Romans 12:9-13

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 12:9
  • Romans 12:10
  • Romans 12:11
  • Romans 12:12
  • Romans 12:13

The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.

In Chapter 12, Paul shows that a life of righteousness or justice (living in harmony with God’s design) looks like a life that has been transformed spiritually. It looks like team harmony, like a human body, where every body part is doing what it does best as directed by the head (and a believer’s Head is Jesus.) In order to function like a body, it requires an active decision to love and honor others, while honoring Jesus as the One in charge. As the One in charge, it’s Jesus’ job to judge the world (not ours.)

Paul turns from defending against the slanderous attacks of competing Jewish “authorities” and begins an admonition to the world famous believers in Rome (1:8) concerning their pursuit of righteousness. Paul has comprehensively demonstrated that righteousness, which is harmony with God’s design, comes only through walking by faith in the resurrection power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He has also proven that his gospel message is “good news” about three deliverances: 1) being delivered from the penalty of sin, irrevocably placing us into the family of God when we first believe 2) being delivered from the presence of sin when we are taken to heaven to be with Jesus, and 3) being delivered from the power of sin in our daily walk, when we choose to walk by faith in the power of the indwelling Spirit.

Since most of our lives are spent between the time we first believed and the time we leave this earth, Paul has and will continue to emphasize the practical impact of the gospel on how we live daily. Paul has made it crystal clear why we ought to choose to walk in faith by the Spirit and enjoy the newness of life in the resurrection power of Jesus, rather than going back into the death and slavery of sin by following our sin nature. We want to walk in obedience because of the immense positive consequence from walking by faith (believing God’s way is true and best), versus the terrible consequences we get when we walk in sin (believing we know best). Paul has also clearly shown us how to walk in the resurrection power of Jesus, through the exercise of a heart of faith. Now Paul will give us some tangible illustrations of what righteousness looks like in everyday life.

Paul has moved from specific gifting to overarching principles that apply to all believers as we pursue righteousness, this harmonious living, through faith.

In this continued pursuit of righteousness (harmonious living through faith), Paul tells us to let love be without hypocrisy. The Greek word translated “love” is “agape” which involves actions focused on benefitting others. We can act in such a way that we think makes us look good, rather than in a way that genuinely serves the best interest of others – this is hypocrisy rather than agape love. Agape love is not rooted in emotion, but in value-based choices. Agape love sincerely and honestly seeks to serve others with our gifts, regardless of how we might feel. We know from Romans 5:5 that God’s love has been given to us through the Holy Spirit. This is the love that Paul is talking about, the same kind of sacrificial love Jesus showed for us, dying for us while we were undeserving sinners.

Within the body of believers, the Church, we should love one another like family; Paul uses the Greek word “philadelphia” from “philo” meaning affection and “adelphia” meaning brotherly. In verses 10–13, Paul gives us examples of how this love for each other should look, as we pursue harmonious living (righteousness) through faith. Love looks like giving preference to each other, allowing others’ needs to come before our own. Love looks like diligently praying, sharing our resources, our time and our space with others in need.

A harmonious life with fellow believers will involve rejoicing in the hope that God has given us, of heaven, of Christ’s return, of God’s redemption of this world (Romans 8:19-20), and so on. It should look like being devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Harmonious living through faith will involve contributing what God has given us (our spiritual gifts, physical things, time, etc.) to fellow believers in need. Lastly, Paul mentions hospitality, accommodating our fellow believers. So we are exhorted to serve others with our time and resources as well as sharing our space (our homes). Paul sets all of these in the context of being humble, realizing that we are a part of a body and we must contribute to and help others in the body in order to live a life of harmony together as believers.

Biblical Text

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

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