Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Indwelling Power

"And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love" (1 Corinthians 13:13; 14:1).

The Spirit of God gives both gifts and fruit to the people of God. Every Christian has a gift from the Spirit, and all Christians are to bear the fruit of the Spirit. It is important that we keep both of these things in mind. Today there is more emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, perhaps because these have been neglected by earlier generations, and perhaps also because the gifts of the Spirit have to do with talents and power and tend to be more glamorous.

We don’t want any kind of imbalance, but we have to say that if there is an accent in the Bible, it is on the fruit. This is because it is possible for the gifts of the Spirit to be given to unbelievers. Judas apparently could do the same works as the other apostles. In the Old Testament, the prophet Balaam, though an evil man, gave true prophecy (Numbers 22–24). Normally, of course, the gifts of the Spirit are given to believers, but as Paul says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Thus, we need to be concerned with the ethical fruit of the Spirit more than with His gifts.

Paul continues, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor [the gift of giving] and surrender my body to the flames [the gift of martyrdom], but have not love, I gain nothing.” This is a very strong statement.

Remember that Paul writes this as part of a larger discussion of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12–14). He says that the manifestation of the gifts, apart from the fruit, adds up to nothing. Thus, the most foundational part of the Christian life is the presence of love in the heart, the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Read this list and examine yourself. Choose one fruit and focus your attention and prayer upon it through the rest of the week. Ask God to cultivate an abundant harvest of it in your life.