By J.R. Miller
Everything in Christian life is love. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." There are other things that are mentioned as fruit--but love is named first, and all the others are only parts or qualities of love. The one white ray of light is resolved into the seven colors of the rainbow. Just so does love, the white ray that shines from the face of God, separate itself into all the heavenly graces. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance" (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Love is the one essential in the life which the Holy Spirit produces. Paul tells us we may have great eloquence, tongues of angels, the gift of prophecy, faith that can move mountains, generosity that will give all we possess, the martyr's spirit; and yet, if we have not love--we are nothing. Men have been champions of orthodoxy, and yet, lacking love--are given to anger, evil temper, and resentment. There are those who are devoted to the institutions of religion and who yet fail to show love at home. These do not meet the highest requirement of the gospel. Nothing but love can satisfy the demands of the Holy Spirit.
We must prove our love--by our life. "If you love me--you will keep my commandments." We cannot live truly, except by loving--but we cannot love and not live worthily. It is very easy to say we love a person--but our conduct is the only true index. In one of his epistles John, the disciple of love writes: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue--but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16-18). John is speaking of the proof of love to our fellow men--but the same principle applies to our profession of love to Christ. It is not enough that we sing it in our hymns and say it in our prayers and recite it in our creeds; we must show it in our life by obedience to His commandments. A fruit tree proves its usefulness, by bearing fruit. If there is "nothing but leaves," the tree's profession is empty. The rosebush must prove its right to the distinction, by putting forth beautiful roses in the season for roses. When we claim to be Christ's friends, we must show it by doing what Christ bids us do.
"If you love me--you will obey what I command." Promise follows requirement. Then he says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth." The "and" is important. It links the promise back to the previous verse. There are four links in the chain. If we love Christ, we will keep His commandments; then He will ask the Father, and the Father will give us another Comforter. The disciples thought they would be sore losers by Christ's leaving them, and so they were, in a sense. It broke their hearts to part from Him. But He assures them that instead of His personal presence, another heavenly Friend would be sent to them.
The name "Comforter" is a very precious one. Even in the common usage of the English word it is sacred. One who is a comforter to us, ministers to us in our sorrows, consoles us when we are in grief. Then the word "another" shows what kind of comforter the Spirit would be--Jesus had been a comforter, and the Spirit would be one just like Him. We sometimes wish we had lived when Jesus was on earth, and feel that those who knew Him in the flesh had a privilege no other believers ever again can have. But this word tells us that the Holy Spirit, who came in Christ's place--is all to us that Jesus was to His friends. He may not take away our sorrows from us--but if not, He gives us strength so that we can bear them. That is part of what the Holy Spirit does for us. He is not, however, merely a comforter in the sense that the word is now used. The word is "Paraclete," which has not precise equivalent in English. The same word is translated "Advocate" in one of John's epistles, which means one who stands by or stands for one. We may put all our affairs into the hands of this Advocate. He will defend us, intercede for us, and be our comrade and friend.
The world does not want to receive the Holy Spirit--"Whom the world cannot receive." It has no love for Him, no eyes to behold His beauty, no ears to hear His words. The world does not want the Holy Spirit as guest. Only those who desire to be holy, have any yearning for Him. It is one of the most wonderful proofs of the love of God, that the Holy Spirit is wiling to live in a corrupt, defiled, loathsome human heart, amid all its sin and impurity, for the purpose of cleansing it and making it holy and fit for heaven! It was one of the qualities of the love of Christ, that it went out in compassion and longing to the most unworthy. Someone defined the love of God as "loving people He did not like." The Spirit of God takes up His abode in the worst heart--that He may make it clean and holy.
It is wonderful how gently Christ dealt with His disciples that night. He talked with them as a mother about to leave her children would talk to them--mingled counsel, with words of love. He knew how lonely they would be when He was gone away from them. They would indeed be desolate in their sorrow and bereavement. We remember how it was with them those days that He lay in the grave. Then for forty days they saw Him occasionally, receiving sweet consolation from Him. After this He went away--but soon He came again in the Holy Spirit, and after that the disciples were never lonely anymore, for they had their Master's presence with them in close and loving tenderness all the while. We ought never to feel desolate if we have Christ. Everything else may be stripped off, and we may be driven out into the world, orphans, and homeless; but if we have Christ, we are rich in love and in all heavenly blessing.
The proof of love for God--is obedience to His commandment. Then, when love for God is in our lives, God Himself is with us. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." It is a wonderful truth that is declared to us here--that God actually desires to have our love and longs to make His home in our hearts.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." One of the great words of the Bible is peace. Our heart hungers for it. Everywhere men search for it--in paths of pleasure, in the avenues of fame. But peace does not come by finding a quiet place to hide in, away from the world's storms. It must begin in the heart. Indeed, the peace a Christian has--must be a peace that will hold the heart quiet in spite of the world's storms.
Two artists went out to paint each a picture of peace. One painted a silvery lake embosomed deep amid the hills, where no storm ever could touch it. The other painted a wild sea, swept by tempests, strewn with wrecks--but rising up out of it a great rock--and in the rock, high up, a cleft with herbage and flowers, amid which, on her nest, a dove was sitting. The latter is the true picture of Christian peace. "In the word you shall have tribulation," but "In me you shall have peace" (see 16:33). The peace of Christ is a peace that holds the heart quiet--in the very heart of the world's trials. This peace is offered to us here as a gift, as Christ's legacy to us. We can get it only by taking Christ Himself into our heart.