Friday, February 17, 2017

"The Holy Spirit and The Fruit of the Spirit"


First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit and The Fruit of the Spirit"
February 18, 2017

This lesson provides a wonderful opportunity to study God's agape love. To start with, we know that God is love  (1 John 4:8, 16). Thus, God's agape love is not just an aspect of His character but represents who He is completely and all other facets of His character including forgiveness, justice, and mercy, flow from His agape love.

Notice in our memory text (Gal. 5:22, 23) that the fruit of the Spirit is in the singular. God's agape love is the first fruit of the Spirit and becomes the basis for all the other fruits of the Spirit. All fruits are simply ramifications of God's agape love in our lives.
We see in Sunday's lesson that the fruit of the Spirit is not something we achieve by human effort. Looking at John 15:1-11, we see that it is not a works program. Verses 4 and 5 tell us that "no branch can bear fruit by itself" and "apart from me you can do nothing". We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit for that is the work of the Spirit. We are told in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit as counsellor will teach us all things and remind us of everything that Jesus has said and done—His birth, life, death and resurrection. In other words, He is there to point us to Christ and His sacrifice so that we may believe that we have been given the free gift of salvation and through our faith response abide in Christ. Jesus promises us in verse 4 that when we abide in Him (by faith), He will abide in us thus allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives thereby strengthening the branches' (believers') connection with the vine. Abiding in Christ, the less we will see of self and the more we will see of Christ so that He is able through the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives from God's agape love. The fruit is proof of our new birth in Christ, that the Holy Spirit is working in us and through faith (the faith of Jesus) we have come to know God.
God's agape love is the opposite of human love. Our human love is self-centered and seeks reciprocity/response and is thus conditional whereas agape is selfless and unconditional. We see in Romans 5:6- 8 that "Christ died for the ungodly" and that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". Thus God takes the initiative, loved us when we were sinners and with Christ dying the second death as us/for us saved humanity. Another contrast is that human love is changeable whereas God's love is changeless. Scripture reminds us of this repeatedly, for example:
  1. Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love."
  2. Several texts (including 1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalms 107:1, Jeremiah 33:11) show us "His love endures forever".
  3. 1 Corinthians 13:8 "Agape never fails"
It is through Christ's righteousness and by faith (the faith of Jesus) that we abide in Christ and are able to receive agape as the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus agape is also the fruit of genuine righteousness by faith. Faith and agape are inseparable which is made clear in God's word such as the following texts:
  1. Galatians 5:6 – "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (agape)."
  2. Ephesians 1:15 – "I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints."
  3. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
  4. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – "because that your faith groweth exceedingly and the agape of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth."
The primary purpose of the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, God's agape love, is to reflect His character in our lives. All the other fruits become evidence of this. The agape reproduced in us through the Holy Spirit is the essence of Christianity. As we are told in Colossians 3:14 "and above all these things put on agape, which is the bond of perfection." Covered by Christ's robe of righteousness, God's last day people will reflect the unconditional love of God. As we see in Matthew 5:44, only then can we love without discrimination including those who hate and persecute us. This extends to forgiveness as shown in Colossians 3:13 for we are to forgive even as Christ has forgiven us not because we deserved it but because of His unconditional agape love for each and every one of us. As we are told in Ephesians 5:32 "Be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Thus, a willingness to forgive is evidence of God's agape love working in our lives through the Holy Spirit. This can only come from God because our sinful human nature tells us that we have been hurt, wronged, deceived and that forgiveness of the other party is not deserved—but neither do we deserve the forgiveness Christ has already bestowed upon us and that in a nutshell for me encapsulates the beauty of God's unconditional agape love. Because when we do forgive, we are able to experience the freedom, peace and joy that God is wanting to share with us and are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives so we may reflect the character of Christ.
God's agape love is a central theme in the most precious message given to us in 1888 by Waggoner and Jones. It is when we see the depths of His love and the sacrifice on the cross that hearts and lives are changed. When we abide in Christ, agape will unite Christians together (Col. 2:2). The greatest evidence of the third angel's message at work in our lives is love toward each other. As John 13:34 and 35 says "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." As we see in 2 Corinthians 5, "The love of Christ compels us (vs. 14) and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new (vs. 17). Then we are able to say (Gal. 2:20) – "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."
May all of us echo Paul's words and allow the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our lives reflecting God's agape love.
~ John and Monica Campbell