The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love
--Galatians 5:16-26 and John 15:1-8
Envision the “Fruit of the Spirit” as being a single cluster of fruit, perhaps a cluster of grapes. Included in that single cluster are nine Christian virtues the Holy Spirit produces in believers who live, walk, and are guided by His power.
We might also consider “The Fruit of the Spirit” in terms of three “sub clusters.” Love, joy, and peace are the first sub cluster and basically describe our relationship with God. When we are walking, living, and being guided by the Holy Spirit, our relationship with God is one of love, joy, and peace. Patience, kindness, and goodness describe our relationships with other people. Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are character traits of Jesus that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in each one of us. Jesus is our role model for living the Spirit filled life.
The Fruit of the Spirit is the means by which the Holy Spirit makes us be like Jesus. When we obediently surrender to His control, He molds us into the image of Jesus so that we become in deed and word like our Master—loving, kind, humble.
The Fruit of the Spirit is a single cluster with love being predominate. It is no coincidence that love heads the list of spiritual fruit. I Corinthians 13 reminds us: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (verse 13).” Love is the governing fruit in the cluster: “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love.” We could actually stop there, for love is the characteristic virtue of Jesus and all of his disciples.
When I have love, I also have joy and peace. When I have love, I am patient, kind, and longsuffering
What does Paul mean when he says, “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love?” The Greek language has three basic words for love, but only two are found in the New Testament. The word “eros” or erotic love never appears in the New Testament. “Eros” love is sexual passion.
One word the New Testament uses for love is “philia” from which comes “Philadelphia,” or “the city of brotherly love.” Philia appears frequently in Scripture; but, although it expresses a beautiful and meaningful relationship of love between individuals, it is limited in its scope. Philia is affectionate love, fond love. It says, “I really like you. I am attracted to you. We have a bond between us.” Philia love is a love that is often based on common interests between people. Philia declares, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”
The Fruit of the Spirit is “agape” love. Agape love is absolutely selfless, self-sacrificial, unconditional concern for the well-being of others. Agape is more concerned with the needs and wishes of others than with its own wants and desires. Agape is a generous spirit. Agape puts the good of others, including one’s enemies, above its own interests. Agape is love with no strings attached.
Agape is rooted in the nature of God. God is the source of agape love. Agape is like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going and going, or giving, and giving, and giving. It is not based on mutual affection between the lover and the object of his love, and it does not depend upon any attractiveness of the object of its affection. Agape loves those who are unlovable and loves when there is no cause or reason to love.
Such love is supremely seen in Jesus. He proved his love for us when we gave him absolutely no reason to love us at all, when we were at our very worst. Romans 5:8 affirms this truth, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus reached down to us in love when we were the most unlovable, when there was absolutely nothing attractive or likeable about us. He demonstrated his agape love by dying for us “while we were still sinners.” Jesus did not die for good people. He died for us sinners; He died for His enemies and prayed as they drove the nails through His hands, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”
My brothers and sisters, this is the same kind of love that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us as well. This is the Christlike virtue that is part of the Fruit of the Spirit. While the New Testament affirms that agape is rooted and grounded in God’s unselfish love for us, the majority of New Testament passages referring to agape love speak about the Christian disciples’ way of life. Ephesians 5:1-2 commands us, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Jesus himself commands us in John 13:34, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The Apostle John reaffirms this same love that Jesus and Paul commanded in I John 3:16-18, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
The agape love of Jesus in us reaches out not only to those for whom we have a natural liking, attraction, affection, or with whom we have a common interest; it seeks those who are unlovable and anyone we think is our worst enemy. As we walk and are guided by the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to be just like Jesus, to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).” This is the Fruit of the Spirit. He enables us to love like this, and it is all a work of His grace, from start to finish. We are absolutely helpless to love this way in our own strength and power.
We have to depend entirely on Him to live His love through us. Love is the product of the Holy Spirit working in us as we continue to obey and surrender to His control. Jesus makes this so clear in John 15: “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing . . . . This is My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples (John 15:5, 8).” Apart from Jesus, we can not love, but as we walk and are guided by the Holy Spirit we prove to the world that we “are Christians by our love.”
I want to make two more quick points before we close. First of all, when we produce the fruit of agape love, we are a forgiving people in the spirit of Colossians 3:13-14, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if anyone of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Did you “catch” it: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity?” The fruit, or in this case virtue, of love “hold all the other Fruit of the Spirit together in perfect unity.” Love enables us to forgive. The Holy Spirit living in us and guiding us empowers us to forgive all who have wronged us. This is agape love.
Finally, remember that agape love knows no limits; it is bound by no borders. In the Old Testament God’s love basically reached only the Children of Israel. On occasions some Gentiles received his grace and love—Job, Rahab, and Ruth in particular. In Jesus, God’s love is universal, not limited only to Jews and Christians, but available even to Arabs, terrorists, and all who would do us harm and destroy us. This is the agape love Jesus expects us to share as well. He does not intend for His love to be limited simply to those for whom we are fond, those whom we happen to like, those to whom we are naturally attracted, or those with whom we have a common bond or interest. The agape love of Jesus must flow freely from us to everyone, fulfilling Paul’s prayer in I Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
Only the Holy Spirit can multiply agape love in us, causing it to flow from us to each other and to everyone else as well. To love like this, we must depend every second upon the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. In obedience to Him, we must let Him keep us in the closest relationship we can possibly have with Jesus. May each of us always be obedient and surrendered to the Spirit’s control so that Jesus can love everyone through us; so that the world will indeed know that “we are Christians by His love.”