“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” –Galatians 5:16-26
The admonition given to us in this passage is to walk in the Spirit. It is one thing to live in the Spirit and quite another thing to walk in the Spirit. There are many who live in the Spirit but do not walk in the Spirit. Those who live in the Spirit are those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. These are those who have placed their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. They have received the grace of God through faith in the atoning work of Christ. Those who live in the Spirit are indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God. However, though one may have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, he or she may not be living a Spirit-filled life, thus walking in the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 commands us to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. In order to live a life that is filled with the Spirit one must faithfully practice the spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc.). The fruits of the Spirit is a natural outflow of a life that is filled with the Spirit.
It is interesting that the very first fruit of the Spirit listed is love. The Bible is full of references to the love of God. The overall theme of the Bible is the love of God for mankind. Love is the fuel behind everything that God is and does. It is this very love of God that is poured into us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). In considering this priceless fruit of the Spirit, there are several things for us to consider about love.
The Plan of Love. God is a sovereign God. He is in control and He has a sovereign plan. This sovereign plan of God is driven by the love of God. It is because of love that He breathed into man and he became a living soul. It is because of love that God created man in His own image, giving man intellect, emotions, and a will. It is because of love that God tested man in the garden, giving him an option to choose. It is because of love that God’s wrath must fall on this sinful world. By His wrath, God is saving us from destroying ourselves. It is because of love that God sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world. It is because of love that God is not willing for any to perish but that all would come to repentance. It is because of love that God has prepared a dwelling place for all those who choose to believe on the Lord Jesus and accept His gift of love. God’s plan can never be separated from His love.
The Power of Love. The power of love is displayed in two basic ways. (1) The power of love in salvation. It is difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that God loved us so much that He would give His Son to die on the cross in order that our sins would be atoned for. This love is described to us in no better place than in John 3:16-17. The fact remains that we are all sinners deserving of the wrath of God. Yet, instead of condemning us, God has given us mercy and grace and has provided a way by which we can be reconciled to Himself. This way of salvation could be provided in no other way other than the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, giving His life so that we may live. This all began with ‘for God so loved the world.’ For God so loved you! If you were the only person on the face of this planet, Jesus would still have come and died just for you. What an indescribable, powerful love! (2) The power of love in holiness. God is perfectly holy. He cannot have anything to do with sin. Because of His holiness, His wrath must fall on this unbelieving world. However, you cannot separate His love from His holiness. God is holy because He is love. God is love because He is holy. It is when the love of God fills our lives, that we are able to be holy as He is holy. 2 Corinthians 5:14 mentions that the love of Christ constrains us. It is God’s love for us that we are made holy and it is our love for God that we be holy. In other words, we are made holy by the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed upon us. So that when God looks upon us, He does not see our sin, however, He sees His own righteousness. Even though we are made holy, we do not always live holy lives. It is our love for God that constrains us from evil and that enables us to be holy. The more you love God, the more holy you will be. The more you love God, the less you will sin. If you are struggling with sin, the question is not whether or not you have the power or the will to resist the sin. The question is, how much do you love God? If you truly love Him with all your soul, mind, and might; you will not sin. Our struggle with sin is not just a fight with our sin nature, it is a fight for our heart. Satan wants your heart, therefore he will tempt you with sin. God also wants your heart. He desires that you truly love Him. Love not the world or the things in the world, instead love Jesus. The more you love Jesus, the less you will love the things of the world. The more you love Jesus the less worldly you will be and the more holy you will become. God’s love is indeed a powerful thing.
The Purpose of Love. The purpose of love is strictly doxological. It is for the glory of God that God is love. God loves you in order that He may be glorified. You are to love God in order that He may be glorified. You see, God’s love is not all about you. It is all about Him. When we begin to think that His love is about us, we are then susceptible to pride which is the root of sin. However, when we understand that His love is all about Him and what He has done and what He has given, then we are able to bring Him glory.
The Practice of Love. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 mentions that we are to abound in love for one another and for all mankind. Here we find that the practice of love is two-fold. (1) Love for other believers. When we are living a Spirit-filled life, the Spirit of God pours into us the very love of God. As the love of God is poured into us, the fruit of love is displayed in our actions and attitudes toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. This love for other believers is (a) a common love. In others words, if you are living a Spirit-filled life, you will have a love for all believers no matter who they are or where they are. This common love is displayed in our attitudes toward one another even when we disagree. It is a sad thing when God’s people refuse to associate with each other simply because of some disagreement or doctrinal argument. If someone is a true born again believer, you must show love to them no matter how wrong you think they are. (b) A grace filled love. Often times, we have a tendency to kick those who are down. Christians still sin. We all sin. We all make mistakes. We all mess up. Imagine if God gossiped about you, ignored you, and condemned you every time you sinned. Imagine if God declared you as unqualified or unfit to serve Him every time you messed up. If that were the case there would be no pastors, missionaries, or any other Christian worker. If that were the case then we would all be most miserable. Yet, God does not do that. Instead, He gives us grace. Instead of kicking us when we are down, He lifts us up. Instead of reminding us of our sin, He forgives us. Instead of putting us on the sidelines, He puts us back into the game once we have had time to recover and to be restored. If God, who is perfectly holy gives us such grace, how much more so should we give grace to other believers? (c) A wall breaking love. Unfortunately, the Christian community has built up walls between each other. We are afraid of our differences and so we disassociate ourselves from each other. Many years ago, I pastored a Southern Baptist Church in a small town in Georgia. Across the street was a church of Christ church. The pastor of that church and myself shared something in common, we were both Alabama football fans. As a result, we developed a friendly relationship. In several of our discussions about life and ministry, I came to realize that He and I shared many of the same doctrines and beliefs. He did not believe that only church of Christ members were going to heaven. He believed that salvation came only by grace through faith and not by works or by any act of man. He believed that Jesus was the only way to Salvation. He believed in the virgin birth. He believed in the inspired Word of God. Yes, we had our differences, but we did agree on those fundamental truths that enabled us to call each other brother. There was a time when I invited Him to bring his congregation across the church to our church for a church fellowship event. However, he had to decline because of the politics of his church. One week, the church of Christ across the church was holding revival services. I and several members of our Southern Baptist Church walked across the street and attended that revival meeting and worshiped with our fellow believers. That simple act went a long way in breaking down those barriers. The once hard headed Southern Baptist and Church of Christ members who would never think to look across the street and give a friendly wave and smile, were now talking with each other and developing friendships. You see, it is our common love for God and His love for us that breaks down those walls. I am not promoting ecumenicalism. However, I do believe that the church in America today needs to learn to love each other in spite of our differences. It such a love that comes from a Spirit-filled life, that could very well change the course of our nation. (2) Love for all mankind. The scripture teaches us that not only are we to love other believers, but we are also to love all of mankind. Sadly, most people in the world only know what the church is against and what the church has against them, rather than what the church is for. Instead of condemning the homosexual who already knows where we stand, why not invite them over for a meal and perform some sacrificial act of kindness for them? Instead of tearing down the politician with our words, why not pray for them and send them a note of encouragement? Instead of ignoring and shunning the Muslim, why not give them a care package or help them with home repairs? Instead of snubbing our nose up at the homeless, why not feed them and give them shelter? This is what the love of God in our hearts will produce in us. When we are truly Spirit-filled, the love of God will flow out of us like a flood and will be evident in how we treat others.
A Spirit-filled life produces a life that is filled with the love of God. Such love is compelling. It is this very love that draws people to Jesus. What about you? Does the love of God flow out of you? Are you filled with His love? Are you living the Spirit-filled life?