Study Guide: Faith is Love in Action

Sunday May 4, 2003 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This morning on the commitment Sunday for Growing in the Spirit, Greg preached that the Christian life is about action.

Extended Summary:

This morning on the commitment Sunday for the Growing in the Spirit campaign, Greg preached that the Christian life is about action.

From James 1:22-25, Greg showed how the challenge is not simply to listen to the Word, but to act according to it. To divorce hearing from acting is as ridiculous, the text says, as looking at yourself in a mirror and then forgetting what you look like when you walk away from it. Looking into a mirror is not the end, but a means for understanding what action to take. The text in James 1 states that the “mirror” that we are to look into is “the perfect law, the law of liberty.” In James 2:8 it is called the “royal law” summed up in this command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Furthermore, in James 2:12 this law is described as a means of judgment. Finally, in 1 John 3:16 we learn that Jesus Christ is the criterion of love, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

Together these verses speak about the content and form of Christian action. The love of Jesus Christ is the compelling power that moves us to action. In response to Christ’s love, we express his love by ascribing unsurpassable worth to others at cost to ourselves. This command is described as “the law of liberty” because when we act in accordance to it we experience freedom by fulfilling our purpose as God’s creation. Moreover, since actions done in love are the only thing that will survive God’s judgment, the call to fulfill the “law of liberty” should be our top priority (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Furthermore, John 13:35 records Jesus’ statement that love is the distinguishing trait of his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The command to Christians is to love, which necessarily entails action.

Sometimes people define Christianity as holding the right belief system. However, while correct beliefs are important they do not define Kingdom success. James 2:14-17 states that the sign of vibrant faith is whether the beliefs lead to action. Simply stated, “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

Greg did not say “faith plus works produces life,” but “faith that is alive produces works.” Action is the sign that faith is living and transformative. The goal of the Church is to have this type of faith for Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” Thus, we are not saved by works, but for works. What is more, the jarring Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-45 states that right beliefs are not the criterion for averting judgment, but instead actions of love.

Finally, Greg stated that God blesses this type of life. James 1:25 reads, “doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing.” This is not a formula for attaining wealth, but instead a principle of the Christian life illustrated by Jesus’ words, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Reflection Questions:

  1. What did Greg say are the manifestations of a faith that is not active?
  2. What is the connection Greg made between the “royal law” (James 2:8) and the call to action?
  3. Describe the proper understanding of “works” within the Christian life?
  4. What did Greg say is the place for rest from action in the Christian life?