Romans, Part 52

 

So how can I view, Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good,[1] and what follows as a definition of love rather than as rules?  I’ve constructed the following table to help.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

Goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη)

…for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light – for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness (ἀγαθωσύνῃ), righteousness, and truth (ἀληθείᾳ) – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.[2]
Love (ἀγάπη) is…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NET)

…not glad about injustice (ἀδικίᾳ)…

1 Corinthians 13:6a (NET)

…but rejoices (συγχαίρει, a form of συγχαίρω) in the truth (ἀληθείᾳ).

1 Corinthians 13:6b (NET)

The person who speaks on his own authority desires to receive honor for himself; the one who desires the honor of the one who sent him is a man of integrity, and there is no unrighteousness (ἀδικία) in him.[3]
This Love Without Hypocrisy…

Romans 12:9-21 (NET)

Abhor (ἀποστυγοῦντες, a form of ἀποστυγέω) what is evil (πονηρόν, a form of πονηρός)…

Romans 12:9b (NET)

…cling (κολλώμενοι, a form of κολλάω) to what is good (ἀγαθῷ, a form of ἀγαθός).

Romans 12:9c (NET)

While it makes some sense to place cling to what is good (ἀγαθῷ) under goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη), there is also a certain arbitrariness to subdividing a multivariate unity like the fruit of the Spirit.  Why not place rejoices (συγχαίρει) in the truth under joy (χαρά)?  I have no argument against that at all.  I wholeheartedly believe that the motivating power (both to will and to do)[4] is the fruit of Christ’s Spirit.  I rejoice in the truth because of his joy flowing in and through me.  And I’ve clearly walked everything through love (ἀγάπη; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NET) as well.  What is most important to me is the direction of flow, that I abhor what is evil and cling to what is good by God’s goodness, not my own.

I used to work this backwards.  I believed that if I gathered a list of all that is evil and abhorred it, if I gathered a list of all that is good and clung to it, then I would be a man of integrity who desired to honor God.  And if I was not glad about injustice but rejoiced in the truth, then I would be walking as a child of the light, and I would have achieved the fruit of the Spirit, the very Goodness of God.  I would have climbed up sunshine mountain.[5]  Though I now consider this adultery, even a super πορνεία, and precisely what Jesus meant when he called the Pharisees hypocrites, I didn’t know any better then.  My only alternative in the futility of my thinking[6] was to say, “No, I won’t do any of those things.”

Though I could see no alternative to obeying rules in my mind, I felt it in my heart and in my spirit.  I had moments, brief, precious God-given moments of unbounded grace, when I could do no wrong, effortlessly.  Why did they end? I wondered.  And so I studied the Bible for more rules to obey.  But despite my best efforts to remain blind and unthinking, God’s light shone through.  His love, his joy, his peace, his patience, his kindness, his goodness, his faithfulness, his gentleness and his firm control[7] began to take its toll on my recalcitrant mind, and renew it.

Now I see even with my mind, that if I abhor what is evil and cling to what is good, it is due to his goodness.  If I am not glad about injustice but rejoice in the truth, it is due to his love and joy.  If I walk as a child of the light it demonstrates his righteousness, not mine.  It is his gift received by faith.  For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ![8]  Now I can look back and see that even the point of that silly little song was to “Look to God on High,” but my religious mind tried to keep me blind—tried and failed because eventually I learned to stop trying to do and started believing.

John’s words are an excellent transition to believe into the next definition of love in Paul’s letter to the Romans, Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another.[9]

I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name.  I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil one (πονηρόν).  I have written to you, children, that you have known the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning.  I have written to you, young people, that you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one (πονηρόν).[10]
The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

Kindness (χρηστότης)

But “when the kindness (χρηστότης) of God our Savior and his love for mankind (φιλανθρωπία) appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy (ἔλεος), through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.”[11]
Love (ἀγάπη) is…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NET)

…kind (χρηστεύεται, a form of χρηστεῦομαι)…

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NET)

…it is not envious (ζηλοῖ, a form of ζηλόω).

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NET)

But the Jews became jealous (Ζηλώσαντες, a form of ζηλόω), and gathering together some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.[12]They court you eagerly (ζηλοῦσιν, another form of ζηλόω), but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you would seek them eagerly (ζηλοῦτε, another form of ζηλόω).  However, it is good to be sought eagerly (ζηλοῦσθαι, another form of ζηλόω) for a good purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you.[13]
This Love Without Hypocrisy…

Romans 12:9-21 (NET)

Be devoted (φιλαδελφίᾳ, a form of φιλαδελφία) to one another with mutual love (φιλόστοργοι, a form of φιλόστοργος)…

Romans 12:10a (NET)

…showing eagerness (προηγούμενοι, a form of προηγέομαι) in honoring (τιμῇ, a form of τιμή) one another.

Romans 12:10b (NET)

Now on the topic of brotherly love (φιλαδελφίας, a form of φιλαδελφία) you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love (ἀγαπᾶν, a form of ἀγαπάω) one another.  And indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.  In this way you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.[14]

So I began here with John’s good and kind and gracious words that I may cling to them and rejoice in their truth: 1) your sins have been forgiven because of his name; 2) you have known him who has been from the beginning, 3) you have conquered the evil one [whether that be Satan or the sin in my own flesh]; 4) you have known the Father; 5) you have known him who has been from the beginning [and it is good to hear it again]; 6) you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

This kindness (χρηστότης), an aspect of the fruit of his Spirit, is from God: when the kindness (χρηστότης) of God our Savior and his love for mankind (φιλανθρωπία) appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy (ἔλεος), through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.  And so, love is kind (χρηστεύεται), it is not envious (ζηλοῖ, a form of ζηλόω).

It’s worth the time to try to grasp what Paul meant by negating ζηλοῖ here, because he often used forms of ζηλόω in a more positive sense.  I am jealous (ζηλῶ, another form of ζηλόω) for you with godly jealousy (ζήλῳ, a form of ζῆλος), because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.[15]  He encouraged the Corinthians to be eager (ζηλοῦτε, another form of ζηλόω) for the greater gifts,[16] to Pursue love and be eager (ζηλοῦτε) for the spiritual gifts,[17] to be eager (ζηλοῦτε) to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues.[18]  But he was well aware of the jealousy of the religious mind (Acts 17:1-5a NET).

After they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.  Paul went to the Jews in the synagogue, as he customarily did, and on three Sabbath days he addressed them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”  Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large group of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.  But the Jews became jealous (Ζηλώσαντες, a form of ζηλόω), and gathering together some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.

They court you eagerly (ζηλοῦσιν, another form of ζηλόω), but for no good purpose,[19] Paul wrote the Galatians.  The word translated good in for no good purpose is καλῶς, literally beautifully.  Paul used it often in an edgy almost sarcastic way.  Then you will say, “The branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted (καλῶς)!  They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but fear![20]  For you are certainly giving thanks well (καλῶς), he wrote to the one who speaks in a tongue[21] but does not interpret, but the other person is not strengthened.[22]  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough (καλῶς)![23]

I think this same edginess comes into play here in Galatians as Paul hit on the primary motive of the religious mind’s jealousy: they want to exclude you, so that you would seek them eagerly (ζηλοῦτε, another form of ζηλόω).[24]  Then he explained the difference between a positive and negative ζηλόω.  However, it is good (καλὸν, a form of καλός) to be sought eagerly (ζηλοῦσθαι, another form of ζηλόω) for a good (καλῷ, another form of καλός) purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you.[25]  The words translated good here, καλὸν and καλῷ, are forms of καλός, beautiful literally, “goodness” in appearance.  It is a beautiful image of the difference between attempting to be good by one’s own efforts and relying on the intrinsic goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη) of God.  For I know that nothing good (ἀγαθόν, a form of ἀγαθός) lives in me, Paul wrote the Romans, that is, in my flesh.  For I want to do the good (καλὸν, a form of καλός), but I cannot do it.[26]  The religious works of the religious mind lack the ἀγαθωσύνη of God (and probably his χρηστότης as well).

And so Paul’s description of love is to Be devoted (φιλαδελφίᾳ, brotherly affection) to one another with mutual love (φιλόστοργοι, familial affection), showing eagerness (προηγούμενοι, lead the way) in honoring (τιμῇ, or valuing) one another.[27]  This is what John did with the words that I used to begin this section.  And this is what Paul did: Now on the topic of brotherly love (φιλαδελφίας) you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love (ἀγαπᾶν) one anotherAnd indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more[28] 

What follows is interesting as a regional/cultural difference or Paul’s personal taste or something gleaned from experience.  In Jerusalem God’s kindness was manifest as a communal ethic: All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.[29]  When Ezra followed Shecaniah’s suggestion to have the men who married foreign women divorce them according to the law,[30] A proclamation was circulated throughout Judah and Jerusalem that all the exiles were to be assembled in Jerusalem.  Everyone who did not come within three days would thereby forfeit all his property, in keeping with the counsel of the officials and the elders.[31]  With a historical precedent like that Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem may have forfeited their property to the authorities if they had tried to keep it.

Paul worked with his own hands even as he ministered the Gospel.  When James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, Paul wrote the Galatians, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  They requested only that we remember the poor [in Jerusalem], the very thing I also was eager to do.[32]  James commented how some in the Jerusalem church had become judges with evil motives[33] favoring the rich: Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to?[34]

Against this backdrop Paul counseled the Thessalonians to show God’s kindness through a more working-class ethic, to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.  In this way you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.[35]

 

Romans, Part 53 

Back to Romans, Part 69

Back to To Make Holy, Part 1


[1] Romans 12:9b (NET)

[2] Ephesians 5:8-10 (NET)

[3] John 7:18 (NET)

[7] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[8] Romans 5:17 (NET)

[9] Romans 12:10 (NET)

[10] 1 John 2:12-14 (NET)

[11] Titus 3:4-6 (NET)

[12] Acts 17:5 (NET)

[13] Galatians 4:17, 18 (NET)

[14] 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (NET)

[15] 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NET)

[16] 1 Corinthians 12:31 (NET)

[17] 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NET)

[18] 1 Corinthians 14:39 (NET)

[19] Galatians 4:17a (NET)

[20] Romans 11:19, 20 (NET)

[21] 1 Corinthians 14:13 (NET)

[22] 1 Corinthians 14:17 (NET)

[23] 2 Corinthians 11:4 (NET)

[24] Galatians 4:17b (NET)

[25] Galatians 4:18 (NET)

[26] Romans 7:18 (NET)

[27] Romans 12:10 (NET)

[28] 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 10 (NET)

[29] Acts 2:44, 45 (NET)

[31] Ezra 10:7, 8a (NET)

[32] Galatians 2:9, 10 (NET)

[33] James 2:4 (NET)

[34] James 2:6b, 7 (NET)

[35] 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 (NET)