Introduction:Paul, having set the two largest priorities for the Romans in 12:1-8, immediately began to fill in the gaps. The greatest of all practical priorities is the determination to present one's body to God once and for all as a living sacrifice to Him and His will. The second greatest of these priorities is the commitment to living out the grace/faith function which being redeemed has established. These two large priorities are grand in scope, but require a good bit of explanation in terms of the details.
This evening we are going to begin to look at the details. The first is 12:9, a two-fold injunction of the same basic principle. The first is a straightforward demand; the second is a methodological demand that, if obeyed, makes the first a reality. At issue, according to the text, is an unhypocritical love.
I. The Insistence that Love Be Purged of "Pretend".
A. This is an enormous demand and fraught with complexity.
1. Love is at the root of all of the divine character and of all of the ways it is communicated to created persons.
a. The divine character is a mix of some one-sided absolutes and some two-sided issues that most folks consider to be "opposites".
1) There is no "opposite" to characteristics like eternity, aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, truth, or integrity.
2) But the tensions that exist between characteristics like justice and mercy, love and hate, servanthood and despotic sovereignty, transcendence and immanence, and compassion and hardness, make the question of "which" will be exercised on any given day a real issue.
b. Love, by definition, is what decides the answer.
2. The issue of love for creatures is complicated by the reality of the three-part creation of man and the distinct arenas of want/need that, since the fall, have been competitors rather than fellow-servants.
B. The largeness and complexity are initially resolved in the previous two paragraphs.
1. In respect to the competition, the "soul" is exalted as the "most important" aspect of man and its need for a valid connection to a Life-sharing God.
2. In respect to the outworking of such a connection, the "spirit" is charged with the primary execution of the soul's "connection" by focusing upon the "praxis" of the grace/ faith function assigned by the Life-sharing God.
C. The insistence is that these two crucial foci be purified so that "hypocrisy" is eliminated.
II. The Insistence that Evil be "Abhorred" and Good be "Cleaved Unto".
A. Abhor that which is evil.
1. The command is delivered by means of a word that the Online Bible claims means "to utterly detest" and which Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon expands by claiming it means "to violently hate".
a. This imagery of "violent hatred" or "utter abhorrence" is problematical.
1) It generates a picture of a level of intolerance that, if "unhypocritical", would isolate every individual who actually practiced it from every other individual on the planet.
2) Paul, himself, declared that evenhe did not "count" himself as having apprehended" all of that for which he had been "apprehended" and was not "already perfect" (Philippians 3:12-13).
a) Taken at face value, this has to mean that there were some areas of his life that were out of kilter and would be until the resurrection of the body.
b) Thus, what would "abject abhorrence" look like in Paul?
c) Could anyone obey his injunction and still have anything to do with him?
b. Even when we plug the object of such violent hatred into the picture -- evil -- the picture is muddled.
1) The issue of "evil" is significantly large: the word is used in 71 texts in the New Testament, 47% of which are found in Matthew and Luke.
2) Because of this "largeness" few, if any, escape its influence.
a) Jesus even said to His disciples, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13).
b) If the children of the heavenly Father are yet "evil", how do we "violently hate" evil?
c. However, Paul did not write his injunction to the Romans -- "Abhor that which is evil" -- to be ignored or written off because of its "problems".
1) Some work this out by making a distinction between the person and his/her "evil".
a) They say things like, "Hate the sin but love the sinner."
b) Psalm 5:5, however, makes this declaration about God, Himself: "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity".
2) I prefer to work it out in another way.
a) God both loves and hates all workers of iniquity at the same time.
i. The way He does this is explained in the Bible.
ii. As to "love", God is willing to sacrifice Himself to the degree presented in the Gospel for the potential redemption of the wicked.
iii. But, as to "hate", God is also willing to utterly destroy those wicked if they remain unswayed by His "love" and remain determined to destroy others in their pursuit of their own unworthy goals.
b) In other words, God "loves" in that He is willing to sacrifice Himself for the sake of the redemption of others, but He "hates" in that He is unwilling to ultimately sacrifice others for the sake of those who are simply determined to sacrifice others to obtain their objectives.
3) Therefore, the issue of Paul's command is twofold: it involves an inner look and an outer look.
a) "Abhorring what is evil" starts at home: abjectly hating any personal unwillingness to suffer to the point of physical death for someone else's sake even if that someone else is an enemy ("Love your enemies" -- Luke 6:27).
b) From that "inner look" of seeing what is really driving one's attitudes toward the events that exist (Is there a willingness in me to sacrifice to the uttermost?) we must also go to an "outer look" where those who refuse to adopt the personal sacrifice thesis are to be "hated" as "evil".
c) Clearly, the former must precede the latter if "hypocrisy" is to be avoided.
4) A word of caution: because most of us will not "love to the uttermost" (in direct defiance toward Paul's command), we will also not "hate" the "evil" without hypocrisy, nor will we have any real peace of heart because we continue to seek to be the children of God without being willing to reflect His character (Matthew 5:44-45). [Paul was not restrained from giving the command just because the majority will refuse to obey it.]
B. Cleave Unto That Which is Good.
1. The word translated "cleave" communicates the idea of being glued to something.
2. The verbal concept is not "active"; the "cleave to" is parsed as a "present, passive, participle" by the Logos Library System and a "present, middle, participle" by Wigram's AnalyticalLexicon.
a. The question here is whether the commanded individual has a primary part to play (middle voice) or a lesser part (passive voice).
b. Wigram is most likely: Paul's command is to "glue yourself to" what is good.
1) This raises the question of methodology: How does one "glue him/her self to what is good"?
2) The answer is above in our discussion of the complexities of love caused by the competition of a tripartite makeup: one "glues" oneself to what is good by making the soul's connection to the Father the ultimate priority.
C. The major delusion that tends to squelch this command.
1. The command boils down to being willing to die for someone else, even an enemy.
2. The major problem is two-fold.
a. Some are simply unwilling to die for another.
b. Others have no confidence that they can profess to be willing "unhypocritically".
1) This is a serious area of disbelief.
2) The scenario generally runs like this: I can't profess to do this because I might not be able to do this [this is scenario building and unbelief in the sufficiency of grace].