A true born-again believer will present themselves as a living sacrifice unto God. They will be totally committed to Jesus. With such a commitment to Jesus, there will be a participation in the ministry of the local church through the use of God-given spiritual gifts practiced within the framework of the local church. As we discover our spiritual gifts and learn to work together as a team, there will also be a certain way that we will live out our lives amongst each other. This is what Paul addresses in verses 9-21. As a community of believers, as a team, we are to be together. This togetherness is played out in our attitude and our actions. Each of the verses in our text gives sound wisdom and direction on how we are to live together as believers in the local church.
Verse 9: “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Paul begins with an emphasis on love. As true believers in Christ who are being a living sacrifice to God through using our spiritual gifts to uplift the church, we are to practice true and genuine love. To be ‘without dissimulation’ means to be ‘without hypocrisy’. In other words, our love toward one another should be real. It must be authentic. To really be together as a church, we must really love one another as a church.
Such love is seen in our reaction toward evil and our response toward that which is good. “It is not, abstain from the one, and do the other; nor, Turn away from the one, and draw to the other; but, Abhor the one, and cling, with deepest sympathy, to the other.” If we really love one another, then we will abhor the evil that is seen amongst us and we will hold to the good that is seen amongst us. In other words, we are to hate the sin that we see in each other and we are to hold on to and love the good that we see in each other. Real authentic love in the life of the church will not allow one another to continue living in sin. When you really love someone, you will want the best for them. The best for each of us is that we are a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable unto God. If any among us fall short of God’s best, then we are to take them by the hand and pull them out of the muck and mire of sin and lead them to what is good and right for them. Loving someone is not accepting the things they do, rather it is refusing to allow evil to reign in the heart. If you really love someone, you will not just pat them on the back and tell them everything is okay. If you really love someone, you will let them know what is not okay and you will abhor the evil that is in them and cling to what is good for them. Such a love that refuses to allow members of our church family to continue in sin and to do what is best for them, not just what makes them comfortable; is true authentic love, the kind of love Paul is talking about in this verse.
Verse 10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” The ‘brotherly love’ that Paul is talking about here, is a love that is only felt and demonstrated between brothers and sisters in Christ. Only true believers can really experience this love. It is a love that says, you are my brother no matter what happens or where you may be. When I travel, I enjoy meeting other Christians. When you come across someone that you have never met and you find out they are a believer, there is this connection that is felt. You automatically love the person even though you do not know them. You would do anything for them, even though you just met. This connection can only be experienced by those who have been truly born-again. This brotherly love compels us to put other believers above ourselves. There is a desire to see them experience God’s best for them. There is a desire to see them succeed and be honored. Such love causes us to be kind toward one another. It causes us to look out for each other and care for one another. Such love is also proof of our salvation. If you do not have such love for fellow believers, then you may not be really saved. It is a sad thing to see believers attack each other and fight amongst themselves. We are family. We are a team. We may not always agree. We may not always get along. But, if we are truly saved, we will love each other and give honor to one another.
Verse 11: “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” The business that Paul speaks of here can certainly be applied in principle to our work ethic in general. We should not be lazy. We should work hard in all that we do. However, the specific business that is referred to here, I believe, is the business of the church. In the context of Romans 12, we see the encouragement for believers to be a living sacrifice and to use their spiritual gifts in ways that would build and strengthen the church. It is within that context that Paul says to not be slothful in business. In other words, do not be lazy in the business of being the church. Instead, we are to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. It is so easy these days to become slack and lazy in the work of the ministry. There are many things that distract us from involving ourselves in the work of the church. However, the work of the church should be a top priority in our lives. This business of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ and caring for them and using our spiritual gifts in the work of the ministry, should be the center of our lives. Everything we do should revolve around our commitment and connection with the local church that we attend. Having a good work ethic applies not only to our daily jobs, but also to our involvement in the local church. God did not call us to sit on pew. God has called us to be ‘steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.’
Verses 12: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” There are three things that Paul instructs us to do together as a church. (1) Rejoice in hope. I love the word hope in scripture. It refers to a ‘confident expectation.’ As believers, there are certain things that we can confidently expect that God will do. This is cause for rejoicing. When things are not going so good and it seems that all is falling apart, we can rejoice because we know that God is in control. We can confidently expect that all things will work together for good. (2) Patient in tribulation. The word ‘tribulation’ here is not referring to the period of tribulation that this world will go through after the rapture of the church. Instead, it is referring to suffering and persecution. Nowhere in the Bible do we find that the Christian life is easy. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite. Living the Christian life is difficult. It is hard. As believers, we are suffering through this life. As a church family, we should encourage one another and hold each other up to be patient in times of tribulation. Such patience and endurance can only found through the connection that we have with our church family. (3) Continuing instant in prayer. True believers are to be in a constant attitude of prayer. Communion with God in prayer should be a top priority in our daily lives. Such prayer should not only be on a personal level, but also on a cooperate level. In other words, we should pray together. I am afraid that praying together has become a lost art in many churches. The least attended church service is often the prayer meeting. There is something powerful about God’s people praying together. Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer changes things. To be together, to live in real authentic community, we must pray together.
Verse 13: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”  Part of being together as God’s people is caring for one another. We are a family, and as a family, we are to help meet each other’s needs. Chip Ingram says, “Authentic community occurs when the real you, meets real needs, for the right reason, in the right way.” I believe this would be an awesome purpose statement or slogan for a local church: ‘real people meeting real needs.’ Everyone is needy. We all need something. We may need encouragement, counsel, assistance with some difficult task, knowledge, wisdom, financial help, a kind word, etc. The bottom line is that the church is full of people that have needs. A big part of being a church is to help each other to meet those needs. There is nothing more special than a church family that pulls together to help each other with specific needs. One of the most active and concentrated ministries of the church should be that of hospitality. We put a lot of emphasis on discipleship and evangelism, and we should. However, we must not neglect the ministry of giving and hospitality.
Verse 14: “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.”  Paul makes the assumption that we will be persecuted. His assumption is certainly justified and true. All believers in Christ are persecuted in some way, shape, or form. Believers have always been persecuted. Some experience persecution on a much greater scale than others, yet all are persecuted. As the body of Christ, we share in each other’s persecution. When one believer is persecuted, all believers are persecuted. I am sure that there is not a single believer in the world that does not hurt for those who are suffering to the point of death in various places around the world. Our hearts ache when we hear the stories of our brothers and sisters in different countries whose very lives hang in the balance under the constant threat of persecution. Not only they, but we ourselves suffer persecution in other, more subtle ways. The name of Jesus is clearly under attack in our nation. As believers, we are looked at as extremists. Such persecution will only increase the closer we get to the return of Jesus Christ. However, the real issue is not whether or not we will be persecuted, but how we will respond to those who persecute us. Paul tells us that we are to bless those who persecute us. When someone has evil intentions toward us, we are to respond with good. This idea goes against everything the world tells us. We are told that we should retaliate when we are persecuted. We do retaliate, but we retaliate with love. Instead of giving evil for evil, we respond with goodness and love. This is the way Jesus responded, and this is the way we should respond as well.
Verse 15: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” This verse describes what being a part of a team is all about. This is a perfect description of what the church is all about. As one family, we all rejoice when one of our members is blessed. When something good happens for someone in our church family, such as an answered prayer, we all are excited and joyful. We share in each other’s blessings. At the same time, we also share in each other’s sorrows. When one member of the church family weeps, we all weep. When one member has lost a loved one, we have all lost a loved one. When one member is suffering with some kind of sickness or pain, we all suffer with them. This is good news for the believer. When you involve yourself in the life and ministry of the local church, you can be assured that you will never be alone. Your church family is always there ready and willing to go with through your ups and downs.
Verse 16: “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”  Pride is the underlining destructive force that will destroy a church. Every conflict known to man, ranging from a little spout with your spouse to great international wars, begins with pride. Satan knows this. He is actively attacking every local church with the sin of pride. If he can divide us, he can destroy us. Through the weapon of pride, Satan can take a church that is alive and vibrant and a lighthouse of hope to a dark world, and change it into a place of bickering, division, and hatred. He can squash out the light of the gospel in a community, simply by using pride to divide us. To avoid such a disaster, we all must focus on being close to God. We must focus on what matters most and not on what we like or don’t like. “Like spokes in a wheel that converge at the hub, the closer we are to God the closer we come to one another. Paul admonished his readers not to be proud since it is pride more than anything else that destroys the harmony of the body.”
Verse 17: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” In the final verses of Romans 12, Paul deals with how we are to live toward those who are not believers. The Old Testament idea of an eye for an eye gives way to the New Testament way of loving your enemy and doing good to those who curse you. When we give evil for evil, all we do is create more evil. However, when we respond to evil with good, we can transform a life. We are also to be honest with everyone. In everything we do, we must always do what is right. It may not be the most enjoyable way, but you can never go wrong when you always do the right thing.
Verse 18: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”  There is a key phrase that we see in this verse. ‘If it be possible.’ “Harmony with others may not always be achievable, but believers should not be responsible for that lack of peace.” If peace is not possible, it should not be because of the pride of a believer. We should strive to keep the peace with everyone we deal with.
Verse 19: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  Paul reiterates the point here that we are not to respond to evil with evil. It is not our responsibility to practice vengeance on those who come against us. We should leave such vengeance to God. He knows what we go through. He sees everything that we face. The thing we need to understand is that when someone attacks a believer, they are attacking Jesus. Therefore, God will take vengeance, we don’t have to. As believers, we must learn to leave those things to the Lord and try to not take matters into our own hands.
Verse 20: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”  Since God is the one who will practice vengeance on those who attack us, we should respond to our enemies with good. Doing good toward our enemies frustrates them and frustrates their purposes. How can they respond with more evil toward someone who is good toward them? The best way to win over the heart of your enemies is to perform sacrificial acts of kindness toward them.
Verse 21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  This is a very simple and straightforward command. Don’t allow evil to overwhelm you. Instead, overcome the evil by doing good. “Do toward others what God has done toward us: forgive as we have been forgiven (Eph. 4:32). God loved us when we were enemies (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21).”  Since God loved us even when we were His enemies, we are to love our enemies as well.
When we as believers come together and live the way God intends for us to live; we will be well on our way to fulfilling God’s purpose for us as a local church. May we stop trying to live the Christian life on our own. Let us come together and live as God would have us to live.
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