Love in Action Rom 12: 9-21

Mar 14, 2021 // By:Dave // No Comment

through the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul has been explaining the various status people find themselves in in relationship with God.

the first three chapters:

in our unredeemed state, we are enemies of God

(deservedly so)

the various testimonies against us establishing our guilt before God

(creation, our own conscience, our own internal laws, God’s law, even each other)

He then spends over five chapters outlining God taking the initiative on our behalf …

God’s love for us in action

three human loves

eros love (physical desire)

phileo love (brotherly affection)

storge love (parental affection)

but then there is:

agape love

what is agape love ?

Here, he changes his focus from what God has done for us, transitioning at the beginning of the chapter to statements about our reasonable response to God’s love.

the response is first described at action directed towards God Himself

Now he uses agape for the first time to describe something we are to do

he changes to responding to God’s love in an outward direction to each other (whatever each other means)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 

sincere (here in the greek) means without hypocrisy 

ἀνυπόκριτος. (meaning “acting a part in a play)

think of the old white masks worn by greek actors with smiles or frowns and you have the idea of presenting to others as being one thing while being something else behind the mask.


hate evil (loving God requires hating what God hates))

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 

don’t let the world or other people cool you down.

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


Romans 8:24 “For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?”

unstoppable in our devotion to one another.

loving each other with an assurance that looks to our secure relationship with our Father, that is patient and endures affliction and trials, remains faithful in prayer no matter what is happening.

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

share with those in need (why?)

practice hospitality  (what is hospitality ?)

hospitality in this context is not the spiritual gift we read about earlier that is only given to some in an extra measure …

this is something every believer is called to do and empowered to do through His Spirit

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

now the bar gets raised a little higher

(why bless our enemies instead of taking an eye for an eye ?)

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

mourning with mourners sounds easier than rejoicing with rejoicers

(our selfish nature tends to substitute jealousy in place of rejoicing for some one else’s blessing)

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

Sympathize and harmonize are given in verses 15-16

And then he gives us an obstacles to these


why is conceit an obstacle ?

Phil 2:6-7

  1. who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
  2. but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men.

let’s raise the bar again. huh ?!

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

we cannot control the thoughts or actions of others … only ourselves

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

God knows how to discipline any of us with our best interests at heart

(human vengeance does not seek the best of the other, it seeks to punish the other)

20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

quoting proverbs 25:21

Matt 5:44 shows this in perfect alignment with the teaching of Jesus Himself

“But I say to you, iLove your enemies and jpray for those who persecute you,”

1 These 5:15

“See that tno one repays anyone evil for evil, but always useek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

this “heaping coals on the head” has multiple translations

  1. a means to shame the person you are returning good for evil to
  2. jewish traditional context of sharing coals for fire and how they were carried
  3. egyptian context of someone expressing shame of their own actions by walking about with hot coals on head as expression of sorrow

shaming someone by doing good rings of vengeance more than love

egyptian mourning idea is supposed to be a choice of the offender

(so heaping coals on someone else’s head seems to exclude this interpretation)

let’s interpret this as a logical insertion of extending good for evil which matches the actual context as well. (and dovetails nicely with the following verse as well as staying in line with verse 19 and 21)

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

our greatest problem living this is that we have a definition of “evil” that is either:

  1. poorly understood
  2. poorly used

too much gray area between what we are willing to call evil and what we know to be good.

(we like to live in the space in between the two extremes because we have freedom there)

most of our lives we spend living out Romans 7 but dont even get upset about it.

Romans 7:15

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

what is the very thing Paul hates ?

Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.”

Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Psalm 119:104 “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.”

Psalm 101:3 “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me”

Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions.”

Psalm 97:10 “Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

to love God requires one to hate evil because it is the enemy of God

  1. it is the enemy of having a relationship with God
  2. it is the reason Jesus had to die on the cross

Jesus had no problem, hanging out with the “lowest people in society, loving them , and still clearly hated sin

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