“For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:5-6)
This portion of Scripture identifies three terms that are well worth our attention: righteousness, faith, and love.
In a spiritual sense, we use the word “righteous” to describe those who are in right standing with God. For instance, the Biblical book of Romans tells us that God declares those who accept Jesus’ substitutionary death to be “righteous” (or “without guilt”) in His sight (see Romans 4:5-8). The Scriptures also tell us that Jesus’ righteousness is transferred, credited, or imputed to those who accept Him (see 1 Corinthians 1:30 and Philippians 3:8-9)
Next we have “faith.” We can define faith as “A belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.” (1) The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that “…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1) and Romans 10:17 tells us where faith originates: “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ” (EHV).
Finally, we have the word “love.” This word is translated from the word agape in the original language of this passage. This type of love is not necessarily reflected by a feeling, emotion, or external display of affection. Instead, agape love is characterized by a willing desire to love and a God-honoring commitment to act in the best interest of others, even in the absence of an emotional feeling.
These brief outlines can help define what “faith working through love” entails. We can associate this term with heartfelt assurance of God’s blessing as we seek to act in the best interests of others from a Biblical perspective. Faith is necessary in this respect because others may not understand, recognize, or appreciate it when we express love in this manner.
Therefore, faith working through love requires a commitment to prayer and dependence upon God for the ability to discern what is best in a given situation. Ephesians 4:23 offers some practical insight in this regard: “Be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other. Through the peace that ties you together, do your best to maintain the unity that the Spirit gives” (GW).
Finally, this may also explain why religious observances are often so attractive. It is relatively easy to engage in a ceremonial ritual but faith working through love is sometimes very difficult.
(1) “Faith” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers