Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character

romans 12:9-10, acceptable worship, sunset, beach, mountains, people, Philippines, Anawangin Cove, Zambales
Anawangin Cove, Zambales, Philippines | April 2010

Romans 12: 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. 

A love without hypocrisy.

In verse 9, Paul used the Greek word agápē translated as love. It means benevolence, goodwill, esteem. In the New Testament, it typically refers to divine love. 1 John 4:7 says that love comes from God; then in verse 8 it says God is love. Jesus showed His love for us with His selfless service and sacrifice on the cross to save undeserving sinful men. From His example, we see that agápē is an unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of love which seeks the welfare and the highest good of the one loved.

Our love should be without hypocrisy. Without hypocrisy means a sincere behavior free from hidden agendas or selfish motives seeking personal gain. It should be pure, genuine selfless love.

So how can a supposedly selfless love be selfish? This reveals the self-centered sinful nature of man. We can show an outward love and service to others but in reality be self-seeking when it is driven by personal interests or when we manipulate the situation and people for our own benefit. This hidden motive or attitude of the heart negates the very essence of  an agápē kind of love.

We are called to love unconditionally because this is a reflection of God’s character and it can only be possible through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

A love that abhors evil and clings to good.

To abhor evil means to detest it utterly. True love without hypocrisy does not trivialize, condone, approve, encourage or partake in what is evil. Instead, it adheres and gives oneself steadfastly to what is good. Sin destroys a loving relationship; and only what is good builds up, restores, and strengthens relationships.

The standard of what is good and evil is not based on one’s own preference or how society defines it but is according to God’s holy character revealed in His Word.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

A devoted love for the family of believers.

In verse 10, Paul mentioned two other descriptions of love: philadelphía and philóstorgos. Philadelphía means love and affection for fellow-believers. Philóstorgos means a devoted love shown by family-members, it is a kindly affectionate natural love for one’s family.

Quoting a quote from a sermon, our love for fellow believers should be “…marked by a devotion that is characteristic of a loving, close-knit, and mutually supportive family.” – James Boice (Romans [Baker], 4:1598)

John 1:12-13 says that all who did receive Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

When we were born into a family, we did not choose who our parents and siblings would be, they were chosen by God. Our love for them is not based on preference, attraction, personality, or common interest. In the same way, believers are adopted into God’s family and share the same Heavenly Father not by human decision but of God’s. And Paul exhorts us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord in an affectionate devoted love as that of our own family, a love that is also not based on our personal preferences, common interests, etc. but on the truth that they are our eternal spiritual family.

A love that gives preference in honoring others. 

To give preference to others in honor means to go before another in valuing others thereby exhibiting the right example so others can follow. It means we are not waiting for others to value us or another person by giving honor, respect, esteem, or serve and meet the need, instead we should have a mindset of doing it first and outdo one another in showing honor.

A genuine, sincere unconditional love does not think of what it can benefit from the situation or from other people rather it seeks to find ways in showing love, meeting the need and building others up. It gives preference to others above oneself. A character of humility and selflessness that Jesus exemplified. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Romans 12 Personal Study Series:
Acceptable Worship: An Offering Prescribed by God (Romans 12:1-2)
Acceptable Worship: A Selfless Service (Romans 12:3-8)
Acceptable Worship: A Love That Conforms to God’s Character (Romans 12:9-10)
Acceptable Worship: A Zealous and Fervent Service to the Lord (Romans 12:11)
Acceptable Worship:  Joyful, Prayerful and Persevering in Tribulation (Romans 12:12)
Acceptable Worship:  An Eagerness to Meet the Needs of God’s People (Romans 12:13)

Interlinear Bible
Parallel Bible

For further understanding of Romans 12 you can check these sites: GCF’s sermon series on Romans or John MacArthur’s sermon series on Romans.


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