The Wellspring of Love

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (v. 5).

- Romans 5:1-11

As we begin a consideration of the fruit of the Spirit, we must start with love. Galatians 5:22 lists love as the first and preeminent fruit of the Spirit, while 1 Corinthians 13:13 magnifies love over faith and hope, and far above all spiritual gifts. God sometimes gives spiritual gifts to those who are not truly His, as we see in the case of Balaam’s prophecies in Numbers 22–24. Unless the gifts and talents are accompanied by the love of God and love for God, they are ultimately worthless.

Love, in the sense spoken of by Paul, is uniquely Christian. The Greek word for it is agape (pronounced “ah- GAH-pay”). Ordinary affection between people is called phileo (“phih-LEH-oh”). In the New Testament, agape love is regarded as a gift, as the accompaniment of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is part and parcel of regeneration, and so every Christian has agape love. Indeed, Romans 5:5 says that agape love has been poured into our hearts. By way of contrast, the unbeliever has not been regenerated by the Spirit, and so does not have any agape love at all.

Agape love is not so much an emotional thing as a theological thing. We accept by faith that God has poured agape love into our hearts. We also accept by faith that the Spirit causes us to love. We can, of course, quench and grieve the Spirit, and thus we can fail to manifest the fullness of agape love. When we repent and claim the gift of love by faith, we can be assured that God is working a true loving spirit in us.

The wellspring of love is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son, and causes us to do so. One sign that we are growing in love is that we spend more time in adoration of God. The Spirit also loves the images of God—human beings—and so another sign that we are growing in agape love is that we are kind and servant-hearted toward others.

Another mark of agape love is respect for God’s Word. If we love God and trust Him, we will love and trust the Bible. When we see people criticizing the Bible and saying that it is merely a record of human religious responses, we must sadly say that they do not give evidence of having agape love.

Coram Deo

Sin, ultimately is a failure to love ordinately. Either we fail to love enough, as when we mistreat others, or we love too much, as when we elevate love of God’s gifts above love of God. Seek always to give love to that which love is due, and in due proportion.

Passages for Further Study

John 14:15–21
Romans 5:1–11
Colossians 3:1–14

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343