Romans 12:9-12
Good Love

Truth Contenders Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 23 May 2004


Blue: word from text to be discussed or defined

Violet: definition of term from text

Purple: Greek word

Red: question asked aloud of class


In the preceding verses, Paul listed some gifts and offices given individually. Everyone has a gift, with its attending responsibilities, but not everyone has the same gift or office. He now turns to matters for which all Christians are gifted and responsible.

The first one is love. All Christians are responsible to truly care for all others. This makes sense since we are "one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." (v 5). Does it ring a bell that love is mentioned first?

  • I Cor 13 - "Though I speak with tongues, prophecy, and have all knowledge, without love I am nothing."
  • Gal 5:22 - listed first among the fruit of the Spirit.

v 9

  1. Let love be genuine, without hypocrisy: You can't fake it. As love is the sum of virtue, so hypocrisy is the sum of vice. (Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, with feigned love.) I Pet 1:22-23
  2. Abhor evil: Doing something to hurt or take advantage of a brother or sister should be unthinkable.
  3. Cling, hold fast: means to stick to. We should be "glued" to doing good for our brothers and sisters.

"Good" is a vague term, and different people might define it differently. Different people might include different things, and exclude other things. Thankfully, Paul doesn't leave us to guess or argue about it. What we have as "verses" 9b-13 looks in English like a string of more-or-less random injunctions, a list of separate things to do. Sadly, it's usually treated that way exegetically. But in the Greek it's one sentence, one thought. After our verse 9, each of the next six phrases starts with the same preposition, th, which means "Having to do with, as to, with respect to." These phrases, occupying our verses 10-12, explain in rich, multifaceted terms how it looks to truly "cling to what is good."

vv 10-12 - In your loving service to one another, cling to good like this:

  • As to brotherly love, as close as immediate family members - The Church is not just an institution but a family. "Kindly affectioned, devoted" The Greek word is the one for love between parents and children. Mt 12:46-50
  • As to giving honor, leading each other by example [or, giving preference to each other] Mat 20:20-28. The word for "outdo, above, prefering" implies leadership. I think Paul is being poetically ironic here, using a bit of humor. Ordinarily, we think of honoring those who are in leadership. Paul says be leaders in giving honor to others.
  • As to diligence, not lagging behind, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord Gal 6:9-10
    • Diligence: zeal, on the ball, on the stick; lit., speed. When you see that your brother or sister in Christ has a need that you are gifted to fill, don't drag your feet or procrastinate, don't wait to be asked. Get right on it.
    • Fervent: burning. Longing, passion, a burning desire to serve. As Jeremiah's bones burned with the Word of the Lord until he had delivered it to the nation, so we should not be able to rest until we have done what we are called by the presence of our gifts to do for our spiritual family.
    • As we serve each other, we are really serving Christ, whose body we constitute on earth.
  • As to hope, rejoicing. Hope implies needs or desires not yet filled; its usual occasions are trials and tribulations. Rejoicing in hope is how we are to respond to the most difficult, uncomfortable times in our lives.
    • Acts 16:16-25 - Paul & Silas in prison unjustly, singing hymns of praise.
    • Opposites: despair, depression, muddle through, "hanging on in quiet desperation." Eyore, Puddleglum.
    • Rom 5:2-5 We "rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [DRAMATIC PAUSE] And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations," - Why? - "knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint," - Again, why? - "because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
    • Hope is not just crossing your fingers or holding your breath; it is confidence. Job said (19:25): "I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"
    • Even hope has to do with our holding fast to the good for each other: I Thes 2:19 - As we serve each other, we become each other's hope, and glory, and joy.
  • As to tribulation, patient
    • Why patient? What does that connection imply? Because in all likelihood it's going to last a while.
    • II Thes 1:4-5 Patience in tribulations is a sign of saving faith - you know your faith is real.
    • Jas 1:2-4 "Let patience (endurance) have its perfect work (result)." - It takes time to achieve sanctification, and it's worth it.
  • As to prayer, constantly attending to it.
    • Paul's epistles almost all include, in the introductory remarks, a reference to his constant prayer for the recipients.
    • Study Old Testament prayers, such as those of Moses, Hannah, King David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, Habakkuk, and throughout the Psalms.

Now, that's GOOD!

A Biblical example of the kind of brotherly love we ought to have for each other: I Sam 18:1-4, 19:1-7, 20:1-42. In that story we see Jonathan giving honor to David, and exhibiting diligence, hope, devotion, and affection.

Love for fellow believers to be greater than for others: Gal 6:10.

While I did little quoting or directly refering to sources in this lesson, I relied most heavily on the following works, all of which I highly recommend:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL