Faith Working by Love

Galatians 5:6  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The world cast out the Son of God in the day of His tender, personal diligent love, waiting, as He was, on all the need and sorrow that were around Him. For His love they were His enemies. They took, also, the occasion which His humiliation afforded them, (a humiliation assumed for the salvation of sinners,) to cast reproach and indignity upon Him. " When He came," as another has said, "to reconcile, to display, the tenderness of His sympathetic love, then nothing would, do but they must get rid of God. When He comes into the very midst of the sufferings and woes of a world lying in wickedness, they refuse to have Him. They used the opportunity of His humiliation, to heap indignity and scorn upon Him."
If this were so with the children of men, if this were what the Lord of life and glory had to find in the world, the faith which apprehended Him (workmanship of His own Spirit) was the more grateful to Him. And we have good reason to know that it was so-blessed be His name. He not only relieved the need that was brought to him, but He took: delight in the faith that brought it.
That faith, however, distinguished itself differently. It worked by different passions of the soul. It worked at times, I may say, as by a spirit of reverence, at times as by a spirit of liberty. For it was not only that the Lord met instances of strong faith, or of weak faith; He met faith having very different characteristics in its approaches and appeals to Him.
For instance, it was forward in the company that brought their palsied friend to Him; it was reserved in the woman who touched Him in the crowd. In Bartimaeus, it was marked by a strong, unquestioning apprehension of grace; in the centurion it worked by a worshipping apprehension of His personal glory. Bartimaeus knew Him in the grace of the Son of David, who was to make the lame to walk, and the blind to see; and he would cry, and cry again, and make his sorrow to utter itself aloud in the ear of Jesus, in spite of the multitude. The centurion, on the other hand, judged himself unworthy to approach Him, and his house unworthy to receive Him; and would scarcely allow his sorrow to be heard above the measure which necessity put upon it.
Here surely was a difference. The one was all forwardness, knowing the grace of Christ; the other all reverence and reserve, knowing His personal glory. And yet we cannot say which was the more acceptable to Him. Each of them, with like sureness and readiness, gets the blessing he needed; and evident it is, from the whole style of the narratives, that He was refreshed by the faith of each, though it made its approach and appeal in so different a spirit.
And we see this diversity among the saints now. The spirit of reverence, like the centurion's reserve, prevails in some, the spirit of liberty, like the boldness of Bartimaeus, in others. We, through infirmity, may misunderstand one another, because of such differences; but happy is it to see that the Lord, after this manner, can and does appreciate each and all.
But if faith thus worked in the presence of Christ in His day, it had worked by other passions of the soul before that day. " By faith, Noah, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." The word to which Noah listened and which he received was such as naturally awakened fear. Faith in it worked by fear: it brought solemn tidings to his ear, and fear of God and of His word was the fruit of faith.
Rahab tells the spies of Joshua that what her nation had heard of the doings of the God of Israel for His people had caused a panic, and she, believing the tidings, received the spies. This was another instance of faith working by fear.
All this is so. A spirit of reverence, a spirit of liberty, fear, and other passions may be the form of that power in the soul which faith works by. But the apostle speaks to us of love, as being the due power by which it now works. As he says, " Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love."
If faith, at this day, take up fear, it has taken up its wrong instrument. The Lord can comfort the feeble mind, and meet the tremblings and uncertainties of the heart; but let us confess them as unworthy of His grace in Christ Jesus. He would be sullying the brightness of His own way, if He could admit that faith in Him could work by fear. God apprehended, as I His glory shines in the face of Jesus Christ, must inspire confidence and liberty; and that is faith working by love. The Epistle to the Galatians reads for us the title of faith to work in this way. The Son of God. has borne the curse of the law that we might get the blessing of God. The Son of God was made under the law, that we might be brought from under it into the adoption and liberty of children. Confidence, liberty, the conscience and heart at ease, love answering love, must be the fruit of faith in such facts as these. It is, therefore, but the conclusion of all this to say, that " in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love."
But I must add a little on the fruit both in the soul and in the life of this fine principle, this "faith which worketh by love. And here I say, what a difference between blessedness and religiousness! The Galatians passed from the first to the second. Sad, dishonorable journey! In their first estate, they would have plucked out their eyes for Paul, the witness and minister of Christ among them, just because they were so happy in Christ. In their second estate, Paul stands in doubt of them, and fears they might, through biting and devouring, go on to consume one another. They had become much more religious than when he had known them before; but they had lost their blessedness. They were observing days and months and times and years; but where were the eyes that were once ready to be plucked out for others?
What a difference! And so at this day. Souls we know who are in the sweet personal enjoyment of Christ, and by which they gain a state of strength and victory; while the whole scene around us bears witness of the easy natural combination of religiousness and worldliness; of the observance of ordinances, and yet of full subjection to the course of this present evil world.
Now, "faith that worketh by love" is the spring or parent of this state of "blessedness," of which we are speaking, and which the apostle describes in Gal. 4:1515Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. (Galatians 4:15), " Where is then the blessedness ye spoke of; for I bare you record, that if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me."
The apostle himself, as the same epistle shows us, had experienced this same blessedness. When he first received the gospel, he went down to Arabia; for he needed not Jerusalem or apostles, or anything that all could do for him or give him; he had his treasure with him, the Son was revealed in him. So afterward at Antioch, he did not fear. Peter: the creature, however honored or above him in some sense, did not command him; his happy spirit was feeding on the love of the Son of God." (See chaps. i. and ii.)
These are touches of the spirit of the apostle, indicating indeed that state of " blessedness" which waits on the " faith that worketh by love."
The Hebrew saints give us another sample of the same. In the day of their illumination or quickening, they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and became the willing companions of them who suffered and were reproached for Christ's sake. The Church at Jerusalem in Acts 2 shows us the same. The saints there were together, and had all things common. No man called anything he had his own. They ate their bread with gladness, praising God. And so the eunuch in Acts 8 He went on his way rejoicing, able to lose Philip, because he had found Christ. Surely these knew the "blessedness" of the "faith that worketh by love." But time would i fail us to tell of all such cases then those days, and now in our days- blessed be God for it!