the weblog of Alan Knox

The unhypocritcal church

Posted by on Sep 4, 2009 in community, definition, discipleship, fellowship, hospitality, love, scripture, service, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts, unity | 1 comment

A couple of years ago, I published three posts called “The unhypocritical church” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The posts were based on a study of, meditation on, and comparison to Romans 12 (especially verses 9-21). Here are the three posts together:

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The unhypocritical church

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?

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The unhypocritcal church – Part 2

When I wrote the post “The unhypocritical church“, I did not plan for it to continue into a second part. However, as I have been meditating on Romans 12 for the last few days, there are a few more thoughts that I want to share.

Sunday morning, we gathered with the church like we do every week. After the formal part of our meeting concluded, people hung around talking for about an hour. At one point, my daughter and another girl her age stood by the door and, like good stewardesses, greeted those who left by saying, “Buh-bye. See you next week.” This was funny at first. Then I realized exactly what they were saying. They recognized that we would not see many of these people for seven days.

Sunday afternoon, as I published the post called “The unhypocritical church” and thought about the episode with my daughter and her friend, I realized that it would be impossible to carry out the teachings of Romans 12:9-21 if we only see one another once a week in a formal setting. Look at this list again:

  • 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

Sure, some of these we could probably do once a week, and pretend to have carried out Paul’s intention. But, can we have patience with one another if we only see each other once every seven days? Can we live in harmony with one another if we only see each other once every seven days? Similarly, we are to help one another live according to these descriptions. Can we help one another be hospitable toward strangers if we only see one another on Sunday?

This passage (Romans 12:9-21) is about community. Paul does not state, “Live as a community with your brothers and sisters in Christ”. However, he describes believers living together in such a way that they must recognize themselves as a Spirit-indwelled, Spirit-led community in order to see these descriptions carried out in their lives. There is no way to understand “church” as a once or twice a week event and have these characteristics. No, Paul is not describing an event, or a location, or an organization. Paul is describing a way-of-life for people who are following their Master together.

Among the church where God has placed me, I recognize these characteristics in many of my brothers and sisters. On Sunday, I heard that several people are spending their Labor Day Monday helping some friends work on their houses. I heard about other friends who are donating furniture and delivering it to someone that they do not know, but who is in need of furniture. Other friends are spending their day off by working on cars for their brothers and sisters. In activities such as these (and probably many others that I do not know about), the love of Christ is manifest and proclaimed both to believers and to unbelievers alike.

A community… a kingdom community, ruled by the King, looking out for one another, serving one another and the world, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, and warmly welcoming those who accept his grace and mercy. This is the kind of church that Paul is describing. This is the church of unypocritical love. This is how I want to live my life.

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The unhypocritical church – Part 3

I think this will be my last post on Romans 12:9-21 for now. As a reminder, this is what Paul writes:

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)

Once again, 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 description should characterize each believer and each group of beleivers.

Over the last few days, I have been asking myself which of these characteristics are evident in my life and which characteristics are absent. I can look back over the last few years and see where God has grown me and changed me. But, I can also see where I am not living as God intends. Specifically, God is still teaching me how to show hospitality (that is, love for strangers as opposed to love for those who I already know and love) and how to give to those who are in need. Perhaps, most of all, this is showing me areas in my life where I am not submitting to the presence of God.

As Joel pointed out in a recent post, we must begin with a proper understanind of who we are in Christ. I would also add that we should also recognize the awesome power and presence of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and changes us from the inside out.

Beginning with this understanding, I am going to ask you the same question that I have been asking myself: Meditating on the description of the unhypocritical (genuine) love of Romans 12:9-21, where is God still working in your life? In what ways are you not submitting to God’s presence in your life?


One Comment

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

  1. 9-11-2009

    I didn’t see this one the first time around. (I’m a newcomer to your blog.) Thanks and Wow!