Book Excerpt: The River of Life

The apostle Paul is particularly excited about the Spirit in his letters. He writes to the Galatians that they are no longer under the law (the prior age) but under the Spirit’s direction (the new age). The Spirit produces new fruit in our lives, he said: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. In too many verses for me to quote, Paul indicates that we are a new creation, infused with the promised Spirit, and thus the age has begun.

Paul had a phrase that he liked to use: brotherly love. One of the distinguishing marks of early Christianity was its propensity for treating one another as “brethren,” greatly beloved. This phrase is so common to us today that we may forget what it really means. “Brotherly,” in the original Greek, is disturbingly literal. It might be more correctly interpreted, “from the same womb.” How are we to understand this? It confused Nicodemus as well: “Can a man enter into the womb and be born again?” To which Jesus retorted: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Born again of the Spirit, we enter into the age of God’s rule.

The word translated into “love” here is the Greek word philia—meaning a fondness, a close companionship. Thus when the author of Hebrews asks us to “let brotherly love continue,” he is saying “let there be a deep and enduring fondness between all who have followed Christ into the new age.”

–The River of Life, Energion Publications, 2014 by Lee Harmon

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