When I started this study, I thought that the first fruit, love, would be simple to talk about. You know, sending people cards when they are ill, preparing casseroles when there is a need … all those things that we do under the name of love for our fellow man. However, as I searched Scripture about what the fruit of the Spirit of love was, I had to rethink my definition … I pray that you will see that Agape Love is way more than casseroles and cards!
What does Scripture say?
We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that love is a gift of the Spirit, and Paul calls it the greatest of all the gifts.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13.
But love is not only a gift of the Spirit, it is also the first fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians Chapter 5.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Therefore, you might not have been given love as a gift of the Spirit, but you still must exhibit love because love is also the first fruit of the Spirit which is resident in you because the Holy Spirit is within you. In short, love is the only virtue that is both a fruit and a gift of the Spirit.
In considering the singular word “fruit”, the Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians says that this “tends to emphasize the unity and coherence of the life and the Spirit as opposed to the disorganization and instability of life under the dictates of the flesh.”
You will recall that we are using the orange as a representation of the fruit of the Spirit. Each believer has the entire fruit because the Holy Spirit resides in her heart. Therefore, each believer has each segment of the fruit. Here we are considering love.
So, what is Love?
We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide. First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.
Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.
Third is Agape love. This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us. Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved: this is the love that comes from God. One who is nice, compassionate, and even charitable, may be exhibiting a kind of love but, if these actions come from a non-believer, it cannot be Agape love.
Jonathan Edwards said in Charity and Its Fruits:
The Spirit of God is a Spirit of love, and when the former enters the soul, love also enters with it. God is love, and he that has God dwelling in him by his Spirit, will have love dwelling in him also.
Love is resident in the believer, in a way that the unregenerate person cannot understand or experience, simply because the Holy Spirit indwells the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And, God the Holy Spirit is love. Jesus promised to send us the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Teacher Who would guide us as we live our lives as witnesses to Jesus’ power and glory. It is this Spirit that resides within us and it is this Spirit that transforms us into the image of Christ.
The person who is loved may not accept the love, they may not appreciate the love, and they may even despise the one offering the love; but the decision to love is unabated by the response or rejection from the one who is loved. It is for this reason that Agape love cannot be produced by us on our own nor is it resident in our spirits absent the presence of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
The supreme example of Agape love is described by Paul when he said:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a Holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us. His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.
That my beloved is Agape love. Love for a being that can offer us nothing … supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.
It is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.
It is the love that is placed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit when He indwells us at our conversion.
How does this apply to my daily life?
The Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians also notes that the singular use of the word “fruit” may be “intended to point to the person of Christ, in whom all these things are seen in their perfection. The Spirit seeks to produce these by reproducing Christ in the believer.” Paul says later in Galatians:
“It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”
So, how should I respond to this love? First and foremost, remembering what God did for us should bring us to our knees in humble thanksgiving and in renewed dedication to do His will and work in our world.
Second, this love should influence our desire to be in God’s Word and to pray in praise, thanksgiving, supplication and adoration.
Listen to this vocal offering of the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us as sung by Damaris on her album entitled The Heart of God and think how it reveals Agape Love:
In future posts we will consider various aspects of this love! For now, bow before our God and thank Him for loving us and calling us to Himself. Then, consider whether your life exhibits a self-sacrificing love for God and then for others.
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.