Love and Forgiveness

The Scene: A woman dumps oil on Jesus’ feet. Observers object. Jesus pontificates.

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

First, allow me to point out that once again love is the “act” that Jesus responds to and he does not mention faith until verse 50, showing that her faith was real because her love was evident. (The past week or so I’ve been developing this theme, so if you have questions about what I mean, read on.)

Second, notice that the order seems reversed:

Her sins are forgiven BECAUSE she loved much
One loveth little BECAUSE little is forgiven.

Hmm. What maketh thee of this?

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Love is the Greatest

We are all familiar with 1 Corinthians 13. Every wedding you’ve been to has had a reading from it. Love, love, love. We’ve heard it so much we don’t even think about the words.

I would like to meditate for a moment on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Love is the greatest, even greater than faith.

If I may humbly make an observation about this. I may? Thank you kindly.

The great call of the Reformation was “By faith alone!” Reformed religion makes much of faith, and for good reason. But is it possible to make too much of faith?

I do not mean to paint all Reformed brethren with the same brush, but allow me to make an observation.

It seems to me many Reformed brothers are more concerned that I agree with John Calvin than they are concerned about me. It seems their main purpose is to get me to agree with them than help me love.

Maybe I’m wrong on this, but it is my observation. Perhaps by stressing faith so much we’ve forgotten the true test of faith: love. Love is greater than faith. Perhaps the Reformation could have been built on “By love alone!”

It’s how Jesus said people were saved. There are some who believe, yet do not have love, because they lack love, their faith is proven to be false.

The greatest of these is love. I didn’t say it. It’s right there in God’s Word. Shall we adjust?

Faith is Seen

A believer should so live that all may know that he is a believer.

Faith that does not purify the heart and life, is not faith at all. Grace that cannot be seen, like light – and tasted, like salt, is not grace, but hypocrisy.

The man who professes to know Christ and trust Him, while he cleaves to sin and the world, is going down to hell with a lie in his right hand.

The heart that has really tasted the grace of Christ, will instinctively hate sin.

~ J.C. Ryle

Proof of Faith

Paul begins each of his epistles with a greeting. Many of these greetings are positive. He rejoices that they are saved and growing.

In most cases where he rejoices in their faith, he says he knows their faith because he observes one huge trait among them: love.

Observe:

“I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints” Ephesians 1:15

“we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints” Colossians 1:4

“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

“your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

“Hearing of thy love and faith” Philemon 5

Almost makes a guy wonder if there is a consistent biblical proof of genuine faith, eh?

Seems to me there is. You know there is true faith when you love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. Love is what was on display at the cross. It’s all about love, because God is love.

Faith in Christ is the only thing that Justifies

Everyone who has ever been saved was saved by Jesus Christ. Even if we go back to Adam or Able or Abraham. They, and all believers since Adam, have been saved by Jesus Christ.

Upon reading that most would agree. But I have heard some pretty odd things in Christianity over the years.

Some think people are saved by keeping the Ten Commandments. Others think sacrifices had merit that brought salvation. A few think Jews under the Law were actually saved by their works. There are still many today who pursue the works of the Law as a means of salvation.

No man was ever saved by the deeds of the Law.

NO MAN was ever saved by the deeds of the Law, including men under the Law. All men have been saved by grace through faith and faith has always been placed in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

No exceptions.

Ever.

“And by him [Jesus Christ] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

People under the Law could not be justified by the law. It was an impossibility. It was never mentioned in the Law that keeping it would save people. It was given as a covenant deal so they could dwell in their Land.

They didn’t last in the Land. Point being: no man can keep it!

No man is justified by works of the Law. Anyone who is justified is justified the same way Abraham was: he believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. And we know Abraham was saved because his faith produced obedience to God’s Word.

Worked then and it works now.

The Coworking of Grace and Faith in Salvation

We are saved by grace through faith. God has demonstrated grace to us, we respond to His grace with faith.

It is important to remember that the strength of our faith is not what holds us in His hands. His grace upholds us. Our faith is in His grace to sustain us. Our faith is not in us and our ability to believe.

This is a crucial point and easily mixed up because many passages make it clear that faith is not a one-time act, it is a way of life. Only those who continue in the faith are truly saved.

Which sure makes it sound like our ability to be saved is wrapped up in our ability to stay believing.

But it is equally true that we are saved by His grace! I can give you verses on both sides.

The resolution, as near as I can figure, is based on the fact that we are saved by grace through faith. Both are there. We are not saved by grace alone, otherwise there would be no distinction and all would be saved.

The Bible is clear that only those who believe are saved. But we are not saved by faith apart from His grace, otherwise faith becomes merit and God owes us salvation.

We are saved by grace through faith. God has done His part as His grace has appeared to all men. We must believe that His grace is the sole ground of salvation.

The faith that truly believes this truly is taught by that saving grace to deny ungodliness, worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

If that’s happening then you know you are saved by grace and your faith is genuine. If this is not happening then you have yet to learn what grace is and you have yet to place genuine faith in it.

Scripturally Denying Scripture

Throughout Scripture religious leaders lead the people to hate God’s guys. The priests hated the prophets. The Scribes and Pharisees hated Jesus. The Sanhedrin hated Paul.

Religious people hate God. This is not necessarily a problem with religion, it is necessarily a problem with people. People are prone to seek their own way and yet are aware of their guilt.

The best resolution to eliminating guilt is to eliminate the stuff that makes you feel guilty. So religious guys hate God because God makes them feel guilty. It’s much easier to listen to guys than God.

This is not something that only guys from a long time ago do. Oh no, it lives on in all of us. One of the most prevalent ways modern Christian do this is by using Scripture to prove they don’t have to listen to Scripture.

Yes, this is as dumb as it sounds. It is also highly ironic. But I see it all the time. People use one Scripture to trump another Scripture. The Scripture that is interpreted as leading to the least amount of responsibility always wins.

If you are not going to listen to Scripture, don’t use Scripture to prove why you don’t have to. Just come right out and deny the whole Book. Scripture does not deny itself, so stop trying to make it do so.

Religious people have been doing this sort of thing for years. It is dumb. We should try not to do it.