In the apostle Paul’s teaching aid on Christian godliness, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5.22-23), he summarises the whole as one compound fruit1 comprised of multiple character traits—for he is talking about the true Christian’s new nature. The first trait that he lists is love.2 The same Greek word is often translated charity in our English Bible, the Authorised (King James) Version (e.g. 1 Corinthians 13).
This love that is the fruit of the Spirit is, first and foremost, the Christian’s love to God as Saviour, Provider and Creator; and then it is a love for God that manifests in a love for the people of God, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We should love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12.30). But fallen human beings cannot love God without God’s work of saving grace in their souls, because “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8.7). That is why you will not find love for God, as he reveals himself to be in the Bible, outside of those whom Christ saves.
If we examine our own hearts and find that we do love God—then we have found evidence of God’s grace in our experience. In our own hearts. And, though our love for God may be feeble at first, it will cause us to pray to God that he will increase this love in us, until we fully obey the “great commandment of the law” (Matthew 26.36-40).
If our love for God the Father is indeed real, this will be proved by our love for his only begotten Son. This truth3 that Jesus affirmed to the Pharisees must be true of us: “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me” (John 8.42). Paul taught this same thing in similarly strong terms, in a warning that remains relevant today, and until the end of the world: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha”4 (1 Corinthians 16.22).
Wherever there is a sincere love for the Lord Jesus in a human soul—the true Messiah (Christ) of the Scriptures: the Son of God himself—this is because there is a work of God’s grace in that soul. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Ephesians 6.24).
We have not seen Jesus with our eyes, but we have as it were seen him with the eye of faith, for we believe in the Christ (the Messiah) as he is revealed in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Now this faith brings love with it, and so it is the same with us as it was with those to whom the apostle Peter wrote: “whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1.8-9).
The word “fruit” is singular. ↩︎
The New Testament Greek word translated “love,” or “charity,” is ἀγάπη (agapē) (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, word #26). ↩︎
Loving God with all our mind, and loving Christ according to truth, requires understanding, believing, and loving the truth about the Triune God, the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, his atoning sacrifice in fulfilment of prophecy, etc., etc. See Luke 24.13-27; 44-47; John 5.39; 1 Corinthians 15.3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2.7-14. ↩︎
This is the most solemn warning: those who have no love for Christ are “anathema”—accursed and cut off from God, still in their fallen state, “maranatha”—all who reject Christ remain in their sins, and liable for their sins at the coming of the Lord, or when they are brought before him on the Day of Judgment. ↩︎