Charles E Whisnant
I am the Pastor/Teacher of Rivers of Joy Baptist Church in Minford, Ohio since August 2008. I am married to Charity since June 14, 1969. I have four grown children. Having served in the local church for over forty years as Pastor/Teacher, Asso., Youth Pastor, Minister of Education, Building Upkeep, Camp Director, Sunday School Teacher, etc. Also I have worked in the public place for as many years as I have preached. Charity and her sister are co owner of Union Mills Conf. (Bakery) in West Portsmouth Ohio
"Christian Guidelines for Interpersonal Relationships." Romans 12:9-21
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 9-21
The definition of contextual is depending on the context, or surrounding words, phrases, and paragraphs, of the writing. An example of contextual is how the word "read" can have two different meanings depending upon what words are around it.
A. This section could best be entitled "Christian Guidelines for Interpersonal Relationships." This is a practical discussion of love (cf. Matthew. 5-7; 1 Corinthians. 13 and 1 John 3:18; 4:7-21).
B. Romans 12 is very similar in content and structure to 1 Corinthians 12-13. Immediately after the discussion of spiritual gifts comes a warning about pride and an emphasis on practical lifestyle love.
C. The context deals with
1. our relations with other Christians (cf. Romans. 12:9-13). This is also discussed in detail in Romans14:1-15:13 and in 1 Corinthians. 8:11; 10:23-33
2. our relations with unbelievers or even more probably, other Christians with whom there is a conflict (cf.12:14-21). This section seems to reflect Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthews. 5-7).
3. this division of the passage is somewhat artificial because these areas (relationships) overlap
D. This passage is dominated by ongoing, lifestyle commands (present active imperatives, cf. Romans. 12:4 [thrice], 16, 20 [twice], 21 [twice] and by present active participles used in the sense of imperatives seventeen times). Salvation is a free gift of the grace of God through the finished work of Christ and the wooing of the Spirit, but once received, it is a costs-everything commitment and lifestyle! Calling Jesus "Lord" is not a metaphor (cf. Luke 6:46)!
E. This passage also has several present participles used in the sense of imperatives with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in process, Romans. 12:14, 16 (twice), 17, 19 and 21. Christians were already living out of bounds! In one sense sin can be defined as taking God's gifts beyond their God-given bounds.
F. Christianity must be "open"- open-minded, open-handed, open-hearted and open-doored (cf. James 2).
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ROMANS 12:9-13
9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
12:9 "Let love be without hypocrisy" In the Greek text there were no linking words (asyndeton) in this context which was very unusual in Koine Greek. It might reflect the Hebrew grammatical form behind the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. This grammatical form would emphasize each one of the phrases as a stand-alone truth.
"Hypocrisy" was a theatrical term for "speaking behind a mask." Love must not be play acting or counterfeit (cf. 2 Corinthians. 6:6). Love is the characteristic of believers (cf. John 13:34-35; 15:12,17; 1 John 3:11,18; 4:7-21) because it is the character of God.
"abhor what is evil" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. Believers need to be surprised and revolted by evil (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21-22). Often we are only surprised by the consequences that directly impact our lives.
NASB, NKJV"cling to what is good"
NRSV"hold fast to what is good"
TEV"hold on to what is good"
NJB"stick to what is good"
This is a present passive (but used in a middle sense) participle used in the sense of an imperative-"be glued to" (cf. LXX of Genesis0 2:24; Acts 8:29 and also Phil. 4:8; 1 Thess. 5:21-22). Notice the necessity of diligence and perseverance!
NASB"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love"
NKJV"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love"
NRSV"Love one another with mutual affection"
TEV"Love one another warmly as Christians"
NJB"Love each other as much as brothers should"
This was a compound Greek term (phileō + storge) combining "brotherly love" with "family love" and is used only here in the NT. Christians are a family. We are commanded to love one another (cf. 1 Thess. 4:9).
This is the first of a series of datives which were placed first in the Greek sentence for emphasis.
NASB"give preference to one another in honor"
NKJV"in honor giving preference to one another"
NRSV"outdo one another in showing honor"
TEV"and be eager to show respect for one another"
NJB"have a profound respect for each other"
This is a present middle (deponent) participle used in the sense of an imperative. Believers must treat other covenant partners as more important than themselves (cf. Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3).
NASB"not lagging behind in diligence"
NKJV"not lagging in diligence"
NRSV"do not lag in zeal"
TEV"work hard and do not be lazy"
NJB"work for the Lord with untiring effort"
True love produces great energy (cf. Gal. 6:9).
NASB, NKJV"fervent in spirit"
NRSV"ardent in spirit"
TEV"with a heart full of devotion"
NJB"with great earnestness of spirit"
This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. It is literally "to boil." This could refer to the regenerated human spirit or the indwelling Holy Spirit (RSV, cf. Acts 18:25; Rev. 3:15-16).
"serving the Lord" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. There is a manuscript variation here. Some of the western family of Greek manuscripts (MSS D*,3, F, and G) read "in time" (kairos) instead of "in the Lord" (kurios). The variant would emphasize serving the Lord and His church as the opportunity arises (cf. John 9:4; Eph. 5:16).
In all probability the confusion occurred because kurios was misunderstood or misread. The best and oldest Greek manuscripts P46, א, A, and B have "serving the Lord." The UBS4 rates "Lord" as "certain" (A).
Romans 12:12 "rejoicing in hope"This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative (cf. Rom. 5:2).
The term "hope" was often used in connection with the Second Coming (cf. Rom. 5:2; 8:24; 15:13; 1 Thess. 5:8). It is not hope in the English sense of a wish, but in the NT sense of a certain event, but with an ambiguous time element. See full notes at Rom. 4:18 and 5:2.
▣ "persevering" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. The term means "active, voluntary, steadfast endurance."
▣ "in tribulation" As in Rom. 5:3,5 "hope" was linked to tribulation (thlipsis). This is the norm for followers of Christ in a fallen world (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; John 16:1-3; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Romans. 5:3-4; 8:17; 2 Corinthians. 4:16-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-30; Philippians. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Timothy. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter. 4:12-16). We must not seek it nor shun it!
▣ "devoted to prayer" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. Prayer is a spiritual discipline and gift that recognizes God's active hand in history. Believers can affect a loving Heavenly Father. God has chosen to limit Himself to the prayers of His children (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Ephesians. 6:18-19; Colossians. 4:2). This makes prayer an awesome responsibility.
NASB, NRSV"contributing to the needs of the saints"
NKJV"distributing to the needs of the saints"
TEV"share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians"
NJB"share with any of God's holy people who are in need"
The Greek verb koinōneō means "fellowship with." This term has a wide range of meaning for Paul. It includes both fellowship in the gospel and physical needs (cf. Gal. 6:6). It is even used of sharing Christ's suffering (cf. Phil. 3:8-10; 1 Pet. 4:13) and Paul's (cf. Phil. 4:14). To be united with Christ meant to be united with His people at every level! See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at Rom. 1:7.
This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative (cf. Proverbs. 3:27; Galatians. 6:10). Believers are to work hard so as to have more for others, in Jesus' name (cf. 2 Corinthians. 8:11-12; Ephesians. 4:28).
▣ "practicing hospitality" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. It is literally "pursuing hospitality" (see note at Romans. 14:19, cf. 1 Timothy. 3:2; Titus 1:8; Hebrews. 13:2; 1 Peter. 4:9). This ministry was extremely important in the early church because of the evil reputation of "inns." This primarily referred to the housing and feeding itinerant Christian ministers.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20"But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
12:14 "bless those who persecute you" This is a present active imperative used twice in this verse. We get the English term "eulogy" from this term, "bless" (cf. Matthews. 5:44; Luke 6:28; 1 Corinthians. 4:12; James 3:9-12; 1 Peter. 3:9). In P46 (The Chester Beatty Papyri) and manuscript B (Vaticanus), "you" is left out making the statement much more inclusive or to put it another way, a much more general statement. For "persecute" see note at Romans. 14:9.
▣ "do not curse" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process. This refers to calling God's name in prayer for vengeance (similar to the curses of 1 Cor. 12:3). This does not refer to profanity (cf. Ephesians. 4:29; 1 Peter. 3:9).
"rejoice with those people who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" These two present infinitives are used in the sense of imperatives. Christians are a family. Believers are not in competition, but must treat each other in family love. Because of the context of Romans. 12:14-21 it is even possible that this reflects the believer's response to the unbelieving community using cultural opportunities or circumstances for evangelistic opportunities.
NASB, NKJV"Be of the same mind toward one another"
NRSV"Live in harmony with one another"
TEV"Have the same concern for everyone"
NJB"Treat everyone with equal kindness"
This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative (cf. Romans. 15:5; 2 Corinthians. 13:11; Philippians. 2:2). Verse 16 may be viewed in relation to the conflict between
1. believing Jews and believing Gentiles in the Roman Church (cf. Romans. 11:13-24)
2. the age-old conflict between economic classes
3. the differing spiritual gifts
4. generational traditions and personal preferences
▣ "do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process.
The term "lowly" can be masculine or neuter. If it is neuter then the translation should read "accept humble duties"; if masculine, "associate with poor or humble people."
▣ "Do not be wise in your own estimation" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process (cf. Proverbs. 3:7; Isaiah. 5:21; 1 Corinthians. 10:12; Galatians. 6:3). Believers must not act superior to each other or arrogantly toward the unbelieving community.
"Never pay back evil for evil to anyone" This is a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative with the negative particle, which meant stop an act already in process. It is up to God to set things straight, not believers (cf. Proverbs. 20:22; 24:29; Matthews. 5:38-48; Luke 6:27; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter. 3:9).
▣ "Respect what is right in the sight of all men" This is a present middle participle used in the sense of an imperative (cf. 2 Corinthians. 8:21; 1 Thess. 5:22; and 1 Timithy. 3:7). This may be an allusion to Proverbs. 3:4 in the Septuagint (LXX). Believers live with an eye toward evangelizing unbelievers. We should do nothing that would offend or alienate an unbeliever (cf. 1 Corinthians. 9:19-23). Even our deepest convictions must be expressed in loving ways.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. It is followed in the next clause by a present active participle used in the sense of an imperative. This is not always the believer's choice, but the grammar implies that it is often possible (cf. Mark 9:50; 2 Corinthians. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:13).
"Never take your own revenge" This is a present active participle with the negative particle used in the sense of an imperative, which usually means stop an act already in process. God will set it straight one day (cf. Leveticus. 19:18; Deut. 32:35; Hebrews. 10:30).
▣ "for it is written" This is a perfect passive indicative, which is a Semitic idiomatic way of referring to inspired Scripture. This idiom of inspiration is paralleled to "as the Lord says" (cf. 1 Corinthians. 14:21 and 2 Corinthians. 6:17). This is a quote from Deut. 32:35.
"But if your enemy" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential future action. Enemies will come!
▣ "heap burning coals on his head" This is an allusion to Proverbs. 25:21-22. The theories of interpretation are:
1. This was a cultural idiom possibly from Egypt which meant that kindness is the best way to turn an enemy into a friend. It is still the Christian response to entrenched evil (cf. Matthews. 5:44).
2. "Burning coals" seem to represent shame at one's improper actions which are so clearly revealed in light of another's love and forgiveness (cf. Ambrosiaster, Augustine and Jerome).
3. Origen and Chrysostom said this refers to Christian kindness which causes God to judge even more severely the unrepentant (cf. the Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, p. 326).
All the above theories are only that. The key is in Paul's summary statement in Romans. 12:21.
"Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" This is a present passive imperative and present active imperative. Our response to unfair treatment will determine and reflect the level of our own inner peace and joy. Bitterness is a spiritual cancer. Believers must give it to God.
▣ "evil" This is either masculine and, therefore, a reference to the evil one (see Special Topic at Rom. 16:20), or it could be neuter and refer to evil in general (cf. Romans. 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:21-22). This is a common NT ambiguity (cf. Matthews. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19,28; John 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19).
It must be remembered that the purpose of these new attitudes and actions is evangelism!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR VERSES 9-21
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Why are there so many present imperatives with the negative particle in Rom. 12:9-21?
2. List all of the commands in these verses separately in a column. They are an awesome list of what practical, daily Christlikeness involves!
3. Why is it so difficult to determine which verses refer to Christians' treatment of other believers and which refer to their treatment of unbelievers?