I wonder if it has ever struck you in reading the New Testament how often faith and love are mentioned in the same breath. Again and again you find that where the one is the other is as well. Let me give you some examples.In one place, Paul declares that ‘we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers . . . because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing’ (2 Thess. 1:3). Writing to Philemon, the same apostle gives thanks to God ‘because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have towards the Lord Jesus’ (verse 5). Similarly in his letter to the Ephesians Paul gives thanks ‘because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints’ (Eph. 1:15). He uses almost identical language in his letter to the Colossians: ‘We always thank God . . . when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints’ (Col. 1:3-4). Heaven-born faith and heaven-born love evidently go hand in hand. The one is always present with the other.
How do we explain this invariable companionship? Why is the believer always a loving believer? A number of distinct yet complementary answers can be given. They illustrate, individually and together, something of the greatness of the salvation with which we have been blessed if we are Christians.
We begin with the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The new birth originates with the Holy Spirit. He comes to us in our spiritual deadness and breathes new life into us. The result? Both faith and love. On the one hand, regeneration produces faith. It is because the Spirit comes to us in life-giving power at the outset of the Christian life that we are able to believe in Christ. And it is to the Spirit, too, that we trace Christian love. For love is the first-mentioned fruit of the Spirit’s presence and work (Gal. 5:22). When faith and love exist together, it is proof that we have truly been born again.
We may relate the two – faith and love – to union with Christ as well. Faith unites us to Christ. When we believe in him we come to be mysteriously and wonderfully joined to him. There is an inflowing of Christ’s own life into ours. And it is his life in us that gives us loving hearts for our fellow Christians. For Christ loves his people. Those, therefore, who are in him and sharers of his life are certain to be loving too. Just like him.
We may tie the two in with obedience. It is the teaching of Hebrews 11 that faith expresses itself in obedience. The part about Abraham begins by telling us that ‘by faith Abraham obeyed . . .’ (verse 8). Faith is at the root of all Christian obedience. We believe that such and such a command has been given to us by God and that it is our duty to obey it. And here is one such command. It is from the lips of Jesus himself: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another’ (John 13:34). If we are true believers we do love one another. Our faith comes to expression in obedience to this aspect of God’s will and brotherly love is the result.
Finally, we may connect the hand-in-handness of faith and love with the nature of salvation itself. By faith we look to Christ for salvation. It is by faith that we are saved. But saved from what? From sin! And all failures in love are sin. Inevitably, then, the salvation that comes to us through faith in Jesus is a salvation that delivers us from selfish and unloving behaviour and produces in us its opposite.
So faith and love are ever found together – faith in Christ and love for all the saints. Saving faith is therefore no dead thing. It invariably produces love. Nor does it remain invisible. For love is ever found in its company and love always shows itself. A true believer is, by definition, a loving believer. ‘We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers’ (1 John 3:14).