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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to take the time to welcome you to HBS and to express my appreciation for your attentiveness and your faithfulness. I’m especially thankful for all those individuals who have elected to stop by our Bible study for the first time.
I usually review the previous lesson to some degree before starting anew. However, considering the amount of information I hope to go over and explain I’m going to forego the custom this week.
Not everyone has been with us for the “long-haul,” going on 2.5 years now just for the book of Romans, so FYI every single Bible lesson is available on this website for your scrutiny so please look these over when you have time.
Please open your Bible at Romans 12:9
9: Let (your) love (Agape in the Greek language) be without hypocrisy. Abhor (be repulsed by) what is evil; cling (hold tightly) to what is good.
I’m going to divide this verse into two parts. After explaining the first half, I’ll move on to the last section: Let (your Agape) love be without hypocrisy
The Greeks had several words for love:
Eros – a passionate love – we get our English word erotic from this word.
Eros is the Greek god of physical desire, the Romans called him Cupid.
Storge – a pride love - for the tribe or family; or for their nation
Phileo – a fondness or affection – as one family member towards another
Agape – non-emotional – self-sacrificial love; without any expectation in return
Once again, the type of love Paul’s referring to in verse 9 is Agape love. Agape love is God’s kind of love. It is of God and from God, whose very nature is love itself. The essence of Agape love is self-sacrifice. It is seeking the betterment and welfare of another regardless of how they feel. The Lord Jesus Christ is the epitome of Agape love on display. He voluntarily went to the cross and died for all regardless of how they feel. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8)
Sacrificial love has nothing to do with one’s “feelings.” It is a determined act of will, a joyful resolve to put the needs and welfare of others above one’s own. To be sure, this type of love does not come naturally to humans. Because of our fallen nature we are incapable of producing Agape love towards others. Therefore, this type of love can only come from its true source. This is the love of God which has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given (imparted) to us – when we became children of God by faith (Romans 5:5).
Agape love is best described as the absence of bitterness, envy, hate, jealousy, strife, etc. To be succinct it is the same attitude as our Savior’s. But what does this book say?
But the fruit of the Spirit is (what’s #1 on the list -Agape) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul gives us a word picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in this passage the very Person we are to imitate (Ephesians 5:1).
Back in verse 6 Paul started his list of spiritual gifts by saying, “if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith,” “if service, in his serving,” “he who teaches, in his teaching,” “he who exhorts, in his exhortations,” “he who gives, with liberality,” “he who leads, with diligence, “he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Now in verse 9 he simply says, Let love be without hypocrisy.
I ask questions; this is what makes me a Bible student. Why didn’t Paul say, Let love be: earnest, joyful, or patient? Why did he say, “Let (your) love be without hypocrisy?”
Let’s start by breaking down the word. A hypocrite is a pretender. They pretend to have admirable beliefs, principles, or a certain way of thinking but they actually behave otherwise. Hypocrisy - presenting oneself as something they are not is one of the most subtle and dangerous of sins. Pride is the root cause of hypocrisy while humility lays it to rest. Hypocrisy cannot exist in an environment filled with humility; this is because folks are focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and serving Him and not on themselves.
Eight times Jesus reproached the religious leaders of His day, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).
Jesus Christ warned His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1b) It is the nature of leaven to spread subtly and pervasively, until the whole lump of dough is affected; so too with hypocrisy.
Using a more modern illustration, a parent standing in their living room holding a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other while scolding their child for drinking alcohol and smoking might be viewed as a hypocrite. It’s not a good idea to moralize on the evils of drinking and smoking to your child while you’re indulging in those practices.
To better understand what Paul is saying in verse 9a, I believe we need to remember both his statements from Romans 12:1-2 and Romans 12:3. These passages instruct the individual to consider faith over “feelings” and “intellect;” and not to think more highly of himself (or herself) than he (or she) ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment…
Paul, who speaks for the risen Lord Jesus Christ, is informing us that each Believer must view themselves as God views them – soberly; with sound judgment. In other words, egos and self-pride need to be “checked” at the door! Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ we begin as nothing and end up the same way.
We should remember these words from Paul as well: “What do you have that you did not receive?” We don’t own our next breath or our next heartbeat and yet people walk about believing themselves to be masters of their domain, or thinking more highly of themselves then they ought.
The world accepts one’s pride as a sign of dignity and respect and it’s infectious. But the source of pride is ourselves the Creator God isn’t present; it is conceit. A person filled with conceit has an exaggerated opinion of themselves. They become the “main show,” filled with self-righteousness, which is self-destructive: Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:16)
The wicked, through the pride of his (or her) countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his (or her) thoughts. (Psalms 10:4)
In Paul’s day, the church was growing rapidly and its members were being instructed to mature in the faith or as Paul put it: be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
People from every walk of life were coming into the body demonstrating that God loves all people. God invites together young and old, male and female, rich and poor, and people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Groups like this don’t naturally come together or stay together; there are too many forces working to keep them apart: beliefs, ethnicity, geography, language, personal preferences, and values to name but a few. On top of all this, as a fallen human race, we are predisposed to alienation, division, dissension, mistrust, and name-calling. History teaches us that humanity, left to itself, divides. But Jesus Christ unites us! The Lord Jesus Christ reconciled Believers to God and to one another – His death, burial, and resurrection made this possible.
God has called His church to share this (Agape) love. Church unity isn’t something we create; it’s something we enter into. It’s a behavior we adopt and we are called to guard it and to treasure it by the way we treat one another: Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in the manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in (what) love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
The hypocrite’s prideful behavior and lifestyle conflicts with Christ’s command for unity within the Body of Christ and this is why Paul said, Let love be without hypocrisy.
Our Apostle Paul is saying sacrificial love doesn’t act this way. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:6: love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth.
Hypocrisy is all about, concealment, deceit, and falsehood. Hypocrisy only serves the hypocrite; it won’t bring honor and glory to our risen Savior.
Let’s look at verse 9b.
9b: Abhor (detest) what is evil (note that Paul did not say, abhor or detest evil people only those things which are evil); cling (hold tightly) to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
This is the only instance in the N.T. where Paul tells Believers to hate evil; no other writer does. This is impossible for those who do not have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, of course. To be honest, it’s only intermittently possible for those who are in Christ Jesus – see Romans 7. However, for those who have obeyed Romans 12:1-2 and surrendered to God, it becomes instinctive.
I once was a sailor, so I used to curse like one. I enjoyed a night out on the town with the guys and used to smoke and drink to excess. I played 9-ball and I used to gamble frequently too. Note the emphasis I placed on used to. After I acquired a relationship with my Lord and Savior, I learned to eliminate these things and other evil influences from my life over time: When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
The definition of evil in the Bible falls into two categories: evil against one another (adultery, lying, murder, theft, etc.) and evil against God (blasphemy, idolatry, unbelief). For those who would argue that God created evil I would answer back that evil is not a thing; it is a lack of goodness or goodness spoiled. You can have goodness without evil but you cannot have evil without goodness
God indirectly created the possibility of evil, in creating Adam with the ability to make his own decisions. When Adam disobeyed God, this possibility became a reality. While evil is real, it is important to recognize that evil does not exist in and of itself. It’s not a living thing, running around looking for someone to pounce on! Evil is like a parasite on the good. It exists in the same way that rust exists on your car. The rust cannot exist on its own any more then cold can exist without the existence of heat or darkness can exist without the existence of light.
Now let’s examine the back section of this verse.
…cling (hold tightly) to what is good.
Scripture teaches us to examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
How do we know what is good?
Our Apostle Paul writes: Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
In other words, look to and trust the study of God’s Word, to teach you what is good and acceptable and perfect. In the book of Genesis, you’ll find the LORD God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden and giving him specific instructions: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) There were other instructions given to Adam as well, but my point is this; the Bible is filled with instructions as to how God wants His people to live and He has given us the Holy Spirit for the purpose of enabling us to obey His Word.
Let’s move on to verse 10 where Paul says that love expresses itself in the church by devotion to one another. It holds the other in honor and gives to the other the place of preference. True agape love seeks the good of our brother and sister in Christ Jesus, even at our own expense.
10: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
The English word devoted is from the Greek work Philostorgos (pronounced: fil-os’-tor-gos) which is a combination of two Greek words: Phileo and Storge. This is the only place in the N.T. where it’s used. It means: tender affection; particularly family affection. So, Paul is calling for all Believers to have “tender affection toward one another as in family love.”
Then he adds, brotherly love – this is the word Philadelphia, which comes from two words: Philos, which means: tender affection, fondness, devotion, and Adelphos, which is usually translated: brother, but literally means: one born of the same womb. So, Philadelphia means: tender affection owed to those born from the same womb.
Paul has used two words that express kindred love in the same phrase, which makes a very strong statement. He didn’t use this language for biological families, but for the Body of Christ – the church. This is the kind of devotedness that is called for within this body of Believers - Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The basis of concern for one another is not that we know each other well or that we enjoy one another’s company on occasion, but it is that we are related to one another!
Let’s go to the book. Please turn to Matthew 12:46 where Jesus addresses relationships.
While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers, For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
The Lord Jesus Christ has changed the order of relationships showing that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Those relationships still exist to be sure, but there’s a superior relationship. Our adoption as sons and daughters of Abba God the Father transforms all our relationships and requires a renewing of our mind – a new order of loyalty to God and to one another within the Body of Christ.
(To be continued)
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