The Marvel of Love for the Spirit
By Fred O. Blakely
"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me," Paul entreated the Romans (Rom. 15:30-32). So desirous was he of their prayers for him and his ministry that he begged them with the most earnest obtestations, by that which is most sacred and valuable. "For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake," he implored. It is as though he said, "If you cherish Him and His work, pray for me; for His sake, do me this kindness and much-needed service." "And for the love of the Spirit," he continued. That is, "Out of consideration for, or as a result of, that love, be not wanting in this ministry to my necessity."
The Appeal to That Love. It is the latter appeal—to "the love of the Spirit"—which especially engages our attention here. While, with some, ambiguity attaches to the identity of the witness called upon in the supplication, to us it appears reasonable to conclude that it is the Romans' love for God's Spirit, which Spirit they had received and which indwelt and actuated them as His children. Others think that the "love of God" which was "'shed abroad" in their hearts by the Spirit, as in Rom. 5:5, is intended. That meaning obviously is very close to the one which we prefer, since the Father and the Spirit are One in Essence, though distinct in Personality. Still others understand the reference in "the love of the Spirit" to be "that love which the Spirit works in the hearts of believers one to another," as in Phil. 2:1 and Col. 1:8.
Other bases of the Apostles' appeals in their adjurations of the churches come to mind as one reads this one addressed to the Romans. "'Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," Paul wrote the Corinthians (II Cor. 10:1). To the Roman church, he had earlier written, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God" (Rom. 12:1-2). The Thessalonians were besought "by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him" (II Thess. 2:1). Philemon was told, "For love's sake I rather beseech thee" (Phile. 9). And, in a somewhat different form, the Philippians were entreated thus: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions" (Phil. 2:1, AV, ASV). In the same diction, Peter implored the "strangers" of the dispersion: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (I Pet. 2:11).
The Consistency of Such Devotion. In the understanding that Paul's reference in the Rom. 15:30 text—"for the love of the Spirit"—is to the saints' love for the Holy Spirit, we are confronted with a most remarkable, albeit a thoroughly consistent, consideration. It is that they should love the Spirit, and that with such intensity as to render that love suitable as an object of appeal for the most solemn and earnest request of them by an Apostle. Insofar as we recall, that is the only instance in Scripture where the love of the Spirit is directly implied, although its recognition is implicit throughout the apostolic writings, When it is considered that the "first and great commandment" is to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:28; Mk. 12:28-30), and it is understood that the Spirit of God, God the Father, and the Son Jesus Christ are "one Lord," the spiritual logic of one's ardent love for the unobtrusive Spirit is readily apparent. To keep the "great commandment," indeed, is to love the Spirit, "which proceedeth from the Father" (Jn. 15:26).
The wonder of God’s people having such love for the Spirit, however, stems from the unrelenting ministry against them in their natural capacities which the Spirit is set to accomplish. This ministry, of course, is but an implementation of the Father's purpose; hence, the love of tile Spirit is the same as the love of God, as we have indicated; and, when considered in this light, is no more marvelous than that love. But, in both cases, that man should so unreservedly love, in view of the divine purpose concerning him in Adam, is nothing short of astounding, and greatly glorifying Io God, since it is one of the principal witnesses to the work of llis grace in the human heart. In the possession of such love, one has been given to obey to the fullest extent that commandment of the Lord to "love your enemies" (Matt. 5:43-44).
That the divine Spirit is the inveterate and relentless enemy of sinful flesh is a pronounced doctrine of Scripture. He, in fact, is set to destroy the natural man, and will not fail nor be discouraged till He has fully accomplished His intent. Being "contrary" thereto, the Spirit lusts "against the flesh," we are told (Gal. 5:17). All of His divine power is available to enable one Io "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13), but none for minding "the things of the flesh" (v. 5). It was "through the eternal Spirit" that even the Lord Jesus "offered Himself without spot to God," it will be recalled (Heb. 9:14). That is, it was the Spirit that enabled Him to "keep Himself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27), and so be "the Lamb of God" "without blemish and without spot" (Jn. 1:29; I Pet. 1:19). The Spirit, being the enemy of the sinful world, sanctified Christ from it and consecrated Him to do the will of the Father.
The Spirit's Enmity Against Sin. "All that is in the world" --that which seduces and captivates the souls of men who are alienated from God--is characterized as "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." None of this is "of the Father," we are told; it all "is of the world" (I Jn. 2:15-16). "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof," it is continued (v. 17; cf. II Pet. 3:10). Thus, will the Spirit consume all that the natural man holds dear. Isaiah taught this, declaring: "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass" (Isa. 40:6-7; cf. I Pet. 1:24-25). At the coming of Christ, we are apprised, "the earth and the heaven" shall flee away, and "no place" be found for them (Rev. 20:11). This revelation of the Lord will be by the Instrumentality of the Spirit; hence, will the Spirit consume the present world and all that is of it. In preparation of God's people for this climactic work at the last day, He now engages to divest their hearts of the love of the world and to perfect holiness in them, pursuant to the Father's will and purpose for His children.
All of the ministry of the Spirit, however, is directly counter to humanistic desires and ambitions. Although it is for the ultimate good of the saints, it often occasions them present suffering and distress. Thus, the marvel of their loving the Spirit as is implied in the text of Romans 15:30. It is as though one would love his own executioner, inasmuch as the divine Spirit purposes and brings to pass the death of the natural man in those who are led by Him. Therefore, as faith bespeaks a work of grace in the hearts of those who have it (Acts 18:27), so does "the love of the Spirit." Only God could cause His enemies to love Him, and in that He does so, that love becomes, as we have said, a telling witness of the grace and power of the Almighty.
The Effectual Ministry of Love. The place of love for the Spirit in submission to His leadership needs to be pointed up to this generation. Discernment here and constant devotion to that love can be decisive in one's warfare against the World, the flesh, and the Devil. It is unquestionable that the Spirit strives against these enemies of the soul in all who possess Him. Duly instructed as to their identity, those .who truly love the Spirit will come to strive by, and with Him, against them. In the logic of Paul, love thus ensures submission to the Spirit's leadership. For this cause, one will eschew the things which the Spirit condemns and cleave to those which He espouses. Accordingly, love will be found to be "the fulfilling of the law" of the Spirit (Rom. 13:8-10; cf. ch. 8:2).
Let us take, for example, the natural urge to conform to the world in dress, speech, and general bearing so as to stimulate and feed sinful lust. The Spirit speaks expressly on this ubject, commanding and strictly requiring nonconformity to the world and abstention from "all appearance of evil," as well as modest dress and chaste living (Rom. 12:1-2; I Thess. 5:22; Tim. 2:9; Tit. 2:5). The question for one succumbing to these snares of Satan is, Which do you love--"the Spirit which is of God" or "the spirit of the world" (I Cor. 2:12)? If you love the divine Spirit, you will refuse to conform to the course of this world and follow the way of God.
It can be a powerfully constraining force in your life to face squarely up to this issue, and possibly one that could save your soul from death and "hide a multitude of sins" (Jas. 5:19-20). "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," declares John (I Jn. 2:15). You cannot avoid the impact of that rule; your love is demonstrated by your attitude and life. If you love the Spirit of God, you will be led by Him, not by the world spirit, which leadership ensues in death. On the other hand, if you persist in conformity to the world, it demonstrates your lack of love for the Spirit, regardless of the profession you make. As James would say, you deceive your "own heart" (Jas. 1:21-26), or, as John would remark, "How dwelleth the love of God" in you? (I Jn. 3:17; cf. chs. 2:3-6; 5:3).
The same principle prevails in the indulgence of any of the fleshly lusts. Are you enticed by unholy desire? The Spirit wars against that. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," is His exhortation (Rom. 6:11). Again, His will is that we deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts" and "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Tit. 2:12), possessing our earthen vessel "in sanctification and honor" (I Thess. 4:3-5). As we strive against sin, in the effort to follow the Spirit's leadership, it will be of great help to marshal all of our love for Him, and put down evil yearning and practice for His sake, "casting down imaginations" and "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10: 3-5).
"If ye love Me," requested Jesus, "keep My commandments" (Jn. 14:15). Again, "If a man love Me," He declared, "he will keep My words (v. 23); and again, "He that loveth Me not keepeth not my sayings" (v. 24). Candidly facing up within ourselves to the demands of love upon us will greatly assist us in overcoming the world, and at the same time will be a source of enrichment and deepening of that love for God.
May the God of love incline our hearts to so love Him, to the praise of His grace and glory.