The Lord’s Supper of Communion
Part 3 Continued from August 17th
In social relationships (12:9-21).
This section consists of a lengthy series of short exhortations or commands. The statements relate to a Christian’s relationships to other people, both saved and unsaved.
12:9-10. Paul began these specific exhortations with the key ingredient for success: Love must be sincere. This is God’s love, which has been ministered to believers by the Holy Spirit (5:5) and must be ministered by them to others in the Holy Spirit’s power. “Sincere” translates anypokritos (lit., “without hypocrisy”), also used of love (2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Peter 1:22), of faith (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5), and of wisdom (James 3:17).
This first command is followed by a pair of related basic commands—Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Many Bible students consider these two clauses as explanatory of the sincerity of love, translating the verse, “Let love be unfeigned, abhorring the evil and cleaving to the good.” Hating various forms of sin is frequently mentioned in Scripture (Pss. 97:10; 119:104, 128, 163; Prov. 8:13; 13:5; 28:16; Heb. 1:9; Rev. 2:6). Turning from evil is to accompany adhering to the good (cf. 1 Peter 3:11).
Divine love is to be exercised with other believers. The Greek adjective philostorgoi, translated devoted, suggests family affection. As in Romans 12:9, the second clause in verse 10 can be understood as explaining the first command. Verse 10 may be translated, “With brotherly love have family affection for one another, in honor giving place to one another” (cf. Phil. 2:3, “consider others better than yourselves”).
12:11-12. Paul then provided a series of exhortations concerning a believer’s personal attitudes, attitudes that will make him more attractive to others. In verse 11 the key thought is the last clause—serving (douleuontes; diakonian in v. 7 is trans. “serving”) the Lord—and the first two clauses explain how a believer is to serve as the Lord’s “slave” (doulos; cf. 1:1): never . . . lacking (“not shrinking, not hesitating, not being lazy”) in zeal ( en spoudē, “diligence,” rendered “diligently” in 12:8), and being fervent in spirit. Keep your spiritual fervor is literally, “being fervent, or boiling (zeontes, used only here and in Acts 18:25 of Apollos) in the spirit” (either the Holy Spirit or one’s inner life). These two commands also balance each other as negative and positive commands (cf.
The three exhortations in verse 12 can be understood either as independent items or as additional descriptions of how believers should serve the Lord. They are to be joyful in hope, because their hope in Christ is the basis of their rejoicing (5:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9). In affliction (thlipsei, “distress, trouble, pressure”; cf. Rom. 8:35) believers are to be patient (hypome nontes, “being steadfast, having endurance”; cf. 5:3). Also Christians should continue in prayer to God for wisdom, guidance, and strength (cf. 1 Thes. 5:17). Being faithful, NIV‘s translation of proskarterountes, should be rendered “persisting in” or “devoted to” (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:42; Col. 4:2).
12:13. Returning to Christians’ responsibilities to other believers, Paul exhorted them, Share with God’s people who are in need (lit., “sharing [ koinōnountes, having in common¯] the needs of the saints”). This characterized the
12:14-16. Paul’s exhortations in this section relate to a believer’s reactions to the actions and emotions of others, whether Christians or not. The hatred displayed in persecution usually evokes response in kind, but Paul commanded, Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (cf. Matt. 5:44). Perhaps Paul thought of Stephen (Acts 7:59-60) and of Jesus Christ (Luke 23:34). They both modeled these words and responded to persecution even to death by praying for God’s forgiveness of their persecutors.
Christians should be able to empathize with others, both believers and unbelievers. Paul commanded, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Related to this is the next command, Live in harmony with one another (lit., “having the same attitude toward one another”; cf. Rom. 15:5; Phil. 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8). Being in harmony with other Christians is basic to being able to empathize with them. This idea is then presented in negative and positive details: Do not be proud (lit., “not thinking highly” of yourself; cf. Rom. 11:20; 12:3) and be willing to associate with people of low position (cf. James 2:1-9). These orders are summarized in the command, Do not be conceited (lit., “Do not become wise concerning themselves”; cf. Prov. 3:7; Rom. 11:25), an attitude that makes empathy impossible.
12:17-18. The exhortations in verses 17-21 relate primarily to believers’ relationships with unbelievers, speaking as they do of those who do evil toward believers (v. 17) and are the “enemy” of believers (v. 20). The Old Testament principle of justice was “eye for eye” (Ex. 21:24), but Paul commanded, Do not repay anyone evil for evil (cf. 1 Peter 3:9). On the positive side Christians are to do what is right (kala, “beautiful,” used here in the ethical sense of good, noble, and honorable). Paul then commanded believers, Live at peace with everyone (cf. “live in harmony with one another,” Rom. 12:16). But recognizing that limits exist, Paul included the words, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you. Harmony with others may not always be achievable, but believers should not be responsible for that lack of peace (cf. Matt. 5:9).
12:19-21. Referring again to the negative (cf. v. 17a) Paul then exhorted his readers not to take revenge after they are misused. Instead they should leave room for God’s wrath (lit., “for the wrath”), because God has promised to avenge His people: It is Mine to avenge, I will repay (Deut. 32:35; cf. Heb. 10:30). David’s refusal to kill Saul on two occasions when it seemed that God had delivered Saul into David’s hands is a classic biblical example of this principle. In light of God’s promise to execute vengeance, a Christian should therefore feed his enemy and quench his thirst—in short, respond to his evil with Christian love. Heaping burning coals on his head, along with the first part of Romans 12:20, is a quotation from Proverbs 25:21-22. The coals on the head may refer to a ritual in
WHAT CAN THE PRIEST OFFER?
Every priest (believer) must offer a sacrifice. We are conscious of the fact that we are moving into a delicate field on this point, for this is a day when we do not hear much about folk making sacrifices. At earlier times we used to have periods of “self-denial” in the church, but we hear nothing of that now. Some folk suggest that they do not come to church because it is difficult. Of course it is difficult. If you are going to worship God, it is going to cost you something. What must the unsaved world think of the price tag we have put upon our position as priests? Some of us have certainly brought it down to a position of little value. A priest must offer a sacrifice to God.
A priest can offer his possessions. The Philippians, who were so close to Paul, sent him a gift for which he thanked them, but in thanking them he also called their attention to the fact that they were not just giving an offering to him, but that it went beyond him to God as a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing: “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
When you bring your possessions to God, you are a priest offering a sacrifice that is acceptable to Him. Actually, we have fallen so low in our privilege of making an offering to the Lord, that all too often either an amusing or a sad story must be told just before the ushers take the offering. We have come to the place where we must be moved by our emotions! Oh, my friend, we are priests making an offering before God, and that offering should have on it the mark of blood—the mark of sacrifice that it might be acceptable to God!
As priests we can offer praise unto God. Every Christian can do this today. In Hebrews 13:15 we learn: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” That does not mean just to sing the doxology on Sunday morning and then follow it with the “blues” on Monday morning. It means that for seven days a week we should have a paean of praise unto God upon our lips continually and in every circumstance of life. God says that is acceptable to Him.
Not only can we offer our possessions and our praise, but we can offer our person. That is what Paul is talking about in Romans 12:1 when he says: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [by His glorious salvation], that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice … unto God which is your reasonable service [spiritual worship].”
That is something which you and I can do as priests. If you have never done this, you have left undone the basic function of a priest. If you are a Christian, it is your privilege as a priest to go into His presence through the Great High Priest and lay yourself upon the altar. First of all, lay there your possessions, then your praise and adoration—then yourself!
Let us look now at the gifts Paul singles out here for special mention.
(i) There is the gift of prophecy. It is only rarely that prophecy in the New Testament has to do with foretelling the future; it usually has to do with forthtelling the word of God. The prophet is the man who can announce the Christian message with the authority of one who knows. To announce Christ to others a man must first know him himself. “What this parish needs,” said Carlyle’s father, “is a man who knows Christ other than at second-hand.”
(ii) There is the gift of practical service ( diakonia). It is surely significant that practical service came to Paul’s mind so high on the list. It may be that a man will never have the privilege of standing forth in public and proclaiming Christ; but there is no man who cannot every day show the love of Christ in deeds of service to his fellow men.
(iii) There is teaching. The message of Christ needs not only to be proclaimed; it needs also to be explained. It may well be that one of the great failures of the Church at this present time is just in this realm. Exhortation and invitation without a background of teaching are empty things.
(iv) There is exhortation. Exhortation should have one dominating note, and that should be encouragement. There is a naval regulation which says that no officer shall speak discouragingly to any other officer about any undertaking in which he may be engaged. There is a kind of exhortation which is daunting. Real exhortation aims not so much at dangling a man over the flames of hell as spurring him on to the joy of life in Christ.
(v) There is sharing. Sharing is to be carried out with simple kindliness. The word that Paul uses is haplotēs, and it is difficult to translate, because it has in it the meaning both of simplicity and of generosity. One great commentary quotes a passage from The Testament of Issachar which perfectly illustrates its meaning. “And my father blessed me, seeing that I walked in simplicity ( haplotēs). And I was not inquistive in my actions, nor wicked and envious towards my neighbour. I did not speak evil of anyone or attack a man’s life, but I walked with a single eye (literally, with haplotēs of my eyes). To every poor and every afflicted man I provided the good things of earth in simplicity ( haplotēs) of heart. The simple ( haplous) man does not desire gold, doth not ravish his neighbour, doth not care for all kinds of dainty meats, doth not wish for diversity of clothing, doth not promise himself length of days, but receiveth only the will of God. He walketh in uprightness of life and beholdeth all things in simplicity ( haplotēs).” There is a giving which pries into the circumstances of another as it gives, which gives a moral lecture along with the gift, which gives not so much to relieve the need of the other as to pander to its own vanity and self-satisfaction, which gives with a grim sense of duty instead of a radiant sense of joy, which gives always with some ulterior motive and never for the sheer joy of giving. Christian sharing is with haplotēs, the simple kindliness which delights in the sheer pleasure of giving for giving’s sake.
(vi) There is being called to occupy a leading place. Paul says that if we are so called we must do it with zeal. One of the most difficult problems of the Church today is the getting of leaders in all departments of its work. There are fewer and fewer people with a sense of service and of responsibility, willing to give up their leisure and their pleasure to undertake leadership. In many cases unfitness and unworthiness is pleaded when the real reason is disinclination and laziness. If such leadership is taken up, Paul says that it is to be taken up with zeal. There are two ways in which an elder may deliver a communion card—through the letter-box or at the fireside. There are two ways in which a teacher may prepare a lesson—with heart and mind or in the most perfunctory way. A man may dully and drably go through some task in the Church, or he may do it with the joy and thrill of zeal. The Church today needs leaders with zeal in their hearts.
(vii) There is the time when mercy has to be shown. It has to be shown with gracious kindliness, Paul says. It is possible to forgive in such a way that the very forgiveness is an insult. It is possible to forgive and at the same time to demonstrate an attitude of criticism and contempt. If ever we have to forgive a sinner, we must remember that we are fellow sinners. “There but for the grace of God, go I,” said George Whitefield as he saw the criminal walk to the gallows. There is a way of forgiving a man which pushes him further into the gutter; and there is a way of forgiving him which lifts him out of the mire. Real forgiveness is always based on love and never on superiority.
This sermon will continue tomorrow August 19th as we look at The Christian life in everyday action.
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