In this blog, along with those following, I like to look at the well known text, Galatians 5:22, which reads:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, against such things there is no law.
I included this verse of Scripture in my last blog, All Things Work Out For Good... published January 3rd, 2012. In this article, let's take a look on the first one love.
It is an interesting that Paul here writes "fruit" in the singular, and not in the plural, as he lists nine virtues here. This brings to my mind an image of an orange. An orange is one fruit, but once the rind is peeled, a number of segments are exposed, in this case, eight. Furthermore, each segment of the orange is complete in itself, each having its own skin, which means that all eight segments can be separated yet each remaining intact and without risk of any damage. But all together within the protection of the rind which covers them, it is one fruit, and to me the orange represent all which the eight segments represent - love.
First, let us point out that God is Love (1 John 4:8). That is more than saying that God has love. True pure love had always, and will always, exist between the three persons of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The other eight listed virtues are just all different characteristics of this one love. Because God has existed from eternity past in three persons, God is complete in himself. He never needed to be loved by anyone outside the Godhead, neither does he ever feel the need to love anyone. This is quite a contrast to the Allah of the Muslims or the Jehovah of the Watchtower, both being lonely entities in eternity past, before initiating Creation. Instead, the true God is all in all, perfect and complete. But it was his pleasure to share his love with creation, and that was the reason why God created the earth and put mankind on it, to reveal his love for him, for man to share in the love of the Trinity and at the same time, lovingly care for all other life on the planet and to have dominion over it. All of God's creation was perfect, including our first parents, Adam and Eve.
But when sin entered the world through Eve's deception and Adam's disobedience, a separation took place between God and mankind, and mankind has been struggling ever since, including attempting to get right with God by self effort, the basis of all what is called religion.
In my last post, I shared my experience of being terrified of Hell just after Christmas Day. I then examined the source of this fear and discovered that it was caused by God temporarily withdrawing his presence as part of his discipline to me as his son, to partake in his holiness. Not only is God being love, he is the source of all life. Therefore, for life to exist, God has to be present in order for the life to be sustained.
Death is the cessation of life. It is the result when God withdraws his presence entirely. When a saint, or true Christian believer dies, only his body ceases to live, and that is destined for the grave. His soul goes immediately to Heaven to be in the full presence of God. But when the unbelieving sinner dies, his soul is forever separated from the presence of the living God, who is love and perfect holiness. It is this separation and banishment from his presence which,I believe, defines Hell.
But while we are alive, every single person, even the unbeliever, enjoys the presence of God up to a certain degree in his life. Various Scripture teaches this. First, we have John 1:9 saying that the true light which shines in every man was coming into the world. Isaiah 49:6 also says that Christ will be a light to the gentiles. Also Romans 1:19-21 God has made his presence felt and seen through Creation, and verse 21 says that God is in them, that is, the unbelievers (KJV) or they knew God (NIV). In Romans 2:4 Paul writes that the goodness of God is with them, along with patience, riches and forbearance. The conscience is by means of distinguishing right from wrong, it is a guiding light from God and every person has it. But the best known verse is John 3:16 which says that God so loved the world. So every person alive has the presence of God in his life. I believe that alongside conscience and a level of light shone into the person, this also what sustains the heartbeat, the flow of the bloodstream, the digestive system and breathing (most of the time) and the magnificent immune system, protecting the body from disease-bearing foreign bugs. All these indicate the presence of God in the person, sustaining him, loving him, for the purpose of repentance, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, and eternal life, which is the eternal presence of the Life-Giver. Therefore we can say that physical death is the complete withdrawal of God's presence, resulting in the cessation of bodily life.
A friend of mine once said to me that surely God could not have loved the Iraqi dictator, the late Saddam Hussein. I replied by quoting John 3:16, even when it was hard to imagine God loving such a person. But loved him he did, as with Adolf Hitler, Lenin, Joseph Stalin and other notorious dictators. God's grace was available to them during their lives as it is to us now.
And now let us go back to the creation of Adam and Eve. One of God's chief principles of the whole of Creation is for Christ, who himself is God, to have a people for himself, so intimate that these people are likened to a bride. When a person repents and believes in Jesus as Saviour, the presence of God in his life becomes more real, due to the re-birth of the man's spirit, the receiving of eternal life and becoming the home of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The saved person becomes a member of the church, which is the bride of Christ. And I think this is why there is both male and female. Of course, the idea of a couple in the biological sense is procreation, to produce children. But there is a mystical connection between the marriage of a man to a woman and of Jesus Christ and his Church. Therefore, marriage is a kind of figure, the husband
is the figure of Jesus Christ, the wife as his Church, the bride of Christ, a model of which God foresaw from eternity past.
But let me here say that there are many unmarried Christians in the churches, as there have always been. I myself have been an unmarried Christian for nearly 27 years. Paul the Apostle himself was unmarried, a rare occurrence in Jewish life, and yet he wrote a lot about marriage. Therefore does a single person become less of a member of the Bride of Christ than a married man? By no means! A single Christian is every bit a member of the Bride as the married.
But the husband represents Christ. Just as the Lord Jesus was the breadwinner by leading a perfect, sin-free life and so to speak, earned his right to lay down his life to redeem us, so I believe that the man was designed by God with the in-built trait for productivity and to provide for his wife and family. But more than that, a husband should love his wife and be devoted to her in the same way as Christ loves the church and is fully devoted to her. The rise in feminism and the woman's liberation movement was caused by, I believe, the man's lack of showing proper love to his wife. Many men were dominant, others had a way of making their wives feel inferior or subjective to them without receiving the love, devotion and protection they deserved. Here in the UK, it is considered wimpish or lacking masculinity to show emotion, other than the emotion of anger, considered by some as "a true masculine trait". In turn, British newspaper journalists praise the British stoicism and the stiff upper lip as being "proper masculine traits" but unfortunately had the potential in leading to an environment where there was lack of love and affection in the home.
According to the latest statistics, one in three marriages end in divorce here in the UK. Some years ago I watched a TV documentary on the rise of divorces in Britain. One couple was featured in the programme on why this particular middle-aged husband was cooling towards his wife of more than twenty years. After intensive interviewing, she finally admitted that she had been attending night college and studied for a qualification that would launch her into a career which would give her independence. Having been brought up to be the traditional breadwinner, he felt that her prospective independence had killed something in their once robust marriage. To be fair, it would have been worth asking whether he showed love and devotion to her. Or did he spend much of his leisure time in his own pursuits? In addition to this, there was a story carried in the Daily Mail only last week about one husband who was divorcing his wife because she was specific in placing her career above the needs of her husband. Then the female journalist who reported the incident basically called the man an idiot, lacking consideration for his wife's ambition to fulfill her own wishes. I was aghast! When I logged in on the next day to check over the article again in preparation to this blog, the Daily Mail had already deleted it from its website.
I thought I should add here for those who may conclude that I'm against equal rights for women. That is not true. All I'm saying is that both men and women have different roles, neither one superior or inferior to the other. The man, or husband is a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is head of the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-24). Now here is a question: if the Church chooses to exist independently of Jesus Christ, his love or provisions, how would the Lord himself feel?
God had created Eve out of the man Adam, and it was specifically for her to be a helper meet for him. Despite what feminists might say, woman was to be a companion to her husband, to love and be submissive to him (see Ephesians 5:22-33). In turn, he would love her and be fully devoted to her well being. I believe that if husbands in the Western world had taken heed to this sound advice, feminism and "equal rights for women" would never had been thought of, simply because the wife who is secure in her husband's love would not even think otherwise.
Finally, 1 John 4:8 says that God is love.
So let us quote 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 where Paul speaks of the greatness and goodness of love. But here we substituted the word "God" in place of "love" and we came up with this result (from the NIV):
God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.