Sunday Considerations: Faith Then Love

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Does the condition of loving others mean that before we can claim a promise of future grace, we must already be what the promise is designed to help us become—namely, a radical, risk-taking person of love? Must we perform, before faith, what faith is meant to perform?

The answer is no.

The reason is that faith toward God and love toward man are not coordinate conditions; they do not arise side by side in the heart. Faith arises first and begets love. This is clear from Galatians 5:6: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Faith produces all that God requires, and does it through love. Similarly Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Love is the goal and faith is the source.

What this means is that love is not expected of us before faith. For faith is the root and source of love. Don’t get confused here because of our earlier statements that love is part of the essence of faith. That was a reference to love for God. Here we are talking about love for other people. We are not required to love others before we become people who trust in God. But trusting in God means trusting in his future grace. So it is possible—indeed necessary—to bank on the promises of future grace before we are transformed into the kind of people who love others. We do not have to perform, before faith, what faith is meant to perform.

What faith performs is sometimes unspeakably hard. In his book Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of POW’s working on the Burma Railway during World War II.

At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing.

What can sustain the will to die for others, when you are innocent? The answer is given in Hebrews 12:2. “For the joy set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus was carried and sustained in his love for us by “the joy set before him.” That means his love was sustained by faith in future grace. As a man, modeling for us how to take up our cross and follow him on the Calvary road of love, Jesus entrusted himself to his Father (1 Peter 2:23) and banked his hope on the resurrection and all the joys of reunion with his Father and the redemption of his people. Faith in his Father worked itself out through love.1

  1. Piper, John (2009-10-21). Future Grace (Kindle Locations 4046-4071). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
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The above article was posted on July 27, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
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