Personal Relationships

(Rom. 12:9-21)

Today’s lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    II. God’s Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39
      III. Israel’s Temporary Rejection of God’s Righteousness in Jesus Christ (9:1-11:36)
        IV. Practical Applications of God’s Righteousness in Life (12:1-15:13)

             Complete Surrender to God (12:1-2)
             Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:3-8)
             Love for the Church (12:9-13)
             Love for Persecutors (12:14-21)
             Christian Citizenship (13:1-7)
             Primacy of Love (13:8-10)
             The Nearness of the Day of the Lord Motivates Us to Live Righteously (13:11-14)
             Care for the Weaker Christian (14:1-15:13)

        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; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality


        In Rom. 12:1-15:13 Paul is describing the way the Holy Spirit guides us in the different areas in our life. In 12:3-8 he described how the Holy Spirit guides us in our relationship with the church. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts so that He might build up the body of Christ. Now Paul describes how the Spirit guides us in our personal relationships.

        How important is it that we relate properly in our personal relationships? Extremely. Paul shows us this in 2 ways. When Paul commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit or the Word (Eph. 6:18 and Col. 3:16), he shows how the Spirit will guide us in those relationships. In other words, one of the main reasons Christ gives us His Spirit is that we may then treat others the way Christ Himself would treat them. So many times we think that being Spirit-filled means that we are "righteous," that is, we never do anything bad. That's not what the Bible means by spirituality or by righteousness (the 2 go together in that the spiritual person is always a righteous person). Spirituality is seen in our relationships: spousal, parental, business, etc. Righteousness implies that we treat people "right"-ly, that is, the way they should be treated. What is the right way to treat the poor? Extend charity to them. What is the right way to treat the sick or the bereaved? Care for them. That is the biblical view of righteousness. Today we seem to over-value the worship-service experience or the Bible-study experience. How beneficial these experiences are is determined by the quality of relationships produced in the lives of the worshipers and Bible students.

        Another way Paul shows that personal relationships are important is by his comparing them to spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12-14. In 1 Cor. 12 and 14 Paul is discussing the abuse and proper use of spiritual gifts in the church. He lists some extremely important gifts in these chapters: prophecy, teaching, apostleship, etc. Yet what does he say about these spiritual gifts if they are not used in love for others (1 Cor. 13:1-3)?

        Paul cannot be any clearer than that in asserting the importance of personal relationships.

        Love for Those in the Church (12:9-13)

        (9) Let love be without ______________________; abhor what is ________________; cling to what is _______________.

        What does the word "hypocrisy" mean? What does Paul mean when he says that our love should be un-hypocritical?

        Ask yourself the following question: "Am I in relationship with a certain person because of what that person can do for me or for what I can do for them, for their own benefit and not necessarily mine?" In other words, in your relationships are you a user or a giver? Do I make friends with people who can further me, my career, my agenda, etc. or with the people God brings into my life for friendship?

        It is very timely for us that Paul commands us to abhor evil while speaking about love. What is your response towards those who claim that Christians are intolerant because they do not condone homosexuality?

        To abhor something is to detest it, to be repulsed by it. How repulsed are you by the contents of TV programs which enter your home? How repulsed are you by the language used by some of your colleagues at work or at play? Do you abhor these so much that you change the channels or refuse to listen to that kind of language?

        The person who tolerates and eventually accepts these things will ultimately destroy his ability to love others. Only the pure can truly love purely, without hypocrisy.

        The opposite of abhorring evil is clinging to the good. The idea behind that is to clasp tightly the things that God has called good.

        (10) Be ______________ to one another in ____________ love; give _________________ to one another in honor.

        In what ways can you be devoted to one another in brotherly love?

        I feel like the best way to be devoted to one another in brotherly love is to be there for each other whenever someone has a legitimate need. When a Christian brother is moving, we need to help him move. When a brother has a farm wrecked by a tornado, we need to help him remove some of the debris. I appreciated deeply my Christian friends attending my relatives’ funerals. I always remember those people. I remember whenever some good friends from my church in Dallas attended my niece's funeral in Lancaster. I didn't need money, my lawn mowed, etc. I needed the presence of a friend. WE NEED TO BE THERE FOR EACH OTHER.

        Read Philippians 2:3-4 and describe how we can give preference to one another in honor.

        Why is this way of living better than everybody always putting themselves first?

        Someone said that on the surface heaven doesn’t look much different from hell. Both are banquets with the most delectable dishes imaginable: steaks grilled to perfection, vegetables divinely sautéed, rolls dripping with butter, the most incredible desserts, etc. The only limitations on people in heaven and in hell are that they have to eat all their foot with utensils 3-feet long AND with arms stretched out straight, no bending of the elbows. Heaven is heaven though because everyone there is humble, willing to serve one another, whereas hell is hell because everyone there is demanding that the others wait upon him or her.

        (11) not lagging behind in ______________; _________________ in spirit; _________________ the Lord.

        I have a nephew, Geoff Ford, who always tended to lag behind. My parents would take him and another grandson, Jason Tapscott, on trips with them. My dad was a fast walker and fast sight-seer. It only took him 30 minutes to appreciate the Grand Canyon. It took him less than a minute to soak in The Mona Lisa. Geoff would always be lagging behind whenever the 4 were walking together, taking his own sweet time. It drove my dad crazy. Well, many of us are like Geoff at that age. We're just doddling along, taking our own sweet time, doing our own thing. The Spirit-led person though does not lag behind in diligence. He keeps his eyes squarely on the Lord and on the task before him. When the Lord asks that person to jump, s/he doesn’t doddle; rather s/he simply asks, “How high?” and then jumps immediately.

        The idea of being fervent in Spirit reminds me of something Charles Spurgeon said. A young man asked him what he needed to do in order to be on fire for the Lord. Spurgeon replied: "Pour gasoline all over you, and light a match!" Some of us really need to take that advice to heart. The church as a whole does not need to be told to take it easy; some maybe, but not the vast majority. The vast majority of those in the church need to "pour gasoline all over themselves and strike a match." How fervent are you in the Spirit?

        What are you doing right now which shows that you are serving the Lord? What is something the Spirit wants you to do? (The answer to these 2 questions may be one and the same.)

        (12) __________________ in hope, ________________ in tribulation, devoted to ________________.

        In this cluster of verses, Paul is addressing the way the Holy Spirit guides us during times of stress (tribulation) caused either by the natural stresses of life (natural death, financial loss, etc.) or by Satanic persecution.

        How did Barnabas and Paul respond when they were driven by the Jews out of Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:52)?

        How did the 12 apostles respond whenever the Jewish Sanhedrin had them whipped (Acts 5:41)? According to Acts 5:41 why did they respond that way?

        The Christian response to suffering is joy. Any other response may be "justified"; however, it is not Christian. Why is rejoicing the CHRISTian response to suffering?

        What does it mean to persevere? How then does a person persevere in tribulation?

        The only way I know I how to persevere and to rejoice during times of tribulation is by praying. First, prayer helps me tap into God's strength which I need to persevere. Second, letting God speak to me in prayer helps me put my sufferings into proper perspective. It reminds me that Jesus is not asking me to do anything He Himself has not done; it also reminds me that ultimately everything is going to be OK because one day the Christ who suffered and yet rose victoriously from the grave is going to return and deliver me completely from all sufferings.

        (13) contributing to the __________ of the _______________; practicing __________________.

        In addition to prayer and fasting, almsgiving or charity was considered one of the 3 pillars of Jewish piety. The rich and the poor entered and exited the temple in such a way so as to preserve the dignity of the poor. The rich would enter the temple through entrances to the right, while the poor would exit the temple through the same way. In the same way the rich would exit the temple through the left exits, while the poor would enter the temple through the same way. The rich then would automatically know who was poor without the poor actually having to beg out loud; simply walking against the flow of traffic signaled to the rich that they were poor. Christians took these 3 pillars over into Christianity as they defined what true piety was.

        Paul commands Christians to give to charities also. To whom specifically does he command us to give charity to?

        Read Gal. 6:10 and 1 Tim. 5:8 and explain why Paul says we should give to these people first.

        You always help family first.

        Finally, Paul urges us to practice hospitality. Unfortunately showing hospitality is almost a lost art. Because hospitality was such a vital part of the early church which group of people could not receive help from the church if they had not previously practiced hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9-10)?

        Hospitality used to be a vital part of the church life. Visiting pastors were not put up in a local motel/bed & breakfast. They stayed in the homes of church members. When my grandmother was a tad senile, she used to say while watching Lawrence Welk, "He used to stay with Dell [her husband] and me." We would say, "Mama, Lawrence Welk never stayed with you and papa." She would shoot back, "You don't know! You weren't there!" She would say the same thing about Billy Graham whenever she was watching him on TV.

        A little later it dawned on me that she was, in a distorted way, remembering the way she and my granddad used to put up pastors for the weekend. She attended the Baptist church in Mildred which at that time could not afford to lodge the pastors in a hotel. The pastors would come to Mildred for the weekend to preach the Sunday services and visit church members. Since they had no place to stay, they stayed with church members, such as, my grandparents. There were very few Sundays she did not have either him or other church members over for Sunday lunch. They may not have been Billy Graham or Lawrence Welk; however, they were Christians in need of hospitality.