Sunday Evening Bible Study
June 16, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which have been infected with a doctrine of legalism.
But after having taught them why it's important not to be living under the Law, trying to please God on their own, they are now faced with another situation, the danger that happens when you take the Law away from people:
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
And so Paul has begun teaching on the issue of how to handle the the flesh, with the main key being:
Ga 5:16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
We've looked at the "works of the flesh", identifying when that sinful nature of ours it at work by looking at the things it produces in our lives.
Now we begin a look at the "fruit of the Spirit", the natural result that comes in our lives when we learn to "walk in the Spirit".
:22 the fruit of the Spirit is ...
There is only one kind of "fruit" that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives, but it's a fruit that has nine different qualities about it.
The more we grow in the Lord, the more we learn to "walk in the Spirit" (vs.16), the more these qualities will appear.
A word about this "love".
We understand that there are many ways to use the word "love".
I love Snickers candy bars.
I love my children.
I love my wife.
I love Jesus.
In English we use the same word, "love", yet hopefully you understand that I love my children a bit differently than I love Snickers candy bars.
The Greeks used their language a bit differently. Rather than just using one word in different ways, they used different words to describe the different kinds of love.
There was a word to describe how you felt about members of your family (sturge).
There was a word to describe physical, sexual love (eros).
There was a word to describe the emotional, "warm fuzzies" (phileo).
But there wasn't any adequate words to describe exactly what kind of love Jesus meant. Each kind of love fell a bit short.
So the New Testament writers picked an obscure word, agape, and gave it their own meaning, defining it, and it became a word practically unique to Christian writing.
Its meaning -
Choosing to value you demonstrated by unconditional giving.
Love based not in the emotions, but in the will.
A love that chooses to place value on another person, regardless of the other person's deserving it.
It is unconditional.
It's not "I love you if ...", but "I love you inspite ..."
It is a love that is demonstrated by action, primarily by giving.
It's not just words or feelings, it's action oriented love.
What it really all means ...
Keep in mind ... the noun and verb are used 263 times in the NT. It's used alot!
We'll only get a peek at it.
The best example in the world to follow is God Himself.
Joh 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Jesus told us to learn to love each other in the same manner that He loves us.
If we look at His love for us, it shows us how we are to love.
1. Love for the unlovable
Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NAS)
We have this perverted idea of love that when a person doesn't meet our expectations, that somehow this is a reason to stop loving them.
But God is able to love us in our most unlovable times.
Judith Versed: the distinction between love and infatuation:
Infatuation is when you think that he's as gorgeous as Robert Redford, as pure as Solzhenitsyn, as funny as Woody Allen, as athletic as Jimmy Conners and as smart as Albert Einstein.
Love is when you realize that he's as gorgeous as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Conners, as funny as Solzhenitsyn, as athletic as Albert Einstein and nothing like Robert Redford in any category. But you'll take him anyway.
-- Judith Versed, Love & Guilt & the Meaning of Love (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1984).
2. Love willing to give everything
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (AV)
I hear people say, "I just can't give any more".
I guess they're really saying that they haven't really learned how to love at all then.
John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
If you're still alive, then you still have something left to give, and you're still able to love.
It was close to Valentine's Day, and the young reporter suggested to the editor that she write an article on love. Somewhat apprehensive as to what she might write, the editor asked if she knew what love was.
"Sure I know," she answered with feeling, "Love is that wonderful feeling when you sit alone with your sweetheart by a lake in shimmering moonlight. Love is..."
There the editor stopped her. "Nonsense," he snorted. "That is not love. That is just sentiment and moonlight. Love is getting up at two o'clock at night to fix the baby his bottle."
-- Bernard Schneider, Deuteronomy A Favored Book of Jesus, p. 58.
3. Love that isn't easily discouraged
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We find great peace and assurance knowing that nothing can stand between us and our Saviour's love.
Shouldn't we learn how to love each other like that?
Think what marriages would be like in our church if every husband took this to heart:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (AV)
One doctor wrote:
I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wrymouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.
"Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks.
"Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut."
She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.
"I like it," he says. "It is kind of cute."
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
-- Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons
4. Love that can be grown.
Heb 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (AV)
We tend to think that love just "happens".
In reality, agape is a choice.
We can learn to "provoke" one another to grow in love.
provoke - paroxusmos - an inciting, incitement; irritation
We think of "inciting a riot", but how about "inciting to love"?
Jesus gave the recipe for inciting love:
Re 2:4-5 Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (AV)
If you've "fallen out of love" with someone, you can get it back!
Remember what it used to be like.
Turn around (repent) and stop doing hurtful things.
Act like you used to, when you were "in love".
It's like priming grandma's kitchen pump: Pouring water into the pump to prime it makes water come out.
You pour the actions of love into a relationship, and you'll get the emotions of love coming back out of your heart.
C. S. Lewis:
It would be quite wrong to think that the way to become "loving" is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. Some people are "cold" by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad digestion is sin; and it does not cut them off from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning "love." The rule for us all is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we learn one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is however one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of love, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his "gratitude," you will probably be disappointed.... But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made like us by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.
chara - joy, gladness
It comes from the Greek word chairo - to rejoice, be glad