As we continue to study through the book of Romans, we’ll begin to see a shift in Paul’s focus. Up until this section, the apostle was writing about our personal growth. Now he begins to show how the church grows as a body.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
As he begins to talk about life in the body of Christ, it’s no wonder that Paul starts with love. It’s the Greek word, agape. This is the choice to show love to others. It has nothing to do with any emotions.
He tells us that this agape-love must be sincere. It literally means to be given without falsehood or hypocrisy.
This brings up a very important point that needs to be discussed when reading this section of Scripture. Peter does a good job of explaining it.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22
Notice how Peter begins talking about this subject. He makes it clear that he’s writing to mature believers who have purified themselves in the truth. When we’re cleaned up by the Word, brotherly love is born.
Brotherly love is the first word for love that Peter uses in this verse. It involves the emotions of friendship and camaraderie.
Then he goes on to the second word for love, which is agape – just like Paul did. Peter also uses the same word for sincerity. Why is all of this important?
We must understand this because, according to Peter, this type of love is only possible after the purifying process has begun in your life. This is written to those who are pursuing a mature walk in Christ.
What we have to realize is that from Romans, chapter 12 on, Paul is writing to the mature believers. It’s those Christians who can understand and follow these guidelines.
Both Peter and Paul make it clear that our agape-love must be mature and sincere – not faked (like baby agape). That’s because your heart has been changed by your submission to the Holy Spirit’s work in you.
Getting back to the passage in Romans, we’re told to utterly abhor, hate, be disgusted by evil. How do you do this if you haven’t gone through God’s maturing process?
Some people look at the second half of Romans as a rule book to be enforced. That’s not the case. The only way you can fulfill the message from Romans 12 on is to go through the work described in chapters 8-10. Otherwise, you’ll only end up feeling frustrated and guilty.
Paul tells us that you’re not only to hate evil, but to glue yourself to the good. Please remember that this is good by God’s standards, not ours. We have a very low opinion of good compared to God. That’s why we must be transformed to think like God thinks.
Then, Paul talks about the emotional brotherly love. The word, devoted, is interesting. It means to have an emotional affection like that of a natural, immediate family. That’s how we should feel about each other in God’s kingdom.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…
Of course, if you see others as part of your immediate family, then you’ll honor one another before yourself. In other words, don’t wait to be honored before you give honor.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Question: What areas of growth have you seen in your personal walk with God?