“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
As part of a series on the fruit of the spirit, the first one I’ll post on is perhaps the most important, and listed first in this verse for a reason: Love.
I think the first thing we need to understand is why the author of Galatians is listing the “fruit of the Spirit”. In the earlier part of Galatians, Paul addresses the church there over some rumors that there had been someone infiltrating the assembly in order to “spy out our freedom we have in Christ” and then talking to them about circumcision as a requirement for salvation, or membership into the church. Paul urged the Galatians not to fall for this, and explains that Christ gave us freedom for the sake of freedom.
Paul then urges the church not to use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. This means that Christ gave us freedom, to live in sin is slavery, don’t take the freedom Christ gave us in order to place yourself back into slavery to sin. That is where the fruit of the Spirit comes in. Paul essentially is saying, “rather than falling into slavery, walk after the Spirit”…Here is the fruit of doing so:
Love is perhaps the greatest of all these fruit, and I will wrap up this series by again writing on love. So what is love, biblically? Love can be defined as denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus. Throughout New Testament gospels and epistles, it is heralded that Christ gave up His high place in the heavens in the Glory of the Father in order to live among us and make available the salvation that it was the Father’s pleasure to extend to us. Christ asks us to live sacrificially in order to pass along the salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes with our believing in Who He is, and submitting ourselves to His Lordship, which we have been freely given.
“So in order to love someone else, I need to put them before me?”
Precisely. Christ proved His love for us by putting us before Himself. And we couldn’t possibly look to a better example of love in all of existence. He literally poured Himself out for the sake of releasing us from our bondage to sin which Paul urges us not to return to. It can sound simpler than it is, and also more complicated than it is. It is likely the most difficult thing for us to place so many others ahead of ourselves, and yet, there isn’t anything else in the equation except this:
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sacrificial love is not something someone can acquire without the Spirit of God resting upon, in and working in our hearts and lives.