Romans Bible Study Lesson 54

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Romans 12:9—21

So far in Romans 12 we have seen how we need to present (give yourself to be used however it seems best) ourselves to God and we are to do it as a living sacrifice. Israel understood a sacrifice was to be the absolute best of the flock. In the same way we are to present our best to God. We do that by reckoning our self (the old nature) as being dead and allowing God to take control of the new nature. As Paul states in Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Having been crucified with Christ, my old nature is no longer a slave to sin. I don’t have to sin any more. I am now able to live righteously because of the new nature I obtained when I was saved.

Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

We are able to do this through the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). If we don’t keep our minds constantly refreshed in the things of the Lord, we will soon find self has taken control. By allowing God to take complete control it will be impossible to be outside of His will in everything we do.

It is in this context that we are to exercise our spiritual gifts in order to build up other believers and be a testimony to the world. I believe God’s will is contained in Scripture but only the parts written specifically to us. God’s will, I believe, is contained in Paul’s writings. We can see in Romans 12 that God wants us to use the special abilities and talents He has given us for His glory. If we don’t use them, we will be outside of His will. He graced us with these gifts, he has energized us to use these gifts for His glory through the power of the Holy Spirit and now we need to put these gifts to work.


Verses 9—10

We are to love without being hypocritical. In fact, love done in a hypocritical manner really is not love. There are two words in the Bible that are translated love; agape and phileo. Phileo love can be directed  to people or things. The Bible shows phileo love in the manner the Pharisees prayed (They loved to pray Matthew 6:5), God’s love for man (John 16:27), God’s love for the Son (John 5:20) and Jesus’ love of Lazarus (John 11:36).

Agape love can be between believers (John 13:35), from God to the Son and the Son to believers (John 15:9), Paul’s love for the saints (1 Corinthians 16:24) and between saints (1 Thessalonians 3:12) to name a few. There are about four times more references using agape than phileo.

Although many theologians and pastors make a big issue about the difference between agape and phileo, there appears to be very little difference and either Greek word could usually be used when talking about love. An example of the interchangeability of the two words shows up in John 21:15—17 when Jesus confronts Peter about his love for Him. Jesus uses Agape the first two times He asks Peter if he loves Him and Peter says “You know I phileo you.” The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves (phileo) Him and Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the THIRD time if he loved Him (verse 17). If these words had two different meaning then why did Peter understand them both to mean love?

Spiros Zodhiates in The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament says under the entry for phileo:

It is difficult to find any significance in the pattern of these words’ usages. Some scholars, having drawn hard and fast differences between the words, have imposed these differences upon various texts of Scripture and thereby produced strained and awkward interpretations. Only on occasion do these words bear particular meanings distinct from one another.

So, what does a biblical love mean? It boils down to doing what is best for the other person. The first step is to stop thinking about yourself and instead think about the needs of others. However, that still isn’t love. Love requires action. God didn’t just say He loved us, He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die for our sins.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

When we love someone we don’t sit down and think emotionally warm, affectionate thoughts about them. We need to think of what that person needs and then act on it. We are told to love our neighbor (Romans 13:8). Probably the greatest need our neighbor has is to know Christ therefore we would demonstrate our love for that person by witnessing.

Notice how Paul follows teaching on our spiritual gifts with admonitions to use these gifts in love and with humility. Any gift or talent you have is not for your edification but is to be used to build up those around you.

Verse 11

We are to use these gifts with diligence. We are not to sit back and let others take up the slack. It literally means not to be slothful. We are also to be fervent in spirit. Most translations use a small “s” to indicate we are to have a spirit of fervency as we serve. I tend to think that Paul is referencing the Holy Spirit so that we are to be fervent in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not relying on ourselves to serve; we must completely rely on the Holy Spirit working through us to properly serve the Lord.

Romans 12:11 Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. (Contemporary English Version)

We are to serve in a lively manner in contrast to being lazy. In everything we do we are to serve the Lord and we will be if we are operating by the power of the Holy Spirit. Many people serve themselves when they appear to be serving the Lord. This is certainly not the attitude in which we should serve.

Verse 12

This verse contains the key to serving with diligence and fervently. We stay focused on our hope and we instantly go to the Lord in prayer. Just as Paul always kept his eyes on his heavenly hope we need to do likewise. How much easier is it for us to push past the tribulation when we know there is a big reward at the end of the tunnel? We are able to get through this life because of our future hope and because we completely rely on God for every need. How wonderful it is that He wants us to bring to Him our every concern. We are never commanded to pray long, drawn-out prayers, but to instantly and in every situation be in prayer.

Philippians 4:6—7 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Demonstration of love within the church

Verses 13—16

We are to share in the needs of other saints. When it comes to giving we are to put the saints above the world’s needs. If we see a need we should assume it was the Lord who has opened our eyes for a specific purpose. Many emergent-type churches are preaching a social gospel of fixing the world’s problems to make this earth suitable for the coming King, Jesus Christ. This thinking goes against the teaching of Paul to the Body of Christ. Our first priority is to take care of believers. There is nothing wrong with giving to a charitable cause but only after we have made sure that believers around us have been taken care of.

Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

We are also to be hospitable toward the saints. This word literally means to love strangers. When we invite people over we are actually demonstrating fellowship. Hospitality is inviting an unknown believer into your house, much as we might do with a visiting missionary. This was much more important in past times when there were no hotels and restaurants for a believer to stay in or eat at while traveling.

Love will also cause us to ignore wrongs done against us. If someone pursues us to harass us, we are to say only good about them and not hope that evil will fall upon them. We are also to come along side believers in whatever state they are in. If someone is rejoicing, we are to rejoice with him. If someone is grieving, we are not told to try to make them feel good but are told to come along side of them and comfort them in their sorrow.

We are to meet each believer where they are and be like-minded with them. This isn’t about thinking the same thing but about coming together at the same place. If you come along side someone thinking you are so much better than they are then you have missed the whole point of this passage of Scripture. It’s not that you are superior to someone you are trying to help but that you humble yourself as you allow the Lord to work through you to help another believer. It can’t be done in your own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Demonstration of love outside the church

Verses 17—21

As we live in the world (but not being a part of the world) we are to be a testimony to all who see us. We should reflect Christ in all we do. One way of doing this is by not retaliating to anyone who may direct evil toward you. Instead of retaliating we are to honor, praise and present purity of heart. To sum it up, Paul says we are to be at peace with all men. Of course this is impossible with some people so Paul says that we do this as much as you can. We are to step away from confrontations and allow God to take vengeance against those who have wronged His children. By showing love in place of evil we will win the “fight” and thus good will overcome evil. We may also win the fight by turning an enemy into a friend.

Contrast our Christian life with a worldly life:

In Christ                                            In the world

Love (looking outward)                        Self-confidence (looking inward)

Humility (putting others first)              Aggressiveness (to get your own way)

Patience (waiting for God to move)      Demanding my own rights

Hope in Christ (I believe in Christ)       Hope in myself or others (I believe in me)

Prayer (showing our dependence)        Self-reliance (I can do it myself)