Hearing of your love and faith, which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
By faith understand justifying faith, which only is able to bring forth true love, either to God or man. And by love, as the apostle showeth, not only love to God, but also to man. Here observe —
I. THE DISTINCTION OF THESE GRACES of faith and love. They are named distinctly as two virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).
II. THE CONJUNCTION OF THESE TWO GRACES, for howsoever they are to be distinguished, yet not to be divided. Wheresoever true faith is, there necessarily love, both to God and our brethren, will follow. For though faith be alone in justification, yet not in the justified. As the eye, though alone in seeing, yet not in him that seeth, but joined with the ears, nose, and many other members of the body. Faith therefore is a fruitful mother of many daughters, and love is the firstborn of them. Faith, though it be in regard of God a beggar, always holding out the hand to receive, and crying, "Give, give," yet in regard of those in whom it dwelleth, it is like a sovereign lord and king, and hath as a king his officers under him, and among the rest, love, his almoner, to distribute and disperse those treasures which itself hath received from the Lord.
1. Our love towards God proceedeth from faith, which, apprehending God's love to us, enflameth our affections again with the love of God. The beams of God's love lightning upon our hearts reflect back upon God Himself by the virtue of our faith. "The love of Christ," saith the apostle — namely, being apprehended by our faith — "constraineth us." An example whereof we have in Mary Magdalen, whose faith, believing that much was forgiven her, caused and constrained her to love much.
(1) This plainly convinceth the faith of many to be nothing but vain presumption, because their love to God is so lukewarm.
(2) But as this doctrine is terrible to the hypocrite, whom it unmasketh of his vain vizard of faith, so it is no less comfortable to the true Christian. For what dost thou feel thy soul panting in the earnestness of desire after God? Dost thou find thyself grieved when thou missest of thy desire? Doth thou find thy heart to arise when thou seest God's Name dishonoured, etc.? Surely, these things as they are arguments of sincere love, so likewise of faith not feigned. If thou canst with David (Psalm 18:1) say "I love the Lord," thou mayest as truly use the words following, and say, "The Lord is my Rock."(3) This doctrine of love flowing from faith, confuteth those that teach, our election dependeth upon our foreseen obedience. By that which hath been delivered it appeareth that our love of God is caused and stirred up in us by His love, to us apprehended by our faith.
2. Our love of our brethren springeth likewise from faith, for the apostle speaketh here of both loves. This will appear, if either we consider those duties of love, which we owe generally to all, or in special to some.
(1) For the first this is a duty which we owe to all indifferently, to be ready to forgive one another, being offended. Now what is that which will make a revengeful nature yield to this, but faith, which, when once it hath apprehended God's love, forthwith reasoneth, as the Master in the parable with His servant (Matthew 19). The Lord hath freely forgiven me my whole debt, ought not I then to show the like compassion to my fellow servant? Therefore the Lord enjoining the duty of forgiveness; the apostles pray, Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:4, 5).
(2) Other duties there are which we owe specially to some.
(a) As first, to those that are yet unconverted, the desiring of, and by all means possible labouring after their conversion. Now, it is faith only which will make a man do this. For, when by faith we have felt the sweetness of God's love ourselves, we cannot but call upon others, and with the prophet David invite them to the eating of the same dainties with ourselves (Psalm 34.). "Come, and see, and taste how good," etc.
(b) But yet a more special love, which therefore hath a special name of brotherly love, is due unto those which are already effectually called, and so made members of Christ. This love also cometh from faith, which, causing us to love God, must needs also force us to love all those in whom we shall see the very face and lively image of God Himself so clearly shining.
1. Uses: by this then once again we may try our faith. A working faith hath laborious love even to our brethren annexed (1 Thessalonians 1:3). If then thou art of a hard nature, of a memory lastly retaining injuries of affections vindicative, which the Scripture calls feet swift to shed blood, this shows thou hast no part in the blood of Christ by faith. The like is to be thought of those which are moved with no compassion towards the soul of their brethren sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, but can suffer them to pine and perish away in their sins, and never reach forth the hand to pull them out of the ditch.
2. This doctrine serveth not only for the trial of our faith, but also of our love to our brethren. For as that faith, which is without this love, is an idle, and imaginary faith, so that love of our neighbour, which cometh not from faith, is blind and foolish, and in the end will prove a deceitful and unfaithful love. Natural men, that seem to love very dearly today, tomorrow are at deadly feud. The reason hereof is because their love comes not from faith.
3. It maybe asked, How could others declare to Paul the love and faith of Philemon, which are secret and hidden virtues, that be in the innermost corners of the heart, far from the sight of the eye? They saw not Philemon's faith, but his outward works, and by them they judged, and so did Paul too of his faith, discerning the tree by the fruit.
(D. Dyke, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;