Romans 12:10-16 by Robert Dean
"I love you." Who doesn't enjoy hearing that but what does it really mean? Listen to this lesson to learn that the Biblical meaning of love is not just a tingly, electrifying feeling but a desire to do what is best for the one you love. Discover absolute standards for the functioning of your spiritual gifts, including teaching, mercy, encouragement, and giving. Examine the many examples of evil in the Bible and see how we should detest evil in ourselves and others and seek that which is good.

Standards for the Christian Life - Part 1
Romans 12:10-16

We're in Romans, chapter 12, and last time we finished up looking at some of the gifts, primarily prophecy. In Romans 12:6 Paul says, "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, {each of us is to exercise them accordingly:} if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith." Probably the best understanding of that as I pointed out is "according to the standard of doctrine." Faith is a word that is often used to refer to not only the act of believing but to what is believed. We often talk about a person's faith, that is what they believe, their religious affiliation, so that's the idea here that prophecy was according to a standard.

And last time I looked at the passages in Deuteronomy 13 and 18 that describe the criteria in the Old Testament for evaluating Biblical prophecy. We looked at the lists of spiritual gifts. There are four basic lists. One in Ephesians 4:1-12 focuses on leadership: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, there's another list given. These are all temporary gifts like apostles and prophets. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 we have another list that has five temporary gifts: apostles, prophets, healing, miracles, and tongues. And then in Romans 12:6-8 lists only prophecy as a temporary gift emphasizing gifts related to service in the body of Christ. We have the gift of teaching mentioned in Romans 12, leadership or management which is a different word from administration used in 1 Corinthians 12:28 but a similar concept there and then there's service, mercy, exhortation, and giving. So in that first verse where we are to prophesy, the standard is the faith or doctrine according to truth. We might paraphrase it that way.

Then we come to Romans 12:28 "If service [ministry], in his serving [ministering]; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." So we see certain repetitious words used there such as prophecy, service, teaching, and exhortation. These are the key words there.

Giving is defined in terms of liberality which is the Greek word HAPLOTES which has the idea that it's is not just with generosity which some people suggest but the main idea is giving with no strings attached. Leading is described as being diligent. Mercy with cheerfulness or graciousness. We'll go back over these terms as we go through the passage. In Romans 12:8 the New Testament word for ministering is the noun DIAKONIA. Now we get our word deacon from that word. It's really a broad-based word. It has a general sense of any type of service, such as serving in the local church or doing any kind of thing serving the Lord in our life that comes under the category of service.  It's also used to describe many different actions and activities in the local church performed by everyday believers as well as apostles in the book of Acts. Then it has a specific sense in which it is used to describe service to those who have some sort of special need. Maybe they are ill; maybe they are financially destitute; maybe they just need aid or help doing something but it is used in that sort of specific sense, not just in terms of Christian service but in terms of specific aid to someone who has a specific problem or specific difficulty.

This word as it is used as a spiritual gift can be applied a number of different ways in the local church. It can be someone who teaches in prep school, someone who works in the nursery, someone who supplies baked goods for fellowship and snacking and keeping us all round and healthy looking can all be a function of service. Serving on the deacon board in different capacities, all of these can be manifestations of someone's spiritual gift of service. Singing in the choir combines with different talents, also, so it's a broad-based word for serving in the body of Christ and ministering to others. The word often is translated with that English word ministering so in some way it's just coming to the aid or helping someone is a broad use of that term.

In the latter part of that verse we read, "And the one in teaching, in his teaching." So it doesn't give anything more specific than that although the word that is used there for teaching, DIDASKOLOS, indicates teaching or explanation. It's not necessarily the same as pastor-teacher. The metaphor for a pastor really depicts leadership. Look at the role of a shepherd because the Greek word for pastor is the word that means a shepherd. What does a shepherd do in relation to his flock? He leads them to food. He leads them to that which sustains them, that which provides nourishment for them and he protects them. So the pastoral function is related to leadership and that leadership is defined narrowly in Scripture through teaching.

We can demonstrate that in a number of places. Paul talks about the pastor-teacher in Ephesians 4:11-12. But I think the more clear passage is in John 21 when Jesus is having his discussion with Peter around the breakfast campfire after they had a little trouble fishing. They were up all night and they didn't catch anything. Jesus showed up on the bank. The disciples weren't really sure who he was. He told them to throw their net over on the other side of the boat and when they did they hauled in a catch that was almost too great for the boat. At that point they realized who that must be on the shore and they came ashore and they ate breakfast.

Afterwards Jesus had a little lesson for Peter. This was the first time that the Lord had spoken to Peter since Peter had betrayed him. So the Lord turned to him and He asked him a question. It's translated the same in English but he uses about four pairs of synonyms in that little interchange when Jesus is addressing Peter. It starts off, "Do you love me?" Now to understand that question you have to understand what Jesus taught in the upper room. His emphasis on love in the upper room was related to obedience. "If you love me, you will obey Me." Jesus is telling Peter what His ministry will be. He says, "Peter, do you love me?" Peter says, "Yes, Lord, you know what I love you." Jesus responded at that point three different ways in each of these interchanges saying, "Feed My sheep." "Take care of My lambs" and "Feed my sheep." He uses different words for feed and different words for sheep. But the point is the role and responsibility as an apostle is one who equips the saints, just like a pastor-teacher is to function through feeding, through providing spiritual nourishment for God's people who are described by analogy as a flock. So it's important to understand that this is what it means to be a pastor.

Sometimes you and I have heard that someone is just so "pastoral". We've got this evangelical culture that identifies pastor with some sort of care giving. Someone who more or less does not exhort but someone who seems to really connect with people and their problems and seems to have a certain kind of personality. I've heard that in several different venues where people think, "That's what it means to be a pastor." Well, Biblically what it means to be a pastor is to be someone who is a good teacher, someone who clearly explains the Word of God so that people can understand it and it can be used in their life so they can grow to spiritual maturity.

So pastor-teacher is a leadership gift but there's also a gift of teaching. We have people who have the gift of teaching. Some of them teach in prep school. They do an excellent job. There are others who just work at teaching. They may not be gifted in that area but we're all to teach one another, Hebrews says. So there's an area of responsibility for everyone there whether or not they're gifted in that area. For the person who is gifted in that area he should labor in being able to properly and correctly handle the Scriptures and explain them. That can operate in a number of different venues or environments. It can be a home Bible study. It can be a Child Evangelism Fellowship Club.

By the way, our Child Evangelism Fellowship Club is doing well. I think that almost every week we discover another child who has trusted in the Lord. Those people who are working with them are doing a tremendous job. It takes an added effort, an added amount of time every week out of everybody's schedule to do that but it is a tremendous ministry. How can you measure the things that we do on a day-to-day basis against the eternal destiny of a child? That's what comes out of this. It's just tremendous to see that. It's not easy sometimes. The kids get to be a little rambunctious. You're dealing with a lot of cross-cultural situations because most of these kids come out of a Hispanic background. Some of them are believers and some of them are not. We've had a number of the ones who aren't come to know the Lord so that's just a tremendous thing. That's a great ministry this congregation is involved in so we need to continuously be in prayer for them. Each one of the folks that work with that work at teaching. So that's the role of teaching. It's just explaining what the Scripture means so that God the Holy Spirit can use it in the life of the people that we're teaching so that they can grow spiritually.

Now the next verse, Romans 12:8 says, "Or he who exhorts, in his exhortation." Here we have the same word used twice. "The one who exhorts." This is the verb form of PARAKALEO and then we have the noun PARAKLESIS, but they mean the same thing. Exhortation is one of those words that may be a little fuzzy in the minds of some people. It basically means to challenge someone to a particular course of action. It's to encourage someone, not just to challenge them in a strong way because they're not doing it but to encourage them as they're trying to do it. This is what we see in athletic performances. You're cheering someone on and encouraging them to put forth every effort and to continue to put forth 120% and to continue to do well even though things may not be going well in terms of circumstances.

Last week I saw a great example of this. Several of us in the congregation who've had connections to Connecticut went with a few people that teach at the school where we're having Child Evangelism Fellowship and are also pro-Yukon. When I first went to Connecticut I thought Yukon was in Alaska but Yukon is the University of Connecticut and their women's basketball team which is number one again this year. That's just like every year they're number one. They just do an incredible job. They beat the U of H women's team by fifty-one points. I'm thinking as I'm watching this how would I reach inside of me and give 120% when every fifteen minutes I'm down by another ten points and I'm not getting anywhere. Those girls on the U of H team never gave up. They just kept persevering. The coaches are encouraging them. People in the stands are encouraging them and that's what encouragement is and how it relates. We aren't supposed to give up. We have people who encourage us and challenge us.

That can be manifested in different ways. Encouragement isn't giving someone a hug. That may be a part of it. I'm not saying to not give someone a hug when they're having a hard time. That's always nice but that's only part of it. What gives comfort is like Paul says. At the time of death, we're to comfort one another in 1 Thessalonians 4 by explaining the doctrine of the Rapture. When anyone who has died and believed in Jesus is with the Lord and they will go to be with the Lord and get their resurrection body when the Lord returns in the clouds. At the end of that discussion in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, Paul says to comfort one another with these words. That the same word for encouragement. We primarily comfort people with the Word of God reminding them of Scripture.

I know when I've gone through some challenges here and there in life there are always a host of truly good friends who often repeat back things to me things I have said in the pulpit. That's just disgusting. That's the last thing you want to hear as a pastor is someone saying that you taught me this or that. So you hear it again. That's exhortation, challenging people with the word of God.

Then we have "he who gives with liberality." That's the second clause in Romans 12:8. I mentioned this earlier. This is the spiritual gift of giving. Now I don't want to make this as a blanket statement because I don't think this is true. I've seen some people who are like the widow story where Jesus told about the widow who only had her two mites. A mite was worth about two or three cents, maybe. It may not be worth that now. She took one of them and put it in the offering at the temple. She gave freely. She gave of what she had in order to show her worship of God through giving. There are those who do that, who give just a small amount because that is all that they have. Those who work in ministry need to respect that these people have given of what the Lord has provided for them and for some of them it has been hard for them to give, others not so hard.

One area in giving that I've noticed is that God not only has given them the gift of giving. He's given them the gift of making money. We know people like that. This church has benefitted from some people like that because the Lord has given them that ability to produce wealth in order to supply the needs of pastors and missionaries and churches. And they understand that. It's remarkable to watch some people who are gifted in that area as well and to understand that that's part of their responsibility. God hasn't just given them the ability to make money so they can have a comfortable lifestyle but he's given them that ability so that they can bless the church and bless other believers with the resources that God has given them. That is part of the doctrine of giving.

I think this second word, HAPLOTES should be translated in the sense of "no strings attached." That's what we mean when we use the phrase "giving as unto the Lord."  We're giving to the Lord. When we pass the plate on Saturday morning or some of you just regularly mail a check in or maybe you use PayPal in order to submit your donation to the church, you recognize that every dollar you make, whether you keep it or whether you give it, it really belongs to the Lord. He's the one who supplied us with our jobs. He's the one who supplies the financial resources that we have and we're to use everything that we have to glorify God. Part of that is involved in taking care of our own needs, our own responsibilities, providing for our present and our future. Then we have resources that we can provide to help with the logistical needs of the local church as well as missionaries.

But we're to give this as "unto the Lord." That means we're giving this, whether to the missionary or the missionary organization, the church and we recognize that they're going to use that as they see fit as unto the Lord. It's not necessarily our responsibility to sit back and critically judge them. When I was about twenty or twenty one years old, I was at a church that was going through a bit of a split. There was a group of people that got upset and left. There was a man, an older gentlemen, who sat near where I sat, and I overheard a conversation where he made the point, "No, I'm not leaving. I've given a lot of money to this church and I want to make sure it's spent well." Now a lot of people have that kind of mentality. That's not giving as unto the Lord. Once that dollar bill or whatever leaves your hand that belongs to someone else. The Lord is going to take care of the organization that you give it to and they need to use it as unto the Lord and they're responsible as unto the Lord for how they use that. So we don't come along and second guess.

I've been involved with a number of different Christian organizations over the years and I've discovered that they all make mistakes. They all have problems with one thing or another because there are sinners involved in every single church. In fact, this last week I had the opportunity to sit down and have coffee with a long-time friend whom I had not seen in about ten years. She's gone through many different challenges in her life over the last twenty or thirty years and we had worked together in a Christian ministry some forty years ago. We were just kind of catching up on how things were and she was commenting that one of the hardest things to do is to work in a Christian ministry. People have an idealistic idea that you're serving the Lord if you're working for a missionary organization or church and that things are just going to be better. Remember that a church or a missionary organization and the people that work there have a bulls-eye on their butt for the angelic conflict. The devil just loves to stir up a lot of trouble. I've been involved in some Christian organizations where there have just been some real nasty things going on simply because of people's sin natures. That's not any different from working at Exxon or Shell or working for the local school district or working in a grocery store or a police department or the military. People have problems and people don't always make the wisest decisions or the decisions you think are the wisest in how they utilize their resources. But we have to deal with all of those organizations in grace and realize that ultimately, if we select our organizations to support, they're the ones who are going to promote the Word so we're going to do what we can financially to make that possible. So that's what it means to give with no strings attached.

Now the next phrase Paul says, "He who ruleth [leads] with diligence." The word for ruleth [leading] is PROISTEMI which means to lead or to manage or to administer something and the word for diligence is SPOUDE which means zeal or diligence or exertion. SPUDAZO is the verb and is a cognate of SPOUDE. When you read in 1 Timothy where Paul says to "study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." the American Standard Version or the NIV will translate that "be diligent". Well the context is related to study so I think study is an appropriate nuance of the term in the context that we have in Timothy. It means to be diligent as a student of the Word and that would be, by implication, to study.

But here it's not related to study. It's related to leadership, working hard at being a good leader, a good manager, or a good administrator in the local church. So the one who has the spiritual gift of leadership or administration should do so with diligence, should work hard at it, and should have a passion for it.

The verse continues, "He who shows mercy with cheerfulness." Remember I made a point of distinguishing between mercy and grace. We've often heard it said that mercy is grace in action. Grace is the foundation for mercy. If you're not grace oriented you can't exercise mercy very well. But mercy is not an emotional, sentimental, pseudo-compassion. Mercy is trying to help someone who has a genuine need because of the consequences of sin. Grace deals with the foundational problem of sin that we're saved by grace through faith but mercy is the application of grace to specific situations where people are suffering the consequences of sin. Now it may be their sin. It may be the sin of the world, just a result of living in the cosmic system and living in a fallen environment.

For example, we may have mercy on someone. Jesus showed compassion to those who had leprosy, who were blind, who were lame. This was not necessarily their fault but it was because they lived in a fallen world and were suffering the consequences of sin. Just because the consequences that someone is suffering are the result of their bad decisions doesn't mean we should say, "Well, you know if you'd just made a better decision things wouldn't be so bad. You're just suffering your own consequences." That's not being very gracious. We all make mistakes. We all suffer the consequences and mercy is when we try to help and encourage one another when we're going through those consequences whether they are directly related to bad decisions or not. Usually we make what we think are good decisions and they end up being bad. Of course there are other times when we know we're being rebellious towards God and we suffer those consequences. So mercy should be applied in a certain way, the Greek word HILAROTES where we get our word hilarious. It has the idea not of cheerfulness in the sense of someone who's just happy and carefree but in the sense of someone who is very gracious in what they are doing.

That's why I translate it that way when I talk about giving, that God loves a generous, grace-oriented giver. The idea there is that someone who is grace-oriented is being very gracious and positive in their help for others. So that's how we apply mercy in a very positive gracious manner. Don't come up to someone and say, "Well you know this is your fault. If you hadn't made that stupid decision then I wouldn't need to help you and no one else would and life would be a lot better for you." You're not there to hammer them. You're there to encourage them and to help them in a gracious manner. So Romans 12:8 gives us four different areas of operation and each of these is related to service within the local church.

Starting in Roman 12:9 the Apostle Paul changes direction a little bit to start talking about the foundation behind the use of these gifts. And that is related to love. It's interesting that in 1 Corinthians 13 which we normally think as the "love chapter", at least the first seven verses describe the qualities of impersonal love. The noun that's used there is AGAPE. It follows the lengthy discussion that Paul has in 1 Corinthians 12 on the use of the spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are not to be used to benefit self. They are to be used to benefit other people.

Now the problem that everyone here has, uh, let me look around. There may be one or two exceptions but I think just about everyone here has a sin nature! The problem with our sin nature is that even under some of the best conditions we're still pretty self-absorbed. We're still pretty oriented to "it's all about me" and "what's best for me". It's only when we're walking by the Holy Spirit that we can genuinely deal with what's best for other people.

I've searched long and hard for how to define love. I think the best definition I've been able to come up with is that love is "seeking to do the best for the object of your love." But there's a problem with that definition because whenever you use a comparative or a superlative you're implying a standard by which this is judged. So when someone says, "I love you", what they should be saying is, "I want the absolute best for you." The subtext we often hear is "I want what's best for you because that's going to be what's best for me and I'm going to define what's best for you in terms of what I think is best for you, not what is objectively best for you in terms of God's plan and God's purpose.

That's what real love is, relating to people on the basis of God's absolute standards and God's absolute integrity and seeking the highest and best for them in terms of what truly is intrinsically the best. A lot of times people think, "Why are you doing this to me? This is mean. This is hard." A child being disciplined by his parents thinks this. Well the parents are disciplining in love. It doesn't mean they are being sentimental. It means they understand that if a child does not learn self-discipline between the ages of one and five, it will be extremely difficult for them to ever make it through life. Life demands discipline, self-discipline and self-control. So parents have to teach that and instill that into their children.

And that's not always pleasant for parents. It's not pleasant for parents, on occasions, to have to give their children a spanking. It may be illegal in some states to do that but it is still what's mandated by the Word of God. We can't let a silly thing like state laws interfere with good parenting. That doesn't mean that you just walk around all the time spanking your kids. That should be the final resort for extremely bad behavior. But it's done in love because it's the best thing for the child. You have a long-term goal in mind and therefore it's necessary to instill that discipline into them at a young age so that that pays off with benefits down the road.

Now if you want to have a selfish look at it, the more you discipline them when they're one to five, the less problems you're going to have when they're adolescents. That's ten years down the road. But if you don't lay that groundwork in those first five years, then trust me, you're more likely to have problems when they hit adolescence. Now that doesn't mean that if you do an excellent job disciplining them when they're one through five that you're not going to have problems when they hit adolescence. We all know people that were maybe one child in three or four whose parents treated every child the same but because of individual volition there's always the one that makes decisions counter and contrary to the disciplined upbringing they had at home. So when they hit thirteen something goes screwy, hormones or whatever, goes a little screwy and you wonder where in the world this little demon came from and how could that have anything to do with you or your husband's genetics. Maybe you can understand how it has something to do with your spouse's genetics but not yours. Then somewhere around the age of thirty or thirty-five they wake up and gain an ounce of maturity. All of a sudden they come back to be something close to what that loving child you knew when they were young. But that's the result not of poor parental training but as a result of the child's own volition. Hopefully with some training it won't be quite as severe and the adolescent period won't be quite as long.

But the point of love is that it seeks what is best according to an objective external standard, not what's best for me but what's best according to God's standard which means that if you are a parent or if you are a husband who is mandated to love your wife you need to have a pretty good understanding of what the Word of God talks about so that you can understand what it means to truly, genuinely love your spouse or your children. So love is characterized here as not being without hypocrisy.

The love that we're talking about here is AGAPE. This is going to be distinguished from the word that we find in Romans 12:10 which is brotherly love. That's PHILADEPHIA. It's not the city in Pennsylvania. It's not the city in Turkey. It means brotherly or familial love. Familial love, based on the Greek word, PHILEO or the noun PHILOS has to do with a close, intimate type of love that is distinct from AGAPE. AGAPE is often called impersonal love, not because it's detached, but because the two people don't necessarily have to know each other personally in order to demonstrate this kind of love. It's a love toward all mankind. God loves the world AGAPE. But God only has PHILOS love for believers. PHILOS is never used with God as the subject and unbelievers as the object so that distinguishes it. It's a family love. Believers are in the family of God. We're adopted into the family of God at the instant of salvation and so we are part of his family. This is a command to love all mankind and it should be without hypocrisy.

Now the word for hypocrisy is a compound word in the Greek. It is ANUPOKRITOS. It has a prefix AN there at the beginning like we would have happy versus unhappy. A bed that is made versus a bed that is unmade. The alpha privative as it's called, privative indicates something that is negative. Now the idea of ANUPOKRITOS is that it's unfeigned, it's not a false love, it's a genuine love with no ulterior motives, no selfish motives, and not self-centered motives. It's not motivated by your sin nature. It's motivated by your relationship with God.

This word is used to develop in the Greek for telling a lie, telling something that is not true so when we add the prefix AN it means someone who is unfeigned, someone who is genuine, and someone who is honest with no ulterior motives. What we see starting in Romans 12:9 is a series of commands that are related to the Christian life. They're sort of like bullets. There have been some who have tried to make all of them relate to love. I don't think that's possible. I think the Apostle Paul came to this point and he's just giving a list of standards for the Christian life for relating to other people and relating to life. These relate to believers and also some relate to unbelievers. These are just the protocols for everyone in the Christian life. These are the standards for the royal family of God.

We're to have a love that is unfeigned, a love that is genuine with no self-centered motives. What goes along with that is an ethical standard in relation to good and evil. We're told we are to "abhor what is evil and to cling to what is good." Those two clauses go together. The word for abhor means to detest, to despise something, and to reject it. It's the Greek word APOSTUGEO used as a participle here. The grammar through this section is rather interesting if you like the intricacies of grammar because we frequently find these participles used as an imperative. Now just for those of you who like the minutiae of grammar, what is a participle?  A participle is a verbal adjective that is used at times in the idiom of Greek to relate a command. So we refer to these as imperatival participles. What's interesting and as I got into the Greek of this I realized that it really doesn't come across until we get into the next verse where it talks about "be kindly affectionate to one another". Your English looks like there's an imperatival verb there.

Actually you just have nouns and adjectives and there is an idiom in Greek where adjectives are used as imperatives. This probably is a result of something of a Semitic language influence on the writing of Scripture. It's used in the New Testament. It's used in some early Church father's literature so it's not just confined to the Apostle Paul. It's a rare usage but what you start with is a verbal adjective which is a participle that's used as an infinitive and then it just kind of slid over to where the adjective was used as an infinitive. And it took me a while to dig this out. I kept hitting this passage and reading it in the Greek.

I would read it in the Greek and translate it and then I would look at English translations and they all had these imperatival type translations. I kept looking and digging and everything and I finally dug it out of C.F.D. Moule's Idioms of the New Testament which is an excellent New Testament grammar. He's got a lot of good minutiae in there that you don't find in other grammars. I was all excited about that because having worked through the Greek for a long time it's unusual that I find something totally new. That was a fun thing to discover today.

But this says to abhor or reject what is evil, to completely detest what is evil. Now we need to have a pretty good understanding of what evil is and the word there translated evil is PONEROS which means something that's in a poor condition. It can refer to someone who is in a poor condition in terms of their physical health, they're sick or ill. It can refer to someone who is in a poor condition morally or ethically. It can refer to someone who's in a poor condition spiritually so when it's talking about spiritual issues it usually has the connotation of evil or wicked.

There have been different ways people have tried to utilize the concept of evil to communicate something more than just sin. In the Old Testament it's often used of sin. The term PONEROS is used seventy-two times in the New Testament. It's used of demons who are called evil spirits. It's used of the devil, the evil one, in Matthew 13:19, John 17:15, Ephesians 6:17, and 1 John 2:13-4. It's used to describe the Pharisees as being evil in Matthew 12:34 but lest you think that means they're automatically unbelievers it's also used to describe the inner corrupt nature, for example in Mark 7:23 where it's talking about unbelievers "you, being evil." The same phrase is used in Luke 11:13 when Jesus is talking to his disciples, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will {your} heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

See, this is one of the passages I like to go to because it shows that the evil, corrupt sin nature can do relatively good things. That's still evil. So evil can refer to people who are doing morally good things like the Pharisees did but they are spiritually corrupt or evil. The world usually thinks of evil as someone who is doing criminal things, someone doing violent things, someone doing abusive things, or whatever the culture is identifying as socially unacceptable at that particular stage in history. But the Bible uses evil to refer to both areas of production in the sin nature.

 The Bible speaks of the darkness of sin. The sin nature is motivated by the lust pattern which is all about me, satisfying my drives, my desires, whatever I think I need right now. It produces in two areas. One is what we usually think of as personal sins, mental attitude sins, such as anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, a mentality of revenge and vindictiveness which are mental attitude sins, sins of lust. Then we have sins of the tongue such as gossip, slander, maligning, lying, and bearing false witness. Those are all related to sins of the tongue. Then we have overt sins such as murder, and violent assault, things of that nature.

That is what we would classify as sin or evil in one sense. But the sin nature also produces good, relative good, not good in an intrinsic, absolute sense but relative good. The Pharisees did a lot of moral, ethically good things but like all religion it still came out of the sin nature because it rejected the grace of God. Someone can be like the Pope, like Billy Graham, like me and be evil because we've slipped into sin nature controlled arrogance and we're violating the principles of grace and love so that produces evil. It may look good but it's still evil.

 If someone is walking according to the flesh, walking according to their sin nature, and they're reading their Bible, is that good or evil? Isn't that a good question? If you're out of fellowship and you are witnessing to someone from selfish motives, is that good or evil? Yeah, that's evil. See, we don't think of it that way. If you're the Pope, you can be evil. If you're promoting any religious system that has ethical value for the entire human race on non-Biblical principles, if you're operating on legalism and self-righteousness, that is evil. This is a problem we have today.

We see this often in the way people respond and react to some of these issues related to homosexuality and same sex marriage. We have to learn to hold a standard without being judgmental. Someone asked me this question this morning in an e-mail. They wanted to know because they'd been asked the question, that since Jesus stood for loving everyone [that's a false assumption there] and He wasn't judgmental [judge not that you be not judged] so how can you have this law like they were trying to pass in Arizona to protect freedom of religion? How is that consistent with Christianity? I responded because Christianity also says we're to be discerning. It uses the same word that's used for judging. We're to be discerning. Christians are to abhor what is evil but we need to learn how to abhor what is evil without abhorring the person.

Now, in my personal opinion, the problem with the homosexual movement isn't the sin of homosexuality. The problem with the modern homosexual movement is the arrogance that wants to impose their standard on everyone else and force everyone else to validate their system of values. They want to impose their system of values on everyone else. That's arrogance and that's the problem.

I tried to do a little research today on this bill in Arizona. I have some questions. I haven't reached a conclusion on this. My gut reaction is that the law may have been written too vaguely. This could open the door to a lot of misapplication. You can see someone saying that they don't want to serve someone for any reason because it violates their religious conscience. But the reality is that the freedom of conscience and the authority to act according to our freedom of conscience is the foundation in the history of law to the 1st Amendment. This is where we get into a very significant and very important issue related to this particular law because there have been cases, one of which was related to a bakery in Arizona where a homosexual couple wanted to have a Christian baker bake their wedding cake. That violated his conscience so he didn't want to do it so they took him to court. He was being forced to violate his value system, his conscience in order to do that. This is where we get into some really difficult areas legislatively.

I heard an example on the radio the other day which I thought was an interesting analogy. What would they say if the case involved an African American bakery down in the Third Ward and a Ku Klux Klan wizard came in and asked if they would do the baking for a birthday party for the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan? Would we expect the black baker to willingly provide the cakes and pastries and everything for the party under those conditions? I would suggest that in this country with its mental attitude that we would think he would be totally justified in refusing to bake the cakes for that event. These are the issues that are involved.

The court issue is a freedom of conscience issue and it would seem to me that a law that was going to address that would have to be written very, very carefully so that it avoids the abuse and misuse that could come that way. I haven't had an opportunity to read the whole law. I read part of the legislation today but going through legislation like that sometimes can be very, very tricky. I'm still working my way through that in terms of trying to understand these particular issues.

So we have the sin nature here that produces good. Jesus said to his disciples who are believers, "You being evil…" They still have a corrupt nature. They still have a sin nature and they can still do relatively good things. We classify that as human good. It has no absolute eternal value. John 17:15 tells us about one of the uses where Satan is described as the evil one. Remember 2 Corinthians 12 talks about Satan and his ministers going around like ministers of righteousness. They're disguised as serving God so there's a deceptive value there. So evil is not always black and dark and a social reject. Often it looks to be very acceptable.

The first occurrence we have of evil is in Genesis 2:9 talking about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The structure here in the Hebrew is the same kind of structure we have in Genesis1:1. It's a merism. That means it uses two opposites to talk about a totality of something which, of course, would include that which is both good and evil. Evil here refers to sin in this context. They're going to understand the distinction between righteousness and sin. Evil or ra in the Hebrew is often used to relate to sin in the Old Testament. So everything that proceeds from the sin nature, both counterfeit righteousness and human good as well as sin comes under the category of evil.

Religion is one of the greatest evils in the world. 2 Corinthians11:13-15 is pertinent here. Verse 14 says, "No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" So this is talking about their works as relative righteousness or as human good.

So we are to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good Actually this word for cling, KALAIO, is the same word that is used in Ephesians 5 to translate the Hebrew word dibaq used in Genesis 2 where when a man and woman marry they are to leave mother and father and cleave to one another. It simply refers to clinging or holding on to one another. So we are to stick like Velcro to what is good. Good is AGATHOS which is different from KALOS, a synonym also translated good and it refers to that which is intrinsically good and that which has eternal value.

Now we'll come back next time to get into the next points in Romans 12:10-16. So we've wrapped up the first part but the rest just continues to hit these standards for the Christian life.