Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on September 2, 2018.
A new month means a new memory verse. This month our memory verse is one that you would see on a Facebook meme. It is Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” So let us say it together, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
As we commit this verse to memory, let me encourage you to anchor these words in the gospel. As we have seen in our study of Romans over the last month, the practical application of chapter 12 flows out of the foundational gospel truth unpacked in chapters 1-11. You cannot separate the two. Therefore, when we say things like “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” We must think of these sound bites in terms of the truths unpacked in places like Romans 3 and Romans 5 and Romans 8. The basis of our joy, our hope, our patience and our spirit driven prayer is Jesus Christ. So when you memorize Romans 12:12, do not take your eyes off of Jesus, for if you do, you will only the form of godliness, but you will be denying its power.
Today we will be unpacking Romans 12:12 and more. We are looking at Romans 12:9-13. It was my intent to cover the remaining portion of Chapter 12 this morning, but there is just too much good stuff to jump over. In my preparation, I was checking out the sermon series of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones and he preached 12 sermons on Romans 12:9-21, so for me to preach everything in one sermons seemed somewhat foolish. With that said, let us stand for the reading of God’s Word, pray, and then meditate on God’s living and unchanging Word.
Our text for today is a very unique passage. I think we would all agree that it is very un-Paul like. Paul, in his writings, is known to be a very logical, connecting thoughts, setting up arguments. However, in our text today it is almost as if we are being fired at with a spiritual machine gun. Having said that, I do believe there is a thread that holds all these bullets together, and that is the thread of love.
I think we would all agree that love is a very confusing term in this day in age. Satan has done a very good job in twisting it and distorting it. Having said that, love is not his word, it is God’s Word and it is therefore our word. Love is a defining attribute of a Christian. In John 13:34, Jesus says to his disciples prior to his arrest and subsequent death “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That mark that sets us apart from the world is love. In fact John tells us in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Therefore, if there is no love in your life, then there is no God in your life. And like we studied in Sunday School this morning, 1 Corinthians 13:2, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” But let us ask this morning, what is love?
In verse 9 we see Paul begin by stating “Let love be genuine.” The Greek word for genuine is anypokritos (“ä-nü-po'-krē-tos). The NASB and the New King James Translations state, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”
Remember, the apostle Paul is writing this letter to Christians in Rome. Therefore, he is telling the Church, when it comes to love, don’t be a bunch of hypocrites. Why is he telling them this? Simple, because they need to hear it. Hypocritical love within the body of Christ has and will be a problem within the Church until Christ returns.
Biblical examples of hypocritical love within the Church include people such as Judas, Ananias and Sapphira. These three individuals could talk the talk, but they were not walk the walk. In the body of Christ, this is not to be, our life must match our creeds. 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” The question we must all ask ourselves this morning is are you a hypocrite when it comes to love. Is your love a genuine love or is it all show. Are you putting on a mask this morning? Are you behaving like Judas, Ananias, or Sapphira.
To answer that question, we need to dive more into this idea of love. As I stated love is a word that Satan and this world has made a mess of. So let’s first look at the word, love. Many of you know that in Greek there are several words for love. There is the word “eros”, which means a feeling or arousal towards someone. It is where we get the word erotic. Then there was the word “storge”, which means a natural or familial love. Then there is “philia” which means a love between friends. Then finally there is the word “agape” which generally means a self-sacrificing love. Many times people like to describe agape love as unconditional love. Upon reflection, I am not sure that is the best definition of agape love. I think the best way to think of agape love is to look at God.
And in doing so, we don’t have to be cute or unique, we merely need to look at that most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” This is that same Greek word, agape. So we can read it, “For god so agaped the world, that he gave his only Son.”
These verses show the correlation of agape love and sacrifice. The love of God is a sacrificial love. And there is no greater sacrifice that God could give then to give of his one and only son. Likewise we see this again in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” So once again we can see that agape love is tied in with the giving of Jesus. This love is a sacrificial love.
We can also see this agape love in Jesus words in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Once again, agape love is tied to sacrifice. In this case, the greatest of sacrifices in the giving of your own life for the sake of others.
Where would we get this type of genuine love? I will tell you one thing, we don’t get it from the world. The love we get from the world is self-love not agape love. The love that Paul is talking about is a supernatural love. A love that is a fruit of the Spirit of God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
And this is why Jesus, on that night of his death said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” What was new about the new commandment? What was new was that Jesus’ death on the cross unleashed the supernatural agape love of God into the hearts of his followers by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And this Spirit driven, self-sacrificing love is what distinguishes us from the rest of the world.
Attributes of Agape Love
So far we have looked at four words, let your love be genuine, and we have 58 to go, so we will be out of here by 7:00 tonight. Just kidding. We will now move a lot faster through the rest of the text. As I said earlier, this portion of scripture is all about love and the list that follows the phrase “let your love be genuine” are attributes of agape love. So let’s look at these attributes one at a time.
Abhor What is Evil
“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Many of you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with love?” Everything, and in fact we can see the same connection in the “love” chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. In reference to love, verse 6 says, “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” To understand this we need a right understanding of evil and of wrongdoing. These two words are just other words for sin. What is sin? Sin is law breaking. Whose law? God’s law. What does God say about this law breaking? Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” God is not pleased with sin, evil, wrongdoing. Why? Because sin undermines his glory and it undermines our joy.
Perhaps this illustration will help. Imagine someone you claim to love, wakes up every morning, and goes straight to whiskey, and then all day long they continue to sip at the bottle. No single drink kills them, but slowly you watch it destroy their life, and you know that one day it will catch up to them and ultimately kill them. If you love them, do you sit back and watch, do you enable, do you encourage, do you join them in their destruction? No! You abhor the whiskey. You hate it. You dump it down the drain. You confront them with tears in your eyes you beg them to stop. You would ask people to help you convince them to stop.
This is how we must also view sin. If true genuine love abhors the sin we see in our loved ones lives, we do not sit idly by and what it undermine God's glory and their joy, we sacrificially and humbly help them with their speck in their eye. That is true authentic love, abhorring what is eveil and embracing what is good.
Let us now look at another attribute of genuine agape love. Verse 10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” What is brotherly affection?
Christians have a unique relationship. We all have the same Father. 1 John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” Those who have placed their faith in Christ do so because we have been spiritually conceived by the Holy Spirit. And because of that, we are all literally kindred spirits. No institution on the earth can claim this, only the Church. You are my brothers and my sisters. We have the same father. We are a family, a family of God.
The question is do we look and act like the family of God? Or do we act like something else. Our we eager to maintain unity, or are we constantly looking for ways to divide? Do we tear apart the family or do we build it up? Paul directs our attention on the display of honor. We are told that out of our mouths come the desires of our heart, so what comes out of your mouth about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you gossip about them? Do you slander them? Paul writes in Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” A sure fire way to destroy a Church is for a faction to rise up and spend their nights complaining about everyone else.
When we who are born of the Spirit and speak about our family, the Bride of Christ, we should not throw mud upon her dress, we she speak of her beauty. Imagine stepping into a church that takes this command to heart; actually trying to outdo each other in showing honor.
The word honor in Greek is the word time (tē-mā), which at times is used to speak of the value of an item in a monetary sense; the higher the value the higher the price. When we look upon our brothers and sisters the question is, are we valuing them? Do we see them as a treasure? Do we speak of them as if they are a Son or Daughter of the Most High King, a holy priesthood, a chosen nation, an army of God? Or do we see them as pests? Agape love sees the value, the worth, in their brothers and sisters and their actions towards them displays this. Verse 13 gives us a two examples of those actions, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Church is more than listening and singing and praying. Church is sharing life together; living side by side with our brothers and sisters. Knowing them well enough to know their needs, inviting them into our home, and going into theirs as well. The early Church that we see in Acts 4 is one that were devoted to each, every day they gathered together and had everything in common. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it. Well, it is. Good relationships take effort, and this is agape, self sacrificing, brotherly affection, and we should commit ourselves to it.
Fervent in Spirit
Let us look at another attribute. Verse 11, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” We would all agree, the greatest picture of love is Christ. When we look at Christ, we see the attributes of what some may call a workaholic. I touched on this briefly in my weekly blog. Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Christ was not known for his laziness. He was known for his zeal. Why? Because he loved the Father and as a good Shepherd, he loved his sheep.
And Jesus passed this work ethic onto his disciples. I always loved the picture found in Mark 6:31, “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Can you imagine? You are so busy in serving the Lord and serving others that you don’t even have time to eat.
Paul speaks of the same thing, one of my favorite verses. 1 Corinthians 15:10, “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” What is this grace of God? In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says, “For the love of Christ controls us.” The grace of God, the more excellent way of serving is love, a love of God and a love for his elect.
Once again, the question is does this describe you? Do you relentlessly pursue serving others by serving God? As Paul said earlier in chapter 12, are you a living sacrifice, offering yourself up to be used by God? In Philippians 2:17 Paul says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” This is how we are to live within this body of believers. Emptying ourselves out for one another until there is nothing left. This is what this is what genuine agape love looks like.
Joy, Patience, Prayer
Let’s look at another attribute, our memory verse for September. Verse 12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” What hope does Paul have in mind? It is the hope of glory. It is the final destination of those who are foreknown, who have been predestined, who have been called, who have been justified. To use the phrase of John Bunyan, it is the Celestial City that Christian pilgrims are striving for. And it is a hope that has been purchased and secured for us by the blood of Jesus. It is an inheritance that is being kept for us in Heaven.
But what does hope have to do with agape love? Everything, the hope of what lies ahead gives us the reason to persevere in the midst of the sacrifice. Once again, Jesus is the perfect example, Hebrews 12:2 says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Christ knew what was on the other side of the cross, therefore, he could endure it. The same is true for us. We have a been promised an eternal joy, an inheritance, therefore we can endure whatever the sacrifice. We can be patient in tribulation as we walk though the valley of the shadow of death, for we know of the greener pastures that await us.
And when we are struggling, what do we do? We do exactly what it says to do in verse 12, we pray. Once again just like Jesus. What did he do three times in the garden of Gethsemane before he lovingly laid down his life for his Bride? He prayed. And what happened after he prayed? He was strengthened. Genuine agape love is a love that is constant in prayer, seek strength to lay down our lives for one another. Once again, God is the source of agape love, we do not get it from the world, we get if from God.
So now what? What are we to do with these verses? James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” We have a choice, we could just listen to Rome 12 or we could live Romans 12. If we choose to only listen and not do, we are deceiving ourselves, or to say it another way, we are a bunch of hypocrites.