Works of Faith and Love
“THERE remain faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) Why is love the greatest? “Love prompts to faithfulness now,” says the sacred song, and it is particularly important that it should do so now because we are living in those “critical times hard to deal with” that the apostle Paul warns us of in his second letter to Timothy. We are living in the “later periods of time” when “some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies.”—2 Tim. 3:1; 1 Tim. 4:1, 2.
It means that unless a person’s faith is based upon a solid foundation and is firmly established, he will be in danger of being swept off his feet in the whirlpool of doubt and uncertainty by reason of the flood of these “misleading inspired utterances.” This plainly emphasizes the vital importance of taking in accurate knowledge of Bible truth, which is the very basis of faith. To the sincere Christian it also indicates the importance of being teachers of the truth, capable of instructing others in the way of life. Paul’s words to young Timothy apply forcefully today: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:16.
How often we meet people and perhaps study the Bible with them, and after some months of study with little apparent progress we say, ‘He knows it is the truth, but he will not take a stand for it. He has gone all the way through “Let God Be True” and seems to like it and has some knowledge of the hope of life in the new world, but will not progress beyond that point. He still needs spoon feeding with the milk of the Word.’ What is the duty of Jehovah’s witnesses in such cases?
There is also the problem of those who attend congregational study meetings but never make comments or discuss Bible truths with others; yet they like to associate with Jehovah’s witnesses and report some time in field service. What is their position?
The apostle Paul sounds a very stern warning to such. When one receives some basic understanding of Bible truth and then remains stagnant, or falls back, he is in a dangerous position. It is something that cannot be treated lightly. It is an expression of love on the part of a mature Christian to try to assist that one to see the seriousness of his position and to help him make progress toward maturity. Failing to do this may end in loss of life for both in the judgment of Armageddon; the one for failing to do his duty as one of Jehovah’s ‘watchmen,’ and the other for not having “sought Jehovah, nor inquired after him.” (Ezek. 33:7; Zeph. 1:6, AS) The apostle Paul warns that those who have received some enlightenment, “who have tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away,” are “near to being cursed,” and, like unfruitful ground, end up with “being burned.” (Heb. 6:4-8) There are many today who may not have gone to the point where they merit God’s curse, but they are in danger. They are in a position of being rescued, and those who are in a position to do so have an obligation to give them all the assistance possible to ‘snatch them out of the fire.’ Maybe they have been the objects of ridicule by religionists or members of their family, and that is keeping them back. Perhaps they have been sidetracked by those “misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” They may have been ensnared by those “hurtful desires which plunge men into destruction and ruin,” and by reaching out for more material wealth “have been led astray from the faith.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) What should those who are mature in the faith do for such persons? Jude tells us what to do:
“‘In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things.’ These are the ones that make separations, . . . But you, beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view. Also continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire.”—Jude 18-23.
We may ourselves have complete faith, based upon accurate knowledge of God’s Word, but is that sufficient? The Scriptures are plain in showing us that faith is essential to salvation, but is it sufficient for salvation? “Without faith it is impossible to win [God’s] good pleasure.” (Heb. 11:6) But faith is valueless by itself. It is valueless without works, and the works must be of the right kind to make it valuable. “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” (Jas. 2:17) And again Paul warns: “If I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2) It is quite apparent from these scriptures that faith is merely a foundation. Something else must be built on that foundation; there must be a superstructure, and that superstructure must be crowned by love. Or, to refer again to the words of Jude just quoted, there must be a building up of our faith, and that with the aid of prayer, in order to keep ourselves in God’s love. This is done by being obedient to the “kingly law,” namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Jas. 2:8) We can do this by ‘continuing to show mercy to some that have doubts, saving them by snatching them out of the fire.’
In order to keep ourselves in God’s love we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (Jas. 1:22) One who is merely a hearer and not a doer is likened to a man who builds a house upon sand and which, when the storm comes, just crumbles to pieces. (Matt. 7:26, 27) We have plenty of warning from the Scriptures that the greatest of all storms, the most frightening of all whirlwinds, is soon to sweep every vestige of this old world’s systems into destruction at Armageddon. And it is now, just prior to that execution of divine judgment, that the demons are especially active in inspiring men who have no faith to make “misleading inspired utterances” for the purpose of causing immature ones, and “some that have doubts,” to fall away from the faith.
We may sow seeds of truth, but unless they are watered and cultivated God will not make them grow, no more than he makes literal seeds grow if they are not nourished with water and sunshine. But Jehovah has raised up a body of people to do this seed-sowing and watering work, and he promises to make these seeds of truth grow into mature plants to his praise. “We are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation.” (1 Cor. 3:9) “Working together with him, we also entreat you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.” (2 Cor. 6:1) In other words, everyone should be a teacher of God’s Word. Unless he is capable of teaching others he is not mature. He is like a babe needing to be fed. Christian maturity requires that one be capable of making “a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Jehovah’s people on earth today are a teaching body. Jehovah has provided “missionaries, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work, . . . until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man,” and it is the duty and obligation of these mature ones to aid others so that they “may be thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s purposes. (Eph. 4:11-15; 3:18) They teach, not the wisdom of this world, but that wisdom which is from above, which Jehovah taught to Jesus Christ. Jehovah is the great Teacher. Jesus received all his instruction on what to do and say from Jehovah his Father. (John 5:19, 20; 7:16; 8:28, 38) Jesus then, in turn, taught his disciples what to do and say, and they passed on to us that accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will, which Jehovah’s witnesses are obligated to pass on to others. “By giving these advices to the brothers” we become the “right kind of ministers of Jesus Christ, one nourished with the words of the faith and of the right teaching.”—1 Tim. 4:6.
In exhorting one to press on to maturity, notice that Paul specifies the need of “not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God.” (Heb. 6:1) In speaking of “repentance from dead works” Paul was, of course, referring primarily to those Jewish converts to Christianity in his day who had learned that works for one’s own self-justification could never give them life. They were “dead” in that they could not provide salvation for anyone and had now been superseded by works of faith. But it was necessary to teach those early Christians that not just any kind of work would do. They had to be “right works.” (Matt. 5:16) Some of those early Christians were puzzled as to what constituted right works, and asked Jesus: “What shall we do to work the works of God?” In reply Jesus said to them: “This is the work of God, that you exercise faith in him whom that One sent forth.” (John 6:28, 29) On the basis of this text some will argue that all one has to do to gain eternal life is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as though works did not matter very much. But James, under inspiration, tells us: “You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone.” (Jas. 2:24) Others will claim that their mighty works in the shape of hospitals, orphanages, social centers, etc., constitute works of faith and love, but Jesus plainly foretells that “many will say to me in that day: ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’” and he will not recognize them, but actually will dismiss them as “workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:22, 23.
Jesus set the example as to what constituted right works. When sending out his twelve apostles and the seventy preachers Jesus instructed them what to say and what to do. He said: “Go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” But some will say to this, ‘Yes, and he also told them to cure the sick, and Jehovah’s witnesses do not do that.’ True, at least not in a physical sense, but neither do these so-called faith healers do the other things that Jesus instructed his disciples to do, namely, “raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons.” (Matt. 10:1, 7, 8) Why? Because those miraculous gifts of God’s spirit by which those early disciples performed miraculous cures were only temporary and Paul plainly said they would pass away as the congregation matured. He emphasized the fact that it was the basic gifts of faith, hope and love that would never pass away. (1 Cor. 13:8, 13) Today the preaching of ‘this good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations’ is the work of faith and love that all dedicated Christians are obligated to perform.—Matt. 24:14.
Note now this important truth: these works of faith must be prompted by love. First, love for Jehovah God, the Life-giver; and secondly, love for one’s neighbor. This is the “kingly law,” obedience to which is imperative in order to receive Jehovah’s blessing. (Jas. 2:8) Sincerity and enthusiasm in preaching error will never excuse the error and make it right. “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright. But shun empty speeches that violate what is holy.” “Avoid all that profane jargon, for it leads people still further into [ungodliness], and their doctrine spreads like a gangrene.” (Mo) Love for God and neighbor obligates us to see that our teaching is accurate.—2 Tim. 2:15-17.
One needs to be “stabilized in the faith” or else “perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, . . . and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:7, 8) It is most important that every Christian “be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”—Col. 1:9-12.
As a slave of Jehovah, every Christian “needs to be tactful toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed, as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil.”—2 Tim. 2:24-26.
So keep watching how you are building this fine superstructure of works of faith and love. Be careful to watch that your works of faith are like the imperishable materials of gold, silver and precious stones, and not like the wood materials, hay and stubble, which will be consumed in the fire. If your works have been of this latter nature, then get rid of them; let the fire of Jehovah’s righteous judgment burn them up, even if it means some loss to you, and learn to build the enduring things of right works so that you may be saved. (1 Cor. 3:10-15) Jehovah knows the heart condition. He knows the motive that prompts one’s work. Happy is the man who keeps clear of the “profane jargon” and who prepares himself as a vessel for an honorable purpose, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work. (2 Tim. 2:20-22) “Love builds up.”—1 Cor. 8:1.