Passage Romans 12:9-21
Additional Passages Romans 12:1-2
1 Corinthians 13:1-2
1 Cor 12:21-25
Background Chapter 12 moves to practical application, which is about friction in the church between Jew & Gentile believer.
-2 wk: proper worship is everyday giving self to God
-1 wk: gifts, given to serve God as a part of Christ’s body.
Synopsis of the passage 9-17 How to be inside the church – Love.
14-16 Harmony in the church
17-21 How to be towards society outside the church: overcome evil with good.
Application Living intentionally
Title Spiritual Worship: Application #2
[Rom 12:9-21 NIV] 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
● We are in the book of Romans, chapter 12.
● Let’s review where we are
o In v1-2, we read:
[Rom 12:1-2 NIV] 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
o Paul told us in the first 2 verses to live in light of God’s mercy towards us, and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so we know what is good and how to live.
o From preceding chapters, God’s mercy is that he foreknew us, he chose us, he made us acceptable and declared us not guilty, and he will glorify us and restore to us our dignity and power as stewards over the earth.
o Our proper response is to live not for ourselves, but for God. This is what it means to worship.
● What does that worship look like? Since we no longer live for ourselves, what should we be doing? V3-8 tell us that:
o God gives us roles in the Christ’s body, the church, and gifts/abilities to match those roles.
o We are to consider soberly what we have faith to do with God’s help, and do it zealously.
● So that’s what we read so far in chapter 12.
● Today we are going to continue with v9 and go to the end of the chapter, v21.
o Today’s passage shifts from what our role is in the church, to concrete instructions on *how* we are to live as Christians.
o This passage is full of instructions on how to live, the manner of our life.
o To make it a bit easier to follow, I’m going to refer to the book of 1 Corinthians that Paul wrote to a different church a couple of years earlier, around 55AD.
So today’s outline has three points:
1. How do we live inside the church? the rule of Love
2. Preserving peace in the church
3. How do we live outside the church? Overcoming evil with good
II. Inside the church, the rule of love
● V9-16 is the first section, which is focused inside the church.
a. Now, as I said earlier, this section just reads like a list of commands, and it may be hard to see the logic behind it. It may be the instructions are general, because Paul did not know the Roman church personally.
b. So, I want to refer to a similar passage from Paul in the book of I Corinthians, chapters 12-14, from a church that Paul knew very well.
i. Corinth was, like Rome, a cosmopolitan city made of many different cultures.
ii. And the Corinthian church, like the Roman church was made up of different groups that didn’t get along too well. Paul describes the divisions in the church as people forming factions around different teachers: I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, etc. (1 Cor 1:10-12)
iii. Just like the division in the Roman church, between Jew and Gentile, the Corinthian church was also divided.
iv. The Corinthians were quite interested in spiritual gifts, and they had written to Paul to ask about them. (1 Cor 12:1).
v. So Paul explains to them that the gifts come from God, and they are given for service to the church, which is one body of different parts, and the gifts vary in attractiveness and importance, etc.
vi. But after he says ‘be eager to receive the more important gifts’, he says ‘but I want you even more to focus on this most excellent way’, and then he starts chapter 13.
1. 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous love chapter of the bible, the one they use at weddings. The first two verses are (READ TOGETHER)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
vii. So what is Paul saying?
1. The gifts are for service to the church. Part of our spiritual worship is in our exercising the gifts God has given each of us to build up the church.
2. But even more than serving God with our gifts, we must seek to love.
3. Thus Paul addresses the divisions in Corinth, with two key truths:
a. Our role as member of the body
b. Our highest calling is to love.
Without Love, everything else we do is meaningless.
viii. Now, back to Romans ch 12. We’ve looked at the gifts, and now in V9a Paul tells us we should love, and love sincerely.
ix. So here it is in Romans as well, the call to love as the key to church life. The flow is the same: spiritual gifts, the importance of the body and our responsibility , and finally the appeal to love.
x. So we are going to look at this section v9-16 through the eyes of the theme of ‘love’.
● v9a says when we Love, it must be sincere and true (偽りではない).
a. The word here for ‘love’ is ‘agape’ (G26), and basically means ‘affection, good will, love, benevolence’.
i. Agape is a Christian word, used to describe christian ethic of love. It occurs 250 times in the NT. It’s the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.
b. The phrase here ‘sincere’ in English is ‘Not a lie’ in Japanese, ’ means not ‘fake’ or ‘pretend’. We know what it is to fake love:
i. in order to be liked, or thought of well
ii. in order to make our environment comfortable
iii. in order to get something from someone
c. But genuine agape love is focused not on us, but on the other person.
i. Agape love is the love that seeks the good of the other person, whether or not they are useful, or whether we like them, or even know them.
d. Paul is going to tell us what genuine love does, how it is expressed in the church.
● V9b Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.
a. ‘Hate’ is a word full of emotion, and expresses passionate rejection.
So we are to passionately reject evil.
b. On the other side, we are to stay with good. The word here, ‘Cling’, means to be glued to, metaphorically to join oneself to.
c. So v9 is a call to discipline our emotions and our attitudes. Just as we are to love intentionally, we are to learn to hate evil, and to stay close to the good.
● V10a The word ‘love’ here is different, ‘philadelphia’ (G5361), meaning the love inside a family. We are to regard the church like our family, our brothers and sisters.
● V10b says to respect or honor others more than we honor ourselves.
a. The word here for ‘honor’ means deference to someone’s status or position. Just previously, Paul has been talking about gifts. Also in I Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul teaches that we must be careful to honor each other’s gifts. So I think this is talking about valuing each other’s gifts and role.
[1 Cor 12:21-25 NIV] 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
b. Now there are greater and lesser gifts (1 Cor 12:28,31).
c. But each gift, whether greater or lesser, is needed (1 Cor 12:21)
d. And we are to give honor in a compensatory way. (1 Cor 12:22-23)
So how do we give honor?
i. Defer to one another. Gifts may be in conflict:
1. Someone gifted in evangelism will sometimes be in disagreement with someone gifted in teaching or pastoring; one focuses outside the church, the other has an inward focus.
2. Someone gifted in helps may be in conflict with someone who has the gift of administration and is keeping an eye on finances
3. To honor someone else’s gift more than our own is to honor what their gift offers, and not attempt to force our own way.
4. This can be very frustrating!
1. In the Corinthian church, in a gathering you would have several people start to speak in tongues, without interpretation, all at the same time, and disrupting everything else.
2. Paul does not tell them to stop!
3. He tells them to focus on what serves the church, so maybe find something more helpful to do (like prophecy) , and also to restrain themselves so that others can serve.
iii. So we honor each other by recognizing each other’s gifts, and providing opportunity to use them.
iv. And finally, as Paul points out, e.g. 1 Cor 15:39-40, our focus should be on what serves the church and its mission, not only what excites us.
● V11 We are to be zealous, fervent, and continue to serve God. [7 min]
a. It can be discouraging
i. when we are unsure of our gifts, and struggle to find and exercise our gifts, and to make a contribution.
ii. when our contribution is not recognized, or is criticised.
iii. when our gifts bring us into conflict with others
b. But as we have learned, our contribution is necessary to the body.
And so Paul tells us, we must
i. be zealous, that is proactive and not lazy
ii. be fervent, that is passionate in serving
1. The word fervent is ‘boiling with heat’, an image of heat producing action.
iii. finally, remember that it is ultimately God we are serving, the audience of one.
So we may have frustrations in the church, but that is not the point. The point is to serve the church as service to God.
● v12 As in everything we may do as christians, it is Hope, Patience and Prayer that sustains us in all these difficulties.
a. Our hope is,
i. that God will bring the beautiful future he promises
ii. that he will grow the church
iii. that he will make us grow as well
The joy of that hope gives us the strength to persevere
b. Patience in waiting for God’s help, and in enduring what he allows in order to perfect us.
c. Prayer, to align ourselves with God, to lean on him, and to see his working.
● V13a Share our possessions inside the church
a. This is a call to undertake loss of what we have for the sake of others.
b. If we remember that we are one body, we will be willing to share, because if one hurts, we all hurt.
● V13b Show hospitality to strangers
a. This instruction is also found in Hebrews 13:2, From the context, this seems to be talking about hospitality to Christians who you do not know personally.
b. There is risk involved; they could be spies.
i. Hospitality to strangers was risky in the first few centuries of the church, where you could be betrayed to the government. They could take your bibles, your possessions, kick you out of the city, or put you to death.
ii. This is still true in other places in the world.
c. So Paul is telling us to bless with hospitality, even if risk is involved.
III. Maintaining Peace in the church
● The next few verses focuses on preserving peace in the church.
● v14 Bless those who persecute you.
a. Unfortunately, we may find some people in the church who don’t like us, and try to make our lives difficult.
b. Paul says not to intend harm to them, or as ask God to punish them.
c. Instead we must continue to seek their best
d. Agape love is about the best for the other person.
● V15 Be sympathetic. Love treats other’s joys and sorrows as if they were your own.
a. Sometimes when we hear something has gone badly for someone else, we think ‘well they deserved it’. But love feels sympathy, even if they did deserve it!
b. Sometimes when something good happens to someone else we feel jealous. Or if they are someone we don’t like, we may think that they didn’t deserve it. But love rejoices in blessing.
c. Instead, we must care about what is happening in each other’s lives.
● V16a Live in Harmony
a. This a major concern for Paul, that there may not be divisions but harmony and unity.
b. Friction arises.
i. But if we focus on blessing, not cursing.
ii. If we sympathize with each other and care for one another.
iii. if we show compassion
Then we will be able to live in harmony.
c. How can the body function if it is divided, and there is no harmony?
d. How will the world know we are the disciples of the Prince of Peace if we are at war with one another? (John 13:35)
● V16b Do not avoid the humble, and do not be conceited
a. The word ‘of low position’ (身分の低いもの）can also mean ‘humble’.
i. We gravitate to people with high status, leaders, and the powerful, and avoid the weak and the useless. Because we also want to be high status, and we don’t want to appear like we are of low status.
ii. But Jesus was humble, and he was a friend and protector of the humble.
So we should be too!
b. The word ‘conceited’ (知者) can mean wise, or prudent or shrewd.
It is shrewd to associate with the powerful, and to avoid the weak. But that is not the way of Christ, the way of love. Love steps down, and lifts up.
● So that is v9-16, love as the rule of the church.
IV. Outside the church: overcoming evil with good
● So let’s look now at vs 17-21.
● The tone changes here, and we note that Paul is now talking about how to deal with anyone/everybody. In other words, the focus shifts to relationships outside church.
● The theme here is given in v21: Overcoming evil with good.
● v17a Says not to take revenge.
● v17a says we should be careful to do what is right in the view of everyone.
● I think these are connected.
a. If we take revenge, then we also winding up doing harm.
b. And it is less clear to others, who did right and who did wrong.
c. For the same reason, when we fight back with words, it also clouds the issue.
● So, we should leave it to God to judge and to vindicate us.
● v20 tell us that returning good for evil shows our enemies they are in the wrong
● That is what Jesus did:
a. He refused to attack back when he was arrested
i. He did not even defend himself verbally when it was clear that was useless
ii. Instead he let God vindicate him
b. Sin was shown to be evil because it treated the Son of God, an innocent man, with such evil. This is one way that sin was judged on the cross.
c. And then God raised him from the dead, showing that Jesus was right and we humans were wrong to kill him.
d. And as a result, we know what is good and what is evil.
● So we must not be drawn into evil, but instead overcome it with good.
● This is what God’s will is. This is what it means to offer ourselves up to God as an act of true worship.
● Some of it is very hard.
As Paul says in 12:2, this isn’t the way the world works. This isn’t what comes naturally.
● What do we need to be able to do all this?,
○ Our thinking must be changed (v2)
○ The strength to do it comes from considering the mercy God has shown us, and the joy of our future hope (12:12).
God in his mercy (8:28-30)
■ Called us – to be his children
■ Accepted us – we don’t need to strive after feeling okay
■ Gave us a future and a goal – to be confirmed to the image of Jesus, to be a part of his kingdom building, and eventually to rule with him
○ It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and helps us to actually try it out and find it good.
● Finally, the church is a place where we can learn to love and to live with purpose beyond ourselves.