T. David Sustar

B. Childress
February 29, 2008

When we understand that the phrase "fruit of the Spirit" refers specifically to behavioral qualities to be manifested in
the Christian treatment of others, there is little doubt why the Spirit directed the apostle Paul to begin with love.  All of
Christianity is based on our relation to God and interpersonal relations with others, especially Christians in the
corporate life the congregation.  As a personal characteristic, love determines our responses and responsiveness to
others under any and all circumstances.

The Greek word used here is
agape, which is used 1) to describe the attitude of God toward His Son (John 17:26), the
human race (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) and those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:21); 2) to convey His
will to His children concerning their attitude one toward another (John 13:34) and toward all men (1 Thessalonians
3:12); 1 Corinthians 16:14;2 Peter1:7); and 3)  to express the essential nature of God (1 John 4:8).  Agape is almost a
New Testament word.  The early Christians had to create a word to describe the love of God in an attempt to depict
the gospel or good news' affect upon the believer.

The Definition of Love

The Bible defines this love by listing its attributes:

Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave
itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but
rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity
[love] never faileth...
"  1 Corinthians 13:4-7,8

Love is a fellowship between individuals.  It is an act of self-surrender.  This becomes most important when we
self-surrender.  This becomes most important when we recall that Christ came to deal with relationships - those
between God and man and between man and man.  So the whole of the Law was reduced to, "
WITH ALL THY STRENGTH: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, THOU SHALT LOVE
THY NEIGHBOR AS THY SELF.  There is none other commandment greater than these.
"  Mark 12:30,31  It is only
from such love that we gain our ability to love the unlovable.  It is that indestructible goodwill that is part of the life of a

There are Other Loves

There are at least four words in the Greek language for "love."  Eros means erotic love or sensual love.  It is a
self-satisfying love.  It describes our love for food or water or our sexual appetites.  It is not inherently evil, but
eros can enslave and allow selfish desires to dominate a person's life.  Storge might be called family
love.  It was used to denote a mother's love for her children or the children's love for parents.  This is the love of
Philia refers to tender affections and was the highest word for love in secular Greek usage.  Two English
words derive from
philia: philanthropy (love of humankind) and Philadelphia (city of brotherly love).  Philia lives on the
ups and downs of emotions.  The key ingredient is response.  As long as there is response, there will be friendship.  
When response dies, the feeling suffers soon after.

In their book
Among Friends, Tim Woodroof and James Hinkle contend: "...Agape does not select whom it will love or
how it will treat people on the basis of their qualities or attributes.  When we possess agape love, we treat others in a
Christlike manner because of who we are, not who they are.  We who have experienced the love of God love others
simply because we ourselves have been so richly loved."

Love is All Inclusive

Someone has rightly said that the other eight fruit can be put in the word love.  Joy is love exulting; peace is love in
repose; longsuffering is love on trial; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the
battlefield; meekness is love at school; and temperance is love in training.  Basically, "Love is the cement that binds
everything together in perfect harmony." (R. Hollis Gause,
Living in the Spirit).

Agape does not belong primarily to the realm of the heart or to the emotions.  It has most to do with behavior.  It is not
a matter of what you feel for others so much as how you behave toward them.  If Christlike love and godly relationships
are ever to become a reality in your life, you must decide to act.  The believer does not react out of emotions or to
feelings; we act toward others as Christ acted toward us!  Our love must be "without hypocrisy" (Romans 12:9).  Love
is the bond uniting all the Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13) and "Love is the mark of the new life in Christ and
furnishes the highest standard for Christian conduct."  (Ray H. Hughes, ed.,
The Holy Spirit in Perspective).  Emotion is
not the issue with agape love; obedience is.

This Love is Tough

"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:  therefore
the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
" 1 John 3:1.  This is an amazing love revealed even when we are
unlovable by God who remains faithful to us even though we are unfaithful to Him.  The Old Testament calls this
character of God
hesed, the covenant love. It is the stedfast love of God - the stubborn, patient, persistent,
never-giving-up, no-matter-what love of God.  God decided to commit Himself unconditionally to us.  He determined in
His heart to do whatever He had to do to give whatever He had to give in order that His creation might be saved.

When we read, "
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..."  (John 3:16), we read of agape
love. He gave His Son to a cruel world that would mistreat Him and finally crucify Him at Calvary.  Why?  "
God is love"
(1 John 4:8).  Dr. Paul L. Walker reminds us in
Courage for Crisis Living that God still loves us:  "God is not
capricious.  God is not whimsical.  God is not a respecter of persons.  God is not a manipulator, God is not an
exploiter, nor a sadist.  His love is not measured by temporary fame, fortune, or affluence.  God is building for eternity,
and His love is measured on a hill called Calvary."

There is no greater love than that which causes a man to lay down his life for a friend.  But our Lord loved His
enemies, even to the point of dying for their redemption.  Love, as a fruit of the Spirit, will help us fulfill our Lord's
command in Matthew 5:44: "
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that
hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
"  A beautiful illustration of the reality of
such love in action is provided by the prayer of dying Stephen:  "
...Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."  Acts 7:60

The Badge of Discipleship

Is it any wonder our Lord chose love as the identifying mark of His followers?  Some have called this the 11th
commandment:  "
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love
one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
"  John 13:34,35.  The
world would thus understand the true meaning of Christianity.  There is not only an inward proof to the believer, "
as I
have loved you,
" but also an outward proof to the world, "that ye also love one another."

This is a special love, "
as I have loved you" and calls for an understanding of the character of His love:

His love was great and self-sacrificing.  He loved others more than He loved Himself. He was the epitome of the
statement, "
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."  Matthew 10:39

His love was purely unselfish.  He loved His disciples when they were unworthy.  He loved them in weaknesses,
errors and backslidings, and His love was strongest when they least deserved it.  One betrayed Him; He loved Him still.
One denied Him; He loved him more.  One doubted Him; He said, "
Reach hither thine hand" John 20:27 and all doubts
were gone.

He was constantly giving Himself.  Jesus welcomed all people, even sinners, into His company.  The good, religious folk
accused Him of being a friend of prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners.  They meant it for an insult; He took it as a
compliment.  Although these "good" people saw Him as a "scandal," they later realized that He loved them too.  For
from the cross His words pierced their hearts as He prayed for them, "
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
"  Luke 23:34.

His love was practical.  It was not mere profession or sentiment but reality - it was perfect love.  It walked in His feet,
spoke in His tongue and worked in His hands.

a.  His hands of love washed the disciples' feet.

b.  His feet of love walked the dusty roads, carrying Him about to do good.

c.  His eyes of love wept tears of compassion at Lazarus' grave.

d.  His voice of love summoned Lazarus back from the dead.

e.  His look of love brought Peter to repentance.

f.  The care of His love made Him ask, "Why are ye troubled?"  (Luke 24:38).

4.  His love was devoted and constant.  His love was unchangeable, undying.  "
...having loved his own which were in
the world, he loved them unto the end.
"  John 13:1  

There is a constraining and ruling spirit which inspires the government of Christ's kingdom and empowers the lives of
His followers to honor and obey their King.  It is

This is our Coat of Arms

We have been brought into His banqueting house, and His banner over us is love.  This is our "coat of arms:"  This is
the identity of the saints
.  A person may possess good qualities without being a disciple of Christ.  Certainly there are
moral atheists, moral infidels, moral worldlings and even the devil himself, who can appear very decent and proper.  He
can believe, tremble and profess - but he cannot love!  The essence of his nature is malice, envy, jealousy, hatred,
and revenge.  

Jesus chose as a sign of Christian discipleship a thing the devil and his followers can never do -
love.  They may imitate it, but they cannot truly love.


A Layman's Guide to the Fruit of the Spirit, by T. David Sustar, Copyright 1990, Pathway Press.