Love — First Mentioned Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit Series:
Galatians 5:22-23

One day, long ago, someone approached me after a sermon and said, “We humans are nothing other than just one of many animals on earth. We were just lucky that our brain evolved higher and, therefore, set us apart from every other creature on the planet.” To that person, we humans got to where we are by chance, not by design.

That is not an unusual statement, really, for many people think that same way. Most secular colleges and universities (and some non-secular ones) teach a biological science saturated with Charles Darwin’s theory1 of evolution. This basic premise states that there was an evolution of earth’s species, driven by natural selection. All life has evolved from less complicated forms to the ones we see today.

Was Darwin an atheist? Well, he didn’t start out that way, being baptized in the Angelican Church and influenced by a Unitarian mother. But he struggled to believe in a God and had doubts, because of observations of pain and suffering in the world. Despite his leaning toward atheism, he could not abandon the belief in a universe not created by an intelligent force. He did not believe everything came about by chance.2

Personally, I can actually relate to believers in evolution, for that is how I thought at one time. I have a sibling3 that has devoted their whole life to biological research, all based upon Darwin’s theory. But remember, this is a theory only, and never has it been proven as fact, but schools teach it as fact and will reject any other suggestion on the matter. And unless a parent teaches, or shares, another possible path to our human position in the world, their children will likely be riding the evolution bandwagon throughout their own life.

Now, I won’t argue that natural selection hasn’t had some influence upon the evolution of all life forms, but I believe they were all originally designed and created by God; humans included, of course. Whether the human was crafted, fine-tuned, or ‘uplifted’ from some other animal is not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that we are different than other types of life on earth and there is a reason.

We do have some similarities to other animals. For instance, we are born with certain instincts, like a baby knowing how to feed, or expressing the ‘fight or flight’ instincts when we face a dangerous situation, or with sexual desires to keep our species expanding. But, we also have many unique abilities that are considered Godly, those that help us think and reason in the abstract, and those that allow us to communicate with the heavenly realm. They are part of our Creator’s image (Genesis 1:27) and they were given to us as a special gift. These attributes are part of God’s Holy Spirit, which he gave to only humans.

“Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, (Genesis 2:7, NRSV).4 The word ‘breath’ in Hebrew (neshâmâh) means divine inspiration, intellect, spirit.5 The human is the only animal into which God personally breathed his spirit. These intangible spiritual attributes, qualities, or abilities may be difficult for other animals to understand, but the human can recognize them and put them to use. They are necessary qualifications for humans to possess in order to oversee and interact with this planet in the way that God expected (Genesis 1:28).

Old Biblical Law is No Longer Needed

The apostle Paul tried to explain to Christian converts that the Old Testament law was no longer needed, as the fruit of God’s spirit establishes a new ‘self’, which replaces the old self. “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

Basically, putting on a new self refers to our new position as children of God; we become new creatures, by growing more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our example and the rule of our lives. “In a coming day, when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will be judged not by how much better our lives were than others but rather by how our life measured up to the life of the Lord Jesus Himself.”6

So, in Galatians, Paul gives us examples of the Fruit of the Spirit, those things that are evidence of having and expressing God’s Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Love — First Mentioned Fruit of the Spirit

Paul’s list is not exhaustive, but does represent the meaning of goodness. His list is a single collection of concepts and expressions and the first listed is Love. Love is what God is, and what we ought to be and is expressed most beautifully in 1 Corinthians.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love, (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

Seven Kinds of Love

In the English language, we have only one word for ‘love’, but in Greek there are seven words, all of which are translated to love. Each of these seven Greek words express a different kind of love. Since the New Testament is translated from the Greek language, to know the various meanings of love is very helpful in understanding the intended expression.

First is Eros (or erotic), that intense sexual passion or desire (i.e., romantic love). And there is Philia, affection for friends and others one may respect. Brotherly love and Christian love would fall into this category. Storge is usually reserved for family members, parents and children, or between siblings. It also would include the love shared between God and his son, Jesus.7

Then there is Pragma, the practical love shared by husband and wife over a lifetime. This is a mature and enduring love that grows and gets stronger, rather than a sexual passion that may decline. Philautia can be good or bad — it is a self-love. If we love ourselves enough to eat healthy and take care of our bodies, then this is good. But if we love ourselves so much that we deem others to be not as good as we are, then that is bad.8

Ludas is a playful love. “It’s the butterflies in your stomach, the quickened heartbeat, the anxiety you feel when you’re waiting for your love interest to walk through the door. It’s the flirting and teasing and playing you do in the early stages of dating. The focus is usually more on fun rather than building a relationship.” You will find plenty of this kind of love in the book of Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon).9

And the last type is Agape — universal and unconditional love. This is the highest form of love, that of God for man and of man for God; it is often displayed as an act of charity.10 “Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return. This is the type of love the Bible speaks about the most. The New Testament references agape over 200 times.”11

There are two interesting things about love expressed as agape. The first is that it is inconsistent and false to claim we love (agape) God while not loving (agape) other believers. We cannot love God without loving all brothers and sisters who also love him. The second thing is that it is inconsistent and false to claim we love (agape) God if we don’t obey him, and it is impossible to love God while ignoring what he says. These ideas are all connected.12 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Galatians 5:14).

Conclusion

The subject of this article is about love, so the song selected for this article is ‘Love Can Turn the World’. The singers are  members of the famous Christian music group, the Gaither Vocal Band, with an appearance of the African Children’s Choir from Johannesburg, South Africa. Selected lyrics are below and the music video link can be found in References & Notes.13

We’re the same in different ways
And it’s true, just look at me and you
We can change the way we are
The power lives inside our hearts

If coal can turn to diamonds
And sand can turn to pearls
If a worm can turn into a butterfly
Then love can turn the world

Copyright © 2021, Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

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References & Notes

  1. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin was published in 1859. It is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology.
    “On the Origin of Species”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 February 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Origin_of_Species
  2. Farley, Harry, “Charles Darwin: Atheist? Christian? Agnostic?” (Christian Today, 12 February 2016), https://www.christiantoday.com/article/charles-darwin-atheist-christian-agnostic/79478.htm
  3. Hermann, Henry R., Dominance and Aggression in Humans and Other Animals, (Cambridge MA: Academic Press, 2017).
  4. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, (Division of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 1989). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
  5. Strong’s Hebrew #5397.
    Strong, James, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
  6. MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, (Ed.) Arthur Farstad, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 2009.
  7. “The 7 Types of Love in the Bible”, (Steppes of Faith, 18 February 2020), https://medium.com/@steppesoffaith_56895/the-7-types-of-love-in-the-bible-71dfc57b6d7b
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Liddell, H. G.; Scott, Robert, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889), p. 4.
  11. Roat, Alyssa, “What Does Agape Love Really Mean in the Bible?” (Christianity, 20 December 2019), https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-does-agape-love-really-mean-in-the-bible.html
  12. “What is the meaning of agape love?” (Compelling Truth, retrieved 17 February 2021), https://www.compellingtruth.org/agape-love.html
  13. “Love Can Turn the World”, Artist: Bill Gathier and the Gaither Vocal Band, and the African Children’s Choir, (DVD/CD: Gaither Vocal Band: Give It Away, Spring House Music Group, 2012), Licensed to YouTube by UMG, AMRA, ASCAP, BMG, Warner Chappell, others – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/5pSCJkLyvKQ
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2 thoughts on “Love — First Mentioned Fruit of the Spirit”

  1. This was, as all your thoughts and writings, beautiful! Thank you so much. With each of your articles, I learn so much from you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

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