THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT:
The importance of love is a
fundamental theme in the Bible. Love is the very first Fruit of the Spirit
listed in Galatians 5. But the type of love mentioned in Galatians 5 is a
very special kind of love with very special characteristics. In this article
this amazing fruit will be discussed in great depth so as to give the reader
a much more complete understanding of this most fundamental Christian trait.
But before doing so we must discuss what the Fruit of love is not.
There are three Greek words translated
"love" in the New Testament . One such words is
which, as the word implies, refers to passionate emotion. It is feeling-based and it is not necessarily
lasting love. It is something the world abounds in. It is a sensual kind
of love and it has no spiritual dimension to it.
Another Greek word which is also translated love is
"Philia". The word Philia refers
to having ďaffectionĒ for someone or ďfondnessĒ for someone, be it family or
It is used a few times in the New Testament to refer to love for the
brethren, and it is translated in both the KJV and the NKJV as ďbrotherly
love.Ē It can also be used to refer to the fondness God has for mankind, the
fondness of Christ for the church, but based on my research this word is
only used twice in that regard.
The word used in the list in Galatians 5 is not Philia but
What is the meaning of Agape?
According to Vineís Dictionary,
Agape (noun) and Agapao (verb), as used in the NT mean the following:
To describe ďthe attitudeĒ of God to His son, the human race,
generally, and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly.
It is also used to convey His will to His children concerning their
"attitude" one to another and toward all men.
That is, God wills that His converted children especially love God
and one another, and that they love the human race as well.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
defines Agape as follows:
"In the New Testament, the word agape took on a special meaning: It
was used by the New Testament writers to designate a volitional love"
(CHOSEN LOVE) "as opposed to the purely emotional kind" (REACTIVE
AND TEMPORARY). "It is a self-sacrificial love, a kind
naturally expressed by God
but not so easily by men and women"
Thus Agape refers to the love that emanates from God that He shares with us
and that manifests itself in self-sacrificial love toward fellow Christians
in particular and also toward the unconverted.
Agape Love is mentioned first in the list of the Fruits of the Spirit,
because it is the foundation of it all. Love is not only a fruit of the
Spirit, as I said last time, it is also the roots, the tree trunk and the
branches that produce all the other fruits. Love is the major source of joy,
peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
It is also critical that we be reminded of the fact that the Holy Spirit, as
we well understand, is God. The Fruits of the Spirit emanate from
God. The Scriptures tell us that "God is love"
(1 John 4:8).
Thus all the fruits emanate from Love -- that is from God who is Love.
Our mission is to also become love. We have to Love
God and Jesus Christ with all our heart, mind and soul and we have to love
our human brothers and sisters as ourselves.
But how do we do that? How do we express Agape toward other human beings?
That is the topic of this article: How does Agape love manifest itself?
I would like to propose to you that agape love manifests itself in two
The first manifestation of agape is obedience.
Obedience to Godís commandments, to Jesus Christ's commandments and His
apostles' commandments, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In the past some of us gladly and in some cases fanatically embraced the
need to obey Godís commandments. As a result, some of us became very
obedientórigidly obedient and also self-righteous, proud, superior
That is unfortunately what happens when we become fervent and fanatical
about obedience, but we are lacking in the second manifestation of Agape.
Obedience was and remains
fundamental to our Christian life. Obedience is a critical part of being good Christians.
But some of us stopped there and by doing so we stopped growing, for
spiritual growth entails commitment to obeying God plus growth in the
second area: Holy attitudes.
True Agape which is poured on us by God manifests itself in
both obedience and Agape attitudes.
Where there is an abundance of Agape, there is love for Godís laws and there
is an abundance of agape attitudes.
Both are present.
Letís call these two aspects, the two pillars of agape.
Letís therefore review both pillars today and letís ask ourselves: Do I
manifest a balance between the two areas, or am I only focusing on one
and not the other?
OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S COMMANDMENTS
Letís first of all look at the first pillar: Obedience to Godís laws.
If we are filled with Godís Spirit, we will be moved to obey Godís
commandments and we will be empowered to obey Godís commandments.
God, from the beginning to the end of His Word, stresses and demands
obedience to His commandments.
Thus he gave us the two great commandments, and both have to do with Love.
Deuteronomy 6:5 "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)
" 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against
one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself."
God then clarified these two great commandments in the Ten Commandments. He
then proceeded to give us other important requirements in the Book of the
But he didnít stop there. In the N. T. He expanded further on His
commandments through Jesus Christ and finally gave more finishing touches
with His Apostles.
Lest there be any doubt as to the necessity of obeying Godís commandments,
in the Gospels Christ to confirmed the necessity of obeying them.
Matthew 5:17 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come
to destroy, but to fulfil."
"But if thou wilt enter into life,
you love Me, keep My commandments.
who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he
who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest
Myself to him.Ē
The Apostles also supported this
"Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good."
I John 2:4
ďHe who says
I know him and does not keep His commandments is a liar and His truth
is not in Him.Ē
1 John 5:2 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep
His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God,
that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
2 John 1:6 "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the
commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in
This is our God; a God who loves all of His children deeply and who
wants them all treated with respect and dignity. By obeying His commandments
we show love and respect toward Godís children. This is Agape. This is Godís
But there is more. As we receive His spirit, new dimensions must be added to
our minds, that go beyond obedience. That is pillar two. And this is where
some of us at times are lacking:
The second manifestation or pillar two is agape attitudes.
Obedience without Godís attitudes may be a manifestation of our
righteousness, not necessarily Godís righteousness which is authored and
maintained by Godís Spirit.
How do we know that our righteousness is ours and not Godís?
Because the following attitudes will not accompany it.
PILLAR 2: AGAPE ATTITUDES
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible. It is often quoted, but
not necessarily understood. We even read it as the list of attitudes we
ought to implement, when in reality they are attitudes that God must place
in us, if they are to be real and lasting.
Letís analyze this most supreme chapter thoroughly.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and
of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging
Though I have the outward manifestations of spirituality that some take
great pride in, but I am not filled with Agape, I am nothing. I am an
instrument that makes lots of noise but no pleasant sound.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and
Though I have been chosen by God Himself to be a prophet, and though I have
the deepest understanding of the Scriptures and know Hebrew, Aramaic and NT
Greek; if I am not filled with Agape, I am nothing.
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
Though I have tremendous faith to do great things that will leave people stunned by the miracles
that I can perform, but have not Agape, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor
goods to feed the poor. Can there be more Agape love than that? Well, not
really. Two of the most giving people on earth today
are agnostics. Bill
gates and Warren
set up a charitable foundation that is worth $ 38.7 billions.
It is called the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, now supported by Warren Buffett. This is what one reads on their foundation web site:
by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In
developing countries, it focuses on improving peopleís health and giving
them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the
United States, it seeks to ensure that all peopleóespecially those with the
fewest resourcesóhave access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life.Ē
Honourable sounding, indeed.
But is it agape? Or is it the kind of love that according to Paul gives much
and yet is worthless to God?
The difference is the source and the motivation.
Why are they doing it?
It could be in part because they are kind people (Exercising Philia love,
which humans can exercise without Godís help), it could be in part for tax
purposes, or it could be their own monument to themselves. Some great
people of the past have built buildings to their memory, others have built
monuments. Today doing that would not be well received, it would be much
better received to create a foundation to noble causes worth billions of
dollars that would last for decades or even centuries, if the billions are
What better way to be admired, respected and loved. What better way to
create a glorious image that will last on and on. What better way to
One can give everything he possesses to charity and do it with the wrong
attitude. These two people have no place for God in their lives; they
are God in their own eyes. They have their worshippers; they have great
wealth and power; they can now have eternity through their foundation and
But to God their billions are not enough. They may be impressing men, but
God is not impressed, as Paul reminds us.
Öand though I give my body to be burned
Can there be a greater sacrifice? Not only to give oneís life but to
offer it as a burnt sacrifice. Isnít that what Muslim terrorists do? Do
they not offer their lives to a holy cause? Are they not in their eyes Godís
They may offer their bodies to be dismembered, but they do not have Agape,
and thus it profits them nothing.
How do we know if we are filled with agape love then?
What are the characteristics that indicate its presence?
Love suffers long; Love is very patient, even when in being patient
one is suffering. God is very patient. He waited hundreds of years
before intervening with Noahís world, with the Canaanites and thousands
before he intervenes and deals with a degenerate humanity.
We have to be longsuffering too.
But we are not required to suffer forever.
There are times when our mental and physical health is at stake; then we act
and do something about the problem -- but not with a spirit of vengeance. We
wait with Godís strength as long as possible and then finally we do
something about the problem -- but always motivated by love, never
motivated by a spirit of vengeance.
Sometimes we have to be longsuffering with a weak brother or a weak sister. The strength
to do so comes from Agape. Christ is longsuffering with us, especially when we go through spiritually weak times. We have to be longsuffering with others, when they are going
through a spiritually weak time.
We turn the other cheek, and we bear
Ephesians 4:2 "...with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love..."
God asks much from us when He asks us to be this longsuffering. But the key
point is not only that we must exercise longsuffering,
the key point is we must exercise
longsuffering with the love and strength given to us by God, through Apape.
We are longsuffering because we use God's strength and we
apply Godís wisdom to know how to finally deal with the problem.
1 Peter 3:9 (KJV)
rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing;
ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing."
been called to endure persecution. The enduring patiently is part of our
training to be Godís children. We have to be like God and thus we suffer
long, with His
power, with His patience and with His Agape love.
True Agape-filled Christians are kind people. They show sincere
kindness, even to people who donít deserve kindness. They give and serve
with kindness and sincerity.
There are kind people in this world who are not Christians. Some may be kind
by nature; some may have learned to be kind from their parents; some choose
to be kind. That is PHILIA kindness. Some are sincere, some are not. Some
simply put on an act. Some act kind to get something in return. It is hard
Some become very kind during Christmas and Easter time and then go back to
being unkind for the rest of the year.
True Agape-filled Christians are not harsh with others -- even if they
deserve it. They even treat their enemies kindly, and they do it with
Godís Agape love. If it is Agape kindness, it is God who does it --
not us. The praise goes to Him, not us.
In the series on the Works of the Flesh we saw that envy is one of the
manifestations of carnal nature and that it must be fought and defeated.
Agape rejoices in the success of others. It celebrates the success of
others. Our minds are not tortured by comparing ourselves with others which
we are told is not wise. We are content with what God blesses us with, and
we donít lust after what is not ours. We have peace because we donít allow
envy to torture us. This is not our doing. This is Godís doing.
An American university professor who specializes in the study of happiness
stated recently that the unhappiest people are the richest people, or very
materialistic people, because no matter what they have, they always look at
what they donít have.
We are told that
"envy is rottenness to the bones"
and not to envy
sinners. (Proverbs 23:17).
There are times of want in a Christianís life, and there are also times of
plenty that God may choose to bring our way. Whatever comes our way we
accept it, and we donít envy people who have more. God will make the times
of plenty come when He is ready, and when we are ready.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you
have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake
An Agape filled Christian knows and believes this and accepts Godís
blessings or lack thereof. Most of all, he doesnít compare himself to
An Agape filled Christian, therefore, is free from envy. And this is another
characteristic of Godís Agape love.
does not parade itself, is not puffed up
A Christian has all the reasons in the world to be puffed up. He has been
chosen by God as a "first fruit." He is being trained to rule over cities or
nations and over hosts of angels. We have lots of reasons to walk around
with our head up high and a pompous attitude. Agape prevents all that, for
Agape produces the opposite attitude.
In Christian churches we have the lowly and the strong. We have people with
little and some with much. We have people in the church who are very
successful by human standards; yet Agape prevents them from being puffed up
and from being conceited.
We have some people who are honored during the week, because of their
positions, who then honor us on the Sabbath by doing menial jobs to serve
Jesus Christ told us to wash one anotherís feet literally and figuratively.
When we serve, we donít parade ourselves; we humble ourselvesÖif we are
motivated by Agape, that is.
Some day we will have all the honor anyone could ever wish for, but for now
we keep our head low and our hands busy washing feet any time we can.
This is done with the right attitude if motivated by agape love.
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; "but in lowliness of mind"
let each esteem other better than themselves."
When we serve someone else we esteem them above ourselves.
This is not easy. At the most, human nature might sacrifice and go as far as
esteeming others as oneself. Esteeming others in the church as being above
ourselves and doing so sincerely is a manifestation of Agape love.
Jesus Christ could have come to earth and could have shown off His power and
could have been pompous about it.
Jesus Christ, instead, divested Himself of all His glory and came down to
earth to live among men, and rather than show off and demand submission -- which He could have done
-- He esteemed humanity above Himself. He did not
parade himself and he was not puffed up.
In fact, when he offered his body to be flagellated and then to be crucified
for us, He didnít esteem us as much as himself,
he esteemed us above himself.
Jesus Christ, on that glorious Passover day when
he offered himself for us, made an amazing Agape statement:
you humans more than I love myself.
That is our God. That is Agape love.
When we sacrifice for others; when we serve others, we love them above
And that is what Christ said on that glorious day: I love you
more than myself. I love you with self-sacrificial love: Agape Love.
The world allows, and even celebrates rudeness. North America used to be the
land of politeness. TV shows modeled proper actions and proper talk. Have
you watched TV lately? Hollywood now models crude and distorted behavior and
language. Movies are replete with crude and inappropriate language and
are continually correcting bad manners-- in some cases very bad manners.
This is the new North America, this is the new world.
Hypocritically, many teachers are more crude than many students. I have
worked with teachers that use very foul language.
We are told not to follow trends. We are different. Our language has to be
clean. We try to be polite. We try to be appropriate and respectful. On
occasion we stumble. We feel sorry and try harder next time. But our mission
is to be sincerely polite at all times. As we grow in Agape love, our
politeness multiplies, for that is a manifestation of Godís mind, of His
This world is saturated with selfishness. No matter how much people seem to
be on our side, one has to always watch what they are up to. Selfishness
abounds in all areas of society.
We are told that in the last days people will be lovers of their own selves.
That time is here, now.
Unlike the world, Agape-filled Christians are altruists. We are
givers, from the heart. If we are motivated by Agape, we donít put on a
show, we donít serve to be liked, we donít serve to reach a position. We
give, when possible, without being seen. We donít give so that a wing of a
hospital will be named after us; so that our name will be posted on a wall;
so that a Foundation will be named after us; so that a speech will be given
to honor us; so that weíll get a certificate or a plaque or a trophy. We
give because that is what flows from God into us and out toward others. The
plaque belongs to God, not to us.
I have heard of some Christians in the past brought shopping to other needy
Christians homes and left it on their veranda, rang their bell and left.
This is agape love. that is what we read in Matthew 6:4.
``That your alms may be in secret: and thy Father which sees in secret
himself shall reward thee openly.``
gives without wanting credit for it. But this requires a word of caution: We can fool ourselves that because we give in secret
we are exercising Agape love.
It may not necessarily be the case. We may give in secret to feel
because we give in secret.
If giving in secret makes us feel spiritually
superior to others, then itís not Agape love, itís a mental games that we
with ourselves to feel superior to others.
``The human mind is deceitful above
things,`` we are told in Jeremiah 17:9, and it can deceive us in this regard as well.
Agape love gives in secret and does not feel superior. It is true,
Some times people try to provoke us on purpose. They test us. They stir us
up to get us to react. Agape will not relent.
We all have been around people who try to get us to stop acting nice. It
could be relatives; it could be neighbors; it could be fellow workers; it
could be students, if you are a teacher. Agape does not relent. We react
appropriately, given the occasion and we will not allow them to get the
best of us.
Now, notice it doesnít say that we are not ever provoked. It says that we are
not easily provoked. If they persist in provoking us, we will finally act, but
without losing control; without being rude; without being harsh; without causing
harm; without being vengeful. The Apostle
Paul, you may recall, finally appealed to Caesar.
The Law is there for our protection. Authorities are there for our benefit.
Agape gives us the strength not to be easily provoked, but after having
waited and waited we can address the situation legally and appropriately -- but not vengefully.
Itís called agape love.
There are various
translations for this expression.
The New American Standard
ďdoes not take into account a wrong suffered."
The Amplified Bible:
ďit takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a
New International Version: ďit keeps no record
Clearly this is not an
easy section to translate, and it may be because the package included is
quite big. We can summarize by
saying that the expression means all of the following: ďWe are not to think
evil; we are not to rejoice in evil; we are not to keep records of evil; as
we have to be forgiving.Ē
In short, our
relationship with evil has to be a distant one, and we are not to allow evil
to make us become evil, as keeping a record of evil makes us bitter
and resentful and thus evil.
Romans 12:21 warns
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
It takes a special kind of power to fulfill this requirement. It takes Agape
to fulfill this requirement. This is what Paul is saying. If you are filled
with Agape you will not be overcome of evil and you will overcome evil with
Itís Agape love.
does not rejoice in iniquity
People who are Agape filled do not rejoice in seeing, or hearing about evil.
We do not enjoy violence in movies nor do we rejoice when vengeance takes
place in movies. We have an aversion to anything evil and we try to evade
it. And that includes entertainment.
but rejoices in the truth
We rejoice in being around people who are truthful. We
celebrate sincerity and we try to be sincere. We follow our Masterís example
who could have lied His way out of death, but told the truth until the end,
even if it meant death.
We follow the examples of the apostles who could have lied their way out of
several very dangerous circumstances, but did not and instead bore whippings,
beatings and humiliations of all kinds, because they stayed faithful to truth
until the end.
To be truthful at times takes great courage. Agape love makes it flow out of
us naturally, no matter the consequences.
A lying spirit is not from God. Lying effortlessly indicates the presence of
Satanís spirit. Lying to get out of trouble indicates spiritual weakness.
If that is the case, we need to fill up with Agape love.
It is longsuffering. Again doubly emphasized.
If it is emphasized twice itís because itís important. Itís also very hard
and it can only be accomplished with Godís help.
That is, believes all things that come from God. This is not saying that we
believe anything that anyone tells us, for naÔve we are not.
Paul did not believe Cretans, as he himself said they were liars and could
not be believed.
We believe all of Godís promises, but are weary of human nature and stay on
guard with human beings.
Longs for the promises of God and knows that God will keep his promises, in
this life and in the future. Believes that all things work for our best and
know that even the greatest trial will have good results for us.
Endures any trial and persecution that their Christian life brings their
wayóbecause of the strength given to them by God.
Agape never fails.
What a stunning promise. The way of Agape will always workÖit will
Agape will always produce the best results.
Paul then concludes:
But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether
there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is
knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know
in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when
that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done
away. (That which is perfect is a world filled with agape)
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I
understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I
put away childish things. 12 For now we see in
a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I
shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now
abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is
The greatest of all is Godís self-sacrificial love that is totally pure,
totally sincere and motivated by nothing else but the pure Love of God.
The love that manifests itself in the keeping of Godís commandments and in
the attitudes listed in I Corinthians 13 and in service to one another and
to the human race. A perfect package that never fails.
In the past we have seen people in the church who operated well at the
ďDonít doĒ level. They didnít do. They kept the commandments
perfectly-- or thought they did. But Commandment keeping is not
necessarily a manifestation of Agape love. It may be simply a form of pride
or a form of showing off oneís superiority over others. Such a person
becomes filled with self-righteousness and is harsh and critical of others.
This is what happens when obedience is not tempered with Agape. When itís
not the result of Agape.
Agape is the cap stone. Agape is the energy that drives everything.
Agape is the force that motivates ďtrueĒ obedience, for one can obey out of
fear, out of duty, or out of Agape, the love that proceeds from God.
When Agape is the heart and core of it all, everything is in perfect balance
and the result is nothing short of wonderful.
Colossians 3:12-14 "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one
another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave
you, so you also must do. 14 But above all
these things put on AGAPE, which is the bond of perfection."
True perfection comes from God. It is authored by God and it is energized
and maintained by the love of God.
When we stay close to God in prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation we
get filled with Agape. Over the years, if we stay close to God, we become
saturated with Agape, and finally at the resurrection we become Agape...as God is
When that finally happens, obedience to God will become effortless. Godís
attitudes will emanate from us naturally, effortlessly and abundantly.
Until then, though, we must stay close to God daily. We must plug ourselves
in daily and abundantly and by so doing we will experience a gradual but
certain transformation from beings that were filled with selfishness before
to beings that tried to produce Philia love, after conversion;
to beings that became filled with Agape love, over time, by being close to
to beings that became Agape love, at the Resurrection.
That is the future; that is what we long for: to become Agape as God is
Agape and to share that love with God, Jesus Christ, our spiritual brothers
and sisters and all the angels for eternity.
Letís grow in Agape love therefore. Letís be filled with it; letís become
like the God of Agape more and more very day. Letís, most of all, long for
the day when we will become Agape as God is Agape.
The next Fruit:
The Fruits of the Spirit:
Faithfulness / Faith
The Works of the Flesh: