ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 4
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Fruit of the Spirit is a term that refers to nine attributes, which should characterize individual believers in the Lord Jesus. Galatians chapter 5 verses 22 to 23 lists these as: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. These are not individual fruits but rather nine characteristics of a fruitful, Spirit-controlled Christian life. The will of God is that as we mature there is development in us resulting in increasing likeness to our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone demonstrated these nine attributes completely, 2 Cor. 3. 18. Such moral features will not be generated naturally, unlike the works of the flesh mentioned earlier in Galatians chapter 5, but rather are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.
It should come as no surprise that love heads the list. God is love; not only is love a divine attribute but it is His very essence. Love, along with light, are the terms used to describe the moral dignity of His being, 1 John 4. 8; 1. 5. Moreover, love is of God. He is the source of true love. His love for fallen humanity was unmerited, unlimited and undeniable, Titus 3. 3, 4; 1 John 4. 10; John 3. 16; Rom. 5. 8. The Christian’s life should be marked by such love since the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, 5. 5.
A thorough description of this manner of love is provided for us in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. ‘Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’, 1 Cor 13. 4-7 ESV.
This love experienced in our lives from the moment of regeneration results in love towards God, 1 Cor. 8. 3, and towards men, 1 Thess. 4. 9. This is confirmed by the words of our Lord Jesus, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself’, Luke 10. 27. God commands that we love both Him and men; love which is activated by the Spirit of God is not founded on emotion nor is it reactive, merely being reciprocal because we ourselves are the object of another’s love.
The predominant purpose for the existence of mankind is to worship and love God. Sin resulted in the breakdown of this duty of man, but, wonderfully, Christ has reconciled us to God, once again enabling believers in the Lord Jesus to engage in this. ‘Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments’, W. E. Vine. The apostle John teaches us a great deal about love, including that the demonstration and evidence of our love for God is in the keeping of His commandments, 1 John 5. 3. This should not be a great challenge given that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to defeat natural desires to sin, choosing instead to live righteously before God. As ever, the perfect example of love for God is seen in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. His devotion to the will of His Father is clearly observed in each of the Gospel records. Whilst the love of Christ for the church was involved in His willingness to give Himself, the foremost motivation for the laying down of His life was love for the Father, John 14. 31. Considering His willingness to be obedient unto death, our love of God should cause us to obey His commandments.
‘He who loveth God love his brother also’, 1 John 4. 21. We are to demonstrate love towards all mankind, especially those of the household of faith. Whilst we will find some Christians difficult to get along with, God expects that we love every believer. This is made easier when we remember that Christ died for them, 4. 10, 11.
Again, our Lord Jesus is the example to follow. Despite the fact that His disciples would flee and forsake Him, one would deny Him, one would betray Him and one would doubt the reality of His resurrection, scripture records that, ‘having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end’, John 13. 1.
Therefore, we should endeavour to be characterized by love, being assisted by the Spirit of God, recalling that, ‘We love him, because he first loved us’, 1 John 4. 19.