Love also is closely related to faith. The Apostle Paul concluded in the famous “Love Chapter” in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, that, “Now abide, faith, hope, love; these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Love is greater because it endures beyond this life. Faith will be absorbed by sight, but love will remain with us. When we see Jesus in His full glory we will still love, but we will not need to believe anymore in something we cannot see. We will see Him just as He is, 1 John 3:2.
Here and now faith and love are operative. Just as we must see a vital link between faith and obedience, we must not separate faith from love. The Christian faith is clearly a faith that naturally and spontaneously produces a growing love for God and for one’s fellow man. The scripture makes it clear that faith, wherever it is truly present, will produce some degree of love. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” The term “working” in Greek is energeō, and it means to be operative and put forth power. It is active and energetic working. So it means that faith works actively through love.
That’s an amazing and thoroughly biblical thought. The value of true religion is not conformity to externals such as the rite of circumcision, but to the internal power of the Holy Spirit taking our faith and working it through to love. In other words, faith shows itself in acts and deeds of love both toward God and men.
James in his letter makes a similar point in 2:14-26 where he teaches that a living faith produces acts of love. That is why various famous teachers of the faith in church history concur that faith must work through love. Martin Luther, for example, wrote: “If good works and love do not blossom forth, it is not genuine faith, the gospel has not yet gained a foothold, and Christ is not yet rightly known.” Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers in 18th century England preached, “Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in a real change of life. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repent of and his conversion is a fiction.”” Those are strong but insightful words! We would do well to heed them.
Previously we wrote about an inadequate view of faith called “Easy-believism” which is prevalent among many otherwise Biblical churches. Another thing Easy-believism could be called is “Dead Faith,” for that is what James calls it in this same chapter 2 passage. A faith which does not perform works of love is a dead and useless kind of faith, not a saving or justifying faith. If the question is asked, “Can faith be separated from love?” this passage in James resoundingly answers, No! Faith, wherever it is present, produces God’s kind of love.
We are not talking about the world’s false love spread around today called tolerance, but a holy love which, accords with truth and righteousness and works to the benefit of others. However dead faith is separate from works. In James 2:14 “works” is the Greek word ergon, which refers to goodness in action. In v. 15 James also writes, If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?'” Someone who habitually lives without helping others, when he has the means to do it, has no love. Earlier in chapter 2:13 James wrote about this very lack of love. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Woe to that professing believer in Jesus who shows no mercy to others. Mercy is love demonstrated to those in need.
Dead faith is not only false, it is profitless too. James asks in chapter 2, “What use is that (kind of faith)?” “Use” is a word which means “gain or profit.” An unloving kind of “faith” benefits and profits no one. A dead faith feeds no one and clothes no one and provides shelter for no one. It’s useless. Faith is designed to bring profit to us and others through love. Faith is supposed to do something beneficial through love. But this kind of dead faith just lays there like a sick, lazy dog! Nudge it! Push it! Kick it! You still get nothing out of it. “Dead” is the least flattering of adjectives one could use for this faith. Dead indicates a complete lack of activity or vitality.
So the way to stimulate love is by stimulating faith so that every believer can be fruitful. Spurgeon preached, “A tree has been planted out into the ground. Now the source of life to that tree is at the root, whether it hath apples on it or not; the apples would not give it life, but the whole of the life of the tree will come from its root. But if that tree stands in the orchard, and when the springtime comes there is no bud, and when the summer comes there is no leafing, and no fruit-bearing, but the next year, and the next, it stands there without bud or blossom, or leaf or fruit, you would say it is dead, and you are correct; it is dead. It is not that the leaves could have made it live, but that the absence of the leaves is a proof that it is dead. So, too, is it with the professor. If he hath life, that life must give fruits; … if his faith has a root, but if there be no works, then depend upon it the inference that he is spiritually dead is certainly a correct one.”
Not only that but true faith will not just believe for a moment. It will believe and keep believing until there is fruit. That is why Jesus taught in John 15:6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” John the Baptist warned about a lack of fruit in Matthew 3:10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In a seminary journal article (Bib Sac, April 1954) Roy Aldrich gave this insight, “It is evident that there is faith and FAITH. There is nominal faith and real faith. There is intellectual faith and heart faith. There is sensual faith and there is spiritual faith. There is dead faith and there is vital faith. There is traditional faith which may fall short of transforming personal faith. There is a faith that may be commended as orthodox and yet have no more saving value than the faith of demons. What is saving faith? It must go beyond intellectual assent and include an act of the will. It means trust and committal. It means resting and depending entirely on Christ for salvation. Dead faith has no life. Real faith has multiplying life.”
Back to chapter 2 of James … another truth is that dead faith cannot be demonstrated. Verse 18 reads, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'” True faith can only be shown by works. Conversely faith which has no works cannot even be seen. Behind this is the assumption that everyone knows that faith – though it is real – is a metaphysical reality. It cannot be touched or scientifically investigated. So how do we know it is real? Not from the bare claim itself. Anyone can claim to have faith because it is invisible. But how can anyone show his faith without works? He cannot! The only way others can know you are a believer – a disciple of Jesus — is works of faith. The work of faith is love. Faith works to bring forth love. Christ said something similar in John 13, “… all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” Love is the way to show faith.
Oh brethren! We must not rest content with a barren orthodoxy! An orthodox creed without love is akin to the mindset of the demons. What good is it to sit under expository preaching and doctrinal instruction with biblical counseling in a dynamic body of believers through which maturity is supposed to arise, if your weekly practice is only to listen, walk away, forget what was taught, and remain cold toward others? What good is it for some to come to church and hear doctrine, but do not express love? Beloved, let us love one another!