Faith working through love in Galatians 5:6?

J. R. Daniel Kirk has stated emphatically that Galatians 5:6 should be translated as “faith working through love” in opposition to the NIV’s use of “faith expressing itself through love.” Peter Kirk has posted a long reply in which he sets out the argument that it should be rendered as “something like ‘faith put to work through love,’ but perhaps it is necessary to make more explicit that it is not believers who are putting faith to work.”

I have a done a quick comparison of translations and obviously the majority have gone with “working” although there are a number of other options used:

“faith working through love” ASV, Darby, ESV, HCSB, KJV, LB, LEB, NAB, NASB, NCV, NET, NJB, NKJV, NRSV, RSV, YLT, (Douay-Rheims, “works by charity”)
“faith expressing itself through love” GW, Message, NIV, NLT, TNIV, Wuest, (NIrV, “shows itself through love”)
“faith that makes you love others” CEV
“faith that is active through love” ISV
“faith that is activated and energized and expressed and working through love” Amplified
“trusting faithfulness expressing itself through love” JewishNT

4 responses to “Faith working through love in Galatians 5:6?

  1. Thanks for the link. Can you, as an experienced exegete of Galatians, offer your own understanding or translation of this phrase?

    • Sorry for the tardy reply but I have been very busy the last couple of weeks. In my mind I have no problem with reading “expressing” as involving “work.” I express my love for my wife by doing xyz (It is work but it is done out of love and as we are already married it is not done to get her to marry me). In v5 Paul clearly makes a connection between the Spirit and faith, “ἡμεῖς γὰρ πνεύματι ἐκ πίστεως” (For through the Spirit by faith). From this statement follows the result that we are eagerly awaiting the hope of righteousness. He then turns again to his main thesis “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything” but notice that this begins with “In Christ Jesus.” He isn’t talking about what is necessary for salvation (our classic works vs faith debate) but the reality of being in Christ (which includes having received the Spirit). Out of that condition what matters is “only faith working through love.” It therefore shouldn’t surprise us that the first element of the fruit of the Spirit is love. It is the expression/work of being in Christ. Does this make works necessary for faith? Certainly! The fruits of the flesh nature are all actions (5:19-21) so why do we focus on faith alone and spiritualise the fruit of the Spirit which contrast the fruit of the flesh. Are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control just states of mind? I’m moving away from the immediate question but I think you see that I am all for righteousness-works (NOT works-righteousness). Paul is saying that if his opponents are into action they had better consider acting out love rather than snipping because that’s all that counts.

  2. I’ve always been partial to Tyndale’s rendering:
    “faith which by love is mighty in operation.”

  3. Oooo, I like Tyndale’s rendering!!

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