Our Relationship to Believers Primarily A Call to Sincere Love – Romans 12:9-16
Pastor Mark Hardy November 3, 2013
He made free use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions which would become the pillars of the new government he would establish. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God.
Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity, but with him there was no inward reality! He was a prime example of a hypocrite, which is someone who pretends to have virtues, morals or religious beliefs that he does not actually possess. This morning we are going to see how hypocrisy is to have no place in the lives of believers.
Now as we came to Romans 12 we saw that the fundamental obligation in every believer’s relationship to God is their total commitment to Christ in vv. 1-2. But if this commitment has been truly made and is reaffirmed on a daily basis then it is lived out in all of our relationships described in 12:3-15:13. First, in our relationship to ourselves, as we saw in vv. 3-8, and now in the quality of our love relationship to believers in vv. 9-16, although Paul will include unbelievers in v. 14. Turn with me in your Bible to Romans 12.
In Romans 12:9-16 we see fourteen manifestations of love, which mainly describe how believers are to relate to one another.
The first manifestation of love is:
I. Love is Sincere and doesn’t Pretend
A. Look at the first part of v. 12: Let love be without hypocrisy.
1. The Greek word translated “love” here is “agape,” which is the highest form of love. It is the perfect love that God is (1 Jn. 4:8, 16) and is manifested perfectly among each member of the Trinity (Jn. 15:10; 17:26).
2. So far in Romans all references to agape love have been used for God’s love for us (5:5; 8:35, 39), except in 8:28 where it is the believer’s love for God. But here it is used to indicate the kind of love Christians are to show primarily to one another.
3. Agape love is the supreme virtue of the Christian life and is to be the distinguishing mark of every believer. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
4. Agape love is the “all give” kind of love that selflessly and sacrificially gives irrespective of the response or worthiness of the one loved. It is predominately volitional, a determined act of the will or choice and not a feeling.
5. Notice that Paul says agape love is “without hypocrisy” (anupokritos), which means to be genuine or sincere. The word “hypocrite” was actually used of the Greek and Roman actors who wore large masks and played a part on the stage where they pretended to be what they were not.
6. As believers we are to love one another with sincere love, in other words, with the real thing (2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22). In sincere agape love there is no pretense or play-acting.
7. Whereas people can be “nice” and “polite” and still lack genuine love, true love doesn’t pretend or have any ulterior motives.
8. John Murray accurately stated, “No vice is more reprehensible than hypocrisy. No vice is more destructive of integrity because it is the contradiction of truth. Our Lord exposed its diabolical character when he said to Judas, ‘Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?’ (Luke 22:48). If love is the sum of virtue and hypocrisy the epitome of vice, what a contradiction to bring these together.” (pg. 128)
9. Just as Paul followed his discussion of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12 with chapter 13 on love, so Paul does the same thing here. A call to sincere love is the heading of this passage and everything that follows falls under it.
10. In vv. 9-16 Paul gives a series of rapid-fire ethical exhortations or commands that give us a comprehensive (not exhaustive) look at what sincere agape love looks like in our lives.
11. The second manifestation of love is:
II. Love is Discerning of God’s Morality
A. Paul says at the end of v. 9: Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
1. We are told a similar thing in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
2. Although it is a common saying that “Love is blind,” here we are told that love is discerning. Love demands God-honoring moral resolve regarding good and evil.
3. Some might think that love is soft on sin, but that is not so! William Newell was right when he said, “To be a good Christian, a man must be a good hater!” (pg. 469)
4. Paul says, “Abhor what is evil…” The word “abhor” (apostugountes) is a strong word that means to hate exceedingly and to feel horror at something.
5. The believer who sincerely loves will have a holy hatred and intense revulsion for every evil thing. Why? Because God hates evil; it is the antithesis of holiness and godliness (Ps. 34:14; 97:10; 119:104, 128, 163; Prov. 8:13; 13:5; 28:16; Heb. 1:9; Rev. 2:6).
6. Therefore, sincere love will not condone or tolerate sin in any way.
B. Not only does sincere love abhors evil, but it also “clings to what is good.”
1. The word “cling” (kollomenoi) is also a strong word and means to be glued or cemented together. It is used in Scripture to refer to the intimate union that is to characterize the marriage relationship (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; 1 Cor. 6:16-17).
2. Here we see that sincere love is glued to what is ethically good, as measured by the standard of the Word of God (Ps. 119:31). For in 1 Corinthians 13:6 we read that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”
3. Paul gives us an indication of what good is when he says in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on (or cling to) these things.”
4. The third manifestation of love is:
III. Love shows Affection toward all Believers
A. Look at v. 10: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
1. Whereas agape love is predominantly a choice and action, not a feeling, it is the soil from which heartfelt affection toward fellow believers grows. Both the words “devoted” (philostorgoi) and “brotherly love” (philadelphia) here describe the warm and tender loving affection that members of a good and healthy family have for each other.
2. Likewise, as spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ in the one family of God, our sincere love will show itself in a warm and tender loving affection toward all believers.
3. This is because brotherly love reflects the new nature of every believer and that we are truly a child of God (1 Jn. 2:9-11; 3:10-18, 23; 4:7-8, 11-12, 20-21; 5:1). This is why Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”
4. Peter describes this loving affection like this in 1 Peter 1:22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”
5. And again in 4:8 he said, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
6. The fourth manifestation of love is:
IV. Love will Honor others above Ourselves
A. Look at the second part of v. 10: give preference to one another in honor;
1. The one Greek word translated “give preference to” (proegoumenoi) here best refers to putting others before ourselves. And we are to do this to “honor” (time) them, which means to show esteem, value, and respect to them.
2. This honoring, other-centered love is seen most clearly and concisely in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
3. When we are truly Christ-centered, we will be other-centered not self-centered. And this honoring, other-centered love is a prerequisite for true body life to take place in the church.
4. The fifth manifestation of love is:
V. Love serves Christ with wholehearted Passion
A. Look at v. 11: not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
1. These three exhortations are very closely related and have to do with our service to Jesus Christ: what it should not be and what it should be. First, what our service to Christ should not be is “…lagging behind in diligence.”
2. Whereas the word “diligence” (spoude) speaks of “eagerness, earnestness and zeal” in our Christian actions, the one Greek word translated “lagging behind” (okneroi) refers to be slothful, slack or lazy.
3. We are repeatedly warned in Scripture against laziness, apathy and complacency (Prov. 6:6-11; 20:4; 21:25; 26:13-16; 31:27; Matt. 25:26).
4. Second, what our service to Christ should be is “fervent in spirit.” Whereas “diligence” pertains mainly to our actions, “fervent in spirit” pertains to our heart attitude.
5. The word “fervent” (zeontes) means to boil with intensity, to burn with zeal, to be on fire. This is how Apollos was described in Acts 18:25.
6. Notice that this fervency in our human spirit, but this is only because we are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
7. There is absolutely no place for laziness, apathy, indifference or lukewarmness in serving the Lord. The church in Laodicea was rebuked for this very thing in Revelation 3:15-16, which says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
8. Beloved, sincere love for the Lord and others will be seen in serving the Lord with wholehearted passion. The Lord’s service calls for our best, our commitment to excellence.
9. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
10. Why? Because when Paul says, “serving the Lord” at the end of v. 11 the word “serving” (douleuontes) refers to the service of a bond-slave.
11. May we never forget that having been bought with the price of His precious blood, we are not our own but the bond-slaves of Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore, our will is to be only to do the will of our Master wholeheartedly.
12. The sixth manifestation of love is:
VI. Love is Joyful because of Hope
A. Look at v. 12: rejoicing in hope,
1. As we have already seen in Romans (4:18; 5:2, 5), the word “hope” (elpida) doesn’t mean that we are uncertain about something and hope it will happen. It refers to the confident expectation that what God has promised will happen and so we wait patiently and trust Him for its certain fulfillment.
2. As believers we always have hope, no matter what may happen in our lives. This is because the Source of our hope is the Lord Jesus Himself and the promises of His unchanging Word.
3. It is the Lord who gives us living hope (1 Pet. 1:3), dying hope (1 Cor. 15:55-57), resurrection hope (Rev. 20:6), the blessed hope (1 Cor. 15:51-52), and eternal hope (Tit. 3:7). Therefore, we can always rejoice in hope right now in the present because we have Christ in us, who is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) one day in the future.
4. The seventh manifestation of love is:
VII. Love will Endure in every Trial
A. Look again at v. 12: persevering in tribulation,
1. It is because we can rejoice in hope that we also can be persevering in tribulation, whatever its form or severity. The word “persevering” (hupomenontes) means to remain or bear up under a heavy weight or burden, to endure, and to be steadfast.
2. And the “tribulation” (thlipsei) Paul is talking about here refers to all kinds of trials, afflictions, distresses, troubles, and pressures. It is the persevering in tribulation that is the only path to our spiritual maturity (Rom. 5:3-4; Jam. 1:2-4).
3. And it is because of our sincere love for God and others that we will endure in every trial. For 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
4. The eighth manifestation of love is:
VIII. Love exhibits Prayer that is Unwavering
A. The end of v. 12 says: devoted to prayer,
1. One of the reasons why the Lord allows us to go through various trials and tribulations is to drive us to Himself in prayer. For nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished in or through our lives apart from prayer.
2. Since prayer is an expression of our absolute dependence on God, it is not to be something we do occasionally. The word “devoted” (proskarterountes) here literally means to be strong toward something, to be steadfast and unwavering.
3. Sincere love for God and others exhibits itself in an unwavering prayer life (Lk. 18:1; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). And it is prayer that is God’s ordained means to work in and through our lives to accomplish His purposes.
4. William Barclay correctly observed, “When a man ceases to pray, he despoils himself of the strength of Almighty God. No man should be surprised when life collapses if he insists on living it alone.” (pg. 166)
5. The ninth manifestation of love is:
IX. Love gives Generously to meet Needs
A. Look at the first of v. 13: contributing to the needs of the saints,
1. The word “contributing” (koinoneo) here means the sharing of our own personal resources to help meet the financial and material needs of fellow believers.
2. Speaking to believers about their worldly riches, we are told in 1 Timothy 6:18-19, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
3. John MacArthur said, “In the eyes of society, we rightfully own certain things, but before the Lord we own nothing. We are simply stewards of what He has blessed us with. And one of our most important responsibilities as His stewards is using our personal resources to contribute to the needs of the saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ.” (pg. 193)
4. The tenth manifestation of love is:
X. Love pursues Opportunities to show Hospitality
A. Look at the end of v. 13: practicing hospitality.
1. The word “practicing” (koinonountes) here means “to actively pursue.” And the word “hospitality” (philoxenian) literally means the love of strangers.
2. Since inns in New Testament times were scarce, expensive, and often dangerous, Christians commonly opened their homes to traveling missionaries and Christian workers who passed through their towns. Although Scripture tells us that church leaders are to set an example by their own hospitality to strangers (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 11:8), Paul is speaking here to all believers.
3. Sincere love pursues opportunities to show hospitality. And our hospitality to others is to be viewed as a joyous privilege not a drudging duty, for 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
4. The eleventh manifestation of love is:
XI. Love actively Blesses all one’s Enemies
A. Look at v. 14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
1. This is clearly an echo of the words of Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:44; Lk. 6:27). Now although believers can make themselves our enemies by terribly sinning against us and harming us, it is unbelievers that Paul is mainly referring to here.
2. When people “persecute” (diokontas) us it can take many forms, from verbal and emotional abuse to social ostracism to the use of physical violence, even resulting in death. But regardless of the persecution notice that the command to “Bless” is emphasized by being repeated twice, and is then reinforced with the prohibition of the opposite: “do not curse.”
3. Now the word “bless” (eulogeite) means to invoke God’s blessings upon them. This goes absolutely contrary to our natural sinful inclination!
4. The supreme example of blessing one’s persecutors is the sinless Son of God Himself, who while hanging on the cross to bear the sins of the world, prayed with unimaginable mercy in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
5. Following Jesus’ example, Stephen did the same thing while being stoned. He cried out in Acts 7:60, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”
6. Therefore, if we too are going to follow Jesus’ example we will not only lovingly refrain from retaliating against our enemies, but also actively forgive them and pray for God’s blessing of salvation or repentance on them.
7. John Calvin was right in saying, “Although there is hardly any who has made such advance in the law of the Lord that he fulfills this precept, no one can boast that he is the child of God, or glory in the name of a Christian, who has not partially undertaken this course, and does not struggle daily to resist the will to do the opposite.” (Morris pg. 449)
8. The twelfth manifestation of love is:
XII. Love deeply Identifies with others Feelings
A. Paul says in v. 15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
1. Shifting back to our relationship with fellow believers, Paul reveals that sincere love doesn’t stand aloof from people’s joys and sorrows but deeply enters into their lives and identifies with them (1 Cor. 12:26).
2. Now to “rejoice with those who rejoice” is by far more difficult because of our on-going struggle with selfishness, jealousy and envy (Gal. 5:20-21; Tit. 3:3). But we are most like our loving, compassionate God when we truly feel the pain and sorrow that others are experiencing and to weep with them (Matt. 23:37; Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35).
3. The thirteenth manifestation of love is:
XIII. Love preserves Unity within the Church
A. Look at the first part of v. 16: Be of the same mind toward one another;
1. Now having the “same mind” doesn’t mean that we all look, think, act, and minister exactly in the same way. Unity is not uniformity, since we already talked about diversity in unity in vv. 4-5.
2. Here Paul is talking about having the same loving attitude toward everyone in the church, regardless of their ethnic, social, or economic status. It is this like-mindedness that brings harmony in the church and “preserves the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2).
3. The fourteenth manifestation of love is:
XIV. Love is Humble and avoids Pride
A. Look at the end of v. 16: do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
1. To be “haughty in mind” (hupsela phronountes) literally means “minding high things.” As we saw back in v. 3, Paul is calling believers to be humble and to resist sinful pride and haughty arrogance in their lives.
2. This is why he commands, “Do not be wise in your own estimation.” For this only leads us to think that our opinions are always right and others are wrong.
3. But sincere love doesn’t do that, for 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “…love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
4. Instead, love is humble in that it is not a respecter of persons. For, like Jesus, sincere love will “associate with the lowly,” which refers to the humble, the outcasts, the poor, and the needy.
5. May we never forget that the ground is level at the foot of the cross!
In closing, what a comprehensive picture of Christian love! It is sincere, discerning, affectionate, honoring, passionate, hopeful, enduring, prayerful, generous, hospitable, forgiving, sympathetic, unifying, and humble. Since love is the mark of true spirituality, no wonder Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).
But we must remember that we can never manifest this kind of love in our own strength. Since love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), these manifestations of love can only be evidenced in and through us as we fully depend on Him and allow Him to control our lives. As Paul prayed for the Philippians, may our love “…abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9) to the glory of God!