Paul's Passing Thoughts

Love: Romans 12:9,10

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 30, 2013

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We now continue our study in the book of Romans, Chapter 12, and verse 9:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Last week, we looked at some gifts that God has granted to those who call on His name. Christians have different gifts that function within the body of Christ. The apostle Paul used the human body and its anatomy to illustrate this point. If organs don’t function, the body is hindered (1Corinthians 12). Paul also stated that God assigns these gifts with different levels of ability.

Not only do we see this in the parable of the talents, but we also see in that same parable the danger of a mentality that likens the function of the body to works salvation (Matthew 25:14-30). Notice that immediately following the condemnation of the servant who hid his talents in the ground, giving back to God what had originally been given, verses 31-46 speak of what? Love. Take note: there is grave danger in seeing your function in the body of Christ as some kind of work possibly tied to salvation. It may point to a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. We are not under the law. Justification is a finished work accomplished by God only. Sanctification is the work of our love toward God and others.

I see the same kind of fear in contemporary Christians who think that functioning in the body of Christ can be works that are connected to justification if not done exactly right; ie., by faith alone. There isn’t a freedom to work diligently because of the fear that it can affect our original salvation. Tentative body parts—that’s a problem. If you have a tentative heart, they have to fix you up with all kinds of battery operated gizmos. And that’s what we have in today’s church: tentative body parts, parts that don’t know that they are parts, and others who want an excuse for not being a part; ie., it would be works salvation. This idea is either cause for undo fear or an excuse.

But most importantly, it’s not love. God has given us an array of gifts for the purpose of loving others; so, how important are those gifts? Your gifts—the gifts that came with your salvation. Chrsit died to give you those gifts. That makes them paramount, but this other immense privilege we have is to sanctify our works with love.

Yes, we have the privilege in this life to practice the one gift that is eternal: love. ALL the other gifts will pass away, only love will continue into eternity:

1Corithians 13:1 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We have to practice our gifts in order to love. Love is the only thing that continues after this life. Undoubtedly, love will function differently in eternity, but let us remember that love is defined in many different ways. Christ never partook in anything loveless. Every thought of His life and every action was in love. Think about that for a while. I fear that we have a very narrow view of love in our day.

As Christians, we love ourselves naturally (we discussed that last week), and as Christians, we are called on to love ourselves. Why? Because the best way to love ourselves is to die to self for the sake of others. Seeking self never leads to spiritual wellbeing. He who seeks his life will lose it, he who loses his life will find it (Matthew 10:39). Love is in part a selfish act. That was Paul’s point made to husbands in Ephesians 5. The idea is that not loving your wife is a metaphysical anomaly because not loving your wife is a stupid way of trying to love yourself. It’s curing a headache by smashing one of your fingers with a framing hammer—you’re not even thinking about your headache now because your finger hurts a lot more.

Of course, the world lies and states that the way to love yourself is, “If it feels good, do it.” There is this thing that Paul identifies called the “desires of the flesh.” As we have seen in our study of Romans, the unregenerate are enslaved to those desires, but free to do good. No unregenerate person is perfectly evil. But the direction of their lives is the desires of the flesh. So of course, it is no surprise that “if it feels good, do it” is the motto of their lives. Some boldly name it and claim it, others unwittingly function that way.   Saved people are enslaved to righteousness, and free to do evil. Therefore, no saved person is perfectly righteous, but they seek spiritual wellbeing, and they know that is found in dying to self. It’s a matter of being selfish according to wisdom. Obviously, one who seeks to die to self has the goal of finding his/her own life in mind, right?

Argue for or against the intrinsic value of mankind all you want, God has wired us to value life, and that life includes our own self-awareness. To value life is to value yourself—this is inescapable, unless you’re not alive, then I agree that it is a dead issue.

So, the goal of love is to define love, and seek it as our primary motivation. The works of the flesh, or the old nature that was put to death (by the way, we only have ONE nature: the new one), cannot execute love, so we must put off its way of thinking and doing, and put on the ways of the Spirit which are always of love. The old nature is dead, but still has an influence on our mortality. This, I think is a mystery, but some like Dr. Jay E. Adams posit the idea that being habituated through the old ways of living is the key to understanding the Christian’s struggle with sin. That is at least part of it.

That brings us to verse 9. In this verse, Paul teaches us how to obtain genuine love. We are to cling to all that is good, and hate all that is evil. It is a matter of investment. Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also (Mathew 6:21). No doubt, without the inward change initiated by God, there would be no real change, but that doesn’t exclude the biblical fact that outward change also facilitates inward change. The maxim, “All change comes from the inside out” is patently false. Because we believe the truth of God’s word, we make choices to do things outwardly to strengthen the inner man. Falling into sin doesn’t strengthen the inner person, so we make a choice not to enter environments of temptation. The idea that practical outward obedience doesn’t strengthen us is a bad idea and usually rooted in mysticism.

So, the way to “genuine” love is to invest in good and shun evil in the way we think, and what we do. To only dwell on the bad elements of a person is first not true, and second, will certainly lead to hatred rather than love. Divorce is almost always the result of an untrue evaluation of one’s spouse. What you want to think about a person for whatever reason doesn’t make it true. We are to evaluate others and ourselves truthfully. Also, we can invest in others to strengthen them.

This coincides with some of the elements of love Paul pointed to in 1Corithians 13. Love doesn’t delight in evil. This is my primary beef with TV shows that make humor of things that God would disapprove of. That’s delighting in evil. That’s not love. You’re not loving God by laughing about something that is evil regardless of the context. Partaking in such will devalue your appreciation for the fact that God’s Son died to save us from such. Why do we laugh about things that nailed Christ to the cross?

We also need to take heed that we don’t delight when our enemies fall into sin. That’s delighting in evil. Republicans should not delight when a Democrat president gets caught up in some kind of scandal. Treating others the same way we would want to be treated applies to our enemies as well (Luke 6:21). How would you like to be treated by your enemy? If he stumbles upon your lost oxen in the wilderness, would you want him to return it? (Exodus 23:4,5).  It was pointed out last week that self-love is a morally neutral metaphysical fact. We are wired to value life in general, including our own. This is assumed in the stated biblical goal to love others in the same we already love ourselves (Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18).

Be sure of this: any teaching that posits self-hatred in the vein of the whole total-depravity motif will lead to the devaluing of life in general. This is not only logical, but has been the witness of history. The idea that we can totally dismiss the value of our own lives while valuing life in general is a misnomer. In regard to the caliber of Jonathan and David’s friendship, it is said that Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself (1Samuel 20:17). That standard seems to be the zenith for mortals. It’s neither bad nor good, it’s simply reality. Remember, Paul stated that no person has ever hated themselves (Ephesians 5:29). Often, self-destructive behavior comes from anger, enslavement to “desires,” or escape. People often follow their desires to the detriment of others without consideration of whether or not they would want to be treated that way.

I like some things about cable TV; specifically, those detective shows that document real-life cases. Those shows are a spectacular insight into human behavior. I have seen many of these shows that report the following motive for murder according to the confessions of the perpetrators: they simply wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. That’s a “desire.” A desire to kill someone for the experience is an evil desire. How would they like it if someone killed them just because they wanted to know what it felt like? This is an extreme example, but it is a primary principle of this discussion and covers the whole spectrum down to the finest details of living by priorities.

And what is the priority? Love is the priority.

Verse 10 builds on this point:

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Let’s consider  two of the words in this verse, first, “outdo” (proēgeomai):

To lead the way for others, i.e. show deference, prefer.

To go before and show the way, to go before and lead, to go before as a leader.

~Strong’s Dictionary.

This is a good example of how some have the gift of leadership, but everybody is to lead, or set the right examples. We call this “duty,” a word completely out of vogue in our day. In this particular case, the practice of our gift in context of love, or duty is “honor” (timē):

A value, i.e. money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy, esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself. Honor, precious, price, sum. A valuing by which the price is fixed. The price of a thing bought or sold. Honour which belongs or is shown to one of honour which one has by reason of rank and state of office which he holds. Deference, reverence.

~Strong’s Dictionary.

This is consistent with the rest of the New Testament: leading is setting the example, it has nothing to do with authority. If someone is practicing proper leadership, and you don’t follow them, you are not benefiting yourself (Hebrews 13:17). We are to be persuaded by the proper example.

Moreover, Paul is stating that we should aspire to be the best at showing the value of others. It is the same word used in 1Peter 3:7 for how husbands are to treat their wives—they are to be highly valued. This is also the same word used throughout the New Testament, nearly 40 times, to describe the high value of God’s people. Again, I can’t help to mention that this turns the whole total depravity gig upside down. Compare this to a Reformed funeral I attended just a few weeks ago. The deceased man’s own son stood up and “honored” him by proclaiming to the hundreds there that his father was a “wicked sinner.” Others testified that this was an honorable title because the former pastor was, “all about the grace of God and the gospel.” God help us. The way we love each other in the church today is to proudly proclaim ourselves sinners.

Is this not rejoicing in evil as well?

I will not relent in calling out this great evil in our day. We have indeed arrived there by the absence of tenacious and incessant complaint. Only the absence of a great outcry could result in a man honoring his dead father by calling him a “wicked sinner.”

Let me close with Matthew 24:11, 12 –

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Certainly, a lot more could be taught here about love, but I want to close by making the point that love needs to be defined biblically. Christ, in speaking of the latter days, states that lawlessness will be increased by false teachers. The word “lawlessness” is anomia—it means to be contrary to the law of God in particular. The result of that will be the absence of love and a irreverence for life following.

And I believe we are in those days. Let us teach and practice a biblical love.

One Response

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 30, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


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