Meditations in Colossians: 13. Love in the Spirit
Col 1:7,8 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
I noted in the previous meditation that I am finding with this letter to the Colossians that there are words or phrases that I have for so long taken for granted but failed to consider in any depth. In this verse there is this simple little phrase which I am sure we take for granted – “your love in the Spirit”. Love on it’s own, is OK, but ‘love in the Spirit’?
We could go back to look at the original Greek but most of us don’t have access to that so I prefer to recommend those studying God’s word to check out other versions to see what alternatives others have come up with as a short cut. For example the Message Version, speaking of Epaphras says, “He’s the one who told us how thoroughly love had been worked into your lives by the Spirit.” The Living Bible says, “he is the one who has told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you,” both of which are helpful.
We know about love for we considered it being made visible in Meditation no.8 but the emphasis here seems to be on the work of the Holy Spirit. When I was a young Christian there was little talk about the Holy Spirit (in my part of the Church anyway) until we went through a period of refreshing that was loosely tagged, ‘the charismatic movement’. Various Pentecostal friends were more vocal about Him. We are, I believe, in a very different age where the third person of the Trinity has taken His rightful place in our understanding and you will find many references to Him in my writings.
He is the executive arm of the Trinity, the Spirit of Christ (e.g. Rom 8:9, Gal 4:6, Phil 1:19, 1 Pet 1:11). Most references to Him speak of “the Holy Spirit” or just “the Spirit” and occasionally as “the Spirit of God” (e.g. Rom 8:9, 8:14, 1 Cor 2:11, 2:14, 7:40, 12:3). He is the expression of God as we experience Him in daily life and now indwells us as Christians (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 1:22, 6:16) but we are told by the apostle John that “God IS love” (1 John 4:8,16) and therefore the character of the Holy Spirit is love and we should not be surprised that the apostle Paul lists the first of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ as ‘love’ (Gal 5:22)
Thus we may suggest that the more and more we know of and experience the Spirit, the more His love will be expressed in and through us. Even more, the more and more the Spirit is allowed access to our church life, the more and more His love will flow between His people. The Church and, more specifically, your local church, is supposed to be a community of love and unity. If we are open to the Spirit then He will not only be changing us into Jesus’ likeness (2 Cor 3:18) but He will be bringing about a unity between us.
In his so-called ‘high priestly prayer’ Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23) His desire that we may be one WAS fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jewish believers (Acts 2), later on the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17) and then on the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46). We ARE united because all believers have the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9).
But note the end of that quote above: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The working of the Spirit brings God’s love and He works to bring a unity among us. He sees us as one even though we may be split into many denominations or streams or groups or even isolated churches. His first recognition is of us as His children, those He has redeemed and in whom now His Spirit dwells.
We have already considered how this love is made visible when we considered verses 4 and 5 and the same thing now occurs here. Epaphras came to Paul and told him about the wonderful things that had been happening in Colosse and how these people became believers and how their faith was almost tangible and how their love also was so obvious and visible yet, as always, Paul wants to glorify God and so he knows that this is not a work of a mere man, as gifted as Epaphras was, but it was a work of God Himself by His Holy Spirit.
Any genuine local church, the gathering of God’s believers, is a work of God by His Holy Spirit. We are what we are because of Him, not only because of what He did through Jesus on the Cross, but also what He went on subsequently to do through the ministry of His own Holy Spirit, convicting and convincing us and bringing us through to salvation and then commencing a life-long work of sanctification, and part of that is to work in us this “love in the Spirit” or, as the other versions say, love that has been worked into our lives by the Spirit, or love for others that the Holy Spirit has given us.