“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
Just from the title, I suspect that some of you are already trying to construct the criteria in your mind for determining both the quantity and quality of faith in your life. You probably rounded up the usual suspects such as: church or small group attendance, tithe/offerings given, or the various missions and ministries you are engaged in. But is it that simple?
Simply put, to grow in faith means to grow spiritually. The goal is to grow in both knowledge of God and in godly living; ultimately, it is to become more Christlike. One way of measuring if we are growing in faith is how well are you loving others? How can you know? Ask yourself, “Is my love increasing?” These two go together, don’t they? It’s hard to say your faith is growing if your love is not increasing. In other words, spiritual maturity or “going deeper” is evidenced by loving God and by our love for others.
Galatians 5:6 says, “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” What Paul is wrestling with here is the false teaching that getting circumcised will help man merit or earn salvation. He says in Galatians 5: 2, “Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.” In other words, if you look to your own merit, or to the merit of the things you can do, then Christ in dying for your sins and obtaining your salvation will be of no use. When you depend on your works, you reject the work of Christ. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love does.
What makes verse 6 so remarkable is that the faith that connects us with Jesus is “faith that works through love.” In other words, it is a kind of faith that proves its reality by producing love. Love doesn’t merit our salvation. Love proves the reality of the faith that results from our salvation. When my faith is in Christ, I can love; I can forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, serve the unworthy. More than that, when Christ rules my heart in faith, I no longer need to be told to love, but love naturally flows from within me; I can take the initiative to do the impossible, to serve others joyfully, willingly, and unconditionally.
Paul is telling us that faith expresses itself through love; love for God, and love for others. A faith that does not express itself in love is dead and worthless (James 2:14-26).
- How do faith and love work together in your life?
- What can we do this week to be more loving to those around us?