Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance are the graces of the Holy Spirit and are the products of or fruits of love. The truth is, it is impossible for a person to possess the graces of the Holy Spirit if that person is devoid of love. Furthermore, this love cannot be a part of the individual unless he or she is totally committed to Jesus, has been born again, and has been converted! This love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is of Heavenly Origin; it is a divine principle that cannot be appreciated and known by any human being unless he or she knows Christ as a personal Savior.
In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul highlights the difference between love that is of heavenly origin and love that originates in self or that is earthly. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1–3.
A similar thought is addressed by Paul to the Roman Christians, where he admonished them, “[Let] love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Romans 12:9.
The word I, as used by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans, comes out of a Greek word that gives the meaning of hypocrisy, insecurity, and pretense.
“The imperative idea is now expressed by an adjective: ‘not hypocritical!’ ‘Hypocrite’ was the term for show actor, and the ancient actors always wore a mask while they were on stage. Genuine love is Paul’s bidding: not stage-actor love; no mask of love! I John 3:18, ‘My little children, let us not love agapomen in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.’ Where love is so highly esteemed as it is in the Christian church, counterfeit love is often passed out as the real gold coin, and the lack of love attempts to hide itself behind the mask of love and of words that are supposed to have the sound of love.” (Source: Commentary on the N.T. by R. C. H. Lenski: Romans, p. 766.)
Dr. Webster says that dissimulate means to “disguise” or “conceal under a false semblance.” What we are therefore made to understand is that there is a true love and a counterfeit love. The Apostle Peter encourages us to love one another with a pure heart: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently.” I Peter 1:22.
What is counterfeit love?
“We are admonished by the apostle: ‘Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.’ Paul would have us distinguish between the pure, unselfish love which is prompted by the spirit of Christ, and the unmeaning, deceitful pretense with which the world abounds. This base counterfeit has misled many souls. It would blot out the distinction between right and wrong, by agreeing with the transgressor instead of faithfully showing him his errors. Such a course never springs from real friendship. The spirit by which it is prompted dwells only in the carnal heart. While the Christian will be ever kind, compassionate, and forgiving, he can feel no harmony with sin. He will abhor evil and cling to that which is good, at the sacrifice of association or friendship with the ungodly. The spirit of Christ will lead us to hate sin, while we are willing to make any sacrifice to save the sinner.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 171.
The absence of love makes us cold, critical and exacting.
“Where is the kindling of soul you once felt at the mention of the name of Jesus? In the freshness of your early dedication, how fervent was your love for souls! how earnestly you sought to represent to them the Saviour’s love! The absence of that love has made you cold, critical, exacting. Seek to win it back. …” Testimonies, vol. 5, 611.
“In every family where Christ abides, a tender interest and love will be manifested for one another; not a spasmodic love expressed only in fond caresses, but a love that is deep and abiding.” The Adventist Home, 94.
“It is not mercy or kindness to permit a child to have its own way, to submit to its rule, and to neglect to correct it on the ground that you love it too well to punish it. What kind of love is it that permits your child to develop traits of character that will make him and everyone else miserable? Away with such love! True love will look out for the present and eternal good of the soul.” Child Guidance, 186.
“On the part of too many parents there is a blind and selfish sentimentalism, miscalled love, which is manifested in leaving children, with their unformed judgment and undisciplined passions, to the control of their own will. This is the veriest cruelty to the youth and a great wrong to the world.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 142.
“True love is a high and holy principle, altogether different in character from that love which is awakened by impulse and which suddenly dies when severely tested.” Ibid., 176.
“There is but little real, genuine, devoted, pure love. This precious article is very rare. Passion is termed love.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 281.
“The heart yearns for human love, but this love is not strong enough, or pure enough, or precious enough, to supply the place of the love of Jesus.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 362.
“The infatuation on the part of both young men and women in thus placing the affections upon each other during school days shows a lack of good judgment. As in your own case, blind impulse controls reason and judgment. Under this bewitching delusion the momentous responsibility felt by every sincere Christian is laid aside, spirituality dies, and the judgment and eternity lose their awful significance. Every faculty of those who become affected by this contagious disease—blind love—is brought in subjection to it. They seem to be devoid of good sense, and their course of action is disgusting to all who behold it.” Ibid., 110.
“Our love is frequently selfish, for we confine it to prescribed limits.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 580. “The sin which is indulged to the greatest extent, and which separates us from God and produces so many contagious spiritual disorders, is selfishness. There can be no returning to the Lord except by self-denial. Of ourselves we can do nothing; but, through God strengthening us, we can live to do good to others, and in this way shun the evil of selfishness.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 132.
“Human love may change, but Christ’s love knows no change.” The Ministry of Healing, 72.
Unholy spiritual love.
“The sophistries regarding God and nature that are flooding the world with skepticism are the inspiration of the fallen foe, who is himself a Bible student, who knows the truth that it is essential for the people to receive, and whose study it is to divert minds from the great truths given to prepare them for what is coming upon the world. I have seen the results of these fanciful views of God, in apostasy, spiritualism, and free-lovism. The free love tendency of these teachings was so concealed that at first it was difficult to make plain its real character. Until the Lord presented it to me, I knew not what to call it, but I was instructed to call it unholy spiritual love.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 292.
What is true, heaven-born love?
In the Gospel of John we have recorded the words of our beloved Savior: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34.
“Jesus says, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Love is not simply an impulse, a transitory emotion, dependent upon circumstances; it is a living principle, a permanent power. The soul is fed by the streams of pure love that flow from the heart of Christ, as a well-spring that never fails. O, how is the heart quickened, how are its motives ennobled, its affections deepened, by this communion! Under the education and discipline of the Holy Spirit, the children of God love one another, truly, sincerely, unaffectedly,—‘without partiality, and without hypocrisy.’ And this because the heart is in love with Jesus. Our affection for one another springs from our common relation to God. We are one family, we love one another as He loved us. When compared with this true, sanctified, disciplined affection, the shallow courtesy of the world, the meaningless expression of effusive friendship, are as chaff to the wheat.
“To love as Christ loved means to manifest unselfishness at all times and in all places, by kind words and pleasant looks. … Genuine love is a precious attribute of heavenly origin, which increases its fragrance in proportion as it is dispensed to others. …
“Christ’s love is deep and earnest, flowing like an irrepressible stream to all who will accept it. There is no selfishness in His love. If this heaven-born love is an abiding principle in the heart, it will make itself known, not only to those we hold most dear in sacred relationship, but to all with whom we come in contact. It will lead us to bestow little acts of attention, to make concessions, to perform deeds of kindness, to speak tender, true, encouraging words. It will lead us to sympathize with those whose hearts hunger for sympathy.” Sons and Daughters of God, 101.
We further have recorded in Testimonies, vol. 2, 133, 134: “True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. On the contrary, it is calm and deep in its nature. It looks beyond mere externals and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding. God tests and proves us by the common occurrences of life. It is the little things which reveal the chapters of the heart. It is the little attentions, the numerous small incidents and simple courtesies of life, that make up the sum of life’s happiness; and it is the neglect of kindly, encouraging, affectionate words, and the little courtesies of life, which helps compose the sum of life’s wretchedness. It will be found at last that the denial of self for the good and happiness of those around us constitutes a large share of the life record in heaven. And the fact will also be revealed that the care of self, irrespective of the good and happiness of others, is not beneath the notice of our heavenly Father.”
We are also told: “Love cannot live without action, and every act increases, strengthens, and extends it. Love will gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless. Love works not for profit nor reward; yet God has ordained that great gain shall be the certain result of every labor of love. It is diffusive in its nature and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful and affect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful. Wherever the power of intellect, of authority, or of force is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach assume a defensive, repelling position, and their strength of resistance is increased. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. He came into the world to bring resistance and authority into subjection to Himself. Wisdom and strength He could command, but the means He employed with which to overcome evil were the wisdom and strength of love.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 135.
God’s servant penned these beautiful words: “True, pure love is precious. It is heavenly in its influence. It is deep and abiding. It is not spasmodic in its manifestations. It is not a selfish passion. It bears fruit.” Ibid., 416.
The Scripture states in Romans 13:10: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.”
So the question I would like to ask is: Do you have the love of God? Many say, Yes, I have the love of God! Listen to what the pen of inspiration says: “Never can the love of Jesus be received and shed abroad in the heart until envious feelings, hatred, jealousies, and evil surmisings are put away. …
“Many are deceiving themselves; for the principle of love does not dwell in their hearts. They may close their eyes to their own errors and defects; but they cannot deceive God. There must be a reformation.” Sons and Daughters of God, 49.
I read for your benefit from The Youth’s Instructor, January 13, 1898, these words: “Pure love is simple in its operations, and separate from every other principle of action. When combined with earthly motives and selfish interests, it ceases to be pure. God considers more with how much love we work, than the amount we do. Love is a heavenly attribute. The natural heart cannot originate it. This heavenly plant only flourishes where Christ reigns supreme.”
I ask you again, do you possess the love of God in your heart; does it control your life?
“Those who love God cannot harbor hatred or envy. When the heavenly principle of eternal love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not merely because favors are received of them, but because love is the principle of action and modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and elevates and ennobles the affections. This love is not contracted so as merely to include ‘me and mine,’ but is as broad as the world and as high as heaven, and is in harmony with that of the angel workers. This love cherished in the soul sweetens the entire life and sheds a refining influence on all around. Possessing it, we cannot but be happy, let fortune smile or frown.
“If we love God with all the heart, we must love His children also. This love is the spirit of God. It is the heavenly adorning that gives true nobility and dignity to the soul and assimilates our lives to that of the Master. No matter how many good qualities we may have, however honorable and refined we may consider ourselves, if the soul is not baptized with the heavenly grace of love to God and one another, we are deficient in true goodness and unfit for heaven, where all is love and unity.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 223, 224.
What is the definition of love? The Greek word agapē is the word for Godly love. “Our word ‘love’ means so many different things, and conveys so many diverse ideas, that the true meaning of agapē is obscured by this translation. The Greeks had three words to convey the ideas we seek to express by our one word ‘love’: agapan, philein, and eran.” “Ellen G. White Comments”, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 340.
Philein in general describes affectionate, sentimental love based on the emotions and feelings. Insofar as it is based on the feelings, it is subject to change as the feelings change. Eran denotes passionate, sensual “love,” love that operates essentially on the physical plane. Eran is not used in the New Testament.
“In the New Testament agapan, when contrasted with philein, describes love from the standpoint of respect and esteem. It adds principle to feeling in such a way that principle controls the feelings. It brings into play the higher powers of the mind and intelligence. Whereas philein tends to make us ‘love’ only those who ‘love’ us, agapan extends love even to those who do not love us. Agapan is selfless, whereas eran is purely selfish, and even philein may, at times, be marred by selfishness.
“The noun form, agapē, is confined almost exclusively to the Bible. The agapē of the New Testament is love in its highest and truest form, the love than which there is no greater—love that impels a man to sacrifice himself for others, (John 15:13.) It implies reverence for God and respect for one’s fellow men. It is a divine principle of thought and action that modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, and ennobles the affections.” Ellen G. White Comments, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 340.
“Philein is spontaneous, emotional, and is nowhere commanded in the New Testament. Agapan, on the other hand, can be and is commanded, for it is under the control of the will. To agapan our bitterest enemies is to treat them with respect and courtesy and to regard them as God regards them.” Ibid.
It is on this basis that Jesus, our Savior, commands us to love our enemies. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 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.” Matthew 5:43, 44.
God allows trials, afflictions, and grief to come upon His children in order to test their love. John the Beloved declares in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” In the book Sons and Daughters of God, 193, Ellen White states, “… there are many who desire to love and serve God, and yet when affliction comes upon them, they do not discern the love of God in it, but the hand of the enemy. They mourn and murmur and complain; but this is not the fruit of love to God in the soul. If we have perfect love, we shall know that God is not seeking to injure us, but that in the midst of trials, and griefs, and pains, He is seeking to make us perfect, and to test the quality of our faith. When we cease to worry about the future, and begin to believe that God loves us, and means to do us good, we shall trust Him as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, and our will will be swallowed up in the will of God.”
She also states in the book Christ Object Lessons, 61: “Through conflict the spiritual life is strengthened. Trials well borne will develop steadfastness of character and precious spiritual graces. The perfect fruit of faith, meekness, and love often matures best amid storm clouds and darkness.”
So often, many Christians will say, I want to develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I want to love more, I want to be more longsuffering, I need the peace of God in my life, yet they are not fully prepared to receive these graces of the Spirit, for they come with a price!
The inspired writer tells us that, “Often when we pray for the graces of the Spirit, God works to answer our prayers by placing us in circumstances to develop these fruits; but we do not understand His purpose, and wonder, and are dismayed. Yet none can develop these graces except through the process of growth and fruit bearing. Our part is to receive God’s word and to hold it fast, yielding ourselves fully to its control, and its purpose in us will be accomplished.” Christ Object Lessons, 61.
“Let the worker show his growth in grace by submission to the will of God. Thus he will gain a rich experience. As in faith he receives, believes, and obeys Christ’s words, there will be an intensity of effort; there will be cherished a faith that works by love and purifies the soul. The fruit of the Spirit will be seen in the life, and the efficiency of the Spirit will be seen in the work.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 38, 39.
In order for the believer to possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, he or she must understand that this love is of heavenly origin; that it can be gotten only when Christ is received into the life of a person: that it is a divine, unchanging principle. It grows and bears fruits best by trial, difficulties, obedience, and submission to the word of God.
We can therefore agree that only those who develop and display the fruit of the Holy Spirit—this divine love—will finally comprise God’s church. Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 18, agrees: “To His church, Christ has given ample facilities, that He may receive a large revenue of glory from His redeemed, purchased possession. The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display.”
How are we made perfect in love?
The answer is found in Testimonies, vol. 2, 550, 551; “The first great commandment is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.’ ‘And the second is like [it?], namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments the whole interest and duty of moral beings hang. Those who do their duty to others as they would that others should do to them are brought into a position where God can reveal Himself to them. They will be approved of Him. They are made perfect in love, and their labors and prayers will not be in vain. They are continually receiving grace and truth from the Fountainhead, and as freely transmitting to others the divine light and salvation they receive. In them is fulfilled the language of the Scripture, ‘Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’ ” [Romans 6:22.]
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.” I Corinthians 13:13.
“When it is realized that of all qualities of character, love is the one that inspiration uses to describe the very nature of God, it is easy to see why the apostle should say that above all gifts of the Spirit, this is the greatest. As a manner of life, love is more effective, more victorious, more satisfying, than the possession and exercise of the various gifts of the Spirit enumerated in ch. 12. Love for God and our fellow men is the highest expression of harmony with God. Love lived out in the life of the believer is the great test of the sincerity of one’s Christianity.” Ellen G. White Comments, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 785.
“Love is the fruit that is borne on the Christian tree, the fruit that is as the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 187. [Emphasis added.]
The question comes to each of us today: Do I have the love of Jesus in my heart; is it the motive power that governs all my actions? You and I are the only persons who can truly, honestly answer that question. Today, Jesus lovingly appeals to us saying, Give me your anger, malice, hatred, bitterness, envy, jealousy, unhappiness, and I in turn will give you My precious, unending love. Why not say Yes to Jesus now!
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.