28 April, 2019

Galatians 5:22-23—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love …”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).

“According to Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit is defined as principally ‘love.’  Did not Christ have the Spirit? And does this not imply, therefore, that He loved all those with whom He came into contact?”


Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 133-135]

Love is a not a sentimental and romantic feeling. While love certainly has to do with the emotions, the emotions are, quite naturally, a part of the mind and will. Love is far more than a feeling. Scripture gives us what is almost a formal definition of love in Colossians 3:14: “And above all these things put on charity (love—HH), which is the bond of perfectness.” Now the text says two things about “love.” It is, first of all, a bond, and second, it is a bond of perfection. This definition holds whether we are talking about the love of God for Himself or for us, or the love we have for God or for our neighbor. Love is, therefore, a bond of friendship and fellowship. But it is a bond that is characterized by perfection.
Hatred, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. Hatred is repulsion, abhorrence and total refusal to have fellowship with someone. God loves Himself as the holy and perfect One and has fellowship with Himself. That fellowship is a bond between the three persons of the holy trinity that is characterized by life, love and happiness.
God loves His people, even while they are yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). Impossible, you say? Yes, indeed! But it is possible because God loves them in Christ and they are without sin, holy as God is, in Christ. He establishes with them a bond of fellowship that is characterized by life, love and happiness. And so great is the love of God, that it reaches down to us, through Christ, and transforms us into a holy church in which God’s holiness itself is revealed.
God’s hatred of the wicked is His revulsion of them because of their sins (Ps. 5:5: “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity”—Not: “Thou hatest iniquity,” but “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity”). God does not give them, even for a moment, any sense of His fellowship with them. He drives them away from His presence and causes them to experience His curse. When they die, He puts them into hell where they are made to suffer the just judgment of their sins. And hell is as far from God as one can be. God hated Esau, not only Esau’s sins (Mal. 1:3).
We are called to love God; that is, to enter into fellowship with Him, live in the consciousness of that fellowship and give praise to Him as the infinitely holy One. We love Him because He first loved us and, shedding abroad His love within our hearts, He makes us love Him (Rom. 5:5; I John 4:10). The work of making us as holy as He is includes the work of causing us to love Him: for holiness that comes from God draws us to Him and into His fellowship.
Yet, as we have previously observed, God’s decree of reprobation stands behind man’s sin and punishment. Once again, this is true, not in such a way that God is the author of man’s sin, but in such a way that God’s sovereignty is revealed in the way of man’s sin and God’s just punishment for sin.
We may not like this truth; we may protest against it; but let it be known that our puny and worthless objections do not (thank God!) change the truth, and will not ever change the fact that God is absolutely sovereign in all He does. We add to our sin when we persist in our questioning. It is our calling to bow in worship and adoration. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:20-22)?
The difficult part comes in our calling to love our neighbor when our neighbor is wicked. When our neighbor is holy as we are, that is, also a saved sinner, that love is (at least, theologically; in fact very difficult) no problem. We love our wives, our children and our fellow saints because we love God as they love God. We have fellowship with them and live in the bond of life, love and joy.
But some of our neighbors are wicked. How are we to love them? This is how we must do it, and the answer seems so obvious: Because love is the bond of holiness, our love for them is an earnest desire to have them saved. We do not know who are God’s people and who are not. We hope and pray they may be elect, loved by God, and so we seek their salvation. This does not mean that we neglect their needs; God placed them on our pathway because they need us. But we supply their needs in order to seek their salvation. We bring them food when they are hungry, but in order that we may display the love God has for us, who are undeserving sinners; we, therefore, tell them that such love as God has for us, poor sinners, can and also will be theirs, if they repent of their sins and turn to Christ in faith.
Obviously, such love is a “one-way street,” for we refuse to have fellowship with them in their sin. In that sense of the word, we love them, but hate their sin.  We, in our love for them, condemn their sin and seek their repentance.  We refuse to have fellowship with them in their sin, just because we love them and seek their salvation.  God acts towards us in the same way, though in an infinitely higher way.  He shows His hatred of sin and His love for us in giving us Jesus Christ—while we were yet sinners—and in Jesus Christ we are sanctified and have the true fellowship of love with Him.
How that all works out in our lives is obvious. Our love for our neighbors has the same two-fold effect as the preaching of the gospel, for that kind of witness is empowered by the gospel. Our love for our neighbor will either save or harden. It will save our wives, our children, our fellow saints and God’s elect among the unbelievers. But the love we show to our neighbor will also harden the reprobate in their sin.  God does good in all the gifts He gives them, and they are hardened in their hatred against God.  So with our gifts to them. Try it once. Go to them in God’s name and in the name of Christ.  The more we bring to them our earnest entreaties for them to repent and believe in Christ, the angrier they become, for they do not want to be told that they are sinners who will perish if they do not repent.
God works His salvation through us, for He always uses His church to accomplish His purpose in the world. As the wicked increase in their hardening, we find it increasingly difficult to have anything to do with them. They want nothing to do with us. They despise the gospel we bring to them and despise us for continuing to bring it. They demonstrate that they hate God and hate those who represent the cause of God in the world. And so the time comes when the child of God cannot even have that limited “one-way-street” love any more. He can no longer seek their salvation, for they slam the door in his face. Every child of God has experienced this. And the believer’s response is: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee” (Ps. 139:21)?



More to come! (DV)

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