Love As Fruit Of The Spirit
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:16-26)
Our 2017 Congregational Theme
Our congregational theme this year is "Fruit Of The Spirit." There is much to be gained from this insightful listing of traits of kingdom citizens and we have committed a full year to examining the nine attributes. In this first installment, we examine the capstone of the list, love.
As has often been keenly observed, the fruit is one, yet many. The fruit of the Spirit together is a completely transformed life (Romans 12:1-2). Each component is interconnected to the other and the entire list serves as a antithetical contrast to the "works of the flesh" listed in verses 19-21. Even so, it is important to see how each stands either alone or amidst a smaller grouping and where they are located in the list. There is much value in recognizing that LOVE heads this list of fruit. This is for no other reason than that love is defined by God as the greatest of all virtues (1 Corinthians 13). Let us examine three ideas conveyed by this cornerstone fruit of the Spirit.
Man Is A Dual Being (Galatians 5:17)
No truth is more simple than that the flesh lusts against the Spirit. There is a daily war going on and a fundamental dichotomy of man. Either the flesh or the spirit will rule our lives. If we choose to live for the flesh, we will die spiritually and eternally (i.e. be cut off from God forever; Romans 8:13). However, those in Christ, who walk by the Spirit, are redeemed (Romans 8:1).
Let's illustrate. Some Galatian Christians were being led into fleshly areas (Galatians 5:13). The gospel had made them free from sin and from the Law of Moses (John 8:32; Galatians 5:1). By Christ, they had been freed from the captivity of sin (Romans 6:18). Now the Devil wants to turn freedom into licentiousness -- “If we are free from the law, we may as well indulge.” We are not to use freedom as a license to sin! If we are led by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit!
Love For God Is Fruit Of The Spirit.
As aforementioned, it is interesting and significant that love is the first thing listed. Under both Testaments, the first and greatest commandment is to love God (Mark 12:29f). Sin is choosing self, someone, or something other than God as the supreme object of our life. Sin, in its essential nature, is a declaration of independence from God. Read that last statement again very carefully. Sin disguises itself as freedom; yet the gospel provides true freedom!
Love for God involves submission to His will (John 14:15). Many view this as bondage rather than freedom and are unwilling to submit. We offer three analogies in response. Do guardrails not protect us from harm? Do civil laws not serve to protect us from evil? Do fish perceive the water they swim in as limiting? Love is the act of will which chooses God as the Supreme One Whom we trust and serve. We acknowledge our dependence on Him. We recognize Him as our Creator. We trust Him. We seek His will, and seek to do His work in the world to bring glory to Him rather than ourselves. That is true freedom!
When we are led by the Spirit, our love for God is manifest. How do we know that God loves us? Because God Himself did something to show His love (John 3:16). How do we show our love for God? By doing what He says and reciprocating that love (1 John 5:2). When Peter affirmed he loved Christ, Christ asked him to do something that would show it (John 21:15). If we love God, though we may face corporeal challenges in our lives on this side of eternity, we may be confident that everything will turn out perfectly in Heaven (Romans 8:28). You can bank on that!
Love For Fellow Man Is Fruit of The Spirit.
Only when we truly love God are we in a position to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Love is the "willing of good" to others. We "will good" toward others even when our feelings tell us to ignore them or to do evil. Love is to observe the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12). True, biblical love does good toward others plus it restricts certain actions (Romans 13:8-10). In order to know how to express love, we must study the love of God (1 John 4:8). Love is not a vague feeling, but a determined exercise of the will (compare 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). We are commanded to love. Commands are addressed to our will. We can love or not love as we desire.
Love for fellow man involves love for brethren in Christ. Love is essential to true discipleship (John 13:34). Love is the distinguishing characteristic of His disciples (John 13:35). Christians are recognized by love for one another. Verbal claims are not the evidence Jesus gave for discipleship; love is, and this love is to be sincere (1 Peter 1:22).
Love for man includes love for self. This may sound contradictory to the message of the Word, but only if understood incorrectly. The standard of measure for loving our neighbors is to love them as ourselves. It is entirely natural and acceptable that we should seek our highest good. The selfishness which is condemned is the selfishness of sin – that which puts self above God. If we hate and mistreat ourselves and our relationship to others will be parallel to that, we will fail to meet God's most vital commandment for Christians. When we love ourselves as we should, in an unselfish way, we will obey God’s will (Acts 2:40). So be good to yourself and to others and love God!
One Concluding Thought...
How is your love life? If we are not producing this fruit, we are not walking by the Spirit. So strengthen the feeble hands and knees and shore up those things in need of bracing. Let us determine and commit wholeheartedly to love God and one another. And remember, we show love in what we do!