Meditations on Practical Christianity

Romans 12:10‑12  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Verse 10. " Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another." The love spoken of in the previous verse is probably love to all men; here brotherly love is particularly specified. The teaching of the Spirit in this verso seems to be, that Christians should cherish for each other, as brethren in Christ, a love as sincere and tender as if they were the nearest relatives. And this love is to be manifested, not merely in repaying the attentions of others, but in anticipating them in acts of respect and kindness. All Christians are brethren, but as they belong to different families in this life, and called by different names, there is nothing to distinguish them but brotherly love. If this fails, what is left? Our Father is in heaven. He who loves the Father, loves the brethren also. " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begot, loveth him also that is begotten of him. 1 John 5:11Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1).
But here, on a point of such practical importance, and one so difficult to practice, it may be well for thee, my soul, to pause, and inquire what the difference is between brotherly love and brotherly kindness. The apostle says, in writing to the Hebrews, " Let brotherly love continue.,י But he nowhere says, Let brotherly kindness continue. "Love never faileth." Kindness must in some cases. A brother, through the power of Satan, may be walking disorderly, or he may fall into error, and so become a proper subject of discipline; towards such an one our conduct must be changed, though our love remains the same, or even stronger. The mind of the Lord on this point is plainly given: " Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.....For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.....If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed, yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (Rom. xvi.; 2 Thess. iii.) The persons here spoken of are still in communion; hence the difficulty in cherishing brotherly love, and at the same time exercising a wholesome discipline towards them. When it comes to a case of excommunication, the perplexity is less, but our love should be none the less. See Second Epistle of St. John.
"In honor preferring one another" Instead of waiting, as we often do, for others to notice us, before we notice them, we should strive to be beforehand with them in the manifestation of our christian respect, or " honor." There is in some a false modesty, in others a secret pride, which leads them to slip quickly out of a meeting, thereby preventing those from speaking to them who gladly would. And this having been continued for some time, the brethren are complained of as cold, and as showing no love to strangers. But, pray, who is at fault? Let the word of the Lord decide. In honor preferring one another simply means, to go before, to lead, to set an example. The meaning is not exactly to esteem others better than ourselves, as in Phil. 2:33Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3), important as such lowliness of mind is, the mind that was in Christ Jesus; but rather that we should seek to take the lead in these comely ways of our Father's house. And the heart that meditates most deeply on the love of Christ to usward, will be the first to feel that our love to the brethren is not to be governed by cold formalities, but by the measure and pattern of His love to us. Acts of kindness, the expression of sympathy, fellowship, whether in joy or in sorrow, forbearance, long-suffering, charity, are to be among the many fruits of the Spirit which should abound for the refreshment and blessing of our brethren in Christ.*
(* See " Commentary on the Romans," p. 394. Hodge. 11 Lectures on the Romans," p. 245. W. K.)
Verse 11. " Not slothful in business; fervent inspirit; serving the Lord" The apostle, unwearied, continues his favorite theme of love. Now it is love in activity, in earnestness. Not merely love to all men, or love to the brethren, but the energy of love, as service to the Lord. The exhortation refers to religious activity, not to the active performance of our secular vocations, as many have supposed, and as the word, " business," in our text naturally suggests. At the same time, whatever the Christian does, whether it be as to things temporal or spiritual, he should not be slothful, or indulge in indolence, but in every duty manifest a spirit of zeal and devotedness. "In spirit fervent" is the Lord's word; as it was said of Apollos—"This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord." Acts 18:2525This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. (Acts 18:25).
" Serving the Lord." Here we are supplied with the blessed motive to both diligence and zeal. And this is a motive which is easily carried about with us, and easily applied. Is this I propose to do—is the place I propose to go to—service to my Lord and Master? Is He saying, Do—go? Must I do this, must I go there, because the Lord would have me? This is a test, as well as a motive. " Is it service to the Lord?" We are expected to walk by faith with Him, to refer everything to Him, to consider ourselves as wholly and at all times His servants. Nothing is too great or too small for Him. We may confer with Him, not only as to our christian service, but as to our worldly employments, engagements, and difficulties.
Speakest thou thus, my soul, of thine own experience, or writest thou as from a book? Valueless, and worse, a mockery, and soon over, would all such writing and speaking be, were it not the living experience of one who is at home with the Lord as with none else. What heart in the universe has been so revealed unto us as the heart that willingly shed its blood to fit us for His holy presence, and that God, in us and by us, might be glorified? He loved me, He gave Himself for me, entitles me to the full benefit of His love, to the full benefit of His death. Yes, the believer is entitled in grace to claim the full benefit of His love, of His death. What a privilege! What a portion! Happy they who know it, believe it, enjoy it, and draw from it day by day light and strength for their path and service. And now the precept is the law of liberty—" Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ." Col. 3:23, 2423And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23‑24).
Verse 12. " Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer." The beautiful moral connection of the three members of this verse is very apparent. In hope rejoicing, in suffering patient, in prayer persevering. The hope of the Lord's coming is the most effectual means of producing patience under present trials. The contemplation of the coming One, of His adorable Person, of our union with Him, of meeting Him in the air, of being introduced by Him into the house of many mansions, of seeing Him face to face, of hearing His voice, of beholding His glory, of knowing more fully the realities of His love and grace. Surely such contemplations are divinely fitted to soothe the troubled mind, and to sweeten the bitterness of sorrow. If we reckon, as the apostle did, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, we shall not be wanting in patience.
Ο bright, celestial morn, hasten thy coming, when the dim glass shall be removed, and when we shall see Him as He is. Now the cup of sorrow goes round. It is passed from lip to lip, from heart to heart, from family to family, and many of the children of that day are now passing through the valley of the shadow of death. Days and nights of weary watching, the loving, tender heart suspended between hope and fear; but the parting comes. All is silent. The last sigh has been heaved, and the last tear shed. Another saint has been welcomed to the paradise of God.
" Then, as advance the shades of night,
Long-plumed, she takes her homeward flight;
But as she mounts, I saw her fling
A beam of glory from her wing -
A moment—to my aching sight
Lost in the boundless fields of light."
Hope has received a fresh inspiration. The dear departed is on before; we shall meet again. The grave must yield up its prey; the sea must give up its dead; and all be caught up together in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Ο morning of re-unions! The circle to be broken no more forever. The morning song begins; all catch the flying joy, and roll round the rapturous hosanna, worthy the Lamb that was slain!
" Oh! 'tis all brightness yonder, no clouds nor din,
But joy, and peace, and gladness, and rest from sin;
Oh! 'tis all glory yonder, for Christ is there,
In blest effulgence shining beyond compare."
" Continuing instant in prayer" Meanwhile, come what may, we fall back upon the great resource of the soul—communion with God, in prayer persevering. We have spoken of a love that makes all service easy, of a hope that sheds its bright radiance over the gloomy day; and now we are exhorted to live near to God, and draw all needed support from Him, while waiting for His Son from heaven. Hope and patience, and all other virtues, can only be nourished by that character of intercourse with God which is here described as " continuing instant in prayer." It is directly the opposite of every element of formality. To be continual, fervent, persevering, alone answers to the divine injunction. No duty can be well done, and no service rightly performed, without this kind of prayer.
The apostle, of course, cannot mean by this that we are always to be in the attitude of prayer. This would be impossible. Many of God's praying ones have to spend the greater part of their time in the company of the prayerless; and sometimes we may be on a journey, where we have no opportunity for private or secret prayer. Still, if we are living and walking with God in the true spirit of prayer, the lifting up of the heart to Him may not be less frequent, though less orderly.
But here, my soul, thou seemest inclined to ask a question. If the believer is already pardoned, accepted, and has all things in Christ, what is it that he has to pray for so constantly? Should not praise and thanksgiving rather fill his heart? Prayer will seldom be offered without being mingled with praise. " Prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving," will generally be combined; but praise and prayer are quite distinct. Praise is that which we offer to God; prayer is the expression of our dependence upon Him for the supply of all our need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Praise is the re-ascending to God of the grace that has come down to us in answer to prayer; so that the more we abound in prayer, the richer and higher will be our note of praise.
But there is nothing, let me assure thee, in the whole life and ways of a Christian that can be safely separated from prayer. It thus becomes a test of what he may or may not do. That which he cannot do prayerfully, that on which he cannot ask the divine blessing, should be left undone. Were this test more faithfully applied, Christians would make fewer mistakes, to say nothing of error and evil. The grand end and object of prayer is to keep the soul in constant communion with God, by cultivating the habit of referring everything to Him. In this way our knowledge of God is daily increased, so that we can count on Him for the answers to our prayers, without either signs or tokens of the answer. We reckon upon Himself; confidence is created by the knowledge which He has given us of His grace and love. " He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" What an answer, what a rebuke, to all our doubts and fears is in this noble text! Who could doubt the reality, the extent, of God's love to us, and the deep and tender interest of His heart in all that concerns us, with this grand truth before the mind, beaming with a divine effulgence under our own eyes? Dear and precious to God, above all other objects, as His own Son ever was, He spared Him not, but for us delivered Him up for three-and-thirty long years, to humiliation, suffering, and death. What must the heart be made of that could doubt the goodness of God, after such an expression of His love for us all—the whole family of faith?
But all goes with Him. Apart from Him there is no blessing. Every lesser is included in the greater blessing. Had Rebekah refused to be the wife of Isaac, she could not have been a fellow-heir with him of the large fortunes of Abraham. When united to Christ by faith, we are fellow-heirs with Him of every blessing which divine love can give, and every blessing is measured by God's gift of His own Son. What a privilege to know Christ! Who could count the number and the greatness of the Christian's blessings in Him? May the Lord, in His sweet mercy, lead everyone who reads these pages to lay hold on Christ by faith as the unspeakable gift of God, and the Savior of mankind. Without an interest in Christ all is lost. Every man and woman born must either have Christ's place in heaven, or their own in hell. Let the reader decide now; which is it to be—thine or His? His will be the best in heaven, thine the worst in hell. Decide, then, Ο my reader, decide now, at once and forever. The Lord grant it.
But to return to our subject.
The Christian should have a large heart. He has more than himself to think of and pray for. He has the ear and the arm of the living God, and he is to use them for the help and blessing of his household, his surroundings, and belongings, the church, and the workmen of God, the gospel, the poor and needy, the whole family of affliction, and all mankind. Many are the directions and promises in God's word connected with prayer, which we cannot here enumerate; but the principal attributes of all acceptable prayer are confidence, fervor, and perseverance; always remembering that it must be in accordance with the word, and by the Spirit of God. " Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.... And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him..... Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.....All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Eph. 6:1818Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:18) John 5:14, 1514Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. (John 5:14‑15); Matt. 21:2222And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22); John 14:13, 1413And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13‑14).
" There is a power which man can wield,
When mortal aid is vain;
That eye, that arm, that love to reach,
That listening ear to gain.
That power is prayer, which soars on high,
Through Jesus, to the throne,
And moves the hand which moves the world
To bring deliverance down."