The Heart of the Christian Life - Part 1

Romans 12:9-21

Tom Pennington  •  March 8, 2020
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Well, I want us to turn to the Scripture this morning, and we're going to get to Romans 12. But before we do, I want you to start with me in Matthew's gospel, Matthew 23, Matthew 23. This is on Tuesday of the Passion Week. Jesus is teaching at the temple, and He launches into these woes on the Pharisees; and in the midst of His woes on the Pharisees, He makes an amazing (really a compelling), statement. Matthew 23, and go down to verse 23. He says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others."

The Mosaic Law required the children of Israel to give one-tenth of all of the produce of the land to support the Levites and the priests, along with the work of the Temple. The Pharisees took that to heart, and they were so meticulous in this command from Leviticus 27, that they even gave one-tenth of their garden herbs. You can picture the Pharisee there counting out his little anise seeds. At the same time, Jesus says, notice what He says in verse 23, they neglected, notice this expression, "… the weightier provisions of the law." Specifically, He names justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Now, this verse teaches us two crucial lessons. First of all, although we should obey all of God's commands, some of them are more important than others, they are weightier. And secondly, this statement of our Lord reminds us that it is easy for us as human beings, as fallen sinful human beings, to focus on the less important of God's commands because they're doable, and to neglect the most important.

This morning, in our study of Paul's letter to the Romans, we come to a passage in which Paul teaches us one of those weightier provisions of the law. In fact, I would say, and I'll prove it to you, the weightiest provision of the law.

Turn with me to Romans 12; Romans 12. We come in our study to a new paragraph, and let me read it for us. Romans 12, and I'll begin reading in verse 9, and this paragraph goes all the way the end of the chapter, so you follow along as I read. Romans 12:9,

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be 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. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never 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. "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." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Now, let me make some general observations about this passage before we launch into it in detail. First of all, I want you to notice that it is not obviously connected with the previous paragraph. There's no conjunction that begins verse 9, there are no connecting words that link this passage to the one before it. This is a new paragraph with a new theme.

A second observation I would make is that the content of this section comes from several different sources. We'll see this as we walk through it together. Some of the content here comes from the Old Testament; some of it comes from the teaching of our Lord, and there are even, in a couple of cases, some sayings that were common among the Jews and the Greeks that Paul adopts and adapts here in this passage.

A third observation I would make is just the style. You can see that it is a long series of short staccato commands. In Greek, there are actually only nine imperatives; the other clauses here either have no verb at all, or they have participles or infinitives. So, it's a unique sort of a style. In addition, the structure of this paragraph is difficult to follow. In fact, some would say there's no discernible structure. I would have to disagree with that, and we'll see that in a moment.

One other observation I would make about this paragraph is that its theme, sort of the central theme of that paragraph we just read together, is difficult to determine. Some say that it is a summary of Christian ethics, but that's not really a way to identify it because there's no mention of a number of important topics here like sexual purity, for example, that Paul deals with in others of his letters. Instead, clearly the focus in this paragraph is on one area of Christian ethics and that is our relationships.

In light of that, others say, "No, the theme of this paragraph is love for other Christians." And certainly, there are commands here about our love for other Christians; it is a core part of this paragraph. But it can't encompass the entire paragraph because there are some commands here about our response to unbelievers. You'll notice in verse 14, "Bless those who persecute you." The assumption is other Christians aren't persecuting Christians, these are unbelievers and there are other passages throughout this section as well.

So, the theme of this paragraph is love, that's true enough, but it's not just love for other Christians. Instead, this paragraph will address our love for God, our love for fellow Christians, our love for unbelievers, and even our love for our enemies. So, when you understand that, you can see that verse 9, the very first part of verse 9, is the heading or theme for this entire paragraph. We can express the theme like this: the first and greatest priority of every Christian is love for God and love for others; the first and greatest priority of every Christian is to be love for God and love for others.

We're going to learn that love is biblically defined, not like the love that is typically expressed around us. Biblical love is not characterized by sentimental emotion, but by practical expressions, and biblical love is not something on the periphery, it's not tithing your herbs. It is the weightiest provision of God's Law. In fact, as I have entitled this message, the series, "Biblical Love is the Heart of the Christian Life."

Now, Paul begins this paragraph by reminding us of the greatest priority of a Christian, in the beginning of verse 9, the priority to love; and then beginning in the middle of verse 9 and running all the way down through verse 21, we'll see the practical expressions of that love. So then, let's begin this morning with the greatest priority of a Christian, the greatest priority of a Christian.

We see this in the beginning of verse 9, "Let love be without hypocrisy." Now, you'll notice immediately that the words "let", and "be", in our translation have been added by the translators. In Greek, the word for "love", is not a verb, but a noun. This long paragraph begins with the Greek noun, "love", and the adjective, "sincere". So, look at verse 9; literally in the Greek text it reads this way, "Genuine love, abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good." So, genuine love then is a heading for all that follows. It is also an implied command as our translation has picked up here. It's an implied command both to love and to love sincerely or genuinely without hypocrisy. Now, to understand this greatest priority that all of us have, we first have to start with understanding the nature of biblical love. What is the nature of biblical love?

Now as you know, Greek has several words for "love". ' This is the word that we would expect; it's the word "agape". The early church chose this Greek word, which was frankly relatively rare in nonbiblical Greek, to describe this primary quality that is to characterize all of our relationships. The question is why? Why did the New Testament writers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, choose this word, "agape"? There are a couple of reasons.

First of all, since it was in fact rarely used in secular Greek, it didn't have all the baggage that some of the other Greek words had. So, it was perfect to sort of infuse with the biblical meaning. But, there's a second even greater reason, and that was this word "agape", was the word that the translators of the Septuagint, (the Bible of the New Testament era) where it was translated from Hebrew into Greek. It's this Greek word that the translators of the Septuagint chose to use to translate the one Hebrew word for "love". The word is "ahab", in Hebrew. There's only one such word and this word "agape", is the Greek word the Septuagint translators chose. The noun form, "agape", occurs 20 times in the Septuagint, but the verb form "gapaw", occurs more than 250 times in the Septuagint, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Now, understand that this word "agape", and this something unfortunately, that has been taught wrongly in many cases. This word is not a word that is used solely of divine love. In fact, in the Septuagint, it is used all kinds of relationships; and even in the New Testament, the word "agape", is used of God's love, even God's love for other members of the Trinity, as well as God's love for human beings. But this word "agape", is used in the New Testament as well of believer's love, both for God and for others, but it doesn't stop there.

The same Greek word, "agape", is used in the New Testament in the context of the Pharisees' love for the chief seats, the desire to be seated in the places of prominence. So, understand then, that just like the English word "love", the context and the object loved are what determined the nature of the love. You understand this. I mean, you do this intuitively.

If I say to you, "I love football," you get one meaning. If I say, "I love my wife," you get yet another meaning of the word, "love". If I say, "I love God," you can get yet a third sort of understanding and context for that word. You know what kind of love I'm talking about based on the context and the object of that love. Loving ice cream and loving God are two totally different things, and we get that in English. The same thing is true with the word "agape", the meaning is determined by the context and the object loved. In Romans, Paul has used this word to express God's love for us; and so, here he means that our love, our love for both God and others, is to be of the same kind that God Himself has demonstrated in His love for us. That's the context and the nature of the love he's describing here.

Now, let's move on as we sort of unpack this greatest priority; that's the nature of biblical love. Let's look at the source of biblical love. I think you understand this, but let me just show this to you in the book of Romans. Love reflects the heart of God. Love is one of God's attributes. God, in His very nature, loves. That's why in Romans 8:39, Paul speaks of the love of God. Aren't you grateful that there is, within the being of God, as part of His nature, He loves? You know, we quote the most famous verse in the New Testament, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, (so) that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but should have everlasting life." It's one of God's attributes.

Secondly, God's love, this attribute in God, was perfectly demonstrated in our Lord's incarnation, in His becoming one of us, becoming man, and in His redemptive work. Look back at chapter 5 of Romans. You remember this famous verse, 5:8, verse 6 says, "… we were helpless;" we were ungodly. Verse 7 says we were not righteous; verse 8, "But God demonstrates His own love [He proves His own love.] toward us, [He demonstrates it unequivocally, powerfully.] in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." [That is, He died in our place; He died to satisfy the justice of God against our sins.]

If you're here this morning, and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you need to understand that if you want to understand the love of God for you and He does love you, understand that He sent His Son; He sent His own Son into the world; He became just like you in every way except for sin, fully human, and He lived here on this planet for thirty-three years, a life of perfect obedience to God, the life that you were supposed to have lived, because God has given you His law. He's commanded you to live in a certain way as He has commanded me, and we haven't. The Bible calls that sin and sin demands God's justice. It demands that He punish it because God is a good and just judge, and He can't just allow sin to go unpunished.

But God is also a gracious and loving God, and so He sent His own Son into the world to live the life you should've lived, and then to die to satisfy His justice against the sin of everyone who would ever believe in Him. This morning, if you're willing to repent of your sin and to put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you can be forgiven of those sins; and in fact, you can be declared right with God, righteous in God's sight, innocent of having broken His Law because Christ paid the penalty of it. So, God's love was perfectly demonstrated in our Lord and in His redemptive work.

Thirdly, God's love was behind His sovereign choice of us. In 9:13, you remember Paul says, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." In other words, God is saying, "Listen, I set my redeeming love on Jacob;" that was God's love.

Fourthly, God's love is made clear to us by the work of the Holy Spirit, illuminating God's Word to us. In Romans 5:5, Paul says, "God has … poured out … the love of God … (into) our hearts." What does he mean? He means He has allowed us to come to grasp, to understand God's love for us, how? Through the work of the Holy Spirit and is that something the Holy Spirit just whispers in our ear and says, "God loves you?" No, He helps us to understand the love of God in the Book that the Holy Spirit inspired and gave us.

And then the result of that is our love then is a response to God's love for us. We love God in response to God's love. First John 4:10, says, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation," that is the satisfaction of God's justice. "We love, because He first loved us," verse 19 says. So, we love God because God loved us, and we love others because of God's love. First John 4:11 says, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." So, God's love then is the source of all love; it's the source of our love for God; we love him in response to His love, and we love others because of His love.

Now, let's come back to Romans 12, and notice the command for biblical love, the command for biblical love. Verse 9, says, "Let love be without hypocrisy." Now, as I pointed out to you (although Paul here uses only a noun and an adjective, genuine love, our translations), almost every English translation, understands this to be a command. Why? Because Paul has just used a very similar grammatical construction in the Greek language in verses 6 - 8, not merely to describe spiritual gifts, but to exhort us to use them.

In light of that clear parallel, right here in the immediate context, we understand verse 9, not merely as an adjective and a noun, but rather as an exhortation, as a command to love. If you have the New American Standard, you notice it's translated, "Let love be without hypocrisy." If you have the English Standard Version which is another popular version, it says, "Let love be genuine." In both cases the translators take it rightly as a command.

Notice, strictly speaking, Paul doesn't command us to love. No, he assumes that Christians will love, that we understand that's a priority. What he commands us to do is to make sure our love is genuine and real.

Scripture commands us to love, it commands us to love God, Deuteronomy 6, you remember verse 4, says, "Hear, O Israel! The LORD … our God … is one!" Verse 5, says, "You shall," what? "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart … with all your soul … with all your might … [and with all your strength]." This is the great commandment.

By the way, let me just say that while that command to love God is in the Old Testament, today, now that God has sent His Son into the world, only those who love Jesus actually love God. You'll hear people say sometimes, "Oh, I love God." And you say, "Well, does that mean you've repented of your sins, and you've become a follower of Jesus Christ?" "Well no, but I love God." Okay, well listen to what Jesus says, this is John 8:42. Jesus said … "If God were your Father, you would love Me." He says, "Listen, love for God and love for Me go together; and if you don't love me, then you don't love God. I proceeded forth and have come from God for I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent me."

So, if you love God, you're going to love the One God sent. You're going to love His Son. John 15:23 says, this is again our Lord, "He who hates Me hates My Father also." So, God has sent His Son into the world and anyone who now says he loves God, that is only true if he loves Jesus.

Scripture also commands us to love others, not just to love God, Deuteronomy 6:5, but to love others. Leviticus 19:18, "… you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." Loving God and loving others, listen carefully, believers, and I know you know this, okay? But think about this, loving God and loving others is not optional for you. It is a command from God Himself.

But love is not just another command on the pages of Scripture; it's not one of those lesser commands like for the Old Testament believers, tithing your herbs. No, it's the greatest command. Consider the preeminence of biblical love, the preeminence of biblical love. Jesus acknowledged in Matthew 23:23, that although we are to obey everything God commanded us, certain commands are greater than others. And our Lord didn't leave us wondering which that might be.

Turn back to Matthew 22, Matthew 22. Now, understand this is on that same Tuesday of the Passion Week in which He castigated the Pharisees for not understanding that some commands were more important than others. And here he tells us which is the greatest, Matthew 22:34,

… when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

The Pharisees had reduced the Old Testament commands to 613 commands, and they had argued about which was the greatest and which was the lesser. And so, here's this question, "What do you say?" They're trying to trap Him. And Jesus, as always, answered profoundly wise.

He said to (them), "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." This is the great and foremost (or first) commandment. The second is like it, (second,) "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Jesus says, "Listen, if you didn't have a Bible, and you wanted to reduce everything God expects of you to two commands, here it is, love God perfectly with your whole being, and love the people around you as you love yourself." That's what God expects.

By the way, that's why you'll never get to heaven on your own works. That's what God expects; that's what God demands. And those of us who know God through Christ, while we will never do that in perfection, that is the passionate pursuit of our lives.

By the way, what Jesus says here in Matthew 22 absolutely crushes the idea that love is the opposite of law. In fact, Romans 13:10 says that, "… love is the fulfillment of the law." You see, love isn't what you should do instead of obeying God's Law; love is how you fulfill the law. Ultimately, the biblical command to love is really a command to keep God's moral law as encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, and God's moral law is in the end, Jesus says, a command to love. And to love God and to love others is the greatest command in Scripture; it is preeminent.

Now, let's consider, for a moment, the objects of biblical love. Back in Romans 12:9, the command there doesn't have an object, it doesn't say love God, it doesn't say love your neighbor. It just says, "Let (your) love be … (sincere)." But in the rest of the paragraph, Paul shows us that biblical love will have several objects. Now, I'm going to walk through and defend this with you; I'm just going to give you the list here, because as we walk through this paragraph, you're going to see it. So, let me just point them out to you, the objects of love that Paul details here in this passage and then we're going to see them flesh out in detail as we work our way through.

In this paragraph, you're going to see that we are to set our love upon God, and there are clear commands here that have Him in reference. You'll notice verse 11, "… serving the Lord." That doesn't have any reference to people; primarily, that's a reference to God. We see here that our love is to be set on fellow Christians, and that's obvious as the passage flows; no one disputes that. We're to have our love set on unbelievers, even those who persecute us, and in other verses throughout this text, we'll see unbelievers referenced. And, we are to love our enemies. Unbelievers, and sadly at time, even believers can become our enemies and we are to love them. So, these are the objects of the believer's love that Paul documents here as we walk through this passage together.

This reminds us, by the way, these objects that I've identified here, remind us that what ultimately matters to God are our relationships to Him and to others. 1 Timothy 1:5, you remember, says the goal of our instruction, this is what Paul says here is why we teach. "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart."

Now, look again at verse 9, and see the quality of biblical love. Here's the heart of what he says, "Let love be (Notice those words.) without hypocrisy." The Greek word that's translated "hypocrisy", here or, "without hypocrisy", I should say, is made up of two words. First of all, it's the word "hupokrite", in Greek, "hupokritos", or "hypokritos", from which we get our word, "hypocrite". So, that's one part of the word; it's the word "hypocrite". We just get it in English straight from the Greek. Attached to the beginning of that word is what's called the alpha privative or alpha negative prefix. It's when you add an "a" to a word, it negates it. We do this in English. You know, we talk about a "theist". That's someone who believes in God. We add an "a" to it and it's an "atheist". We mean someone who doesn't believe in God. Well, Greek does the same thing. And here, you have a hypocrite, but you have this "a" attached to this which negates it.

This word translated "without hypocrisy", has a negative and a positive connotation. Negatively, it means that we are not to play the part of an actor on stage; that's what a hypocrite was. You know, now it's come to have a moral meaning, it's sort of a picture, but originally the word meant someone who wore a mask on stage, who played a role, an actor. So, when you see actors on movies and television, they're hypocrites; that's what they are. They're pretending to be what they aren't. It's pretty amazing, isn't it, that we make heroes out of people who are good at pretending to be what they aren't? But that's what a hypocrite is, and we're not to be like that. We're not to play the part of an actor on stage. Our love is not to be a pretense; love is not a mask we're put on like we're merely playing a role, that's the negative side of this word.

Positively, it means and some translations stress this; it means that our love is to be genuine or real or sincere or from the heart. In fact, this word is translated that way in 2 Corinthians, 6, where we're told to have genuine love. Or, 1 Peter 1:22, "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren." So, it has both sides, this word does, the negative side and a positive side.

What Paul is saying, I think, is both are true. We are to love in such a way that we don't deceive others, and we don't deceive ourselves. We don't put on a mask and pretend to be what we're not, and we don't deceive ourselves. It needs to be real; it needs to be genuine. Love God wholeheartedly with no reservations, with all your being, and love others without ulterior motives for what you can get out of them, but do so sincerely, genuinely. But, let me just say this, "If your love for the people around you is a mask, God knows. He knows." First Samuel 16:7, "… man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Hebrews 4:13, "… there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." So, this passage begins then by reminding us of the greatest priority of a Christian. It is to love, to love God, to love others, and to do so without a mask, genuinely, sincerely from the heart.

Now, the rest of this chapter describes the practical expressions of that love. Beginning in the middle of verse 9 and running all the way through the end of the chapter, the practical expressions of love. And Paul begins in outlining these practical expressions, not with our love for one another, but our love for God. Now, if I ask you this morning, "What is the greatest expression of your love for God, what would you say?" I really want you to think about that. What is the greatest expression of your love for God?

Well, Paul's answer may surprise you because he tells us here that biblical love first expresses itself in our response to God's Word, our response to God's Word. Look at the second half of verse 9, "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good."

Now read the Bible as if you've never read it before. If you did that, that verse would be absolutely shocking to you because Paul says, "Let your love be real and genuine and now let me show you how to love," and the very next word out of his mouth is "hate". "Wait Paul, genuine love hates?" Clearly this isn't the weak, sentimental love of much of evangelical Christianity. Look at the two words, "abhor, and cling". Those are strong, powerful words. To "abhor" is "to have a violent hatred for something, to despise it, to detest it." Paul says, "We must violently hate all that is evil, all that's morally bad by God's standard in the Scripture."

I mean, think about what he's saying. Some people don't do things that are evil because they don't want to get caught or because they don't want to get a bad reputation, but they actually love those things; and if they could do them without getting caught, they would do them. In fact, someone has, I think, rightly said, "That who you really are is shown by what you would do if you could do and nobody, not even God, found out." Christians not only refuse to do what's evil, but they hate it! They abhor it!

And then notice, "cling to". To cling to is literally "to be glued to something". That's what it literally means. In fact, this word is used of the intimacy of marriage where we're told in the Septuagint we are to be "joined to", or "glued to" our spouse. Here, we must abhor evil, and we must be equally passionate in attaching ourselves to, in being devoted to all that's good, all that is morally right by God's standard in the Scripture.

The Old Testament demands these opposing responses of all true believers. Psalm 34:14, for example, says, "Depart from evil and do good." Psalm 97:10, "Hate evil, you who love the LORD." Amos 5:15, "Hate evil, (and) love good." The New Testament affirms the same reality in 1 Peter 3:11, "TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD." Or, think about Hebrews 1:9 where God says of His Son, "YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS." When Jesus was on this earth, He loved what was right, and He hated what was evil, still does. We hate evil, and we love good because we love God, and God loves good and hates evil.

But, how do we know what's evil and what's good? Well, there are wrong ways to discover what's evil and good, let me just make sure you're clear on this; let's just kind of sweep the stage clean here because a lot of people have this wrong idea about how to determine what's good and evil. You cannot discover what's good and evil from listening to the culture in which we live. A lot of people do this; they sort of take a poll, what do most people think about _______ (You fill in the blank.)? You know what God says? "Who cares? Who cares?" That's not what matters. Culture can't tell you what's right and wrong. Psalm 1:1 and 2 says, "… blessed is the man who" does not listen to his culture, who doesn't listen to "the counsel of the wicked … But his delight is in the law the LORD." Romans 1:32 says that sinner, pagan, "give hearty approval to" all that God hates. You can't listen to your culture. Ephesians 4:17 talks about unbelievers, living "in the futility of their minds." Really? You're going to let them be your moral compass?

Another wrong place to look for determining what's good and evil is your own mind. This is what a lot of people do, even some in the church, they decide! Ephesians 4:18 says the unbeliever is "darkened in his understanding." But 1 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says that even as a believer, even as an apostle, he didn't know of anything against himself, but he wasn't by that acquitted. He said, "I may be wrong about myself!" Those are wrong ways to determine what's good and evil. You can only discover what's good and evil from God.

He is the standard, and the standard of what God thinks is good and evil is contained in this Book. That's why Romans 12:2, says your mind has to be renewed with what's in this Book. First Corinthians 2:16 says that in the Scripture, "… we have the mind of Christ." You have here in this Book what Christ thinks about everything that matters.

Can I just say this because I think this is becoming an increasing issue in the culture, even with those who are attached to the church? If you accept the Bible as your ultimate authority about everything, you really do, but you have some honest questions about how to understand certain things that are in the Bible, that's perfectly legitimate, perfectly normal. You can get those questions answered.

But, if you have made yourself your own authority, and you are always sitting in judgment on the Bible, questioning its truth claims, questioning God's ethics based on your own understanding of things, then understand this, you are not a Christian. John 8:47, Jesus puts it this way, "He who is of God (That is he who belongs to God.) hears the words of God; for this reason, you do not hear them, because you are not of God." First John 4:6, John the apostle says, "We are from God; he who knows God (Talking now about the New Testament. He who knows God.) listens to us; (to the apostles) he who is not from God does not listen to us." So, understand the Word of God is a, boy, it's a careful determiner of your real situation and condition.

So, here in Romans 12, what's the connection between "sincere love," in the beginning of verse 9, and "abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good" in the second half of verse 9? Well, abhorring and clinging are participles that depend grammatically on what has come before, in this case on sincere love. So, listen carefully, here's what is Paul saying, "The first expression of genuine love is violently hating what God hates and passionately clinging to what God loves," both of which are laid out solely in His Word. That means, the end of verse 9, is a practical expression of sincere love; not love for people but love for God Himself.

If you love God, you will love His Word. Isn't that even Deuteronomy 6, you remember? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind." And then, what comes next? Right after that he says, "And let me tell you how that's going to express itself," and he talks about your response to the Scripture.

Ultimately, this is the greatest and truest test of our love for God. If we love God, we will love God's Word. Look at Psalm 119. Psalm 119 makes this point again and again. I'm not even going to cite for you all the references I have in my notes. Let me just give you a couple of representative ones.

Psalm 119, verse 47, "I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes."

Look at verse 72, "The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces."

Verse 97, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day."

Verse 113, "I love Your law."

Verse 127, "I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above fine gold."

Verse 140, "Your servant loves … Your word."

Verse 143, "Your commandments are my delight."

Verse 163, "I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law."

Verse 167, "My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly."

Listen, true believers, Old Testament and New Testament believers, love God's Word. And if we love God, we'll not only love His Word, we'll obey God's Word, we'll obey it. John 14:15, Jesus says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Do you keep Jesus's commandments? If you don't, you don't love Him. John 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me." John 14:23, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word." First John 2:4 and 5, "The one who says, 'I have come to know (God),' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him."

So, folks, here's a test, here's a test of your claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. God doesn't care that you made a profession of faith. There are a lot of people who make a profession of faith who aren't real believers. Here's the test. Do you not only keep God's commands, but do you love them because you love Him?

Verse 9, "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good." If you love God sincerely, you will love His Word and you will obey it. You will hate and turn from all that Scripture calls evil, and you will love and pursue all that Scripture calls good. May God give us hearts like that.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank you for the great command.

Forgive us for being like the Pharisees and focusing our attention on all the easily keepable ones and neglecting the weightiest provision of Your law. Father, help us to be passionate about loving You and loving others? And may our love for You start where it ought to start, where Deuteronomy 6, reminds us, where Paul reminds us here, Lord, may it start with our love for Your Word?

Lord, I pray if there is someone here this morning who's made a "profession of faith", but they don't love Your Word, they don't keep Your Word, Lord, help them to see that as the Apostle John said, their profession is a lie. And may they this morning cry out to You for grace and mercy and find You truly forgiving, and may You change their hearts to love you?

We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.