“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
According to Paul in the verse above one of the functions of the Holy Spirit, is to bear fruit in our lives. The fact that they are “fruit” and not “fruits” suggest that they originate from one source- just like an apple tree can only produce apples and a peach tree, only peaches; the Holy Spirit can only produce “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”
The first and most important attribute on the list of spiritual fruit Paul provides begins with love. Working on the assumption that the ordering of the list is significant, we can conclude that love is the key that provides access to the other attributes. So why is love so important in our cultivation of spiritual fruit? The first epistle of John, 4:16 tells us simply that “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God.” In addition, “whoever loves God, must love his brother.”
Evident from the above is that the Spirit of God, can only impart to us the fruit of his own nature: which is love. It is only when we truly love God; that we will begin to love others. The love that God conveys to us is unselfish and unconditional. When we are enveloped by divine love, we will seek to share it with others. 1 John 4:9-12 states:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”
Evidence of God’s love for us is manifested in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ - his only begotten son, who became an atonement for our sins, so that we could be reconciled to him and receive our inheritance as his sons and daughters. As children of God, we are expected to live in a way that is pleasing to him, by following the example of our spiritual older brother Christ.
In contrast to the Spirit’s fruit, Paul describes “the acts of the sinful nature” in Galatians 5:19-21. Prior to our acceptance of Christ, our nature is devoid of love and bears what is described as works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” We are warned in this text that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Our acceptance of God’s love is a matter of life and death: if we accept it as a free gift of his grace - we have the promise of eternal life and an eternity spent sharing his riches of with others who have also chosen his love over love of self.
Love is the vital ingredient for a fruitful life and abundant life in the here and now and eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ. When God invites us to love him and others, he is encouraging us to partake of his divine nature. As soon as we accept his offer of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ - we are exchanging our sinful nature for God’s righteous nature. As his children, we enter into his will for us which naturally leads us to want what he wants for us and love in the way he loves.
In closing, I would like to leave you with two verses that encapsulate the essence of divine love- which is simply “knowing God by accepting Christ’s example”
1John 4:8 “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
John 17:3 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
As we walk with God each day, let us ask for him to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, for in doing so, we are paving the way for an eternity spent with him - not just ourselves, but for those that we have been sent to witness to.