The Holy Spirit
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

6 – The Fruit of the Spirit – Agape

Galatians 5:19-23:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

It is God’s desire that we learn to walk in the Spirit and, when that happens, we are told that we will begin bearing the fruit of the Spirit, of which love is at the head of the list.  The word Paul used here is agape, God’s unconditional love.  We will first study that primary, main, dominant fruit of the Spirit, which is this love.

There are two facts we should look at in Galatians 5:19 and 22.  When it comes to the flesh or sinful nature, Paul uses the word “acts” (or “works”) and he uses it in the plural form, because, when we walk in the flesh, the works of the flesh is something that we produce.  But when we walk in the Spirit, we do not produce works, we “bear fruit,” that is, the Holy Spirit produces the works.  Notice that “the fruit of the Spirit” is in the singular because all the other items that are mentioned — like joy, peace, patience — are simply ramifications of that one word, love.  Unconditional love is the basis of all other fruit of the Spirit.  An example of this is the words of Jesus Christ, where we will discover that Jesus taught the very same thing that Paul is expressing in His epistle to the Galatians.  In John 15:1-8 we read these words:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Jesus is saying to believers who stand justified before God:  “You are clean.”  Then He tells them what He wants them to do.  Continuing in verse 4:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

In other words, we cannot produce the fruits of the Spirit.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our job from beginning to end is faith, which is abiding in Christ.  Verses 5 through 8:

I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples [or my witnesses].

At one time we lived in a nice house with a beautiful creek and there was an apple tree right in the yard.  It had beautiful leaves.  It had lush leaves, but it had no fruit.  Somebody told me it was because it was not pruned, so I went to the library and read up on pruning because I could not afford to hire somebody and I did the job myself.  I was a bit heavy handed and I cut off quite a bit of the tree and the next year it bore no fruit but the following year it bore some fruit.  When God prunes us it is not because he hates us but because he wants us to bear much fruit.

In 1 John 4:7-12, we see, again, that the source of the fruit is the Holy Spirit; it is God, not us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

When we manifest the fruit of this love, God’s unconditional love, it is proof of two things:  first, that we are born of God — that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us — and next, that we know God.

Then in verse 8 He adds:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

That is why this fruit is the dominant fruit of the Holy Spirit, because God is love.  Verse 9:

This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

There we have the gospel.  Verse 10:

This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Here John is trying to show us the love of God which contradicts human love.  Human love is reciprocal.  In other words, “I love you only when you first love me.”  But God’s love is the opposite.  We don’t love Him because we want Him to love us.  We love Him because:

  1. He first loved us, and
  2. He saved us.

In other words, our love towards God is a heart response to His love and His saving gift in Jesus Christ, which is a complete contradiction to human love.  That’s why John has to remind his hearers that we do not love God because we want Him to love us in exchange and, yet, we hear so much of that in Christianity.  We teach our children that:  “Johnny, if you don’t love Jesus, He will not love you.”  I don’t know where we got that from, but it is not from Scripture.  God takes the initiative, God is the One who first loved the world.  He loved us even when we were sinners, when we were enemies, and He redeemed us in Jesus Christ.  Our love towards God is a heart response of gratitude to something He has already done.

Verse 11:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Here John saying that God loved us unconditionally.  He loved us while we were sinners, when we were enemies, when we were ungodly.  He loved us.  And He wants us to love each other unconditionally, folks.  We may disagree with each other.  We may not like some of the things that we do, but we love each other because God is now dwelling in us, and we know Him, we know His love, and we want now to reflect His love.

Verse 12:

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We read in the gospel of John, chapter one, that the word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14):

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Then, in chapter 14, we have Philip saying to Jesus, “Show us God” and Jesus said, “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.”  John 14:8-9:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered:  “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

But that was 2,000 years ago.  Jesus is in heaven today, and what Jesus wants the world to know, if they have seen us, they must see Him.  That is the primary purpose of the first gift of the Holy Spirit, that we might reflect the love of God.

When this is done, when God’s love dominates our lives, the result is that all the other fruit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5 is the evidence.  When God’s unconditional love is reproduced in us, this is the essence of true Christianity.  When Jesus said to the disciples Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect,” He made that statement in the context of God’s love:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In Colossians 3:14 we see what Paul says about that love:

And over all these virtues [the first goal that we must have in life] put on love [agape], which binds them all together in perfect unity.

A professor of systematic theology asked me the question, “What is your definition of perfection?”  We went to Matthew 5:48, and I said, “Perfection to me is reflecting the unconditional love of God.”  If we read Matthew 5:48 where Jesus said, “Be perfect” out of context, we come up with all kinds of conclusions.  Read that text in its context beginning with Matthew 5:43 where Jesus describes the love taught by the Pharisees, which was human love (Matthew 5:43-48):

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

They taught, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies” but Jesus turned to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount and He said, “I want you to love your enemies.  I want you to pray for those who despitefully use you.  I want you to love those who hate you that you may be like your Father who is in heaven.”  Then He describes the love of the Father:  “He brings the rain on the good and the bad; He brings the sunshine on the righteous and the wicked.”  Then He concludes, “Christians, love like this so that you may reflect My Father and give evidence that you are the children of God.  Love without discrimination.”  That is what He is saying.  That’s perfection.  It is not going about with a holy, sanctimonious look.  Perfection is when we reflect the character of our Father.  Where there is no love, no matter how mechanical you may be about doing the right things, you are not reflecting God.  The Pharisees could do that.

In Romans 13:10 Paul says:

Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

It is possible for us to mechanically make rules about the law, keep those rules, and bluff ourselves that we are keeping the Ten Commandments.  If we are to keep the Ten Commandments, we need an ingredient called agape and we cannot generate that.  It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

It is the most excellent gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is the fruit of the Spirit in your life that reveals it.

To understand this word agape, a definition is given by a very famous Greek scholar by the name of Trench.  Listen to how he defines this word:

Agape is a new word....”

The reason he says this is because that word in its noun form can hardly be found in the secular Greek that existed in the days of the New Testament; it is not there.  So the disciples use this word in its noun form to give it a very special meaning.

Agape is a new word to describe a new quality of love.  It is a new attitude towards others that is contrary to human love and which is born only within the Christian fellowship and impossible without the Christian dynamics.  This is what makes Christians different from every other human being.”

God’s love, this agape, and human love, contradict each other in at least two ways:

  1. Human love is always conditional.  We do not know how to naturally love our enemies.  We may pretend to love them; we may shake hands with them; we may smile at them, but, inside, we hate them.  That’s human love, but God demonstrated His love towards us (Romans 5:8) that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us:

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    It was not an outward show, it was a demonstration of a heart having only unconditional love.  When that fruit is produced in us, we will love those that hate us.  It’s going to be a miracle, but it will be there because God’s love is not based on certain conditions.  It is unconditional, therefore, He can love the bad people and He can love the people who are spitting on Him.  Christ can say to God (Luke 23:34a):

    Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

    At that time they had chosen to be controlled by Satan.

  2. Human love is changeable.  Here are some statistics on marriage:  52 percent of marriages in this country end up in divorce; there are one million marriages that break up here every year.  What is going to happen if we keep on this way?  But God’s love is changeless.  He could tell the Jews in Jeremiah 31:3:

    The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

    He could tell the Christians through Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8a:

    Love never fails.

    “My love for you never fails.”  Agape never fails.  We read in John 13:1b that Jesus, loving His own, loved them to the very end:

    Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

On the cross Jesus was experiencing the terrible agony of God-abandonment.  That meant that He could no longer see through the portals of the tomb.  Hope did not present to Him a resurrection and, in this terrible state, the Devil came to Him three times and said, “Come down and save yourself.”  But Jesus loved us more than Himself and, therefore, He refused to come down, because He loved us to the very end.  We did not deserve it, but that is what happened.

When this love is manifested in the Christian church, it means that pastors can retire, because agape is the fruit of righteousness by faith.  Righteousness by faith is not simply a theory; it is a truth that transforms men and women.  That is why, in the New Testament, faith and love are inseparable.  If you have genuine faith, it will always — there is no option here — it will always manifest itself in love.

Someone asked me the question, “What do you do with somebody who disagrees with you in theology in your church?”  I said, “I respect them for what they believe.  I wish they would respect me for what I believe.”  We need to learn to respect each other.  Because I am not God, I have no right to condemn somebody who does not see eye to eye with me.  Now I do believe that we have to be united with the fundamentals, otherwise the church will disintegrate, but we need to learn to respect each other, and leave the judgment to God.  But we must be absolutely clear that love and faith are inseparable in the New Testament.

In Galatians 5:6 Paul says:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value [because this was the issue in Galatia].  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

So if there is somebody in the church who is not doing exactly as you are doing, you have no right to condemn.  If a woman walks into the church with earrings, we have no right to condemn her.  We are to leave it in God’s hands.  God changes the heart first.  There are worse things that we do than that.  We need to learn to respect and accept each other and let God do the transformation of the character.  That is not our work; that’s God’s work.  When we try to do it, it is legalism, and we want no part of legalism in the church.

Next we read in Ephesians 1:15:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints....

Jesus welcomed publicans and sinners.  The Pharisees murmured and grumbled, but those very publicans and sinners became Christians and turned the world upside down.  So we need to realize that the love of God must be reflected towards all our people; love for all the saints.

We cannot separate faith from love.  If we have faith and not love, then we don’t have faith.  It is as simple as that.  Paul says in Colossians 1:4:

...Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints....

This is the evidence of true Christianity, of true righteousness by faith.

These are all in Paul’s introductions where he is praising them for manifesting the fruit of God’s unconditional love.  1 Thessalonians 1:3:

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is joined together; faith and love are inseparable.  1 Thessalonians 3:6:

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love [Paul used the word “agape”].  He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.

That wonderful work of love that they were manifesting was sending their offerings, food, and material to the Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering because of persecution.  Gentile Christians helping Jewish Christians:  that is agape, because those two groups were enemies in the days of Paul.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 we read:

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love [“agape”] every one of you has for each other is increasing.

As their faith increased, their love increased, because the two are related.  We cannot separate them.

One more text that shows this is Philemon verse 5:

...Because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.

Notice:  love and faith; we cannot separate the two.

Now let me, in a nutshell, explain how this works in practical terms.  Our part in sanctification is bearing fruit and we need to know the steps.

  1. God Takes the Initiative.  In legalism, we take the initiative but, in the Gospel, God takes the initiative.  He comes down to us through the gospel message.  It may come through the radio, through reading a book, through a preacher, through the witnessing of Christians, but God takes the initiative.  He comes to us, not with good advice, but with good news.  He tells us that, “While you were a sinner and my enemy, I so loved you that I reconciled you to Myself by the death of My Son.”  (Romans 5:10):

    For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

    When Jesus came to this world as a human being, the angels said to the shepherds (Luke 2:10b):

    “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

    So, first, God comes to us with good news, based on His unconditional love which was, of course, fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ.  John 3:16:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  2. The Response of Faith.  There are two things that we can do with that Gospel, because it’s a gift.  It’s a gift that we don’t deserve.  It’s a gift because of God’s love.  We can either accept it, or reject it.  Thus our response to the gospel is faith.  God comes with His wonderful good news of salvation, not something that He will do in me, but what He has already done in Jesus Christ and He says, “Please, don’t refuse this.  It’s your only hope.  There is no other sacrifice that can take away your sins, only this One.”  And I say to God, “Thank you, I accept your gift.”  That’s my response.  It is faith and Jesus tells us in John 5:25 the moment we do that, the moment we believe that good news, we have passed from death to life, from condemnation to justification:

    I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

    We now stand before God as if we had never sinned.  We stand before God, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ.  The first result is not victorious living, it is peace with God and that is what God wants to give me first.

  3. The New Birth.  God sends His Spirit to dwell with us and with the Spirit comes the assurance of salvation.  Romans 8:14:

    ...Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Notice that we who have experienced the new birth are no longer enemies of God, we are His sons and daughters.  Romans 8:15:

    For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear [We were afraid of God because we were sinners, but no longer!], but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

    Romans 8:16:

    The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

    Romans 8:17:

    Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

    Remember, we may have to suffer in this world, but we are God’s children.

  4. The Spirit’s Gift of Agape.  When the Spirit comes and dwells in us, not only does He bring peace to us, which we need desperately, but He brings that ingredient which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 as the most excellent gift of the Spirit, which is God’s unconditional love.  He brings that gift that it may be shed abroad, to our neighbors, to our fellow believers, and to everybody else.  That is what Romans 5:5 is talking about:

    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

    The love of God is shed abroad through the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.

In summary:

  1. God comes to us with the Gospel.

  2. We respond by faith.

  3. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us.

  4. This love that now dwells in our hearts is shed abroad.

When that happens, we are now walking in love and we are manifesting that love.

Good things happen to a Christian who has experienced the above four steps.  As already mentioned, when we allow that love of Christ, which comes to us through the Holy Spirit, to control us, because we are walking in the Spirit, because we are abiding in Christ, we are actually walking in love.  Here are three texts.  1 Corinthians 16:14:

Do everything in love [agape].

Ephesians 5:2:

...And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Colossians 3:14:

And over all these virtues put on love [agape], which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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