I would like to acknowledge the insight received from Pastor Rick Renner for these lessons on the Fruit of the Spirit found in his book, Sparkling Gems from the Greek – Volume 1.
Galatians 5:19-23 | NKJV (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (21) envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Notice the contrast that Paul brings out here between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.”
The Greek word translated “works” here is the word “ergos” which means hard work or hard labor. The reason Paul used this word is that the works of the flesh produce the hardest route for any individual, yet the flesh still cries out to be in charge and screaming to have its own way, to be the boss.
On the other hand, a life dominated by the Holy Spirit is filled with benefits and blessings.
The reason Paul used the word “fruit” referring to a life dominated by the Holy Spirit is because fruit is always produced, whether plant, animal, or human, from some kind of seed.
The kind of seed always determines its fruit. (Genesis 1:11-12)
Apples always produce apples; oranges always produce oranges; dogs always produce dogs; cats always produce cats; humans always produce humans.
The character of the seed determines the fruit.
The moment you received Jesus as your Savior by faith, God sowed His Spirit and Word into your heart like a seed, and you were spiritually Born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God.
1 Peter 1:23 | NKJV (23) having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
Just like apples always produce apples and oranges always produce oranges, God’s seed inside you began to immediately produce God (God-like character) on the inside of you. The kind of seed always determines the outcome of the fruit; therefore, you should expect your life to yield the fruits of the Spirit for that is the seed God has sown in your heart.
The fruit that the Holy Spirit produces is wonderful, godly fruit, overflowing with blessings and life. As you allow the Holy Spirit to produce these fruits in you, you will find that people love to be near you because you’re such a pleasurable experience for them, and they want to come back for multiple servings of that great fruit.
Galatians 5:22 | NKJV (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love…
At the time the New Testament was written, in the Greek language there were four primary words for love:
- Eros: This is the word for a sexual, physical love and where we get the word erotic. In the Greek culture, this word referred to sensual, carnal impulses to satisfy or gratify the sexual desires of the flesh. This word is not a giving type of “love” but a carnal love that only seeks to satisfy and fulfill its own desires.
In the Greek culture, eros represented a carnal, raw, low-level craving, or yearning for sexual fulfillment and is so flesh-based and is so far removed from the level of love that God expects of believers, it does not appear in the New Testament once.
- Stergo: This word primarily pictures the love that exists between parents and children or the love that exists between members of a family.
This word is used in the negative sense in the following Scripture warning of what would happen in the last days:
2 Timothy 3:3 | AMPC (3) They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman)…
2 Timothy 3:3 | GW (3) …and lack normal affection for their families…
- Phileo: This word describes “affection” such as the affection between a boyfriend and girlfriend or the affinity between two close friends. It carries the idea of two or more people who feel compatible, well-matched, well-suited, and complimentary to each other.
We find this word used in our English words such as:
- Philadelphia – brotherly love.
- Philanthropic – one who loves or is kind to humanity.
- Philosophic – one which has a love of wisdom.
But even with all of this, it still falls short of the fourth and highest kind of love.
- Agape: this the word used most in the New Testament to depict the love of God. There is not a higher, finer, or more excellent love than agape love.
Pastor Rick Renner defines agape as follows:
Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of a person, causing the viewer to behold this person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation. Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the person he is beholding that he is compelled to love them. In fact, his love for that person is so strong that it is irresistible.
John 3:16 | NKJV (16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
In the phrase, “For God so loved the world,” the word “love” is the word agape.
This means when God looked upon the human race, He stood in awe of mankind, even though man was lost in sin. God admired man; He wondered at man; He held mankind in the highest appreciation. Even though mankind was held captive by Satan at that moment, God looked upon the world and saw His own image in man. The human race was so precious to God and He loved man so deeply that His heart was stirred to reach out and do something to save him. In other words, God’s love drove Him to action.
You see, agape is a love that loves so profoundly that it knows no limits or boundaries in how far, wide, high, and deep it will go to show that love to its recipient. If necessary, agape love will even sacrifice itself for the sake of that object or person it so deeply cherishes. Agape is the highest form of love — a self-sacrificial type of love that moves the lover to action. In contrast:
- Eros is a self-seeking love.
- Stergo is limited only to one’s family.
- Phileo is based on mutual satisfaction and can feel disappointed.
Agape is a love that has no strings attached. It isn’t looking for what it can get, but for what it can give. Its awe of the one who is loved is so deep that it is compelled to shower love upon that object or person regardless of the response. This is the profound love God has for the human race, for He loved man when he was still lost in sin with no ability to love Him back. God simply loved mankind without any thought or expectation of receiving love in return.
When you love with such a pure love that you expect nothing back in return, it is impossible for you to feel hurt or let down by the response of the recipients of your love. You don’t love them for the purpose of getting something in return; you shower them with love simply because you love them. This kind of love is much higher than eros love that is based on selfishness; stergo love that is restricted by limitations; or phileo love that is rooted in mutual satisfaction. These three types of love are what I call low-level love, but agape is high-level love. It is a love that has no strings attached, a love that loves simply and purely — the God-kind of love.
1 John 3:16 | AMPC (16) By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him].
The Father loved us to the point of self-sacrifice. Jesus’ agape drove Him to lay down His life for us. In the same way, we are to agape our brothers and sisters to such a high extent that we would be willing to lay down our lives for them. If we are truly operating in agape and they don’t respond in like fashion, it won’t offend or hurt us. We are not looking for what others can do for us; we are simply focused on how to love others with no strings attached. Therefore, the way other people respond to us has no effect on our desire to shower them with agape love.
Further explaining the role of agape in our lives:
1 John 3:18 | NLT (18) Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
The word “love” is again the word agape, which tells us that when agape is at work, it is a force so strong that it demonstrates itself with deeds and actions. This is not an empty love that talks but does nothing. It is a love that does something, just as God loved us and then did something to save us from our lost and sinful condition.
1 Corinthians 14:1 | AMPC (1) EAGERLY PURSUE and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]…
The word “pursue” is the Greek word dioko, which means to hotly pursue. It was a hunting term that pictured a hunter following the tracks of an animal until he finally gets his game. This means that attaining this high-level love doesn’t come easy. If we want to attain agape love and regularly walk in it, we must hotly pursue it! It must be the focus and the aim of our lives.
If agape is the basis of your sexual relationship with your spouse instead of eros, you will always seek to serve and please your spouse rather than being self-centered and focused only on your needs. If agape is the basis of your family relationships rather than stergo, you will always remain devoted to your family, regardless of the disappointments that may occur along the way. And if agape is the basis of your friendships rather than phileo, you will be a faithful, immovable friend for life rather than a come-and-go friend who is faithful only as long as you get what you want out of the relationship. In fact, if agape is the driving motivation of your life and the force behind all your relationships, it will make you to be the best, most devoted, faithful, and reliable friend anyone has ever known.
You may ask, “But how can I possess such love? Is it really possible for me to regularly exhibit such love in my life for other people?” If you were seeking to walk in the kind of love that originates in the power of your flesh, it would be impossible, for flesh is selfish and self-focused and therefore cannot love that highly. But because the seed of God’s Word has been sown into your own human spirit, the potential for this divine love is within you all the time.
Now it is up to you to shove the flesh aside and release the love of God from down deep inside. If you will let the Spirit of God release it from your heart, you will discover and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit called “love.” This high-level love is already inside you. Now it’s time for you to free that love and allow the Holy Spirit to manifest it in your life!