Christian Authenticity – Marks of the True Christian

by Mike Ratliff

9 Ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος. ἀποστυγοῦντες τὸ πονηρόν, κολλώμενοι τῷ ἀγαθῷ, 10 τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι, τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι, 11 τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί, τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες, τῷ κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες, 12 τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες, τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, 13 ταῖς χρείαις τῶν ἁγίων κοινωνοῦντες, τὴν φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες. 14 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώκοντας [ὑμᾶς], εὐλογεῖτε καὶ μὴ καταρᾶσθε. 15 χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων, κλαίειν μετὰ κλαιόντων. 16 τὸ αὐτὸ εἰς ἀλλήλους φρονοῦντες, μὴ τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες ἀλλὰ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι. μὴ γίνεσθε φρόνιμοι παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς. 17 μηδενὶ κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ ἀποδιδόντες, προνοούμενοι καλὰ ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων· 18 εἰ δυνατὸν τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν, μετὰ πάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰρηνεύοντες· 19 μὴ ἑαυτοὺς ἐκδικοῦντες, ἀγαπητοί, ἀλλὰ δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ, γέγραπται γάρ· ἐμοὶ ἐκδίκησις, ἐγὼ ἀνταποδώσω, λέγει κύριος. 20 ἀλλʼ ἐὰν πεινᾷ ὁ ἐχθρός σου, ψώμιζε αὐτόν· ἐὰν διψᾷ, πότιζε αὐτόν· τοῦτο γὰρ ποιῶν ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύσεις ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. 21 μὴ νικῶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ ἀλλὰ νίκα ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακόν. (Romans 12:9-21 NA28)

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 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. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 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. 20 “ 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 NASB)

All that is not of faith is sin. That includes good works and any religious acts that are done from any motivation or source other than faith. The Christians who walk before the face of God Spirit-filled are the ones who are walking by faith. As we have seen in this study, so far, those that become Spirit-filled are those who are living sacrifices. The continual process of mind renewal is transforming them. This renewal is actually a complete renovation of the intellect or mind by the Holy Spirit as they become immersed more and more into the Word of God. This causes them to surrender more and more unto the Lordship of Christ. They have given over their circumstances to the Lord so they have taken up their crosses and are following the Lord.

We have now reached the last section of Romans 12, which are vv9-21. These very powerful verses provide to us a list of traits that characterize the Spirit-filled life. This list is comprehensive in that it gives us the way believers should respond to everyone around them in a Christ-like way. These traits are also mandatory for the Spirit-filled Christian. That means that any rebellion or selfish responses of any of these traits are marks that the believer is not Spirit-filled, but is being controlled by their flesh. Of course Paul gives this to the Church as a means to check ourselves, that is, we should examine ourselves and prayerfully take what the Lord shows us about our walk and repent by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before we tackle this passage it is important to understand the Greek grammar structure of vv9-21. This set of commands is in Present Tense. This means that Paul is telling us that these marks of a genuine Christian are not punctiliar in nature, but are of continuous and repeated action. This means that these traits become manifest in a Christian as part of a process, that is, a way of life. The more we become Spirit-filled the more these traits become part of our character.

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NASB)

The first command is, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The Greek word for “love” here is ἀγάπη or agape. This word is not found in Classical Greek. It is only revealed in religion. It is often translated as “charity.” It means benevolent love. This benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires, but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved. The best example of this is found in John 3:16.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB) 

God gave not what man wanted, but what man needed as He perceived his need. This need, of course, was His Son who brought forgiveness to those who believe in Him.

Paul is telling us to let or allow ἀγάπη to take on a certain quality in our hearts that will be manifest to everyone around us. In Greek this is expressed by the word ἀνυπόκριτος or anupokritos. This word is from the negative. Its New Testament meaning means to pretend or simulate. The New Testament meaning is “unfeigned or genuine.” The King James and the Geneva Bible translate this phrase as, “Let Love be without dissimulation.” Dissimulation means “hypocrisy.” Now ask yourself how successful you are in demonstrating ἀγάπη to everyone around you in unfeigned genuiness. The fact that this is a command for us and it is something we cannot do in the flesh tells us that only the Spirit-led can demonstrate this consistently.

The next command is, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” The Greek word for “abhor” here is ἀποστυγοῦντες or apostygountes. It means, “to shudder or detest with horror.” What are we to abhor? We are to detest with horror that which is evil. The Greek word for “evil” here is πονηρόν or ponēron. It means evil in a moral or spiritual sense, wicked, or malicious. Some things are easily recognized as evil activities, such as pornography, witchcraft, murder, theft, lying, and blasphemy. Of course many professing Christians these days don’t shudder with horror at blasphemy, lying, or pornography. They don’t because their flesh controls them and, therefore, they partake of these things. On the other hand, the Spirit-filled believer does shudder with horror at any sinful activities because the Holy Spirit controls them. What is evil to God is evil to the Spirit-filled believer.

We are also commanded here to “hold fast to what is good.” The Greek word translated here as “hold fast to” is κολλώμενοι or kollōmenoi. This word means “to glue” or “to stick” or “to keep company.” Therefore, we know that Paul is telling us to stick like glue to what is good instead of tolerating evil. The Greek word translated as “good” here is ἀγαθῷ or agathō.” It means “good and benevolent.” This is a goodness that is beneficial to everyone. It is useful in a benevolent sense.

This last command to abhor evil and cling to what is good is not only a contrast, but it is showing us that the Spirit-filled believer must cling to what is good and never tolerate evil. If we are actively pursing that which is good and clinging to it, we will not tolerate evil in our own lives. If we are tolerating evil in our own lives then we are not Spirit-filled. I believe that these commands or standards are progressive in that we should be growing in these traits and will never perfectly manifest them in this life. That does not, however, allow us to neglect them. No, we must be working with God to develop these traits in us.

The next command is, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” This is a command to be devoted to other Christians with a form of love that we use for our families. This love is not based on attractiveness or desirability. This word for love here is the Greek word φιλαδελφίᾳ or philadelphia. It speaks of fraternal affection or love of the brethren. The first command was to let ἀγάπη be genuine to all then to love other believers with this brotherly love. I contend that the ἀγάπη, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will become manifest through our brotherly love for other believers.

The next command is, “give preference to one another in honor.” This means to show genuine appreciation to other believers by putting them first. The joy from doing this is amazing. As we become more and more Spirit-filled we will find that the more we give of ourselves, the more joy we have. This, of course, enables us to not only continue in self-sacrifice, but to go deeper.

The next command is, “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Living sacrifices serve God with their lives because they know that whatever is worth doing in the Christian life is valuable enough to be done with enthusiasm and diligence. To be slothful or indifferent actually prevents good from taking place and allows evil to prosper. The Spirit-filled believer is never slothful or indifferent about their walk. To be fervent in spirit means to be hot enough to be productive, but not too hot then burning out or going out of control in their service to the Lord and their walk.

The next command is, “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” We should joyously be expecting Christ’s return. The Spirit-filled believer, controlled by the Holy Spirit, will have this hope burning in them. They will not want Him to delay His coming so they can enjoy more of the world. Why? In the world there is tribulation that requires patience with a crucified life and diligent prayer in order to do these things. However, when Jesus returns then our blessed hope has come!

The next command is, “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” The Spirit-filled believer sees their possessions as not theirs because they are only passing through. Therefore, they distribute their goods in the sense of everything being held in common. The Spirit-filled believer also pursues the love of strangers. Spirit-filled believers reflect Christ’s character to all.

The next section of this passage is:

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 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. (Romans 12:14-16 NASB)

The Spirit-filled believer treats enemies as if they were friends. That is not possible for the flesh-driven believer. This is a test that we will have thrust into our lives continually as we attempt to walk this walk by faith. People of the world will impose on us. They will be rude to us. They will be inconsiderate. They will denigrate our faith; even blaspheme while holding us in derision. How are we to react to that? We are to bless them. The Greek word for “bless” here is εὐλογεῖτε or eulogeite. We get our English word eulogize from the root of ευλογειτε which is εὐλογέω or eulogeō. It means, “to speak well of.” Now wait a minute. What about those apostates who are seeking to draw multitudes into apostasy with them? Are we to bless them? Well Jesus rebuked those who did not have “ears to hear” and called some “white-washed sepulchers,” and John the Baptist called these same people “a brood of vipers.” I believe we need to tell the truth in love to all. That is ἀγάπη. We do what is best for them and that means we tell them the truth and leave the results to God.

The next command is, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” This simply means that the Spirit-filled believer is glad in blessings, honor and welfare of others. They do this even if their own circumstances are that they are in the fires of tribulation. We are to be sensitive and compassionate to those who are in those fires as well.

The next command is, “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.” The Spirit-filled believer is impartial and humble. No matter how mature we become in Christ, we must never look down on those still struggling with what God has enabled us to defeat. Instead, we should come along side them and help them with prayer and fellowship and counsel.

The last section of this passage is:

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 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. 20 “ 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21 NASB)

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” When we are called names or held in derision by unbelievers or even apostate Christians, we must not respond in kind. This is simply treating enemies the way our Lord did in His ministry. The Spirit-filled believer must respect what is intrinsically proper and honest. This is a call to be visibly moral and good around others, especially unbelievers. The next phrase, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,” tells us that sometimes the attitude of whoever opposes us will not permit peace. I have made it a practice here to not foster “arguing” with those who will not listen. I tell them the truth in love, but if the disagreement escalates I will take action to end it by simply not allowing the argument to continue.

The next phrase is, “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.” This is how I have come to handle the conflicts and disagreements I have had with apostates and pagans who insist on arguing with me or with others who comment here. I stop the arguing and simply put those who refuse to listen in the hands of God.

“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. The Spirit-filled believer is able to “turn the other cheek” and bless their enemies. In doing this, their conscience will be pricked, if they still have a functioning one, and they may very well repent and believe as God draws them into the light.

The Spirit-filled believer will be growing in all of these points. That means that they will also be tested in these areas quite often. Therefore, take heart and praise God because this means that God is using your circumstances to lead you down the narrow way that leads to Him. Be of good cheer my brethren. Being in the fire and struggling in these areas means God is developing His character in you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Christian Authenticity – Marks of the True Christian

  1. John 3:27
    “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” Lord have mercy on us all. Salvation is of God.

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