Exhortations 12:1-15:13

i] The marks of a Christian community, 12:3-13:14

b) Let love be genuine


In 12:1-15:13 Paul deals with the practical business of believers living together within God's new community. In the passage before us Paul speaks of the way of love, of love within the Christian fellowship and its extension to the wider world. The practical implication for Paul is that kindness, in the face evil, will disarm hate.


i] Context: See 12:1-2.


ii] Background: See 1:8-15.


iii] Structure: This instruction toward love presents as follows:

The nature of Christian love - exhortations for love, v9-16;

The contrary nature of love - exhortations for nonretaliation, v17-21


iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.


v] Interpretation:

Paul heads this section with the key word agaph, "love", the meaning of which he expands in v9-21. The old AV translation "charity" has long since lost its power and so most translations opt for "love", even though it carries powerful sexual connotations. It does seem that a word like "compassion" comes closer to its intended sense. The predicate adjective anupokritoV is usually treated imperatively, as are the following ten participles, again indicating our preference for the imperative over the indicative.

Paul tells us that the nature of "love" is found in its hatred of evil, compassion toward the brotherhood, respect toward others, spiritual enthusiasm, hope, fortitude, constant prayerfulness, and practical care toward those in need. It is expressed in blessing those who persecute us, empathizing with people in times of joy and sadness, getting along with people, not being stuck-up, or conceited. Forgiving rather than hitting back, seeking the honorable path in life, living at peace with everyone. Love resists getting even, leaving justice with the Lord, for evil is best defeated by kindness.


Paul's instructions on love may well reflect the hostile environment within which first century Christianity finds itself. This is possibly evident in the exhortations from v17 on and may explain the placement of the instruction to be subject to government authorities, 13:1-7. But it is also possible that Paul, at this point in his treatise, sets out to summarize the church's catechetical instructions on the subject of love within the Christian community, so Fitzmyer, Moo, ... He may even be addressing a situation similar to that faced by the church in Corinth, namely the rash use of spiritual gifts. This certainly fits with the context, given that Paul has just addressed the issue of spiritual gifts. Given also that Paul is about to personally address the touchy issue of division in the Christian fellowship between the "weak" and the "strong", the law-bound and the free in Christ, 14:1-15:13, he may well view the unifying power of Christian compassion as the answer to this divide.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:9

Love, v9-21: i] The nature of Christian love, v9-16. As noted in 12:1-8, Paul adopts a stylistic approach from v6 through to v21 where flashes of information are piled one upon another. He does this with the use of participles, and a limited number of verbs. It doesn't quite work in English so we are forced to supply numerous verbs, often as imperatives (eg., v9, "love must be sincere"), and to guess at the function of the participles. What Paul does is describe the situation of econteV carismata, "having gifts", doqeisan hJmin, "given to us." He now looks at the gift of love: lit., "The love - not hypocritical! Abhorring evil! Glued to the good! With brotherly love - loving dearly toward each other! ....... We are to love our brothers and sisters in the sense of show compassion toward them. Such love must be genuine and not deceitful. We are to oppose what is morally wrong and support what is morally good.

hJ agaph (h) "love must be" - Today the word carries an erotic and sentimental sense, but in the NT it means compassion, a self-giving love. Most translations assume an imperative verb to-be; "let love be unashamed."

anupokritoV adj. "sincere" - unashamed. "Love is to be the real thing, genuine, and not counterfeit", Cranfield; "don't pretend to love", TH.

apostugounteV (apostugew) pres. part. "hate [what is evil]" - abhorring [the evil]. The first of a series of ten participles. The present tense is durative; "always .....", Turner. As with the following participles, this participle may be classified as attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the assumed imperative verb "let [love] be [genuine]" and therefore translated as an imperative. Love breaks with evil and is devoted to good. "Hate violently", Dunn.

kollwmenoi (kollaw) pas. part. "cling to" - cleaving to, glued to, be joined firmly to. The participle is imperatival, as above. We must hate the evil, flee from it, but join ourselves to the good, be passionate for the will of God. "Hold on to", Harvey.

tw/ agaqw adj. "what is good" - the good. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the verb kallaw, "to cling to."


We are to show affectionate kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly when they are in need. We must always remember, a kindness to a brother is a kindness to Christ.

filostorgoi (oV) adj. "be devoted [to one another]" - loving warmly, cherishing, affection toward. Given the context, the adjective virtually functions as a participle. "Tender affection, particularly family affection", Cranfield.

th/ filadelfia (a) dat. "in brotherly love / in love" - with brotherly love. The dative can be understood in numerous ways, eg. Instrumentally "by means of brotherly love", TH; as a dative of reference / respect, "with respect to brotherly love", Morris; dative of manner, "as between bothers", Phillips; dative of advantage, "for the brotherhood", Moffatt. The term "brother" for a fellow adherent of a religious faith, is not peculiar to Christianity, but it was used by Christ and adopted by the first believers. "With respect to brotherly love - loving dearly toward each other!" = "your brotherly love must make you one loving family", Barclay. The gift of love is expressed in "kindness", Hunter.

th/ timh/ (h) dat. "Honor [one another]" - [preferring one another] in honor. The dative as above; "with respect to honor - ....!"

prohgoumenoi (prohgeomai) pres. part. "above yourselves" - Attendant circumstance participle, as with the participle "abhorring", expressing action accompanying the assumed main verb "let be", v9, so treated as an imperative. The word means "to give a lead to", so lit., "with respect to honor - giving a lead to!" This has prompted translations like "let us have .... a willingness to let the other man (person) have the credit", Phillips. The gift of love is expressed in "fine courtesy", Hunter.


We are to be dedicated toward God, bubbling over with enthusiasm toward the Holy Spirit and devoted in service to our Lord.

mh oknhroi adj. "never be lacking in" - [in zeal] not slothful, lazy, slackness, hesitating, irked by the demands of (Murray). Moule argues that this adjective serves here as an imperatival participle and so is properly translated as a positive imperative to parallel the positive imperatives of this verse and the next; "be constant in zeal." As already noted, this type of translation is necessary in English to convey the full sense of the phrase to a Western mind, but to the Greek mind, "with respect to dedication - never lacking!", makes the point well enough. The phrase illustrates the attitude that drives a person to sidestep their responsibilities in favour of as little work as possible. cf. Matt.25:26.

th/ spoudh/ (h) dat. "zeal" - earnestness, diligence, dedication. Again the dative here, as with the two other datives in this verse, may be translated in numerous ways. Probably again a dative of reference / respect works best; "with respect to dedication (toward the Lord / the brotherhood?) - never lacking!" Other possibilities: dative of cause as in v12, "in zeal" = "by virtue of", BDF, "on the basis of", etc. The gift of love is expressed in "fervour", Hunter.

tw/ pneumati (a atoV) dat. "but keep your spiritual" - in spirit. Dative as above, "with respect to the spirit", although Harvey opts for a local sense. "With respect to the human spirit (possibly the Holy Spirit), let us bubble over with enthusiasm / be on fire within."

zeonteV (zew) pres. part. "fervor" - burning or boiling,.... the burning within, fervor. Participle, as above. We must be set on fire.

douleuonteV (douleuw) pres. part. "serving" - serving as a slave. Participle, as above. "When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, be devoted in service." Note the alternate reading "time" = the present time, serve it; "seize your opportunities", Barclay.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "the Lord" - in the Lord [serving]. Reference / respect is probably still be intended, "with respect to the Lord - serving!", although douleuw, "to serve", normally takes a dative of direct object.


With a view to eternity, be joyful; in persecution, be patient; in prayer, be constant.

caironteV (cairw) part. "be joyful" - [in hope] rejoicing. The participle, as above, ie., attendant circumstance = imperatival.

th/ elpidi (iV idoV) dat. "in hope" - hope. The dative again prompts numerous translation possibilities, eg., a dative of cause; "be joyful in hope, ie. by virtue of hope"; "if you have hope, this will make your cheerful", JB. Possibly instrumental, expressing means, even local, so Schreiner. A dative of reference / respect remains the best all-round option; "with respect to hope - rejoicing! = "base your happiness on your hope in Christ", Phillips. The gift of love expresses itself in "a radiant hope", Hunter.

th/ qiliyei (iV ewV) dat. "[patient in] affliction" - in tribulation [enduring]. Dative, as above; "with respect to affliction - enduring!" = "you must meet trouble with the power to pass the breaking point and not break", Barclay. The gift of love expresses itself with "fortitude in suffering", Hunter.

proskarterounteV (proskarterew) pres. part. "faithful in" - [in prayer] persevering. The participle, as above. "Busy oneself with, be busily engaged in", BAGD. "Faithful" doesn't quite express the "keeping at it" sense, although Paul is not saying that we should keep praying until God gives us what we want. Probably "consistent" carries the sense better than "persevere".

th/ proseuch/ (h) dat. "prayer" - The dative, as above; "with respect to prayer - persevering / consistent!" The gift of love expresses itself with "consistency in prayer", Hunter.


We must be generous in our dealings with our fellow believers, and offer practical care and hospitality when needed

koinwnounteV (koinwnew) pres. part. "share with" - [the the needs of the saints] sharing, contributing, taking part in. Participle as above = imperatival. Contribute a share", BAGD. "Contribute to the needs of God's people", NEB. Poverty was a fairly serious problem for the early church, as it was for the Roman Empire as a whole. Accommodation was also limited and expensive for travelers, so these exhortations meet a very practical need. So, the final feature of agaph, "love" is "open-handed hospitality", Hunter.

twn aJgiwn gen. adj. "the Lord's people" - the holy. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive.

taiV creiaiV (a) dat. "who are in need" - Dative as above, ie., dative of reference / respect, "with regard the needs of the saints - share!", although koinwnew, "to share with", normally takes a dative of direct object.

diwkonteV (diwkw) pres. part. "practice [hospitality]" - pursuing, seeking [hospitality]. The participle as above. "And hospitality - pursue it!" = "never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them", Phillips.


As the master instructed us, let us bless our persecutors, cf., Matt.5:44, Lk.6:27. The phraseology of this passage is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount. In v14-16 we have three positive imperatives followed by three negative imperatives. The first two and the last are imperative verbs, the third and fourth are infinitives, taken as an infinitive of command, and the rest are participles usually treated as attendant circumstance / imperatival.

eulogeite (eulogew) imp. "bless" - invoke God's blessing upon, cf., Murray, Mounce, ...; "call down blessing on", NEB. Calvin says of this exhortation, "although there is hardly anyone who has made such advance in the law of the Lord that he fulfills this precept, no one can boast that he is the child of God, or glory in the name of a Christian, who has not partially undertaken this course, and does not struggle daily to resist the will to do the opposite."

touV diwkontaV (diwkw) "those who persecute you" - the ones persecuting, pursuing [you, bless and do not curse]. The participle serves as a substantive.


Let us stand with those around us in their times of trouble. These words may refer to empathy within the Christian fellowship, but there is no reason why they can't apply to the world at large.

cairein (cairw) pres. inf. "rejoice" - to rejoice. This infinitive, as with klaiein, "to weep, mourn", serves as an imperative, an uncommon infinitive in the New Testament. "Share the happiness of those who are happy, and the sorrow of those who are sad", Phillips.

meta + acc. "with" - Expressing association; "in association with."

cairontwn gen. pres. part. "those who rejoice" - with rejoicing [weep with weeping ones]. This participle, as with klaiontwn, "weeping, mourning", serves as a substantive, even though it is without an article.


When Paul encourages us to "live in harmony with one another" he probably means "agree together, one with another"; "be of the same mind." This exhortation calls on believers to work at unity in the brotherhood, but also possibly encourages a wider sense of community. Paul also denounces snobbery, encouraging us to be willing to associate with people from a lower social stratum. Also, he makes the point that it is dangerous to think too highly of our intellectual ability. "I think and therefore it is true" (rather than "I think and therefore I am"), is a disastrous assumption.

fronounteV (fronew) pres. part. "live in harmony [with one another]" - thinking [the same to one another]. The participle is usually treated as imperatival, as above. "Treat everyone with equal kindness", JB, but this is not quite the sense, as is the NIV stab. Probably better, "be of the same mind", Morris. Paul is not encouraging us to paper over differences since we are always bound to stand for the truth as we see it.

fronounteV (fronew) pres. part. "do [not] be proud" - thinking [not the high things]. The participle is imperatival. as above.

alla "but" - Adversative. With mh establishing a counterpoint construction; "not .... but ...."

sunapagomenoi (sunapagw) pres. part. "associate with" - [but] being led, carried along with. The participle as above. We should not be "carried along" by high-mindedness, but rather by "the humble tasks in community", Black. Christians who think they are socially superior are really not standing with Christ.

toiV tapeinoiV dat. adj. "people of low position" - the humble things / ones. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb, "associate with."

par (para) + dat. "[do not be] conceited" - [do not become wise] with [yourselves]. Here expressing association, "with", but possibly instrumental, "by", "be not wise by your own estimation", or even local, "in your own eyes", Moo; "don't be the great somebody", Peterson.


ii] The contrary nature of love - exhortations for nonretaliation, v17-21. Do not return evil for evil. This exhortation on vengeance is oft repeated in the Bible, even by Jesus, cf., Matt.5:38f, Lk.6:29, 35. Paul goes on to encourage right behavior; "let your aims be such as all men count honorable", NEB. Verses 17ff are taken as general exhortations for believers in their contact with non-believers, but they just as easily be viewed as church specific. Again the verse is controlled by two participles, usually treated as imperatival (technically attendant circumstance); "Returning to no one evil for evil! Having regard for good things before all men!"

apodidonteV (apodidwmi) pres. part. "do not repay" - repaying. Again, an attendant circumstance participle / imperatival.

mhdeni dat. adj. "anyone" - to no one. Emphatic; dative of indirect object.

anti + gen. "[evil] for [evil]" - [evil] in return for [evil]. Expressing exchange.

pronooumenoi (pronoew) pres. part. "be careful" - taking thought for, having regard for. The participle, as above; "give careful thought to." The exhortation to do what is right in the sight of others is interesting. The NIV sense can easy imply the performance of goodness, but the NEB gets to the heart of it with "let your aims be such as all men count honorable."

enwpion + gen. "in the eyes of [everyone]" - [good things] before [all men = everyone]. Spacial; "in front of, before."


Where possible, be peaceably disposed toward everybody.

ei + ind. (assumed) "if" - if [possible]. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ...."

to ex Jumwn "as far as it depends on you" - it from you. The article to, "it, what", is an accusative of respect, so Moule = "what comes from (ex +gen.) you" = "so far as it is in your power." Calvin says of this verse, "we are not to strive to attain the favour of men in such a way that we refuse to incur the hatred of any for the sake of Christ." We are to maintain peace as best we can. "To the extent that it depends on you" Moo.

eirhneuonteV (eirhneuw) pres. part. "live at peace" - living in peace. The participle, as above.

meta + gen. "with [everyone]" - with [all men]. Expressing association, as NIV.


Retaliation, in the face of hurt and offence, is a natural response. Paul affirms the standard Biblical line, namely, leave the matter in God's hands.

ekdikounteV (edkikew) pres. part. "take revenge" - [beloved, not] avenging. The participle, as above. The word implies a wrong has been done for which a suitable reaction is called for. A believer, standing under the grace of God in Christ, cannot wield the sword of revenge against another sinner, rather we should leave the matter in God's hands, for his mercy, or his wrath. The wrath is best witnessed at Gethsemane. "We give place to wrath only when we wait patiently for the proper time for our deliverance, praying in the meantime that those who now trouble us may repent and become our friends", Calvin.

eJautouV reflex. pro. "-" - yourselves. Serving as the object of the participle "avenging".

alla "but" - Adversative. Follow the negation mh to establish a counterpoint construction; "not .... but ...."

topon (oV) "[leave] room" - [give] place. Referring to a space where something goes on, here divine recompense; "Let the wrath of God have its way", Moffatt, although a more gentile approach may be called for; "stand back, and let God punish him, if he so wills", Hunter.

th/ orgh/ (h) dat. "for God's wrath" - to the wrath. Dative of indirect object, or adverbial, reference, "with respect to, or possession, "his wrath", "God" understood; "leave it to the wrath of God", ESV.

gar "for" - for [it has been written]. Expressing cause / reason; here explanatory.

emoi dat. pro. "it is mine [to avenge]" - [vengeance] to me. Dative of possessive; "vengeance is mine."

egw pro. "I [will repay]" - Emphatic by use.


Proverbs 25:21-22, LXX. Render help to anyone in need. An enemy is not necessarily someone outside the fellowship!

alla "on the contrary" - but. Adversative, as NIV. Counterpoint to the negation mh, "do not ....", v19.

ean + subj. "if" - if [the enemy of you hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink]. As with ean diya/, "if he is thirsty", the conjunction introduces a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition is assumed to be a future possibility; "if, as may be the case, .... then ...."

gar "-" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should act this way; "because ...."

poiwn pres. part. "in doing [this]" - [this] doing. The participle is adverbial, best taken as instrumental, expressing means; "by so doing."

swreuseiV (swreuw) fut. "heap" - you will pile up. The piling up of good deeds toward an enemy serves to stir their bitter conscience and hopefully move them toward reconciliation with God.

puroV (pur puroV) gen. "[coals] of fire" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "coals"; "burning coals." "A burning sense of shame", Moffatt. "Such kindness to an enemy will overwhelm him with remorse", Hunter. An image of "the burning pangs of shame and contrition", Cranfield.

epi + acc. "on [his head]" - upon [the head of him]. Here spacial; "upon".


Ultimately, good will triumph over evil. "It is the victory of the man who has been justified by faith, who is borne up by the grace of God in Christ, who is indeed confident, but confident in the knowledge of the victorious power of the gospel, and not in any sense of his own moral superiority", Cranfield.

mh nikw sing. pres. mid./pas. "do not be overcome" - be not conquered. The change from plural to singular here probably serves to emphasize the personal nature of the exhortation. Present tense = "do not continue to be overcome", but Turner classes this present as perfective, rather than imperfective (ie., durative). Possibly "don't allow yourselves to be overpowered by evil", Phillips, but better, don't "respond to evil with evil", Morris. Take the path of love rather than vindictiveness.

uJpo + gen. "by" - by [the evil]. Possibly instrumental, means, although this is an unusual use of the preposition. Usually agency would be implied so the substantive adjective tou kakou may be "the evil one" rather than "evil".

alla "but" - Adversative.

en + dat. "with [good]" - [conquer the evil] with [the good]. Instrumental, expressing means / agency, as NIV. "The most powerful weapon against evil is the good", Mounce.


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