the weblog of Alan Knox

The unhypocritical church

Posted by on Sep 2, 2007 in definition, discipleship, hospitality, love, scripture, service, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts, unity | 14 comments

Most theologians comment about how “theological” the book of Romans is. This simply means that Paul speaks in terms that most closely resemble how modern theologians speak. Of course, Romans is far from a “systematic theology”. But Romans does include a good deal of theology – that is, Paul tells us what he things about God and people and salvation.

In fact, Chapters 1 through 11 are filled with theology. We learn that all people are sinful – all people are separated from God – all people deserve eternal separation from God. We also learn that the remedy is found in the person of Jesus Christ – his death, burial, and resurrection – and that the remedy is administered through the person and presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But, Paul doesn’t stop there.

In Chapter 12, Paul begins to show how his “theology” should work itself out in the lives of all followers of Jesus Christ. He begins by showing that a life sacrificed to God will lead to a life that is tranformed – changed – into a life that is acceptable to God. This life will demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit because it will be controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit will manifest himself differently in different people, but the manifestation of the Spirit’s gifts will always be for the same purpose. But, Paul doesn’t stop there.

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul lays down specific characteristics of the life that is led by the Spirit. This is what he says:

Let love be genuine (unhypocritical). Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 ESV)

Notice how the genuine (unhypocritical) love of Spirit-indwelled, Spirit-led believers is described:

  • holding fast to good
  • loving one another
  • honoring one another
  • serving the Lord fervently
  • rejoicing
  • patient
  • praying
  • giving to needy believers
  • being hospitable (loving strangers)
  • blessing
  • living in harmony
  • humble
  • doing what is honorable
  • living in peace with all

This is how the church of God should live. This is how the church of God should be described. In fact, the “theology” of the previous 11 chapters means little if the lives of believers are not being transformed by the indwelled Spirit.

So, where do you stop? Do you stop at discussing theology? Or, do you see the power of the Spirit at work in your life? How does a description of your life match up to Paul’s description of the Spirit-led, transformed life?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-2-2007

    Alan, I am with you. Theology is inherently practical, because God lives and communes in, with, and through us. I have adopted the mantra for myself, because I struggle with being rationally out of balance, “Theology without obedience is mere religious opinion.” I can say I believe a whole lot, but until I start loving God and loving others, I’m just a talking head. I have to remind myself of this daily!

    Thanks for your post,


  2. 9-2-2007

    Alan, thanks for this post. As Ed and I search for a church family to be a part of out here in SF, we easily fall into the trap of examining their theology and ecclesiology. You remind me to live out Romans 12 and look for others who are doing the same. Thanks to your family for being an example of that for us.

  3. 9-2-2007

    oh, I meant to say examining JUST those two things, without considering the individual believers that make up the body. I didn’t me to sound like theology or ecclesiology don’t matter.

  4. 9-2-2007


    I like your mantra: “Theology without obedience is mere religious opinion.” And, we know what God’s opinion is of those who only have religious opinion with “faith that works”…


    Yes, it can be difficult. But, I do believe that God will bring you into contact with people in his timing. If we are an example for you and Ed, then it is only by the grace of God. We still struggle in this walk every day.


  5. 9-2-2007

    Hi Alan,

    I’m responding to this post for a couple of reasons. First, to say a huge and hearty AMEN! And then secondly, to respectfully turn it around a little bit as well.

    I say Amen to all this because if I have all the theological teaching in the world, but have not love, I’m a clanging symbol that makes a very unpleasant sound. Hypocritical indeed.

    That said, it’s my personal observation that much of the church is in grave error by focusing mainly on scriptures like Romans 12-16 without having a deep, firm grasp on what I believe are necessary foundational truths that are found in the proceeding chapters of Romans (and other such scriptures). In fact, I’ve had a blog in “draft” mode for about a month on this very subject. It’s very important to me and I’ve been trying to find the right words to round it out. I may just have to post it as it is and see if it stirs any more thoughts in myself or in anyone who might read it.

    What I’ve found everywhere I go in the church (churches, Bible Studies, blogs, websites, small groups, radio, TV, magazines, you name it) is a strong emphasis on the principles for Christian living, but yet a huge lack of understanding and a huge lack of preaching and teaching of the foundational truths of grace and our identity in Christ. I fully agree with your statement that “the theology of the previous 11 chapters means little if the lives of believers are not being transformed by the indwelled Spirit,” but what I think the church is truly missing is solid teaching and understanding of the first 11 chapters! (And other such scriptures). I will perhaps step on a few toes by saying this, but the last few chapters of Romans (“principles for Christian living”) can be taught over and over and over again, and people can try to live by them, but that kind of obedience means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t all flow (super)naturally from being firmly rooted in the truth of the ‘theology’ of the first 11 chapters.

    I would bet a lot of money (not that I have a lot of money – LOL) that if we were to survey any given group of Christians who have been in the church for a while, many or most of them would be able to identify many of the principles of “doing” the Christian life, but many or most of them wouldn’t be able to tell you who Christ really is or who they are in Him. What I mean is, they could tell you with strong conviction what they’re supposed to “do” as a Christian – but would they be nearly as deeply grounded in and convicted about the foundational truths found in Romans 1-11?

    I didn’t mean to be long here, but as you can tell this subject really grips my heart. :) I’m definitely with you on all of this post, but I just wanted to make a case for having a strong emphasis in the church on these foundational truths. A plant can’t grow into maturity without being deeply rooted in the soil, and the roots never disconnect from the plant. They provide a constant, steady stream of life into the plant. We should always be deeply connected with Romans 1-11, in order to “live out” the rest of the epistle.

  6. 9-2-2007


    I completely agree with your comment. I suppose, living in a seminary environment, I am exposed to a different group of believers than is normal. I witness discussion after discussion about theology, but very little “living out”. Most of the “living out” that I do see only takes place in a church building on Sunday mornings… Sunday or Wednesday evenings for those who are “spiritual”.

    I’m looking forward to your post. I believe that as followers of Christ understand who their Master is and who they are in Him, then the “living out” will become (super)-natural.


  7. 9-3-2007


    Thanks for this post. Romans 12 has always been a challenging chapter for me because it demands a changed life. However, I’m afraid that I (and others) often fall into the trap of forgetting that the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to live out the kind of life that pleases God. Therefore, Romans 12 should really excite us instead or intimidate us because it shows us the kind of change that can occur when we let the Spirit really control our lives.


  8. 9-3-2007

    Indeed, Alan, you seminarians really know how to “talk the talk,” don’t you. LOL :)

    But seriously, I think that your thoughts and my thoughts are two very important sides of the same coin, and I mentioned that when I finally posted the blog I’ve been planning.

  9. 9-3-2007

    thanks alan, i guess the fact that paul had to write romans 12 in the first place (not to mention the other chapters) tells us that the christian community was far from perfect – we need to be reminded just like Paul of what the work of the Spirit in us is about – to know what is the good stuff to be grateful for and what is the toxic stuff that kills ourselves, life and community…

  10. 9-3-2007


    As I was talking to my wife today, I began to understand this passage even more. I love to talk – so, if everything went the way I would want, I would spend all of my time talking with other people. However, we sent today helping some friends paint. Why? Do I enjoy painting? No, but I love these friends. Because I love these friends, the Spirit compels me to serve them in ways that I don’t necessarily like and in ways that I would not choose on my own.

    Unfortunately, many times, we spend too much time doing those things that we like to do – which, for us seminary students means that we spend time discussion “theological issues” that take us nowhere. I, for one, will be talking less and letting the Spirit use me in more ways that I don’t like, but in ways that serves others and demonstrates God’s love to them.


    I think this is a good description of what the life of the Spirit will produce in the life of his follower. As you said, this is a good reminder. If we don’t see these things in our lives, we need to repent and submit to his control in our lives.


  11. 7-5-2013

    It is SO much easier to focus on things you can write down and classify and believe you (and often, you and your little few alone) are right about than on living life. On paper, you can demonstrate your “godliness” with pride. In life, you are continually humbled.

  12. 7-5-2013


    I’m definitely continually humbled in life.


  13. 7-5-2013

    Amen Mr. Knox. Where does this FINAL(hopefully) reformation if the body of Christ begin, seeing that it is not as healthy as its supposed to be.? How does the Body of Christ rise to its divine duty of representing the Salt/light of God on earth and fulfilling its mandate of bringing God’s Kingdom down to earth so men get to know GOD’S WILL ON EARTH…….as it is DONE IN HEAVEN?
    Does this reformation begin with the individual, the collective or the individual in the collective body of Christ? What EXACTLY needs to be done to enable us LIVE CHRIST?
    On my part I have seen how , attempting to hold on to the Christ principles of daily living , ( even though I woefully fail at times)….AFFECTS all around me , irrespective of their religion. At the same time it creates people I call catalysts, not enemies, against me……well no surprise there. I prefer evangelizing with my life-style as against that with my mouth because from experience I have gotten to know that people are simply tired of HEARING ABOUT CHRIST, so why don’t we CONCENTRATE, FOR ONCE, on LIVING JESUS so as to show the world that Jesus’ Principles of life which brings peace is actually…….PRACTICAL TOO?

  14. 7-5-2013


    I agree. Following Christ and having his Spirit empower and direct us affects every aspect of our life. You asked, “Where does this begin?” I’d say we start by admitting that we’re not living by the Spirit, yield once again to him, turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for their help/encouragement/admonishment as needed, and continue to read the Scriptures to (as Paul wrote to Timothy) train us to that we will be equipped for every good work.



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