By Elizabeth Prata
On Sundays I usually post a theological word with its definition, then an explanation, and use it in a verse. I also use a picture to represent the concept. This is my effort to maintain a theological literacy among the brethren and between generations, something I believe is critical. We have to know what we believe, why, and know the words to express it. Words like Justification, Immanence, and Perspicuity have all been a Sunday Word of the Week.
Similarly, when we discuss other words such as love, peace, and joy, we think we know what they mean, but often times these culturally embedded words have a totally different flavor when used from a biblical context. It is true of the words pertaining to the Fruit of the Spirit. Even these ‘simpler’ biblical words are misunderstood.
Therefore, over the next 9 weeks the Word of the Week will be one of the 9 Fruit of the Spirit.
You notice the fruit is singular. The Holy Spirit develops fruit, not fruits. Believers can and do manifest all its elements simultaneously. The nine representative qualities refer to the whole work of the Spirit’s sanctifying labor in the believer. One doesn’t work on patience today and then love tomorrow and then joy, etc. The fruit is one fruit with various characteristics.
Paul began with identifying love as the first fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said that love is the greatest commandment.
Love in the biblical context doesn’t mean what it means in the songs. The culture says we are always falling in and out of love (Pure Prairie League, Amie), as if love was a tide we had no control over and washes in and out. Whitesnake wanted to know Is This Love? They weren’t sure. Foreigner famously pleaded with the universe, that I Want to Know What Love Is.
Love addles people. Romance is mistaken for love. So is lust. The world thinks it knows love as an external thing that comes upon people who must grab it and plead for it not to go away. As if it can dissipate like steam. But that is not what love is according to the Bible.
I found the section from the MacArthur/Mayhue systematic theology book Biblical Doctrine helpful and illuminating here. The section on the Fruit of the Spirit of love reads as follows:
Christ’s substitutionary death provided the ultimate example of love. (Greek: agape). He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Paul called for this supreme love to be characteristic of a husband’s love for his wife: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25). First Corinthians 13:8 promises that “love never fails.” (NASB).
Thus, love is a communicable, divine attribute that is central to the Father’s character, (1 John 4:8), put on display by Christ at the cross, enabled in believers by the Holy Spirit. Love can be defined broadly as the conscious, sacrificial, and volitional commitment to the welfare of another person, in obedience to God’s Word (2 John 6), regardless of the person’s response or what one does or does not receive from him or her, or what love costs one to give. The love of Christians toward other Christians (Colossians 1:8), as might be expected, is the most commended “one another” response in the New Testament.
That’s what love is.