Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1958
NUMBER 43, PAGE 1,12-13a


Marshall E. Patton, Orlando, Florida

The bitterest fruit known is that of the "works of the flesh." (Gal. 5:19-21.) The ultimate in antithesis of such is the "fruit of the Spirit" which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22,23.) There is nothing this side of heaven more beautiful, richer, or soul satisfying. Love is of that fruit. Love is of God. (1 Jno. 4:7.)

Love comprehends the whole scheme of redemption. God's love for us begets love in us both for God and man. "We love him, because he first loved us." "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." Such "may have boldness in the day of judgment" for "perfect love casteth out fear." Such are assured. of eternal life. Read carefully and meditate at length upon 1 Jno. 4:7-19. "Perfect love casteth out fear," because it makes impossible those things that produce and justify fear. It stands as an impregnable bar against all error. It will resolve all differences among brethren. It will unify all believers in Christ in one happy body upon the basis of truth. It will glorify God on earth as He is glorified in heaven. It will accomplish God's purpose for the ages — even the eternal salvation of souls. Indeed, love is wonderful — a precious fruit!

Love Defined

The love of God toward man, the love of man toward God, and the love of man toward man is indispensable to our salvation. It is, therefore, imperative that we learn what love is. Perhaps there is no word used more and understood less — even among Christians — so far as its full meaning is concerned, than love.

In 1 COR. 13:4-7 Paul shows that love is not a single element, but a composite of many. Drummond in his sermon "The Greatest Thing In The World," based upon this chapter, tells us that love is like light; that just as men of science take a beam of light and pass it through a crystal prism and it comes out on the other side all broken up into its components colors — red, blue, orange, violet, and all the colors of the rainbow — so Paul takes this thing love and passes it through the magnificent prism of his inspired intellect and it comes out all broken up into its component elements. His illustration makes clear a wonderful truth. Each element is worthy of extensive study, but limited space forbids such here. However, it should be remembered that he who omits just one element from his life lacks just that much being a love character.

We may learn more of the meaning of love by beholding God. "God is love." (1 Jno. 4:8.) God's love toward man is clearly manifested not only in word but also in deed. Our love must be likewise. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (1 Jno. 3:18.) Behold the love of God in action: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." (1 Jno. 4:9.) Read also Jno. 3:16; Rom. 5:8. The love of God is also seen in the chastening of his children. (Heb. 12:6-11.) True love on our part will also chasten. (Prov. 13:24.) True love on Paul's part led him to correct his brethren even though they counted him an enemy because of it. (Gal. 4:16.)

Unfortunately, some think of love as a weak, passive, apathetic sort of thing that will stand in opposition to nothing. However, the Bible teaches that there is no stronger force of opposition to any evil than true love. "Our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29.) But remember, our "God is love." (1 Jno. 4:8.)

True love cannot cancel justice. The two are not incompatible. A failure to understand this leads some to presume on the love of God and to think that God is too good, too merciful, etc. to exact justice or execute vengeance. No man should try to make finite the love of God, but neither should he extend His love to embrace sin. God's mercy is conditional. "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandment to do them." (Psm. 103:17,18.) In Rom. 5:8,9 Paul tells of the love of God by which we are justified and in the same breath mentions the wrath of God from which we are saved. Love hates some things — yea seven things. (Prov. 6:16.) Love "abhors that which is evil." (Rom. 12:9.) "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Heb. 1:9.) "Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way." (Psm. 119:104.) Love "rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;" (1 Cor. 13:6.) Love is the ultimate of that which is good and just.

Love Toward God

God has made obedience to his commands a test of man's love for Him. "He that loveth not knoweth not God." (1 Jno. 4:8.) "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." (1 Jno. 2:3.) These commands are twofold in nature. When Jesus answered the lawyer's question in Matt. 22:34-40, he said all "the law and the prophets hang on two commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self." Those two commandments also comprehend the whole of the New Covenant. (Rom. 13:8-10; Jno. 14:15,23.) Unfortunately, some have never learned to appreciate the dual division which Jesus recognized in the law of God, especially, the distinction made by our Saviour when he said the former is greater. The first command involves our relationship to God and includes all of those commands that honor Him in a special way. The second command involves our relationship to our fellowman and includes all of those commands that concern proper conduct toward others. But why is the former greater? It is generally thought that if a man is honest in dealing with his neighbor, pays his debts, and never infringes upon the rights of his fellowman that he is all that a man must be in order to enter heaven. But according to Jesus such is secondary. Why? I believe the answer is found in the fact that one cannot love God with all his being without loving his fellowman. Such love for God will fulfill man's every obligation both to God and man. On the other hand one can love his fellowman without loving God. The infidel often does this. This is often the case of the good moral man out of the church. There are many men of honor who are highly esteemed by those who know them, who deal justly with their fellowman, pay their debts, are active in civic affairs, and are good citizens and neighbors, but who have no regard for God. They have never obeyed those commands that honor Him in a special way. Such may so love because they love the praise of men, or for business reasons, or just because it is the honorable thing to do, or for any reason that is for time only. For this reason God has always had commands for which there is no reason on earth to obey, except one's love, loyalty, and devotion to Him. With all such it suffices to know that God commanded it. True love obeys such commands without equivocation. Our attitude toward such commands tells the story of our attitude of heart toward God. Is it any wonder Jesus said the first and great command is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind?"

The Lord's commands to be baptized (Acts 2:38.), to assemble (Heb. 10:25.), to observe the Lord's Supper upon the first day of the week, to make all things according to the pattern (Heb. 8:5.) in church organization, work, and worship are all included in the first and great commandment. A careful study of the experience of Moses (Num. 20:10-12.), of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1,2.), and of Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:16-20.) reveals very clearly the importance God attaches to such commands. Such are of the first and great commandment.

The modernist would minimize such commands as "exactitudes of the law" and seek to justify his action under the guise of "loyalty to love." All should remember that because we are not under the "letter that killeth" but under the Spirit that giveth life" does not mean that divine requirements are no longer exacting. The "letter" killed because it required perfection (which was impossible for man) and provided no pardon of itself. The "Spirit" gives life because it pardons through faithful obedience to the conditions of salvation which conditions are within reach of every man.

Love for God necessitates love for the truth. Love for truth is so important God has made it impossible for those without it to enter heaven. ". . . because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:10-12.) He who does not love the truth more than his own kin, intimate associates, perhaps lifelong friends, social prestige, worldly success and fame, or any other influence of time will be sent a strong deception! Why? That he might believe a lie. Why? That he might be damned. Why? Because he loved not the truth supremely. Such are unworthy of salvation. Their pleasure is in unrighteousness — not the truth. "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 Jno. 4:8.) Hence, Paul says the Lord will take "vengeance on them that know not God . . . who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power." (2 Thess. 1:8,9.)

Balaam was of this class. He understood clearly the plain revelation of God's will in the matter of going with Balak's messengers. (Num. 22:12.) Yet, he sought further information from God contrary to that revelation. He was not concerned about involving God in inconsistency. He was concerned only in justifying his point. It is possible for one today to understand plainly God's will on certain matters, but, like Salaam, continue to seek information from God's word to the contrary to justify his point of view. Unto him God says, as he did to Balaam, "go." Seeking he finds. He finds the strong delusion, believes a lie, and will be damned. Why? He lacked a supreme love for truth.

Love Toward Man

In reality every sin is a sin against God. He who loves God "worketh no ill to his neighbor." (Rom. 13:10.) Joseph withstood the temptation to sin against Potiphar and his wife because of his love for God. He said "how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9.) We cannot profess love for God and sin against our fellowman. Such is sin against God. True love is the badge of discipleship. (Jno. 13:35.) God commands us to love one another. 1 Jno. 4:11.) "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." (1 Jno. 4:20,21.) "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;" (Rom. 12:10.) This "brotherly love" is to be with that tenderness which characterizes the dearest and nearest of ties. Otherwise, our love is hypocritical, against which Paul warns in the preceding verse. Such love seeks not only present, but, primarily, ultimate good for the individual.

Such love will "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10.) He who fails in this particular is destitute of love. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 Jno. 3:17.)

Such love produces that conduct necessary to an unbroken fellowship over current issues — or any issue. True love will "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:1-3.) Such will preclude the promotion of a cause by a party spirit, an appeal to prejudice, beclouding the issue, or unfair tactics. Such love obligates brethren to be forbearing and in all lowliness and meekness seek sincerely and objectively for the truth — which can and will be found by those who so love. In due time those without such love will be made manifest. Then a break in fellowship will not only be inevitable but good. (1 Jno. 2:19.)

Such love will seek the restoration of a brother overtaken in a fault in the spirit of meekness: considering himself, lest he also be tempted. (Gal. 6:1.) Such love will forgive. It obligates both the offended and the offender to work hard to effect reconciliation. True love will move the offended to tell the offender "his fault" (Matt. 18:15.), and to try to bring him to repentance by "goodness." (Rom. 2:4.) After all, we "overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:21.) True love will move the offender to go to the offended and seek earnestly to be reconciled unto him. Otherwise, he worships in vain. (Matt. 5:23,23.)

Such love will carefully observe Paul's exhortation: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." (Col. 3:12-15.)

The need of the hour is men who love God with all their being. Such love will automatically fulfill every obligation both to God and man. Indeed, "love is the fulfilling of the law." A precious fruit! Let's cultivate it more.