“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.” (Galatians 5:16-25)
Well, we are down to the last aspect or expression of the fruit of the Spirit: love. You could say that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and that Paul has been so kind to detail eight expressions of love. The fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is the work which His presence within us accomplishes, and in all that it accomplishes it is love that should be the outflow, “for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34b)
The word ‘love’ here translates as ‘agapē’. There are four distinct words for love in the Greek. There is ‘eros’, which is romantic or passionate love. There is ‘philia’, which is the love we have for those near and dear to us. There is ‘storge’, which is the love that shows itself in affection and care. And then there is ‘agapē’, the love that is more a decision than of a spontaneous heart; it’s more a matter of the mind; it’s a deliberate choice to love regardless; it’s not simply an emotion, but a principle by which we live. It’s loving people who aren’t easy to love; loving people you don’t like. It can only be done with the help of God – never to seek anything but the best even for those who seek the worst for us; It means that no matter what a man may do to you (by way of insult, injury or humiliation), you will never seek anything else but his highest good.
To discuss something like the topic of love, where do you begin? Love is the major theme of the Bible, it is the quitescential aspect of God, of His mission, of our mission. What better way to address this topic than to look at 1 John 4:7-21, which all deals specifically on the fact that God is love, how that is expressed, and how we should respond.
We are Called to Love
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
The Greek begins by saying “those who are loved, let us love”. And so love is a response. We love one another because we are loved by God, and have received that love, and live in light of it. If love is of God, then those who claim to be born of God, and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ. Interestingly, the specific Greek word for knows (ginosko) is the word for a knowledge by experience. John is saying that when we really experience God it will show by our love for one another.
What Does Love Mean, and How Do We Apply It?
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)
Love is not only defined by the sacrifice of Jesus; it is also defined by the giving of the Father. We need to appreciate and receive the Fatherly love God has to give us. The love of the Father was not only in the sending of the Son, but also in what that sending accomplishes for us. It brings life to all who trust in Jesus and His work on their behalf; There was nothing better God the Father could give to lost humanity than the gift of the Son of God Himself. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Real love, agapē love, is not defined by our love for God, but by His love for us. His love for us initiates our relationship of love with Him, our love only responds to His love for us. We can’t love God the way we should unless we are receiving and living in His love.
The Evidence of Love Shows Us God
“No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
If we really walk in God’s love towards us, it will be evident in our love for one another. The true measure of maturity is the abiding presence of God’s love in our lives, given out to others.
The Work of the Trinity is Assured In Us
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:13-15)
We can know by experience that we live in God, if His love has been perfected in us. And we know that His love has been perfected in us if we love one another. This goes beyond hope (hope for salvation, hope for heaven); It is the Spirit of God in us that is the abiding presence of Jesus. It is the testimony of the Holy Spirit within us that makes it possible for us to know that we abide in Him. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). It is not enough to know the facts about who Jesus is; we must confess the truth. We must be in agreement with God about who Jesus is, and we find out what God says about Jesus through the Word of God.
How Should We Respond to God and His Love
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
We are called to take the love and grace God gives, to know it by experience and to believe it. This is what fellowship with God is all about. If we come to know and have believed the love which God has for us, can we ever stop believing this? Paul says in Romans 8:35-39, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘for your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How to Perfect Love Now and Forever
“By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:17-18)
John doesn’t just use the Greek word teleioo (which has the idea of ‘maturity’ and ‘completeness’); he writes teleioo teleioo – speaking of love that is ‘perfectly perfected’ or ‘completely complete.’ How can we have such confidence? “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) So our identity is bound up in Jesus, thus we can have the same confidence that He has. How is Jesus now? He is glorified, justified, forever righteous and bold, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Spiritually, we can have that same standing now, while we are in the world, because as He is, so are we in the world. The completeness of love means we don’t have to fear before God (dreading His judgment).
Why We Should Love Jesus
“We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
C.H. Spurgeon said it best: “There is no exception to this rule; if a man loves not God, neither is he born of God. Show me a fire without heat, then show me regeneration that does not produce love to God.” Do we dare to say that we love God, love Jesus? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Do we really believe that God loves us? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
The Commandment to Love
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)
It’s easy to say that we love God, but if we don’t back this up by visible action, than we are liars. We can know the Word, dutifully attend church, demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit, yet love is a fruit of the Spirit. Though love comes from our abiding relationship with God and comes from our being born of Him, there is also an essential aspect of our will involved. Being born of God and abiding with Him give us the ability to love; but it is a choice of our will to draw upon that resource and give it out to others.
We Can Overcome the World
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4)
A Christian who does not love God or keep His commandments is of little effective use in the body of Christ. Simply, love for God will show itself in obedience. His commandments are not burdensome, when we see how wise and good the commandments of God are. They are gifts from Him to show us the best and most fulfilling life possible. Because when we are born again, we are given new hearts – hearts which by instinct wish to please God. Instead of keeping hundreds of little rules and regulations, Jesus simply says to us, ‘Love Me and love my people, and you will walk in obedience.’. When we love God, we will want to obey Him and please Him. If we are born of God, we will overcome the world. Since believing in Him is the key to being born of God (1 John 5:1), the key to victory is faith. The life of abiding faith and trust in Jesus Christ is the life that overcomes the pressures and temptations of the world.
Keep Yourselves in the Love of God
“But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:17-21)
We are to be different. We are to remember what Jesus and the apostles said. To keep yourselves in the love of God means to keep yourself in harmony with God’s ever-present love. Three ways of keeping ourselves in the love of God: 1) holy faith: we need to keep growing spiritually. It means that we cannot wait for spiritual growth to just happen, or expect others to make us grow; 2) praying: the battle against wrong living and wrong teaching is a spiritual battle, requiring prayer in the Holy Spirit. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26); 3) waiting anxiously: as we keep the blessed hope of Jesus’ soon return alive in our hearts, this effectively keeps us in the love of God, and helps us to not give away our faith.