Ephesians 1:3-16. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Yesterday we asked the question “What is a Christian?” And then we proceeded to show that there are two things that make a Christian a Christian: faith and love. Faith in the Lord Jesus, and love toward all the saints.
Today we want to see that the order here is important. Faith THEN love.
Our faith is in an objective truth. First and foremost ours is a religion of facts. We believe the Good NEWS. Not the good idea. Or the good philosophy. Or the good opinion. Or the good concept. The Good NEWS. Historic fact. Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus rose. You died with Jesus. You rose with Jesus. You are united to Jesus by the indwelling Spirit. These are facts. Admittedly those last three are spiritual realities not physical. But they are realities nonetheless.
Our faith is not about probabilities. It’s about realities. Did God say it? Did God do it? Did God promise it? Our faith doesn’t make things happen. Our faith is in what has already happened or what God has already promised will happen.
The Christian life begins with faith. Faith in the saving work of Christ. “Jesus died FOR me and I believe that.” Our life doesn’t move past this object of our faith – Jesus Christ. But our understanding of the work of Christ may grow. We move from Jesus died FOR me to I died WITH Jesus. We grasp more and more our union with Christ (the whole point of this blog).
Faith is receiving this life of Christ in us. It is the rejection of all self-effort to bring about change in our own lives and instead embracing grace. Glorious grace. It is trusting that we are fully loved. Fully accepted. Fully forgiven. Fully redeemed. And wondrously adopted. We must trust the spiritual blessings that Paul has listed for us here in Ephesians 1. Receiving this grace by faith is what brings change. This vertical faith in the Lord Jesus is what produces the horizontal love toward all the saints.
“You’re gonna have to trust me.” Even when it doesn’t make sense? This is how unconditional love is born.
The classic error that most Christians make is that they try to sustain the emotional level of love that they feel when they first get saved. New in Christ brings with it new feelings not unlike the infatuation that occurs with young lovers. But inevitably life throws some curve balls your way. Illness, job loss, heart ache, death of a loved one. Or just the passing of time. The feelings of love for Jesus begin to fade.
Why do we hear so many Christians every day complain about other Christians? Why do we hear Christians say things like “I love Jesus but not the church?” Why do so many Christians devour each other? Judge each other? Destroy each other? Avoid each other?
It’s because they tried to live from the love motive instead of from the faith motive. They started with love, things got hard, the feelings dissipated, and love turned into judgment and comparison and flat out dislike.
True unconditional love, love toward the saints (also known as love for your enemies) is only possible from faith. And from the freedom that faith provides. A self-effort or trying harder and harder to love one another will never work. Why? Because its root is in the flesh. In law. Not grace. And not faith in that grace. Or to say it another way: we must let ourselves be blessed before we can ever be a blessing. This is why Paul is so thankful to God for them. Because their genuine love proves their genuine faith in God’s glorious grace.
Faith and love are both crucial to the Christian life. But love must be founded upon faith. Faith in those facts we talked about earlier. Not love as simply a feeling. But love that flows from truly trusting the goodness of God.
Start with love and it becomes a conditional love that will eventually run out. Start with trusting the character and promises of God and it will result in an unconditional love that grows and grows.
“To live is Christ” is both faith and love. But it is a faith that produces love. Trusting and receiving the blessings of being in Christ produces Christ’s love in and through us toward all the saints. Faith THEN love.