An Exploration of Galatians: Fruit of the Spirit Part 2
Galatians 5:22-23 - Behold the Lamb of God and His infinite Love for us!
”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB1995
The first fruit (and probably the most important one, if they were to be ranked) is love. We have both studied and written about love many times for this devotional site, including a series I had on 1 Corinthians 13. But it is always worth a detailed examination again because it is foundational to our belief. Of course, this love comes from the Greek work ἀγάπη or agape, meaning affection, good will, love (ok - a circular reference again), benevolence, brotherly love. Here’s a good explanation from Enduring Word, describing this fruit and the other types of love, plus Guzik has a good comparison of this fruit to the counterfeits that are the deeds of the flesh:
The fruit of the Spirit is love: It is fitting that love be the first mentioned, because it encompasses all of the following. It may even be said that the following eight terms are just describing what love in action looks like. “It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit.” (Martin Luther)
Love translates the ancient Greek word agape. In that language there were four distinct words for “love.” Eros was the word for romantic or passionate love. Philia was the word for the love we have for those near and dear to us, be they family or friends. Storge is the word for the love that shows itself in affection and care, especially family affection. But agape describes a different kind of love. It is a love more of decision than of the spontaneous heart; as much a matter of the mind than the heart, because it chooses to love the undeserving. “Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live.” (William Barclay)
We could say that this is a love of the Spirit, because it is a fruit of the Spirit. This is above and beyond natural affection, or the loyalty to blood or family. This is loving people who aren’t easy to love; loving people you don’t like.
“When you wax indignant because you have been badly treated, and you think of returning evil for evil, remember this text, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love.’ ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘it was shameful!’ Of course it was: and therefore do not imitate it: do not render railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing, for ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love.’” (Charles Spurgeon)
It is also helpful to understand the works of the flesh in the light of this love of the Spirit. Each one of the works of the flesh is a violation or a perversion of this great love.
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lewdness are counterfeits of love among people.
Idolatry and sorcery are counterfeits of love to God.
Hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, and murders are all opposites of love.
Drunkenness and revelries are sad attempts to fill the void only love can fill.
This type of love, like the love that God has for us, seems to be pretty difficult to pin down and define. Is it one of those things that you will know when you see it? The term “love” gets tossed around these days like $1 bills and we are inundated in our culture with trite homilies like “Love is love”, which is merely a cover for various and temporary eros types of love. We see hand gesture photos everywhere with people making a heart with their fingers to signify “love”. People allegedly commit to each other in love when they marry, but then file for divorce when the first bad conflict occurs. Families become estranged and stop loving each other over minor things, often because of “treasures on Earth”. We love pizza, we love sports, we love this, we love that. That’s not love. What is true abiding, eternal love can be summed up in this picture:
Protestants usually decorate their churches with an empty cross, to symbolize Jesus overcoming death and His Resurrection. But there is a lot to be said for seeing the truth in front of your eyes while gazing at a crucifix showing the agape love of the suffering Son of God. We have a painting on our kitchen wall of a crucifix from a dear friend - this friend is a great painter and devout non-denominational Christian - and I have taken to gazing at it now when I am doing intercessory prayer. Our miserable deeds of the flesh, our petty nonsense, and the worries of this world are overcome by the love of the Lamb! This moment in time, over 2000 years ago, is eternal.
So, gathering this love into yourself is, indeed, a work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot fake this fruit or substitute eros, philia, or storge for this agape love. This is the fruit that comes from the heart, but also comes from the mind, from reason, and from God’s indwelling in our soul. Every day, we face a world full of people that are undeserving of love, but if we are to bring His Kingdom here, we must love the unlovable, because He first loved us and we are ALL distinctly unlovable (1 John 4:19). I like this commentary from Precept Austin about agape love:
Agape love is a love of choice, a love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, a love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not a love motivated by the recipient's superficial appearance, by emotional attraction, or by sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that genuine agape love is a sure mark of salvation.
Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for love, such as attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality. Believers can easily fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that a lover feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind.
Demonstrating true agape love is a sure sign of your salvation! It can be tested by seeing your response to a filthy homeless person who approaches you begging or your reaction to a grievous personal insult directed at you on social media. I would probably fail both tests. So how does agape love (represented by the apple above) cascade into the other fruit of the Spirit? Another great commentary about this was found on Precept Austin:
As someone has written, love is the fountainhead and well spring of all other virtues --
Joy is love exulting.
Peace is love resting.
Patience is love enduring.
Kindness is love with bowed head.
Goodness is love in action.
Faithfulness is love confiding.
Gentleness is love in refinement.
Self-Control is love obeying.
My next devotional examines Joy as a Fruit of the Spirit.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please fill me with the spiritual fruit of true unselfish agape love, like the love that you had for your creation, fallen humanity. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/8/2024 to review the lexicon for love.
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here