The Fruit of the Spirit is Love

The word for love in Galatians 5:22 is agapē.  In the Greek speaking world of New Testament times there were three words used for love:

1) eros
This refers to erotic or sexual love (it’s not used in the NT but is common in Greek literature of the time)

2) phileo
That is used in reference to close relationships one has with a friend or family member. It is very common in the NT and extrabiblical literature.

3) agapao (and its cognate agapē)
It is rarely used in extrabiblical Greek. It was used by believers to denote the special unconditional love of God1 

[1] Lanier, D. (2003). Love. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen & T. C. Butler, Ed.) (1054). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

God expressed agapē love for us when He responded to our sin with His plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ.   

John 3:16 in the NKJV states, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

God's love for human beings was proven or demonstrated in a tangible way.  It was the way of the incarnation as Jesus was sent to be born in Bethlehem.  And it was the way of the cross as He willingly gave up His life for us, taking our sin upon Himself, which included the guilt, the shame, the agony and separation from the Father.  This resulted in everlasting life for the believer as Jesus bore the penalty that the believer himself deserved.

Ephesians 2:4–10 
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 

God was motivated by love, a great love, a much greater than any we could muster or hope to have.  That love was not limited to the lovely, to the beautiful or worthy.  It was available to those who were dead in their sins.  So amazing was that love that it could raise the spiritually dead to newness of life through grace by faith in Jesus Christ.  

God's love not only spares us the penalty of sin and death but gives us other privileges.  One of those is exalted place in Heaven with and in Christ.  It is His gift to us so it is something we cannot earn, we cannot work for or achieve on our own.  

Added to that is that we become and are His workmanship, His masterpiece, created by Him to produce good works.  That is God's design in His redeemed; it's not something He is asking of us that we cannot do but something that He is asking of us that He re-wired us to perform. Therefore, we too can love as God loved, self-sacrificially and selflessly.  We can evidence the fruit of the Spirit which is love.  

Jesus expressed agapē love for us when He submitted to the Father’s plan, having agreed to it – that He would die in our place, taking our punishment upon Himself though He Himself were innocent
What was necessary for that plan was for Him to leave Heaven and come to Earth, taking on human flesh and being born as a baby to a descendant of David.

John 1:14 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 

The revelation of God, the logos or Word, took on human flesh and dwelt among humans.  His glory was cloaked in His humanity yet it was fully present.  Only those who believed and followed Him saw His glory and recognized it as the glory of God Himself.  Note here that Jesus wasn't merely sent by God the Father but He Himself came.  He was a willing vessel to make salvation available to a sin-saturated human race.  

Luke 1:26-35 
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 

See the work of God the Spirit in this.  The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the power of God overshadowed her.  This brought about the miracle of the virgin birth so that the son of Mary was also the Son of God.  Only Jesus, fully God and fully human, could perform such an act of love and demonstrate the love of God for fallen man in such an incredible and effective way.

We are to imitate that kind of love by loving God and others the very same way 
Ephesians 5:1–2 
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 

We are commanded to imitate this love.  Children reflect the characteristics of their parents, not only in appearance but in action.  It is natural for children to imitate their parents' mannerisms, their ways of dealing with things, etc.  As children of God, we should love as He loved, giving ourselves sacrificially, willingly and by doing so we present ourselves to God like the sweet-smelling sacrifices of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Philippians 2:1-11 
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Paul gives commands to the Philippians to have unity of mind, exercising active love for one another, to be unified in behavior and to avoid selfish ambition and pride.  Each believer is to think of others before themselves.  They are to look out for their brother or sister's interests ahead of their own.  

How did Paul expect such miraculous behavior out of sinners saved by grace?  Their model was Christ who made Himself of no reputation, took on human flesh and became obedient to death.  Another motivator was Christ's reward as God gave Him a name above every other name, exalted in Heaven and before whom all others would bow.  

The Apostle wasn't expecting anything of them that Christ had not already done and if they thought to do so was beneath them, how much more so was what Christ did beneath Him yet in love He did it?  If the Father so rewarded Christ's obedience what is the likelihood God would reward theirs?  Love has a price but it also has a reward.  

So what does that look like for you and for me?
We are to love God:   John 14:15 
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. 

Love for God is demonstrated by our obedience.  This is true of the love that we have for our parents when we are under-age children.  As we become adults, our love for our parents is demonstrated by honor.  To love God is to honor and obey Him.

We are to love one another: John 13:34-35 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Note that we are to love one another by what standard? As Jesus loved us! Self-sacrificially. Not putting my agenda, my needs, my wishes first but putting the other person first. Jesus gave up, He sacrificed, Heaven for us so that He could experience it again with us.

We are to love our enemies: Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

It is pretty easy to love God, or at least, so it seems.  He never does anything wrong to us.  Sometimes we wonder why He does what He does or doesn't do what we think He should do but we understand Him to be perfect, so in that sense to love God seems the easiest of these commands.  

However, love for God is proven by obedience.  By that standard, we all fall short.  Each of us needs to remember the role of the Spirit in empowering us to do what God asks of us.  Let us walk in obedience and thus demonstrate our love to God.  

Loving brothers and sisters is easy most of the time.  Each of us can find brothers and sisters in Christ who are absolutely lovable.  They reach out to us, they enjoy our company, they give us things, they pray for us and are kind to us and they are like us.  However, there is always that one that rubs us the wrong way and that we find difficult to love because their sin is so evident or so different from our sin or perhaps so similar?  At any rate, some brethren are very hard to love yet that is what Scripture commands and is the fruit of the Spirit, evidencing God at work in us.  

To love one's enemies, that is a tall order indeed.  To be sure there isn't one enemy that we have that we find easy to love.  Perhaps some easier than others but enemies are adversaries and they don't produce in our flesh any motivation to love them.  That is why is takes the Spirit of God and His fruit at work in our lives to produce love for the unlovely; to do for our enemies the very same thing that God did for His enemies.  

Romans 5:10
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Seeing that the fruit of the Spirit is love, how are you doing on this measure?  Is God at work in and through you to love?  God?  Other believers?  Even your enemies?  I think that the second one is hard in relationship to some brothers and sisters in Christ and the third is always difficult.  However, God did the difficult for us and we have the Spirit to help empower us to do what He has commanded us to do.  

They will know we are Christians by our love.  Let's seek to love God, to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and even our enemies.  It is the fruit of the Spirit; the very evidence of God indwelling us and at work in us to do of His good pleasure.  

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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