A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation
A Life of Love
Now we come to the flower of the Christian life. There is the further appeal in the words, "Let love be without dissimulation". Dissimulation is actually the word "hypocrisy." It is a tragic thing that the greatest grace of the Christian life is sometimes made a cloak for hypocrisy. No wonder Paul admonished against it.
The remainder of chapter 12 explains how love should manifest itself.
This covers an area that is twofold: first, love within the church, and then, in the latter part of the section, love outside of the church.
Verse 13 identifies love with the church: "distributing to the necessities of the saints" - that is in the church. Notice also verse 10. What kind of love is mentioned? "Brotherly love," that is, in the church.
Verse 17 identifies love outside the church: "recompense to no man." Now you are including everybody. Verse 18 strengthens the idea: "live peaceably with all men." So, first it is love in the church, and then love outside the church.
In verse 9 the word "cleave" in the Greek, means "to be glued." "Glue yourself fast to the good thing." It is the same word used in the eighth chapter of Acts, where the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near, and join [glue] thyself to this chariot" (Acts 8:29).
Verse 10 in the ASV reads somewhat differently: "In love of the brethren," and the original says "in Philadelphia". That is what it is literally - brother love, not "brotherly love." It is the love that ought to exist between brothers. Anybody could have "brotherly" love, love like a brother loves; but what God wants us to have is brother love itself.
In verse 11 Paul touches on a delicate matter when he says, "not slothful in business." Business in the church dare not be neglected. The church ought to be run as businesslike as any other organization. Paul is still talking about love when he says this, for love in business is not slothful.
The expression "fervent in spirit" in another version has been translated beautifully: "in enthusiasm be at the boiling point." The figure in the Greek actually indicates something that is about ready to boil over! The Lord help the church that is dead and has no enthusiasm! Be fervent! Do not be afraid to say "amen" once in a while, if the Spirit so moves you.
"Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessities of the saints" (vv. 12, 13). If you see a Christian that is in need, you ought to share with him. "Given to hospitality." The word "given" literally means "pursuing." Do not merely be ready to entertain folks when they come in on you, but pursue hospitality! Paul said in Hebrews, "Some entertained angels unawares." And in the Old Testament account, Abraham ran after the three strangers and said in effect, "You must come in and eat" (see Genesis 18:2-3).
Verse 14 sounds like the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 15 continues, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice; weep with them that weep." Do you remember how the Lord Jesus Christ beautifully exemplified those two things? He went to the marriage feast and rejoiced with them that rejoiced. Then a little later, He stood beside the grave of Lazarus and He wept.
Verse 16 points to another aspect of love. "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." He brings in the matter of humility again. Love will not manifest itself in refusing to associate with those of a lower class. But love condescends. What a lesson in condescension we have in the example of our Lord and Saviour! "Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation" (Phil. 2:6, 7). He didn't hang onto His high position, but He condescended to take on Him our flesh and blood and walk in the midst of sinners. Paul is saying, "Do you see what I am doing now? I am beseeching you by the mercies of God, because it was by the mercy of God that he came down."
Verse 17 reaches beyond the church and takes in the outsiders. When a man does evil, do not pay him back that way. The word "honest" means honorable or beautiful; so, "take the thought for the things honorable in the sight of all men." Whenever you see a Christian who says, "I do right and I don't care what people think about me, " he is not paying heed to Paul's exhortations. We ought to have some regard for the sight of men. Of course we are not to be slaves to public opinion; yet it is wrong to have this attitude: "I do as I think God leads me, and let the chips fall where they may." Rather, let us take thought for the things that are beautiful, and then there will be no reproach upon the church of God.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 77)