"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:5-6)So if we must choose between the Law and grace then what hope do we have of righteousness under grace? Somehow we instinctively feel that, if we are to be righteous, then we need some list of things that we must do and not do so that we may know how to be righteous. How can we be righteous without someone or something telling us what to do and not do? If we reject the Law, then how do we know what is expected of us? How do we know if we have arrived and been completed in righteousness if we do not have the Law to measure ourselves by? We need the law for righteousness, don't we?
While the law provided a framework and guide to righteousness, its problem was that it actually lead no one to righteousness. Previously, Paul had admitted "that a man is not justified by the works of the Law." (Galatians 2:16) Following the law may seem like a good idea, but it is void of any hope for righteousness. However, there is another way. The coming of Jesus changed everything. In Jesus we understand that, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4) The justification we sought in the Law we have now found in Christ. "Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus... we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Romans 3:24, 28) The hope we sought in the law, the hope of righteousness, we have now found in Christ. Christ is our hope, not the Law.
So if the Law is no longer our guide to righteousness, then what is? What is our standard, what is our rule, what is our guide? What matters is not keeping a list of do's and don'ts but expressing our faith through love. The Greek phrase "working through" has the idea of being channeled through and energized by. When we allow love to energize and channel our faith, then the good works it produces are works of righteousness. It is no longer law that guides us but love.
Faith without love is worthless. That is why Paul said, "if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2) Also, James speaks of faith working through love when he said, "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) Love without faith can cause us to spend our love amiss. By faith we understand that there is an order to love. Jesus defined this order as: "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) We might define it as: God, spouse, children, family, brethren, then world. Without faith our love may be misdirected. However, faith without love can be destructive. There was the time the disciples reacted to a slight against Jesus saying, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54) They had faith but no love.
What is righteousness? It is faith working through love? What is the hope of righteousness? It is that the God who is love has forgiven us, come to dwell within us, and empowers us to love as He loves. It is the reality of Christ in us that gives us hope, even the hope of righteousness in our lives today.