Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 19 2013 - Galatians 5:2-12 – Faith working through love

Paul says of these Christians in Galatia, “You … have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (5:4). They had turned their backs on the grace of God; they had forgotten that God had made them his own freely and fully through the Lord Jesus Christ. It was entirely his doing and not their own. Now they were seeking to make themselves the people of God through external markers – by law-keeping. Paul has harsh words for those who have led them away from Christ and urges them to return to a life marked by faith, hope and love, all centred in Jesus Christ.

It is our delight to please the one we love. When we get married, our vows to one another are not accompanied by the exchange of weighty lists of what our partner must and must not do for us, or we for them – unless, of course, we are among the rich and famous who have lawyer drafted pre-nuptial agreements! We promise ourselves freely to each other, to love and to cherish. In the years that follow, we will do many things for each other, some of them very simple and mundane – the making of a cup of tea, some of them complex and demanding – the knitting of a Fair Isle cardigan, some deeply draining – the care of a partner whose health is failing. All of these are acts of love, not the following of a set of rules, nor do we keep count of what we have done for the other.

It’s like this with the Christian life, says Paul. Our relationship with God is not shaped by our ethnic background or by the customs of our parents, it is rooted in a relationship with Jesus Christ. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith has joined us to Christ and brought us into the family of God. His love has claimed us and made us his own. This relationship does not need to be supplemented by the rule-book of the law, telling what to do moment by moment. Faith expresses itself through love – love for God and love for Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. And this love will drive us on in seeking to live to please the one we love. Law asks “who is my neighbour?” Love binds up the wounds, tends the sick and feeds the hungry and does not count the cost.

True faith is always accompanied by its sisters. Faith is worked out in love for the Lord in whom we have placed all our trust – a love which empowers a life of obedience to him. Faith is accompanied by the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5) – the longing and unfailing expectation that the day will come when God himself will declare that we are his own and will complete the work of making us perfectly like his Son.

To live by grace is to live by faith, by hope and by love. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Lord Jesus, you loved me and gave yourself for me long before I ever loved you. You drew me by your Spirit and in your grace and goodness you made me your own. Help me to glory in your grace and to live gladly in response to your love. Teach me what it means to trust in you day by day and to live a life of love in sure and certain hope of your appearing.

Peter Misselbrook