For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.
St. Paul has just been writing of the relation of faith to hope (ver. 5). He now shows how it is connected with love. We can only separate the Christian graces in thought. In experience they blend and interact one with another.
I. FAITH IS AN ACTIVE POWER. It works. Christ tells us that it can move mountains. Through lack of faith the disciples had not strength to cure a lunatic boy (Matthew 17:19, 20). This faith of St. Paul is very different from the "dead" faith which St. James scouted with so much scorn. It is not a cold intellectual conviction of the truth of certain propositions called collectively a creed. Nor is it a mere passive reliance upon the efficacy of the "finished work of Christ," or upon the grace of God which is to do everything for us while we slumber in indifference, or upon Christ himself solely as a Saviour. it is active trust rousing all the energies of our soul to loyal service.
II. FAITH SHOWS ITS ENERGY IS LOVE. We do not read of love working through faith as some would prefer to regard the mutual operation of the two graces. We are familiar with the idea of love as a motive, and we can well understand how faith might give it a ground and channel of definite action. But the converse is here. Faith begins to operate in its own energy and discovers a field of enterprise in love.
1. Faith inspires love, as love also in turn inspires faith. We believe in and trust the goodness of Christ, and so we are moved to love him. If we did not believe in his love we should never return it.
2. Faith having once roused love exercises itself in promoting the objects of love. We trust in the unseen God, we also love him; then we try to please him, to enjoy his favour, and to live in his presence - objects of love; but objects we should never seek if we were not supported and urged on by our belief in and trust to what is beyond our sight and experience.
III. FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE IS THE ONE ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF SUCCESS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Circumcision is of no use. Uncircumcision and the liberty that boasts of it by themselves are useless. Mere barren liberty is nothing. Freedom is conferred that in it we may have a field and range for noble enterprises. Mere rites, baptism, etc., mere observance of religious services, will not advance us in the spiritual life, neither will resistance to the bondage of such things. The negative side of Protestantism is no gospel if we rest only in that. Spiritual, active life is the great thing. Faith alone would not suffice, because our supreme duties are love of God and love of man, and faith is only valuable as it leads up to these. But love alone would not suffice, for without faith, even if it came into being, it would languish and perish in despair. "Faith working through love "- this is the motto for the healthy Christian life. He who relinquishes this will turn not only to a lower method, but to a worthless and fatal one. Nothing else will avail, and nothing more is needed for growth up to the attainment of the most perfect saintliness and the most fruitful service. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.