I know I am exaggerating in some of the above, but anyone concerned about church life in our day will be aware of the voices which cry so loudly in order to ‘help’ the church out of her apparently dismal state. I cannot get away from the thought that all these suggested remedies are like David being dressed in Saul’s armor. You remember the story found in 1 Samuel chapter 17, it is a graphic and powerful one. The children of Israel like the church of today were being pressed hard by their Philistine enemy whose champion Goliath threatened them daily. The loud accusing cries of the giant struck fear in to the hearts of the soldiers of Israel but David, hearing the noisy bombast of the giant stepped forth as one full of faith nourished by the habit of a quiet walk with God developed on the hillsides of solitude as he cared for the sheep. After enduring the negative attitude of his brothers who remonstrated with him about his apparent pride and simplicity in the face of the situation he was taken to Saul king of Israel. The issue that now needed resolving was how was David to be equipped? What armor should he wear and with what weapons should he fight? He was dressed in Saul’s armor. In the biblical story it would seem that all that is best about man, and his natural prowess is typified by King Saul and his armor, however David rejected it as being unsuitable for his use. He knew where the secret of power lay and it was not in the skills of man but in God Who would fight for His own Name through the agency of one of His own who loved Him and believed Him.
The use of two of the words faith and love in the last sentence of the last paragraph reminds me of an occasion a few days ago. It was early one morning and I was pondering the emails, letters and conversations involving matters of ‘what the churches are in need of’. I was prayerful, concerned and quiet about it all and straight as an arrow the word from Galatians chapter five verse six came to mind. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love”. There are these two words again, faith and love. Apparently this is how life is in Christ Jesus. It is a life in which faith works through love. Can this be the need of today’s churches? The churches of Galatia were being harassed by strong teachings suggesting that their salvation lay in careful adherence to the law represented by the essential requirement of circumcision. At such times strong arguments are presented for and against and in the midst of all this Paul calls the embattled churches to the simplicity of life as it is in Christ, faith that works by love. Can this be relevant and can such lead to the freedom of life and ministry for which we yearn? This short section of Galatians chapter five brings together serious matters. The freedom that is in Christ contrasted with the possibility of being severed from His life and falling from grace by fixing upon some other method of obtaining the longed for success in salvation. Hope with faith and love are brought together in verses five and six, a précis of that which Paul wonderfully writes in the famous chapter of love in Corinthians. My concluding question at this point concerns the simplicity of Paul’s statement, ‘in Christ Jesus…neither circumcision nor uncircumcision… but only faith working by love’. Neither church growth by this method or that, deliverance by this technique or that, meetings in this form or that but rather, are we living a life in Christ of faith working by love? Are we increasing in that faith because of that love and increasing in that love through the faith that is in Him? I sense the objections coming that we need armor, we need weapons, we cannot go forward like the stripling David did in his day. I suspect that the brethren who pooh-poohed David in his simplicity are alive today and engaged in the same arguments, but the victory that day lay with the simple stripling who relied upon God and God upheld His own Name using His trusting, loving servant in the process.