counts with God. Getting circumcised will get you points with God. This is legalism, plain and simple. Legalism is when we try to earn favor with God through our works. God’s favor becomes, not a gift, but a wage. Romans 4:4 says, Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. If you work a job and at the end of the week the boss hands you a paycheck, do you go to your boss and say, “wow, I can’t believe you did this. It’s not necessary but thank you!” No, wages are owed to you. You work, you get paid your wage. No one’s doing anyone any favors -it’s an employer/employee relationship. Legalism is we work, God pays our wages. It is the mindset that we are employees of God, earning our wage. What counts with God? Our good works. Our religious efforts. Our obedience. Our keeping the law.
When a legalist is asked what counts to God they pull out a list of do’s and don’ts. In Jesus’ day, it was stuff like get circumcised, don’t work on the Sabbath, wash your hands before eating, don’t contaminate your spiritual purity by hanging out with sinners.Stuff like that.
Today legalists have different lists. It might be go to church, pay your tithes, read your Bibles, don’t get a tattoo, don’t wear a skirt above your knees, don’t listen to that music, only read this particular version of the Bible, don’t contaminate your spiritual purity by hanging out with those people. It doesn’t really matter what the list is, and some of the stuff on the list might be good things to do (and some aren’t) but legalism is the mindset that it’s the list of do’s and don’ts thatearns points with God. What counts with God? Keeping the list.
Paul says it’s foolish to take what God gave you by faith and try to perfect it by keeping the law. In fact it’s not only foolish, it’s fatal: You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (4)
There’s no way to combine legalism and grace – if we try to earn our way into God’s favor by what we do (that’s what he means when he says you who would be justified by the law) then we are severed from Christ,literally cut off from Christ and no longer recipients of grace. It’s that serious. Nothing that Christ did will count towards our salvation if we try to add our own works to Christ’s work. Verse 5 tells us what the Christian’s only hope is built on:
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (5)
This describes a completely different mindset. We aren’t God’s employees working for wages. We are His children receiving freely by grace what we could never earn. Jesus did all the work on the cross to justify us – that is, to make us righteous. Justification is totally, 100% the work of God. If we try to add to Jesus’ work on the cross, it’s as if we’re trying to sprinkle a little of our blood on the cross thinking that that will make the cross more valuable. Paul says when we add our works to the cross we empty the cross of its power. Because its power is totally, 100% what Jesus did. His last words weren’t “my part’s done. Now it’s up to you.” His last words were, “It is finished.”
This is really bad news for those trying to earn their way into God’s good graces by their own religious good works. But it’s really great news for those of us who come to God totally trusting in what Jesus did on the cross.
Jesus paid it all, All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow
Oh, praise the one who paid my debt, And raised this life up from the dead
Then it really gets good. Listen again to verse 6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
This can seem a little confusing. We were tracking with Paul when he said that keeping the law and getting circumcised doesn’t count with God, but now he says being uncircumcised doesn’t count with God either. Wait a minute, what other option is there? I mean, it’s either be circumcised or don’t be circumcised. How could neither count with God?
Let’s use an example from today’s context. Some churches like to get really dressed up on Sunday mornings. Suit and tie, women wear big fancy hats. That’s what they do. But they can start to feel like that’s a part of what pleases God – it means they take church and God seriously and wear their best. Not like that church down the road where people wear jeans and t-shirts. They may not say it, but inwardly they think three piece suits and fancy hats count with God.
Then you go to the church down the road with the cool name like Destiny Church or Relevant Church and the pastor wears ripped jeans, and has a cool thing going on with a goatee but no mustache and his hair doing something unexpected but it all says cool and relevant and hip. And they can start to feel like all this counts with God as a cutting edge, making a difference, hipster church impacting their culture with the gospel and really doing something special for God.
What Paul is saying, neither suit and tie nor ripped jeans and cool facial hair counts with God. He doesn’t care. Wear a suit, wear a t-shirt, whatever. That’s not what counts with God. What counts with God - listen to this - is faith working through love! Activate faith through love and what you have counts with God!
Potassium is the 8th most abundant element on earth and our bodies need it to survive. It’s found in foods like bananas and spinach. However when pure potassium is mixed with water it produces an immediate and violent explosion. Potassium by itself doesn’t explode, and water by itself doesn’t explode, but put them together and boom!
Faith and love are kinda like that. Faith without love, Paul writes to the Corinthians, is worthless. if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2) Faith without love doesn’t count for anything to God.
And love without faith doesn’t count for anything to God either, for Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God.
So faith by itself – nothing. And love by itself – nothing. But put faith and love together and boom! – an explosion of God’s supernatural power. Here’s why: faith is about accessing God’s supernatural work and love is the primary outworking of God’s supernatural work. Paul is talking about God’s love supernaturally working in our lives. And the result can be explosive in terms of damage to Satan’s kingdom and in terms of broken lives and lost sinners finding their way to healing and the Savior.
It’s not a legalistic work cause it’s powered by faith which is all about God doing it, not us. And it’s not some inward mediational state that has no effect on the world around us cause loveexplodes into outward action for the good of others. Let’s consider two points about faith working through love.
Let’s say you decide you want to conduct your own experiment and mix pure potassium and water so after church you start walking around looking for a chunk of pure potassium. Woods and by the creek. 8th most abundant element in the world, how hard can it be to find? You’ll be looking for a long time because free potassium doesn’t exist in nature. You will never find it.
The love that Paul is talking about doesn’t exist in nature either. We all have a level of natural love in our hearts. We love our family and our friends with a natural love, and that’s good and beautiful, but that’s not the kind of love Paul’s talking about. The love he’s talking about we need to receive from God – it’s God’s love poured out into our hearts and through our hearts to others. That’s where faith comes in. We need God to love through us.
Our natural love will draw boundary lines that God’s love won’t. By nature we will love pretty much the same circle of people that hardened pagans who are far from God love. They love their kids, their spouses, their dearest friends. If that’s where our love ends, how is our love any different? They don’t love the people who hurt them, or that are different than them, or that irk and annoy them.
Let’s be honest. Isn’t that often where our love ends? That boss who seems to loves to boss you around and take credit for your ideas – do you really have to love him/her? That family member who hurt you so badly, or that friend in church who talked about you behind your back. Or that oddball nutjob who’s just so…weird. I mean, there are boundaries to love, right? Can God really expect us to love people who aren’t lovable?
Yes, He does. Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you. That’s where the explosion of God’s power takes place. But we don’t have that kind of love.We need God’s love to flow b faith in our hearts to love outside the boundaries of natural love.
Let’s get back to that question: what really counts in life? Here’s where God lays out a better, bigger vision for our lives: a life impacting the world with faith working through love. Laying down our lives to serve and love others in the name of Jesus. Bringing honor to Jesus’ name by leading sinners to Jesus. What could be a better vision for our lives than that? What could count more than that? Nothing!
This really is God’s love flowing to us and then through us. How was our relationship with God when Jesus came? The Bible says we were His enemies. We were rebels. We hated God and opposed Him. Jesus didn’t come to save his friends, he came to save his enemies and make them his friends.
The work God began when we received His saving love in our lives, God intends to continue to ripple outward to others. Faith working through love. God working through us. Our faith gets stagnant when we make it all about ourselves (God working in us). We do need God to work in us, but we need to believe God for bigger and better than just asking Him to bless us. Faith working through love means asking God to bless others through our lives. Helping others know the love of Jesus by loving them, serving them, caring for them in the name of Jesus.
Church, that’s God’s purpose for the church. It’s not so that we can be blessed and then blessed some more. Faith working through love means we are a blessing to others. We leave here to be gospel explosions at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, wherever we are.
That’s a better vision for our lives and our church. And that’s what counts to God.