Romans 12:9-16 – How to be a Christian without being religious!


“How genuine is your Christian love?”


Romans 12:9-16.




LOVE – this is what we are going to talk about! It is a wonderful word full of meaning and happy emotion while at the same time being an empty word full of meaninglessness and painful emotion.

A word ranging from superficial preference to deep sacrificial action // from “I love chocolate!” to “I love you enough to die for you!”


The word “LOVE” is use to describe a sexual act between a prostitute and a curb-crawler OR  between a husband and wife deeply committed to each other in a life-long relationship.


The word on its own is really quite meaningless – it must be placed in a context to be properly understood.


The first word of v.9 is ‘love’ – Paul could have simply said to the Roman Christians – “Love each other!” Maybe the people in the 1st C had the same problem we have – “What is love?”


Where does our understanding of love come from? Most of it probably comes form the way we are treated by others esp. our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.  BUT much of the popular romantic idea of love comes from novels, movies and soap operas – it is a love that is full of desire and want – “What is in it for me?” – “How can the other person satisfy my needs?” Which is ultimately not love but lust!


“Love can wait to give; but lust can’t wait to get!” Josh McDowell.


When love is reduce to selfish animal desire it becomes destructive – when love it

‘What can I get?’ rather than ‘What can I give?’ it destroys.


Jill Briscoe “The world is littered with the debris of what eros {sexual desire/love} has promised but been unable to provide!”


Broken homes and destroyed marriages – litter our society!


Love is not only to be sort in romantic relationships – distorted love is seen in families – parents pushing children for the Parent’s ambition rather than the child’s good – // In Churches where Christians pursue their own agendas, seek their own fulfilment to the detriment of the body of Christ. WHY? because at the foundation of human nature is the desire to promote self // and satisfy self!


True love – in whatever relationship it expresses itself – is always love which says ‘Let me give to you!’ and not ‘Give me!’


We Bible gives us plenty of direction as to what love is and how love should behave – love is not JUST emotion nor is it passive!


These verses [9-16] may at first glance seem as if they are simply a random collection of advice. BUT we begin to see that they are different facets of love – how as Christians we are to live and to relate to each other!


It is not without significance that here in Romans, after speaking about the gifts , Paul immediately speaks about the practical nitty-gritty of Christian love // he does the same in 1 Cor. in the middle of two chapter of spiritual gifts [12&14] 1Cor 13 deals with the supremacy of love // Eph.4 the only other passage on the gifts – What follows? but a long section on practical Christian living.


From these three passages and many others in NT the point is abundantly clear – no matter how gifted you are, no matter how much theological knowledge you have, no matter how much scripture  you have memorized — you can be born again, be baptized, give your money to the Church, send old clothes to missionaries and even put scripture verses on your Christmas cards BUT the question always comes down to this – “How is your love??” How real/genuine is your love for God and others?


In vv.9-16 it is as if Paul is holding up the diamond of love and simply commenting on some of the facets he sees.


There are 12! [This probably the first 12 point sermon you have heard and you are already thinking that you

hope it is the last!!]



Romans 12:9     9 Love must be sincere. ……….

Love agape – until now in Romans Paul has used this only of God – demonstrated on the cross [5:8]// poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit  [5:5]// a love that refuses to let us go [8:35.39].


Now he uses the same word to describe the kind of love we are to have – whatever agape may have meant in the secular world of the time Paul and the other NT writers redefine its meaning by pointing to what God has done in Christ.


This kind of love is a sincere love  – lit. without hypocrisy – This was a word used in the first century theatre – hypocrite was the play-actor who would speak from behind different masks – playing various characters.

God requires our love for each other to be genuine/ sincere – not pretense love.

Not hypocritical love – a contradiction in terms; if it is hypocrisy it is not love; if it is sincere love it is not hypocrisy.

The kiss of Judas was the grossest form of pretense love!



Romans 12:9     ….. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (NIV)

This may seem a strange comment after the genuineness of love – but contrary to the popular dictum, love is NOT blind.

True love seeks to be discerning, astute, wise — true love needs to be able to tell the difference between what is good and evil so that the high good of the loved one is sought.

SEE why we need to have our minds renewed/to be transformed [v.2] so by God’s Spirit’s help we can know the difference between good and evil.

Loving my Christian brother/sister is not simply avoiding doing him/her harm BUT positively seeking to do him/her good.

So often the excuse for certain behaviour is “I am not harming anyone!” the Christian should be asking “What good am I doing!”

GOOD – not necessarily doing what the other wants BUT rather what God’s wants – Don’t misunderstand the golden rule!!



Romans 12:10 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. ….

brotherly love – this is an affectionate family term that describes the kind of love that should characterise the relationship between parents/children and brothers/sisters and aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews etc. Paul takes this word and applies it to the relationships that should exist between Christians within the family of God.

We are one family because we have a common father – God. Because of this we should do everything in our power to be and remain devoted to each other.

This should be the hallmark of the Christian community…

John 13:34        …… By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)


I can ask ‘Do you love your fellow Christians?’ likely answer ‘YES’! But a better question is, ‘What are you doing to demonstrate your affection for your fellow believer?’



Romans 12:10 10 …… Honour one another above yourselves. (NIV)


Respect / deference may help to understand the concept.

I don’t believe that we are here to go around comparing ourselves to each other in terms of gifts/abilities – we are not to compete with each other but to compliment each other. Just as there was to be mutual love in the previous point – here there is to be mutual honour.


Paul says a similar thing in —

Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)

It is not that I am to consider every other Christian wiser and more capable than I am BUT, knowing that my own motives are not always pure, knowing that I should sometimes say, “Lord forgive my good deeds!” because my motives are dishonourable — knowing my own weaknesses does not give me the right to prejudge the motives of my fellow-Christian as ‘evil’ unless there is a clear and consistent pattern unchristlike behaviour!



Romans 12:11 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. (NIV)

ILLUS. Recently speaking to AD about College – saying many of the clubs and special interest groups in the college have dwindled and closed over the years – students seem to lack enthusiasm for anything


It is as if it is not ‘cool’ to be enthusiastic – it is ‘sad’ –

It is not entirely the fault of the youth – but it is a symptom of the age – it stems from the philosophy of existentialism – a fancy word for a mindset that lives purely for the present and self-satisfaction NOW. Yesterday [history] is irrelevant and tomorrow is uncertain [no hope] so why be enthusiastic about anything! This is not ALL the explanation but it is in part.

Paul has the opposite is mind – urging his reader not to be lazy but to pursue with passion their love and commitment to each other –

Enthusiasm is often accused of fanaticism – Paul avoids that by stressing that this is not self-induced excitement but Spirit given .

The translation is weak and would read better as follows:—-

Never lag behind in showing enthusiasm, Be aglow with the Spirit, serving the Lord.

– serving the Lord – brings things down to earth – not unbridled fanaticism but passionate, practical commitment to each other and to Christ.

A believer really aglow with the Spirit does not pursue wild, unbridled, religious excitement BUT humbly carries out the mandate of serving the Lord!!



Romans 12:12 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

Paul’s readers were not in an easy situation – life for 1st C Christians was tough BUT his call is for patience /long-suffering in the midst of difficulty. They can have joy because there is HOPE – for the Christian there is always something to be joyful about if not in this life certainly in the life hereafter.

That’s why Paul says to the Thessalonians in the face of death —

1 Thessalonians 4:13     13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who died, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (NIV)

— how is this possible? Because we are confident of Christ’s return and of the glory to follow. BUT without prayer such confident and long-suffering endurance is impossible — in fact all the qualities Paul mentions in this chapter are impossible without prayer to God for help!!



Romans 12:13 13 Share with God’s people who are in need…

Share can mean either

  • to share with others out of our resources
  • OR to share in their needs and sufferings

so we are talking not only about material resources but also spiritual and emotional –

It might mean physical help – or sitting with someone struggling with illness, bereavement, …..

The word also implies this is done willingly and lovingly not grudgingly!



Romans 12:13……. EAGERLY Practise hospitality. (NIV)

hospitality lit. ‘lover of strangers’ – easy to see necessity of this in NT times where travel-lodges and inns were few and often dangerous.

There is a place for open home — BUT the underlying attitude is open-heartedness. A heart that has a concern for people!

When strangers and new-comers attend our church is there an open-hearted welcome or a suspicious reserve.


I remind you of Jesus’ words in —

Matthew 25:31-40  31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…….. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, …

34 “… the King  JESUS will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you………, I was a stranger and you invited me in, ….

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord….. 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, ….

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’



Romans 12:14   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (NIV)

This is a hint of what is coming in the next section – If we are going to have a transformed life and renewed mind [v.2] that implies becoming more and more Christlike – A Christ who on the way to the cross could pray for his persecutors “Father forgive them…”

What about those who have hurt you – inside and outside the Church –

  • That family member who has taken you for granted –
  • that friend who has let you down
  • that boss who makes your life a misery
  • that fellow-Christian who irritates you
  • that neighbour whose cat damages your garden – music too loud – parks the car in your space ….

Do you avoid – hold a grudge – try to get even – wish some harm came to them??

We are to bless them – pray for them – do good to them … next time!!



Romans 12:15 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (NIV)

We are called to identify with each other – to be there for each other – for unbelievers also – BUT we can never do this unless by the sovereign grace of God the truth of Christ’s taking our misery/guilt/sin is impressed deeply upon our hearts by the Spirit.

If I don’t feel with my brothers and sister in their joys and sorrows maybe it is because I have failed to grasp the depth of Christ’s love for me.

If you have suffered in some way and are bitter and twisted against God and carrying a chip on your shoulder then you have missed God’s purpose for you in your suffering — you have wasted your troubles

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (NIV)

If we don’t rejoice with the joyful – we are probably envious ! Titus 3v3.

If we don’t mourn with those who mourn – we are probably gloating! Prov 17v5.



Romans 12:16 16 Live in harmony with one another….

being on one mind — working together — harmony doesn’t mean that we are all the same –

ILLUS: in an orchestra / music group there are different instruments — and they play different notes BUT they are all following the same score – different part but in harmony – complimenting each other.


The music is written by God – as we play his tune we will harmonise with each other –

Each musician in an orchestra is gifted BUT without the discipline of practice the ability is wasted – the symphony is poor and full of discord and wrong notes!

SO living in harmony with each other takes effort and discipline and sacrifice!!



Romans 12:16 .. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (NIV)

Don’t be a snob!! There are few kind of pride that are worse that snobbery.

Jesus made no distinction between class or race or nationality – he calls us to the same – it is bad enough in the world – it is obscene in the Church!!



As you look through the list – think about yourself – How are these qualities going to develop in us and become permanent qualities?

These are Products of a transformed life and renewed mind – achieved only with the help and power of the Holy Spirit — BUT we are not passive!! One can’t claim these characteristics in isolation.

These are relational – they are worked out in relationships with other people!

So if you never have fellowship with our Christians – if you never get close to others you can not hope to develop these Christian qualities. It will cost in time – in pride as we open ourselves to others – as they see our weaknesses – our failures – we will have to become vulnerable — this can be frightening — BUT there is no other way – It is either this OR remain ineffective, weak spiritual babies!!


How much happier would the church be if we loved one another like this!!

How much more attractive would we be to the unbelievers when we loved each other like this!

How much more effective would we be in our service for Christ!




Romans 12:9-16


1. Genuineness

          9 Love must be sincere.


2. Discernment

          9b Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.


3. Affection

          10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.


4. Honour

          10b Honour one another above yourselves


5. Enthusiasm

          11 Never be lacking in zeal. Be aglow with the Spirit,

                   serving the Lord.


6. Long-suffering

          12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.






7. Generosity

          13 Share with God’s people who are in need.


8. Open-hearted

          13b Practise hospitality.


9. Good will

          14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.


10. Empathy

          15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.


11. Harmony

          16 Live in harmony with one another.


12. Humility

          16 b Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited



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