Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-16
A person who has a true faith in God should be a loving person. A life which is truly changed by Christ is a life full of love. We know that “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”1 We have also been told that in Christ, all external differences are of no significance but what really matters is “faith expressing itself through love.” 2
It is interesting to note that both these statements appear in letters where the apostle Paul strongly argues that justification is not attained by work.
And it is true that we are not justified by work, so it is still not right to say that faith and love give us salvation. It is by grace through faith that we are saved (Eph 2:8). But what kind of faith are we talking about? It is the faith that expresses itself through love.
So it is not surprising to find that since Paul heard about the faith and love of the believers in Ephesus, he had not stop giving thanks for them!
While the statement “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you” is a thanksgiving intead of a direct teaching,3 we can learn a lot from it nevertheless:
Expression of Love
Paul had heard about the love of the Ephesians to all God’s people. They must have done something that is clearly visible, and words about it spread. Love is not just a feeling. True love is also a commitment and manifests in actions.
We should not merely feel our love toward others but should sincerely act it out. Acts of love include helping one another, encouraging one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another, reminding one another, and sometimes even correcting one another. Love should have actions.
Pure Christian Love
Note the mention of all God’s people (literally “all the saints”). We are not talking about just loving a small group of people whom we are familiar with, or a small group of believers whom we naturally connect well. This kind of natural affection occurs in any social environment, even among non believers; but as a Christian, we ought to have a godly and pure Christian love toward all brothers and sisters, even if it means handling all kind of differences we might have among our fellow believers.
From Paul’s unceasing thanksgiving for the faith and love of the Ephesians, we learned that God is pleased if our faith is accompanied by love. May we all continue to live out Christian love!
PS: If you haven’t been following along, we are in the prayer section (1:15-23) after the praise (1:3-14). In my previous article, “A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Petition,” I have presented the main outline as: (1) I give thanks for your faith in the Lord and your love toward the saints. (2) I pray that God will help you to know him (even) better. This article discusses the first part of the outline.
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:15-16 TNIV)
- Rom 5:5 ↩
- Gal 5:6 ↩
- In Bible Study it is always good to be aware of the difference between what is taught and what is mentioned, or between what is commanded (norm) and what has happened (incident). In the case of teaching or command, we should check if it is a permanent principle or if there are temporal and cultural elements in the teaching. ↩