Monday, March 25, 2024

2024.03.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 12:9–16

Read Romans 12:9–16

Questions from the Scripture text: With what sort of love should they love (Romans 12:9)? What should they do with evil? And with good? How should their manner be toward one another (Romans 12:10a)? What must they do with one another (verse 10b)? What must not lag (Romans 12:11)? How must their spirits be? Whom must they serve? How should they act in hope (Romans 12:12)? In troubles? In prayer? What must they do with the saints’ needs (Romans 12:13)? What must they do with strangers? What must they do with their persecutors (Romans 12:14)? What mustn’t they do? What must they do with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)? With those who weep? What mindset should they have (Romans 12:16)? What mindset not to have? Associating with whom? In what way must they not “be wise”?

How should we approach relationships in the church? Romans 12:9–16 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we should consider our relationship with each other member of the church to be a Christ-given relationship. 

The apostle has just taught them that their Christ-given roles are given not for themselves as individuals but for Christ’s church, as members of His body (Romans 12:3-8). Now, he teaches them to view their relationships in the church as Christ-given relationships. Romans 12:9-11 deal with all our relationships in the church. Then, Romans 12:12-16 deal with special cases.

With all church members, Romans 12:9-11. The first commandment here, and the one that governs the rest of them, is that we love unhypocritically, which is to say that our love must not be pretended. If we do not have affection for the brethren from the heart, then we can be sure that we do not have a renewed mind (Romans 12:2) from Christ (cf. 1 John 2:3–11). Our first duty of love for other believers, if we have true affection for them from Christ, is our own personal godliness of heart. We mustn’t just refrain from evil; we must hate what is evil. We mustn’t just do what is good; we must cling to what is good. Love that is produced by Christ is also defined by Christ—not by our brother, not from our flesh, and certainly not by the world.

And it should be multifaceted love. Romans 12:10 commands a second sort of love (where NKJ says “be kindly affectionate”) and then a third sort of love (“brotherly love”). Like the man who wanted to justify himself by asking, “who is my neighbor?” (cf. Luke 9:27–29) we probably need to work on whatever part of love we are most tempted to remove from its definition (affection, attitude, interaction, action, etc.). Rather than being envious of one another, the one thing that we should seek to “outdo” one another in is in showing one another honor!

How, then, does this work out in all of our relationships in the church? Diligence, zeal, and humility. Creatures grow physically weary of serving others. Sinners grow spiritually weary of serving others. So, the apostle commands us not to lag in diligence. How can we do this? By the Lord’s gracious work upon our spirits, which should be “bubbling over” to serve others. It’s like a chemical reaction, where the opportunity to serve causes the love to overflow from us. 

Special cases, Romans 12:12-16Romans 12:12 is true for how we should respond to each of these circumstances for ourselves. If God has brought us into the realization of something that we had hoped for, we should rejoice. If He is bringing us through trouble, we must patiently endure. If we have a matter of prayer before Him, we must persist devotedly in it. But in the context of the broader section, we see that this is not just in our own hope, trouble, or prayer. In the shared life of the body, we come alongside one another in these things. But how are we going to know about them, if we do not have a shared life together, in which we learn of one another’s hopes, troubles, and prayers? When our brother comes into one of these circumstances, it is a special assignment from Christ—a “gift of His grace,” to use the language of Romans 12:3-8

Romans 12:13 presents two more special cases: the needy and the stranger. Whenever we have the goods of this world, and the Lord crosses our path with a saint in need, we get a share in their need, and they get a share in our provisions (verse 13a). The hospitality in verse 13b is literally “love of strangers.” In the context, it is especially believers who are these “strangers.” When they come to a new place, where they do not have home or family or friends or work or other connections, they should find a congregation full of other believers who recognize that God’s bringing them a believer who is a stranger is a divine assignment. Love the stranger! In fact, NKJ’s “given” is literally “persecuting”: we should be hot on the trail of an opportunity to show hospitality. What a fountain of fellowship and blessing is the Christian home, heart, and congregation where these commands are obeyed!

But the word for persecuting instantly appears a second time in Romans 12:14. We haven’t really come into the section of Romans 12:17-21 yet, so it may surprise us at first. But we must remember that like ourselves, other believers in the church are in the same spiritual condition as the apostle described even of himself in Romans 7:15–23. And those who have been church members for long enough are not at all surprised at this command, for they have experienced persecution at the hands of another member. What should we do in that situation? Well, our own flesh would resort to bitterness, gossip, social withdrawing, or some other sort of disobedience to Christ’s commands for us in His church. So, Christ gives us a plain command: bless those who persecute you. This certainly isn’t easy; the entire Christian life is impossible, after all. But it is simple! As soon as we are persecuted, we know what we must do (bless) and what we mustn’t do (curse). Suddenly, instead of trying to figure out how to respond (we already know that), we are thrown upon Christ’s grace, asking for His life and power by His Spirit in us, so that we can respond in the way that we know that He has commanded.

Whether it is this persecuting one (cf. Psalm 35:11–16, esp. Psalm 35:14), or others in general, Romans 12:15 gives us two more special cases: the rejoicing or weeping of a brother. His rejoicing is a providential assignment to rejoice. His weeping is a providential assignment to weep. 

Finally, Romans 12:16 gives us a general rule for these special cases: adopt the frame of mind of the brother in question. NKJ’s “be of the same mind” is translating a word for “mindset.” With our brother who has been brought low, we need to not have our “head in the clouds” (our own idiom is a good rendering of what verse 16b says) but rather be willing to “be led out with” the humble. The end of verse 16 likely warns against the consequences of lacking empathy: we will end up like Job’s friends. Not only did they end up getting Job’s condition wrongly, their self-wisdom caused them to speak incorrectly of God Himself (cf. Job 42:7). What a dangerous thing it is to rush to self-wisdom about others’ low circumstances! We mustn’t forget that being wise in our own eyes is an especially severe case of being a fool (cf. Proverbs 26:12).

So, just as we have learned to see our roles in the church as Christ-given roles, let us also receive our relationships in the church as Christ-given relationships. And let us receive each providence in each of those relationships also as an assignment from Christ, to be completed by His grace!

To whom else is your own personal godliness very important, under Christ’s design? What aspects of loving others do you find more difficult? Whom do you know, in the church, who has come into something hoped for? Who is in trouble? Who is praying? Who is needy? Who is a stranger? Who is persecuting you? Who is rejoicing? Who is weeping? Who is lowly?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that by bringing us into membership in Your body, You have made each of us an assignment to the others. Give us grace that we might fulfill our duties to one another in unpretended love. In Your mercy, make each of us to walk faithfully with You, so that we may walk lovingly with each other, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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