*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Romans 12:9-13 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

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

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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