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April 26, 2007

The Nature of Work: A Primer on Works (2 of 8)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6

My edition of Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia defines work as "a force exerted on a body while the body moves at the same time in such a way that the force has a component in the direction of the motion." In theological terms we would say, work is God's love acting through God's agent to accomplish God's ends. Or, as Paul has it, "faith works through love."

Faith works. It doesn't just point to some external indicator -- like a profession of belief in Jesus, church attendance, participation in an activity or group, or possession of some degree or type of knowledge -- for its validation. The Apostle James dared his readers to try to show him their faith apart from works, insisting instead that the only way to validate real faith is through real works (Jms. 2:18). Faith works, and the essential nature of faith's work is love.

The work which faith engenders derives from the force of God's love exerted upon a human being: "we love, because He first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:19). When a person comes under the influence of God's love -- shown to the world in His giving His Son, Jesus, for the forgiveness of sin -- the force of that love exerts transforming power on that person's life. No one can know the experience of God's love and remain the same. The love he has come to know impels him, as he moves about in the world, to carry that love to others. To recapture the language of Van Nostrand, the body (person) that has come under the influence of God's force (love) as it moves through the world, becomes a conveyor of a component of that force (love) to whoever is in his path. The work of faith is accomplished when the love with which God loves us -- self-denying, sacrificial, redemptive, restorative -- moves us to touch others with that same love of God, so that they experience what we have come to know in the love of God. 

In the Christian life the only thing that matters is faith working by love.

So while, as we saw in our first installment, Christians are not saved by works, no one can be said to have come to true faith without works, specifically, without their faith working by love toward the people around them. The end of God's love is faith, working by love, communicating God's love to other people. Where the force of God's love has been received, the transmission of God's love necessarily ensues. The work of faith is love.

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