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5:22,23). Love infuses and conditions all of the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. To some extent, all of the facets of this blessed fruit mutually condition each other. Yet love is the root and trunk from which the other aspects issue as branches. There is no separation between any of the nine aspects of this fruit and there is certainly no confusion or contradiction among them.
However, we do need carefully and precisely to consider the relations among these aspects or we may practically, if not formally, consider them as an assortment of isolated virtues of which we each have only some, and those being the ones we prefer, while thinking that we can dispense with the rest.
We noted in last month’s letter that love has its source in God, who is love, and partakes of the character of divine love as it has been supremely exercised and demonstrated in Christ.
Accordingly, we find love to be self-determining, in that true love is not given or withheld on the basis of another’s loveliness, but is given unconditionally as a power that deposits, rather than discovers, loveliness in the beloved. We also observe that love is sacrificial. It orients us not primarily toward our deriving satisfaction and pleasure from those whom we love, but rather it prompts us to give ourselves and of ourselves to others for their satisfaction and delight.
These features of love would appear to militate against our own joy. Yet here in the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, joy immediately follows love, as though it issues from our selfdetermining and sacrificial loving of others. This appearance of our joy issuing from our loving others is absolutely true. Recall how the flesh produces vile and destructive works (Gal.
5:19,21). The Spirit of God dwelling in us, and our new Christ-like natures growing in us, together produce singular and virtuous fruit, the facets of which cohere in something that is sweetly nourishing to all who possess and share it with others. This coherent and sweet nourishment is not diminished for us by our having these virtues and lovingly exercising them in our relationships with others. While love is predominantly giving and sacrificial, it does not beget sorrow in those who rightly love others. Instead, it produces joy.
This joy is not the superficial glee or occasional happiness that springs from desirable circumstances that sometimes gratify our passions. The joy of the Lord is our deep, abiding, and fortifying delight (Neh. 8:10). It is the holy pleasure that is inspired by the knowledge that we are first and foremost loved and secured by our God. This holy pleasure ignites and expands within us as we love Him in return and realize that our loving Him pleases Him. Our joy also grows when we love others and, by such loving, serve to bless and please them in ways impossible to attain or even imagine when we do not love.
In Luke 10:21,22, we read of Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit precisely because the Spirit kept Him conscious of His Father’s love for Him. The Spirit also kept Jesus conscious of and committed to His determination to love others to the extent that He would freely and sacrificially deliver Himself up to those painful and humiliating sufferings whereby He would die so that we might live. Our blessed living through His death, and the Father’s good pleasure in that redeeming work, together formed the joy that was set before Him as the result and reward of His costly love (Heb. 12:2).
Because Christ dwells in us by His Holy Spirit and because of who we are as new creatures in Christ, we who have the seed of God’s character growing in us (1 Jn. 3:9) love as He has loved us and find our joy in our loving others as He has loved us. True joy is inextricably tied to the exercise of holy love. As we love others, we find our joy in bringing joy to them by our lovingly serving them. To the end that His people should have such joy through their receiving His love and sharing holy love with one another, Jesus prayed (Jn. 17:13,26). That His people should have such joy issuing from their receiving and giving of such love, Jesus gave His life and sent to us the Holy Spirit as the divine comforter who crowns all of our loving of others with joy that is inexpressible.
If we have little or no joy, it is invariably because we have loved others little or not at all.
God has made us for relationships bound together with love. Sin has become a separating force that not only causes us to be fearfully isolated from one another, but that also brings upon us misery as a direct result of our isolation. In Christ, this is all changing. We are reconciled to God and to others, not only by truth and righteousness but also and especially by our being bound together by our mutual love. It is in such love that we find true and lasting joy.
Therefore, as the Spirit inclines and empowers us to love others, He sweetly sets us on the right track to give and receive joy in ever increasing measure.
Dear friends, I continue to write on the fruit of the Spirit. We have seen how love, due to its character and primary position in the nine facets of this blessed fruit, is the foundation and pervading essence of the other eight virtues listed in Galatians 5:22,23. Love has its source in God, who is love, and partakes of the self-determining and sacrificially self-giving nature of the love God has demonstrated in His having given His Son to save sinners. We further have observed that while such self-giving would seem to militate against the personal happiness of the one loving, in reality nothing begets joy in us more truly and lastingly than when we love others. Accordingly, joy follows love as the second facet of the fruit of the Spirit. Joy is the deep, abiding, and fortifying holy delight of our souls that issues from our knowing that God loves us and also issues from our loving others as He has loved, and commanded, and enabled us to do.
This leads us to the third facet—the final facet of the first of the three trios that from the fruit of the Spirit—peace. When our first parents sinned by their doing what God had forbidden, their action was an offense against their good and holy Creator that aroused His holy wrath against them. The pathology of their sin produced disquieting shame in them as they considered themselves, and fear in them as they considered their relationship toward each other and especially toward God. That is why they troubled themselves to fashion clothing to hide themselves from each other, and that is why Adam fled from God when he heard the Lord approaching him. There was peace in none of these attitudes and actions. This miserable condition of self-shame and dread of God and others has without any exceptions dominated our human race throughout our history. That we lack peace in ourselves and in our relationships with others is the inescapable essence of our being that has been increasingly manifested in the wars, laws, economic structures, and cultural distinctives—all of which speak powerfully of our personal and societal agitation.
The fundamental blessing of the gospel of salvation is peace. The fullness of that blessing is best conveyed by the Hebrew word SHALOM. Such peace is that tranquil security that we enjoy when we know that we are, by faith in Christ, justified in the sight of God. The peace that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us, making us know that we are beloved so dearly by our heavenly Father that we can refer to Him with intimate familiarity as our Daddy (Abba), is something so deep and strong that it sustains us even in the most severe trials (Jn. 14:27).
However, this peace is more than the subjective serenity of our souls. It is based on the objective peace that Christ has wrought between the holy God of heaven, whom we have offended by our sins, and ourselves, the sinful people of earth who eke out our lives in the fearful misery and alienation from God and others that we have brought upon ourselves because of our sins. It is in Christ that we have peace with God (Jn. 16:33). It is through our faith in Christ that we are justified and so experience peace with God (Rom. 5:1). It is by the comforting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that we hear and heed the truth that we are beloved children of God and no longer children of His holy wrath (Rom. 8:16; Eph. 2:2-7).
This is the peace that issues from God’s saving love. It is enhanced by our knowing that God is pleased with us in Christ and rejoices in our communion with Him and in our enjoyment of all that He is to us and in all that He gives to us—which is all things that are yes and Amen to us in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). This is the blessing that was pronounced on the ancient Hebrews as God was erecting the ceremonial priesthood that pointed to Christ (Num. 6:24-26). This is the blessing that the apostles of Christ pronounce in the benediction that opens most of their epistles: Grace to you and peace... (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2;
1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2; 2 Jn. 3; Jude 2). This peace is ours in the person of Christ and through the work of Christ who is our peace (Eph.
Because Christ has established this blessed, lavish, and joyful peace for us in relation to our God, it follows because of who we are as new creatures of God in Christ in whom the Holy Spirit dwells that we should be lovers of peace and makers of peace with others. Jesus pronounces blessedness upon those who are peacemakers because they are acting pacifically precisely because they are children of God (Matt. 5:9). Therefore, we observe once again how the fruit of the Spirit in all its facets is sweet to those who possess and exercise those facets and tends to be pleasing to others who know and are influenced by those who have the fruit of the Spirit.
These facets of the fruit of the Spirit are all tested in our lives. Such testing is part of the Lord’s nourishing and stimulating work in us as He causes this blessed fruit to grow in us. Our peace is most frequently assaulted by the accusations of Satan that aim to drive us back into our shame. We are also misguided by our own fears, those sorry comforters, that tell us that it is not the nearness of our God to us that is our good. Our response to these trials is simple and clearly stated in God’s Word in the numerous times that He tells us to fear not. The positive component of that counsel is that we draw and remain close to our Lord by prayer and supplication (Phil.
4:6,7). Then the God of peace will be prevail with us (Phil. 4:9), guarding our hearts and minds, our emotions and thoughts, in Christ who is our peace. This peace vanquishes all our fears of God’s holy wrath and all our fears of the attacks of evil men and devils. It also dispels our reservations to love and enjoy our God and our brethren and even our neighbors.
Love, joy, and peace are of God and are given to believers by God through His Holy Spirit.
We who are in Christ have God’s life and love growing in us to His glory and our joy in that peaceful and pleasant relationship that God has established with us.
Dear friends, The first three aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, and peace) fill God and are given to believers by God through His Holy Spirit. These three facets progressively fill our hearts and souls. So do rest of the facets of the fruit of the Spirit. All of them blessedly condition each other. Of the second trio we begin to consider in this month’s letter, two of them (kindness and goodness) are gently demonstrative, while the first of the three listed (patience) is essentially undemonstrative. With this second set of aspects we find components that are part of the quality of meekness. God’s Spirit makes us to be gently virtuous and not imposing. He leads us to be undemonstrative when our impatience or lack of kindness would unduly alarm or pain others for whom we may have true and even loving consideration.
It may seem strange that such an essentially undemonstrative virtue as patience should follow the cardinal virtues of love, joy, and peace. Shouldn’t those filled with such foundational aspects of the sweet fruit of God’s Holy Spirit be eager and assertive to press their virtuous exertions on others? Yet, forceful manifestations of love, joy, and even of the peace we have with God can be repellant rather than attractive to those who are strangers to the sweet fruit of the Spirit, and even to those who have yet to ripen very much in their personal production of the Spirit’s fruit. We are all at different points in our spiritual development and we all grow at differing paces. With patience, a person listens more than he speaks, and waits more than he works. The patient one seeks to be understanding and sympathetic with others rather than to impose even good things upon them. Those who are patient think and pray before they act. If we have and exercise patience, we resist the impulses of our residual sinfulness to repay provocation with swift punishment. Those who love much can bear much (1 Cor. 13:5,7), and do so to win other sinners into loving relationship with God and with themselves rather than to prove themselves right and others wrong. And before all of these features of patience toward others can be truly exercised, we learn patience from our God and exercise it with respect to Him, as Scripture often tells us to wait upon the Lord. It is the loving patience of God and of His Spirit-filled children that most effectively leads sinners and wayward saints to true and lasting transformations into godliness (Rom. 2:4).
We detect a lack of patience in Adam as soon as he committed sin and fell from his original righteousness. He hastened superficially to address his shame by his fashioning leaves into his crude and woefully inadequate clothing. When the Lord God asked Adam if he had come to realize that he was naked and was ashamed of it as a result of his having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam answered the Lord with the impetuosity and evasiveness that grew from his guilt and fear.
This seminal display in Genesis 3 of sin’s pathology in pressing the sinner to quick and inconsiderate action indicates to us what we have lost by our sin. We have lost our perception of the love of our God and of the joy and secure peace we can have only from Him. In Christ, we experience a fundamental and ever-growing restoration of these things we have lost.