The Way to Pentecost
Chapter 14: The Spirit of Love
Love is the last word in religion. It completes the revelation of God and sums up the whole duty of man. Love is of God, and the Spirit of God is the "Spirit of Love." This designation of the Spirit is not so well known as some others, but it is the quality that gives value to all the rest.
The Love of the SpiritThere is one passage that speaks directly of the Love of the Spirit "Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me" (Rom. 15:30). There is some dispute as to whether the love of the Spirit refers to the love which the Spirit produces in us or to the personal love of the Spirit for us. The former meaning finds considerable favor, and in that case the Apostle would mean: "I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of your spirit to me, that ye strive together with me in your prayers." Such a request would be natural enough, but the form of the request would be unnatural and strange. The phrase becomes awkward and enigmatical if it is meant to mean the love which the Spirit gives, but it is natural and plain if it names the Son and the Spirit as the ground of appeal. The entreaty names all the Persons of the Trinity, and beseeches "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and by the love of the Spirit Whom He hath given to us," that they will pray with him and for him. The love of the Spirit is the emotion and quality of love in the Spirit; it is His love, not ours, that is the basis of appeal.
This is the unmistakable teaching of the Word. Rom. 5:5 speaks of the love of God that hath been shed in our hearts by the Holy Ghost being given unto us. This must mean that it is God's own love that is shed in our hearts. It is a quality of life that is given to us, and this quality comes from and through the Holy Ghost. It is not a gift that can be received apart from the Giver. The love comes with the Spirit.
Love stands first in the order of fruit. Dr. Campbell Morgan argues that it is the whole fruit, and that all the rest of the list in Galatians 5:22 are but manifestations of the one great and all-inclusive quality of love. Be that as it may, and it may well be so, there can be no doubt that love in the believer is the fruit of the love of the Spirit. Fruit is an expression of life, and love is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is not of our growth. It is the result of abiding in Christ by the Spirit of Love dwelling in us. Love is the first, the chief, the most notable result when the Spirit of Love dwells in us.
There is another notable passage which speaks of the believer's "love in the Spirit" (Col. 1:8). This is something more than "spiritual love." It means that our love of the brethren is a love not human in its origin; not mere good nature and goodwill perfected by grace, but the love of God that dwells in our hearts by the good Spirit of Love. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but (the Spirit) of power, of love, and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7). The Spirit of God is not a spirit of fear, or a spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Power, and the Spirit of Love. Just as His coming into the heart brings Assurance, and Truth, and Power, so it brings the conscious possession of love shed abroad in the heart, and the love with which we love God is God's own love imparted to us, and implanted in us by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love.
The Ministry of LoveThe ministry of the Spirit is a ministry of love. The Church of Christ has chosen to call Him the Comforter. The ministry of consolation may be a very small part of the meaning of "Paraclete," but the human heart will never give up the name "Comforter" for that of "Advocate." "The comfort of the Holy Ghost" is treasured as a priceless possession more precious than power; more even than truth. Sorrow is more universal than the thirst for knowledge, and in the day of distress consolation is more than might. The word "Paraclete" means more than Comforter, but in meaning more it cannot mean less. The Comforter is in the Paraclete. Our Lord promised that He should save His disciples from the desolation of orphans. He even declared that they would gain by the exchange of His presence for that of the Paraclete. "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7). It is hard to see how He could expect them to be comforted by the promise of one who would more than fill His place. Fancy a dying mother making any such promise to her children. They would protest that they did not believe any such gain possible; that they did not want anyone better, for to them none could be half so good. Our Lord said it, and none dared to deny it or even challenge His words. The Spirit came to fulfill our Lord's ministry of love in the world. The world cannot receive Him, for the Spirit of Love cannot dwell in a heart of hate, or a spirit of worldliness. The world does not even know Him. In this He shares the fate of the Son, and in the succession He takes up the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. He seeks the lost. With loving patience He pursues and pleads. It is He who convicts the world. The sacrifice of Calvary is perpetuated in the Spirit of Love. Like our Lord, He suffers the contradiction of sinners against themselves. Love agonizes where it is powerless to help. What anguish is there like love in despair? The mother who has to stand helpless and see her child perish goes mad with grief. The father who strives in vain to keep his boy from the madness of folly either turns gray or grows hard. Think of the grief of the Spirit of Love Who can measure the anguish of His rebuffs, reproaches, and rejection. Love is sensitive. It shrinks from distrust, indifference, and reproach. It yearns for love. So the Spirit yearns for us "even unto jealous envy" (James 4:5, R.V., margin)
There is the same sensitive love in all His work. The love of God in Christ made Him the friend of sinners. He associated with them. His enemies said He was a chum with them. He sat at meat with them, and was evidently welcome amongst them. It does not seem to occur to us what contact with sin must have cost Him. Love shrinks from the ugly and offensive, but it overcomes and loves all the more for the greater need. The Spirit of God dwells in men's hearts. When Christ came a Body was prepared for Him. It had the limitations of humanity, but it was without sin. The Temple of the Holy Ghost is not thus prepared for His coming. He comes to hearts confessedly unclean. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and yet He comes to abide at its very seat and center. Through what travail the Spirit of Love must pass before the heart becomes indeed His Temple and His Home. The patience of the Spirit would be impossible were it not for His love.
The Perfecting of Love
"Herein is love made perfect with us, that we In the secret of the indwelling Spirit of Love.The whole secret is in the "Hereby" and "Herein." Perfect love is by the Spirit of Love. There are two senses in which love may be in need of perfecting. It may be defective in quality, or it may be deficient in quantity. If the love shed abroad in the heart is the very love of God Himself, it cannot be defective in quality, but it may be deficient in range and scope of operation. The Spirit fills what is given. He does not wait for fullness of knowledge. Wherever there is a sincere purpose to serve Christ He accepts the motive, however great the ignorance. There is a law of the Spirit of Life, and it patiently waits through all the stages of the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. He yearns for fullness of love, and as He led to repentance, so He leads to surrender and fullness of blessing. Love is made perfect when the Spirit of Love alone reigns in all the heart and life. We love because the Spirit of Love dwells in us, and that Love is made perfect when the indwelling Trinity of Love permeates, dominates, and possesses us entirely to the praise of His glory and the excellence of His power.
"Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit."
"God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him." "Herein is love made perfect with us." Wherein? "That we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I John 4:13, 16, 17, 18).
Continue to Chapter 15: The Spirit of Fire