THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (4)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13 is so full of truth that in studying it I have found it helpful to divide the chapter into three parts. Love is essential [verses 1-3], love is expressive [verses 4-7], and love is eternal [verses 8-13].

Paul makes it clear that without love spiritual gifts or disciplines are without value. Love is essential. In the first two verses, Paul specifically mentions four of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues, prophecy, knowledge and faith.

Paul uses the phrase “the tongues of men and of angels” [verse 1] to define the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. These are both earthly and heavenly languages that the Holy Spirit gives to people supernaturally, by-passing the normal mental faculties. My revered former tutor, a highly esteemed man in both Christian and secular circles and who had achieved a great deal of success in his life, one day began to speak in tongues. He was shocked, but quickly took hold of a tape recorder [that gives an idea of how long ago it was!], and continued speaking this strange new language. He sent the recording to an expert in languages who confirmed that it had all the hallmarks of a genuine language. Paul says, “I wish you all spoke in tongues” [1 Corinthians 14:5], but he also says, “If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” [v1 Amplified Bible]. Tongues without love is just loud, empty noise!

In the second verse, Paul goes even further and says that although we may have the gift of prophecy, knowledge and faith to remove mountains but do not have love we are nothing! Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5] and without love we are nothing!

To emphasize the essentiality of love even more emphatically Paul says in verse 3 that without love giving all we have to feed the poor, or even being prepared to die as a martyr for our faith, we gain nothing. The Message Bible concludes these three verses with the words, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love”. Remember the definition of agape love – it is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional.

Questions:

What do you think of this sentence, “What we do is important, but the motive behind doing what we do is even more important”?

Why do you think that action without love is an indication of spiritual bankruptcy?

What do you think are the reasons the people can use spiritual gifts, give to the poor and even die as a martyr if it is not motivated by love?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (3)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-31

“But earnestly desire the best [greater] gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” [1 Cor 12:31]

There had been some serious issues and excess in the Corinthian Church concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They had been misused, and some people were even forbidding others to use the gifts of the Spirit. People were judging one another and suggesting that those who were not exercising certain gifts of the Spirit were not spiritually minded. The whole matter was causing disunity in the Church. Against this background Paul wrote chapters 12-14 of his first letter to the Corinthians to correct them. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and emphasises strongly the importance of unity in the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul continues to teach the Corinthian Church about the gifts, and in particular, prophecy and tongues.

Sandwiched between these two chapters is one of the most remarkable chapters of the Bible and it is all about love. The gifts of the Spirit had become a divisive issue and the answer is love! In no way does Paul decry or put down the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actually says that we should seek after and earnestly desire spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians 12:31a; 14:1]. Having said that, Paul continues by saying that he will show them a more excellent way [12:31b]. That way is love.

It is a more excellent way of living, and as we shall see tomorrow, without love the gifts of the Holy Spirit have no value. Jesus spoke about people who prophesied, cast out demons and did many signs and wonders, but he never knew them [Matthew 7:21-23]. Love, not signs and wonders, is the evidence of new birth [1 John 47]. God is love, and so to live a godly life means to live a life of sacrificial, self-denying, unconditional love.

Love is not only a more excellent way living but also of judging spirituality. Jesus made it very clear that we will recognise false prophets by their fruit. We should never judge a person’s spirituality by their gifts but rather by the fruit of their life, that is their character.

Questions:

What clear statements does Paul make about the Body of Christ in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians?

Read Romans 16:17 and Jude 16-19. What do the writers say about those people who cause division in the Body of Christ?

Why is it important that we don’t make spiritual gifts the criteria for judging a person’s spiritual life?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (2)

Bible Reading: John 12:9-17; Matthew 5:43-48

Love is the first of the aspects of the fruit of Holy Spirit, and comes first for the obvious reason that patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, joy, peace and goodness are not only aspects of the fruit of the Spirit but also are evidences of love. Love is the greatest and its outworking is see in these other fruits.

Love is so difficult to define because the devil has done all he can to distort its meaning. The devil hates love because God is love! Words that perhaps best sum up love are selflessness, sacrifice, care, and courage. One of the most beautiful expressions of this is found in David Ireland’s book, Letters to an Unborn Child. David Ireland was dying of a crippling neurological disease. His wife was pregnant and he knew that he would probably never see the child. In one of his letters to his unborn child he wrote:

“Your mother is very special. Few men know what it’s like to receive appreciation for taking their wives out for dinner when it entails what it does for us. It means that she has to dress me, shave me, brush my teeth, comb my hair, wheel me out of the house and down the stairs, open the garage and put me in the car, take the pedals off the chair, stand me up, sit me in the seat of the car, twist me around so that I am comfortable, fold the wheelchair, put in the car, go around to the other side of the car, start it up, back it out, get out of the car, pull the garage door down, get back into the car, and drive off to the restaurant.

And then it starts all over again; she gets out of the car, unfolds the wheelchair, opens the door, spins me around, stands me up, seats me in the wheelchair, pushes the pedals out, closes and locks the door, wheels me into the restaurant, then takes the pedals off the wheelchair so I won’t be uncomfortable. We sit down to have dinner, and she feeds me throughout the entire meal. And when it is over she pays the bill, pushes the wheelchair out to the car again, and reverses the routine.

And when it is over – finished – with real warmth she’ll say, “Honey, thank you for taking me out to dinner.” I never quite know what to answer.”

That is what love looks like! David’s wife, Joyce, gives us the most amazing picture of what courageous giving and self-sacrificing love looks like.

Questions:

If giving has cost you nothing then do you think that it is right to call it an act of love? What are the reasons for your answer to that question?

What is your reaction to the remarkable story of David Ireland’s dinner date with his wife?

Will you make a fresh commitment today to allow the love of God to fill you and touch those around you?

What does it mean to love those who don’t love you [Matthew 5:46]?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (1)

Bible Reading: 1 John 4:7-21

Over the next few days we are going to look at the first aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love.

There are four types of love referred to in the Bible. Each is described by a different Greek word. The first word ‘philia’ means close friendship or brotherly love. The word ‘philia’ and other forms of this Greek noun are found throughout the New Testament. Christians are frequently exhorted to love their fellow Christians. For example, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour” [Romans 12:10 ESV].

The second word is ‘eros’ meaning sensual or sexual love. Although this Greek term does not appear in the Bible, ‘eros’, or erotic love, is clearly portrayed in the Song of Solomon.

The third word, ‘storge’ is family love. It is the natural love between mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. As with eros, this Greek term does not appear in the Bible but there many examples of family love found in Scripture.

The fourth word is ‘agape’ and is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. The word ‘agape’ is the word used to describe God’s love. It is the Greek word for love in the verse “God is love” [1 John 4:8].

God’s love is sacrificial. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” [John 3:16]. The evidence of God’s love is that He gives sacrificially, and that to undeserving sinners like us. His love is also totally unconditional. A lovely verse in John’s Gospel says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” [John 11:5]. He just loves them, not “if” or “but “when” or even because, but because He loved them.

The Holy Spirit wants to fill us with God’s love. Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul says, “the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” [Romans 5:5]. Once again the Greek for love in this verse is ‘agape’. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is God’s love in our life. It is not human or natural love improved upon, but Divine life in human vessels of clay!

Questions:

Can you think of any reason why God should love you? Why do you think that He does love you?

What do you think is the evidence that you love God?

Are there people who you find it very difficult to love? Would you ask the Lord to fill you with His love for those people?

 

 

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – 2

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.” [Galatians 5:22-23 NLT]

The Bible speaks about the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The word “fruit” is singular but with nine aspects. As we live in the Spirit all nine aspects of this one fruit of the Spirit should be increasingly evident in our lives. The gifts of the Spirit it is different. The word “gifts” is plural and the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different individuals.

Both the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit [I Corinthians 12:8-10] and the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23] making our character more like Jesus are important if we are to have a balanced Christian life.

A man had a problem with a leak in the roof of his house, and needed someone to repair it. He wanted to make sure the job was done properly and so looked for a workman with good references. He was given the names of two possible workmen and made enquiries about them. He was told that the first man would do an amazing job, and that the roof would probably not leak again for a hundred years, but the man would overcharge him, cheat and even steal from him. He had ability but no character.

Seeking references for the second man, he was told that he was such a lovely, warm-hearted and generous character, but sadly not very good at his job and the roof could well leak again within five years. This man had a good character but no real ability.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the character of Jesus being formed in us. In order to be truly effective Christians, we need both the character that the Holy Spirit produces in us, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to serve God more effectively. Don’t be like the men with ability but no character or with the character but no ability.

The Bible says that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit He will give us the gifts that we need, and the more we are filled the Holy Spirit the more the fruit of the Spirit will make us like Jesus.

Questions:

Why do you think that people tend to emphasize either the gifts of the Spirit or the fruit of the Spirit and not hold both in equal tension?

What is the point of having gifts to serve God but not having a character that matches the gifts?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – 1

Bible Reading: John 14:12-31

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” [John 14:16-17]

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is a wonderful theme, but one of the problems is that many people and churches don’t really have a Biblical concept of who the Holy Spirit is. To some He is merely a force, influence, or a power, but He is far more than that.

The Holy Spirit is both a Person and God and He is the third member of the Trinity. He is known by various names, including the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. In the Old Testament He was there at creation [Genesis 1:2], and came upon people to equip them to serve God. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired God’s Word [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21]. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit, and anointed for ministry by the Holy Spirit [Acts 10.38]. He gave commandments to the early disciples after His resurrection and before His ascension through the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:2].

The Holy Spirit continued the ministry of Jesus on earth after He had ascended back into heaven. Jesus prepared the disciples for the time that He would return to heaven by promising that He would not leave them as orphans, but would send them another Helper. The Greek word translated here as ‘Helper” is ‘parakletos,’ literally the one who comes alongside to help, comfort and counsel.

There are two Greek words that can be translated as “another” in English. The first word is ‘heteros’ that means ‘another but totally different.’‘ The second word, used by Jesus in John 14:16 is the word ‘allos’ which means “another who is exactly the same”.

Jesus is saying that He will send the disciples a Person just like Himself, that is, one who is fully divine. Who was the first Counsellor? Jesus. He had been the disciples’ strength and counsel during the years of his ministry among them. Now He is going away, and in His place He will be sending a second Counsellor who is just like him. The Holy Spirit is a divine Person who is not just with us but living inside of us. Living inside of us, the Holy Spirit wants to make us more and more like Jesus – that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Questions:

Read John 14:12-31. According to this passage of Scripture, what are the things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives?

Will you take time just to thank God that the Holy Spirit is a Person who is living right inside of you? Ask Him to do new things in your heart and life?