I begin with a quote from Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Paul is addressing a specific issue that was common among early churches. The Judaizers were telling newly converted gentile Christians that they should obey the Mosaic Law, namely circumcision, to live in accordance with Christianity. In a fervent rebuke Paul pleads to the church to do away with these principals and go back to the truth. In the last line of verse six he says “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” This is so significant because although there is no contemporary pressure to conform to Mosaic Law; the spirit of the Judaizer is still very much alive. We have to get to the place as a body where we understand the truth. Praying, preaching, communion, etc. are all “in themselves not pleasing to God”. If I do not pray out of faith expressed in love and my prayers are simply regurgitations of my religiosity then they are a waste of the breath it took to speak them. The contemporary Judaizer is the person who thinks that actions alone will bring him close to God. The work of God is through the Holy Spirit; who convicts, guides, and urges believers to the principals of God. When we exalt “actions” to “absolutes” we have gone down the path of the Judaizer. For example, communion is a practice that is adhered to by most of the Body of Christ; as it should be. Communion is likely known to most church goers as a symbol of what Christ did for us, but the part that makes it communion is not the cracker and the juice. It is the expression of faith through love in the context of this action that makes it communion. Communion is not so much “taken in” as it is “poured out”. From the wealth of my relationship with Jesus I respond to his call of faith and love and at this point I am fulfilling the requirement of communion. Another example is marriage. If I do not live my marriage out with faith in my spouse expressed through love for them then what is the purpose of that union? Does a marriage license make a marriage? Does quoting scripture make a sermon? Does a degree make an education? Does emersion in water make you spiritually clean? I fear that that we are missing the point. These things are all “good” but only in the context of a deeper spiritual work. Practices, even at their most innocent point, will become enslavement if not subjugated by the eternal presence of the Holy Spirit. The practices that please God are from an overflow of his indwelling presence; not the other way around. Ask yourself; am I just a religious symbol? Where do I derive my worth from the Lord? Is my hope in outward actions? We were made to live step by step with the Holy Spirit and from the wealth of our faith in God expressed in love we are to partake in all these practices of life; lest they simply be dead works. The physical dunking of Baptism in itself does not save, the taking of communion elements in themselves do not save, and abstaining from sin by human will does not save. A living, breathing, flowing acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over a life is the only thing that will do. It is the application of this revelation and acknowledgment to any particular “act” that makes it Godly or not Godly. It is simply of “no value” if you do any religious practice without this method. This doesn’t mean you can make up your own ordinance and call it Godly. It means that to expierance the fullness of what God wants for us in all church practices we have to render more than our time and our immediate attention. I conclude with a quote from Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
There are 613 Commandments in the Mosaic Law that Jesus could have chosen from to answer this question. The laws range from belief in God to a king not having an excess amount of horses, but he chose not one; and in doing so he chose them all. Religion without direct faith, love, and obedience to the Holy Spirit can get “it” all right in practice but have “it” all wrong in the end.