Galatians 5:22 lists ‘love’ as the first fruit of the Spirit; there being nine in all: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. [See previous article about the fruit of the Spirit: https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/02/12/fruit-of-the-spirit/ ]
1 John 4:8 proclaims that ‘God is love’, and If God is love, then love is preeminent in the life of a Christian. John, whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26), tells us that God loves us and sent His son to ‘be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10), and because of this ‘we also ought to love one another’ (v 11). So we love God (Luke 10:27) and we love one another (John 13:34-35).
If we can gain an in-depth understanding of the nature of love we shall have a better understanding of God, and we shall know how to love Him more and our neighbours better. It’s an all-win prospect.
The Bible has a lot to say about love, and it gives us a description in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. Virtually the whole chapter is devoted to what Paul the Apostle calls a ‘gift’ – the gift of love.
Paul’s desire was for the Corinthian church to be united in the Spirit as one body with its members using their Spirit-given gifts which he mentions in Chapter 12, verses 4 to 11. Here they are: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healings, the working of miracles, prophesy, discerning of spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues.
In addition to these gifts, the one gift they should desire more than any is ‘love’ (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13).
The Greek word for love in this context is agápē. It is not to be confused with philia, which is the kind of love one has for a friend or a brother – a love of tender affection.
Agápē love is the sort of love God has for His Son (John 3:35; 17:24) and for us (John 3:16) and for those who hate Him (Luke 6:27) Matthew 5:44). It’s an outgoing, unconditional love which is given with no strings attached, and it is for all and sundry, regardless of any merit or quality on their part.
Here’s what Paul says about it:
‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).’
This agápē love flows from God (1 John 4:8), and by the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18) it flows from those who love God (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27).
Paul concludes Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians by saying, ‘And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (v 13).’