“According to . . . Christ’s love toward you, so love one another (pg. 27).”
The quote standing at the head of this post is a command. However, toward the beginning of this chapter Rev. Smit explains that Galatians 5:22 is not a command to love. Galatians 5:22 simply speaks of love as the fruit (or part of the fruit) of the Spirit. Rev. Smit explains why this is significant:
What is the significance that Galatians 5:22 speaks of love as part of the fruit of the Spirit and as a spiritual reality in the sanctified child of God, but the verse does not exhort us unto that love? The absence of the exhortation reminds us that the love of the redeemed and renewed child of God must express to God and the neighbor is the fruit of the Spirit. This love is not our work; and its existence in our lives does not have its source in us, nor is its continued existence dependent upon or conditioned on us, our faith, or any of our works. The Spirit of Christ is the miracle worker of the fruit-life in and through his people (pg. 24).
This explanation of love (this applies to the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit as well) as the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit of Christ is important. In the first place it is important when considering Gal. 5:22-23 not to focus on the fruit to the exclusion of the Spirit. It is after all the fruit of the Spirit. Calling attention to the production of the fruit of love as the sovereign work of the Spirit also keeps saints humble. Regenerated saints actively love God and the neighbor, but the source and power of that activity of love is always the Spirit of Christ. Finally, the sovereign operation of the Spirit, Rev. Smit explains, is the reason it is possible (yea, inevitable) that saints produce this fruit. There is no room for antinomianism. Must, can, will saints love? The answer to all of these questions is yes, exactly because this love is the work of the omnipotent Spirit of Christ in saints. This is why Scripture so often commands us to love, because the Holy Spirit applies those commands to the hearts of believers so that we will love God and the neighbor. Rev. Smit mentions other means the Holy Spirit uses to cultivate this fruit of love, read the chapter to find them.
Rev. Smit goes on to explain what the fruit of love is. It is love for God first then the neighbor (pgs. 25-26). Rev. Smit uses John 13:34 to explain that the love of Jesus Christ is the “sole standard” of our love. He writes, “According to the standard of the quality, sweetness, and beauty of Christ’s love toward you, love one another (pg. 27).” Christ’s love is self-giving, unconditional, entire, self-denying, purposeful, and holy (cf. pgs. 27-29).
This leads to the important question, how do we love other people as Christ loved us? Rev. Smit answers that question at the end of the chapter. He explains how to put the love of the Spirit of Jesus Christ into action in our relationships with spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, etc. He also includes an important explanation of how we are to love a person “who does not live in daily repentance but walks in sin (pg. 31).” Do you know the proper way to treat an unrepentant sinner? I’ll let you read Rev. Smit’s explanation for yourself.
Once again the end of the chapter contains thought-provoking questions. I’ll add one more. How does the fruit of love apply to the work of a missionary?
Again I invite your questions and/or comments.
Other articles by Rev. Spronk on The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ:
This article was written by guest blogger Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. Rev. Spronk will be blogging for us several times a month, taking us first through a brief study of Richard Smit's newly released book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.