Galatians 5:22 (Love)


Sermon preached on May 14, 2000 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


When I first came to Lisbon there was an old wood stove in the basement of our house. One of my first year's here Claire's husband Ralph donated some wood. I think that Ralph cut it and Delmer was going over with one of the big trucks to bring it to the manse. I remember late one afternoon I went over with Delmer to load the wood. We filled this 3 or 5 ton truck with the wood. The only trouble was that the ground was so soft that when we got in the truck to move it the truck wouldn't budge. It was stuck. But there was a tractor there that they had used to haul the logs out of the woods and Delmer told me to drive the truck and he would get in the tractor and push the truck from behind. So I climbed into the truck and got ready to try to get it out once Delmer started pushing with the tractor. I wasn't familiar with the truck and I hadn't driven a standard in some time but I was willing to give it a go. By this time it was dark but when Delmer started pushing wit h the tractor I popped the clutch, gave it the gas and tried to get it out. But it didn't move. Delmer tried again and again and again and I kept letting the clutch out and giving it the gas but it hardly moved at all. After a minute or so of this I happened to notice that some of the red lights on the dash were on. I had stalled the truck. I wasn't even sure when I stalled it. I may have done it the first time we tried. I then tried to start the truck but I couldn't get it started. I had flooded it. But all the while Delmer was pushing and pushing with the tractor. But with the engine stalled, that truck wasn't going anywhere. It didn't matter how much that tractor pushed, it couldn't budge the truck alone. Without the help of the truck's engine, we didn't have a hope of getting the truck unstuck. It was absolutely essential.

Love is an essential ingredient like that. The apostle Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit. He writes,

"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."

Love is listed first. This is significant for it shows us that

love is of the utmost importance.

Love is primary and indispensable. Remember the apostle Paul's words at the end of 1 Corinthians 12? He's going to talk about love in 1 Corinthians 13. In chapter 12 he has been talking about many of the gifts of the Spirit. But then he says,

"And now I will show you
the most excellent way."

He tells us that love is the most excellent of all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. Without love the rest of them become meaningless. The Holy Spirit makes this point at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13. We read,

"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."

Without love we are nothing and we gain nothing. Without love we are useless, unable to please God and serve others as we should. Indeed, in Colossians 3:14 we are told that love is the glue that binds all the other fruits of the Spirit together. We read,

"Therefore, as God's chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other
and forgive whatever grievances
you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together
in perfect unity
."

Love is foundational in the Christian life. It is absolutely essential. In Galatians 5:6 Paul writes,

"For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
has any value.
The only thing that counts
is faith expressing itself through love."

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. In Romans 13:8f Paul rolls up all the commandments that relate to our neighbor into one. He writes,

"Let no debt remain outstanding,
except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellowman
has fulfilled the law.
The commandments,
'Do not commit adultery,'
'Do not murder,'
'Do not steal,'
'Do not covet,'
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this one rule:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

If we Christians are to live lives that glorify God, if we are to live lives that bring others to Christ, it is absolutely essential that we cultivate the kind of love that is spoken about here. Love is foundational.

The second thing that I want you to see about this love that is a fruit of the Spirit is that

it's God's love.

It's the kind of love that is in God. This is obvious for after all what we're talking about here is a fruit of the Spirit. This kind of love comes from God. It's the kind of love that is in God.

But I think it's important that we grasp this and understand it. The kind of love that we are called to is not something that is natural in us. The kind of love that we are called to is nothing less than the kind of love that God shows to us. It's a God-like love. It's comes from above. It's not in us naturally.
Jesus made this quite clear in Matthew 5:43f. He said,

"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."

We are called to love as God loves. We see this as well in Ephesians 5:1f. The apostle Paul writes,

"Be imitators of God, therefore,
as dearly loved children
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."

The life of love that we are called to live is to be like the love that Christ displayed when He died for our sins. That's what the Spirit tells us through the apostle Paul. Paul there is merely repeating what Jesus taught. After He washed His disciples feet, Jesus said to them, (John 13:34-35)

"A new command I give you:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another."

In John 15:12-13. Jesus was even more specific, showing that the depth of love we are to have for each other even reaches to giving our life for others. He said,

"My command is this:
Love each other
as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends."

Thus we see that

the love that we are to display is the same kind of love that Jesus showed to us when He laid down His life for us.

We are to love one another as Jesus loved us. We are to sacrifice ourselves for others. We are to give ourselves for their good. We are to become their servants. We are to love them enough so that we would be willing to die on their behalf. That's what we are called to do.

We see this as well from the Greek word that Paul uses here. He uses the Greek word agape.
Leon Morris writes on this word and its use in the New Testament.

"An interesting feature of the New Testament is that, even though so many words for love were available and in common use, the Christians preferred to use another one—namely, agape. This word was not entirely new, but it was not common before the New TestamentÖ. Why should the Christians use what was for all intents and purposes a new word for love? Because they had a new idea about the essential meaning of love."



Morris goes on to tell us that all the older Greek words for love were not suitable vehicles for conveying the concept of God's love. They were inadequate in that they could not convey the profound content of this new kind of love. So the Christian writers basically coined a new noun and used it to describe a kind of love that was richer, deeper and more profound that anything that had gone before.

We see this quite clearly in the New Testament usage of agape, especially when it's used in contrast to other Greek words for love. For example,
phileo was a common Greek word for love. It's one that was often used to express great love. For example, when some of the Jews saw Jesus weeping at Lazarus' tomb, they said, (John 11:36)

"See how he loved him!"

John there used the word 'phileo'. It's a word that can denote deep love. Recently I've gone through grief and I've been around people who have been grieving. I've see many tears. When you see tears like that you know that someone was loved deeply. But the love that that word conveys is not nearly as deep and profound as agape love.

The word agape is in some instances, a deeper word that phileo. We see this clearly at the end of John's gospel. You are all familiar with the scene where, after the resurrection, Peter was restored to his position. He had a very telling conversation with Jesus. We read, (John 21:15f)

"When they had finished eating,
Jesus said to Simon Peter,
'Simon son of John,
do you truly love me more than these?'
"'Yes, Lord,' he said,
'you know that I love you."' Jesus said,
'Feed my lambs.'
Again Jesus said,
'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?'
He answered,
'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.'
Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.'
The third time he said to him,
'Simon son of John, do you love me?'
Peter was hurt because
Jesus asked him the third time,
'Do you love me?'
He said, 'Lord, you know all things;
you know that I love you.'
Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep.'"

Now what's interesting about that passage is that there's a word play going on in the Greek that doesn't come through in the English. The first two times that Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, John used the word, 'agape' for the question. Both times John has Peter replying with the word 'phileo'. There was something going on between Jesus and Peter. Peter wouldn't come out and say that he loved Jesus with agape love. It could very well be that Peter was greatly humbled by his denial of Jesus. He had let the Lord down and he was not going to say that he loved the Lord with self sacrificing love because he hadn't done that after Jesus was arrested. The third time Jesus questioned Peter, John has Jesus using phileo. It's like Jesus lowered his request to fit Peter's response.

Now I'm not sure what all the ramifications of the word play are, but one thing that's absolutely clear is that
agape is a much stronger word for love than phileo.

Leon
Morris writes about agape love and the new concepts that it conveyed.

"Perhaps as good a way as any of grasping the new idea of love the Christians had is to contrast it with the idea conveyed by eros… eros has two principle characteristics: it is a love of the worthy and it is a love that desires to possess."



Eros longs for possession. As Morris writes,

"We never met a young man who says, 'I'm head over heels in love with Mary, but I really don't care who marries the girl!' If he really loves her, then he is determined to make her his own."



Morris continues,

"Agape is in contrast at both points: it is not a love of the worthy, and it is not a love that desires to possess. On the contrary, it is a love given quite irrespective of merit, and it is a love that seeks to give."



Agape love is a love that involves self-sacrifice.

We see this in John 3:16. John writes using the word agape.

"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."

Agape directs us to a love that is self-sacrificing. The Father gave the Son for sinners. Jesus Himself laid down His life for sinners. Their love involved self-sacrifice. Compare that to our natural love. In James 2:15f James spoke of it.

"Suppose a brother or sister
is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to him,
'Go, I wish you well;
keep warm and well fed,'
but does nothing about his physical needs,
what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself,
if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

The same applies to love. Love, without action, is non-existent. The kind of love that we are to show is a love that involves self-sacrifice. Peter hadn't done that for Jesus and that may have been why he wouldn't use it to describe his love for Jesus. Now what about you? Do you love those around you with agape love? Another way to ask that question is to consider: Look at those around you. Look at individuals. Ask yourself- "Have I given myself in self-sacrifice for that individual. What have I done for them that has really cost me?" Agape love is self-sacrificing love.

Agape love is also a love that involves love of those that are unworthy.

The Father loved us when we were sinners, when we were in rebellion against Him. He loved us and He gave His only Son on our behalf. Jesus came and He died for sinners. He died for Peter who denied him. He died for Thomas who doubted Him. He died for the criminal on the cross who just a short time before had mocked Jesus just like everyone else did. He died for Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the church. He died for prostitutes, for greedy tax collectors and for others who were by nature objects of God's wrath. (Ephesians 2:1f) He gave His life on their behalf.

In the church you are surrounded by sinners. You often see their sins and faults. In a sense you could say that they are unworthy of love. But does that matter? Absolutely not. God doesn't call you to love the best people in this congregation with agape love. He calls you to love them all with agape love.

Agape love is love of the unworthy. Agape love is a love that seeks to give. It seeks to serve and help those who are loved. If necessary, one who has agape love will lay down his life for the one who is loved.

Now I ask you- do we have that kind of love?

Are you willing to die for those around you? I'm not just talking about your family members. Would you be willing to die for anyone here? Do we have agape love?

As I examine my life I know that my exercise of agape love falls far short of what it should be. I don't show that kind of love like I should. I know many others here don't show that kind of love like they should. We fall far short.

Why do people hear unkind remarks from other Christians? Why do people experience rudeness? Why do people insist on having things done 'their way' instead of as others would have them done? Isn't in because we don't love others as we should?

Consider the definitions of love that we have in
1 Corinthians 13:4f. If one goes down through those definitions, I'm sure that anyone who has ever been associated with a local church can remember instances where the exact opposite of these things have been shown. Love is patient. Yet in the church a lot of times there is impatience. People will be short with you. Love is kind. So often in churches there are acts and words of unkindness. Love does not envy. Often in churches there is envy and jealously. Love does not boast. It is not proud. Yet often in churches people boast about themselves. They are proud. They look down on others. Love is not rude. Yet in the church rudeness is often evident. It is not self-seeking. Yet in churches we can see lots of self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Yet in churches, people are often easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Yet we often do just that. Love does not delight in evil, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Do we see those things in our congregation? Why don't we? It's because we don't love each other like we should.

What do we need? What do we need here in our congregation?

We need the Spirit to work powerfully in us. We need to Spirit to transform us and fill us with His kind of love.

I think we all know that the Lord has been blessing our congregation. There are evidences of the Spirit working. But I hope that its just the beginning. So much work needs to be done in us. As far as love is concerned, we're far from where we should be. We need to be down on our knees imploring the Spirit to change our hearts, to take away these hearts of stone, and to give us hearts that love others. We need the Spirit to work powerfully in our lives. We need to take Jesus' command to love seriously. (John 13:34-35)

"A new command I give you:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another.
By this all men will know
that you are my disciples,
if you love one another."

May God give us grace to do so.