Love One Another With Brotherly Affection

February 14, 2021 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: The Church: Members of Christ and One Another

Topic: The Church Passage: Romans 12:9–11

We are in a new series on The Church and I want to quickly recap where we have been and where we are going. 

Two weeks ago we looked at the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ. We are united because of Christ and in Christ. And we are members of one another. 

Last week we looked how the church has been given a unity - the unity of the Spirit based on the things we all have in common: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is over all, through all, and in all. This is a unity that has been given to us that we are to seek to maintain this unity. 

So in our Real Life Church Covenant, it says:We will be devoted to one another in brotherly love.“


Genuine Love

Love is the central relational dynamic we are to be motivated by and experience in our life together as Christians - here at RLC? Love is like the circulatory system of the spiritual body of Christ. Without it, we dry up and there is no life. But Paul says in our opening verse that it must be genuine love, sincere love, love without hypocrisy. Verse 9 commands us:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good.

The NASB says, “Let love be without hypocrisy”. Let it be the real thing, let it be true and unfeigned. Literally the word translated genuine means “undisguised”. Don’t disguise your love for one another. And then Paul says abhor (hate) what is evil, hold fast or cling to what is good. What is the evil we are to abhor? Well, it is fake, insincere, disguised love. What is the good we are to cling to? Sincere, true love. 

This is so important. Without love, we just make noise without substance at best. At worst, we are a big fat nothing! We’ve heard these words before, but it’s worth hearing again!

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). 

Love is imperative. It is imperative if we are going to resemble the body Jesus is the Head of. Love is the circulatory system… of the body of Christ (universal) and of this local body (RLC). But Paul gets specific. How is sincere love to be experienced and known in the local context, the local church? 

We see two commands in verse 10. And both of them are things we are to do to “one another”. This is such a rich phrase we see time and again in the NT, often in the context of reciprocal or mutual activities in the context of life together in the church. So many of these activities cannot be done at a distance… they kind of can I suppose. But they are meant to be lived out together. Life together in the church. So what do we see? Well, first we are to “love one another with brotherly affection.” 


Love one another with tender affection (v. 10)

Love one another with brotherly affection.

The NASB says, “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” The essence is that we love one another with real, felt, tender, warm affection. This is not the kind of love that is merely a choice and an act of the will. That is an important love, right? A marriage must have that kind of love. 

This is the kind of love that is felt. You see it in the word affection. Brotherly or tender affection. The word translated brotherly affection is used only here in the NT. No other place. It is the kind of love where there is an attachment to something or someone. Think of an attachment you have with a particular place where something special happened. I remember climbing to a location in Rocky Mountain National Park, where Luke got some inspiration for his worship CD (and took a picture). It was a special place he was attached to. There was an affection for that location. But then this word also carries with it the idea of family. So it is the kind of attachment you would have in a close family. Think of the attachment a young child has with his mother. I think of the attachment all of my children have with their mom. Each of them (it’s most obvious with Grayson). 

Devotion. Deep affection or tender affection. Love one another with brotherly affection. It goes beyond the love by which we choose by an act of the will to love and do good to someone. It goes to the level of our affections, our emotions - it is a love whereby we feel an attachment to one another in family love. As I said before, this is the only place in the NT where this specific word (brotherly affection, devotion, tenderly affectionate) is used, but you hear whispers of the same thing in other places. Peter gives the following command:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

Or listen to how Paul speaks with such affection for the church at Philippi:

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)

You hear this attachment: yearn, affection, loving one another earnestly? This is more than just saying, “well love is a choice and therefore I will do this or that for her.” Love is a choice, but the choicest love is more than just a choice. It is also run through with deep affection for the object of love. I was praying with a couple brothers the other day and one of them said, “pray for me. I want to love my brothers and sisters better.” And I know what he was talking about - he was talking about this kind of love. The choicest, sweetest love has deep, warm affection. 

Of course, this love will move toward need; it will look for an outlet to be expressed in actual acts of mercy, love, and generosity (1 John 3:16-18). It’s also important to add that this kind of love, though tender and affectionate, is not squishy, weak, and spineless. There are times when, in love we must confront and admonish, even rebuke, a brother. 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)

A true friend will faithfully wound you when you need it (parents too). It is an enemy, not a friend, who only flatters. And the hard word, the discipline of a parent comes with the touch of Christ when it is done with this kind of love. Love one another with brotherly affection.

There is a second way in which sincere, unfeigned love is played out in the local church. Honor.

Show honor to one another 

Outdo one another in showing honor. (v. 10)

Undisguised love prefers to show honor rather than be honored. Honor - value assigned in this case to another person. And to show honor is to treat them and commend them based on the value assigned to them. 

What is the value by which we honor one another? Well, each and every person has intrinsic value because we are all image bearers of God! But when we add the phrase “one another” and the realization dawns on us that we are talking about not only image bearers (which is an amazing thought), but also someone for whom Christ died, that is the measure by which we honor. This is a child of God. This is someone that Christ has obtained with his own blood. 

And God has joined us together, knitted us together in the body. Christ assigns value to you as a member in the body and therefore I must! Christ has given you a function to build up, to bless, to encourage the body and so that is the measure of value I must place on you!

Edwards: “Sincere (genuine, unfeigned) and strong love is greatly gratified and delighted in the prosperity of the beloved object.” Showing honor. 

What a phrase: “Outdo one another”. Other translations say something like “in honor, prefer one another…” or “give preference to one another in honor”. Philippians 2:3 says we are to “count others more significant than ourselves.” 

I hope you see how essential the gathered church is! There is so much talk of what is essential. Church is essential. Gathering with the saints is! You cannot do this effectively in isolation from real human contact with others. 

Love one another with tender, brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 

Not Moderately

With the zeal of the Spirit (v. 11)

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit… 

Notice the contrast. Don’t lack or lag behind in zeal. Don’t lose steam in your zeal in this sincere, undisguised love. That is contrasted with “be fervent in spirit…” Now there is some dispute as to whether this is talking about the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. Douglas Moo, in his commentary, makes a compelling case for this referring to the Holy Spirit and I think I agree with him. Martyn Lloyd Jones said the following: “Is this speaking of the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. I don’t hesitate for a moment to say the latter.” And he contrasts our natural weakness and tendency to be “slothful in zeal” and what we need is the Spirit’s ability to “boil over”!

To be fervent literally means to boil over or to be on fire or to be aglow. We are to be boiling over or on fire with the Holy Spirit in this undisguised love. 

For God has given us a Spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

So we are to love with the zeal and fire of the Holy Spirit. 


As unto the Lord (v. 11)

Serve the Lord. 

In service to Christ. It is ultimately for Him. I hope you see this is miraculous. And I want to encourage you that this is happening here. God is working! But can we excel still more? Of course! 

Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled “Heaven is a world of love” in which he said,

By living in love in this world you may have, on earth, the foretastes of heavenly pleasures and delights…

Foretastes of that world of love now. That is what our experience as a church can be. It should be obvious that we need the help of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is… love. We need to ask him for help. We need to seek the Spirit’s mighty help to give us a heart of tender, affectionate love for one another. 

How would the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with this love? He could do whatever he wants. He could just plop it into our hearts right now by an immediate, glorious download or infilling. And you know what? We should pray for that!

However, more often he grows it like fruit and like fruit grows by means of the sunlight and rain and nutrients in the ground, the Holy Spirit grows this love in us progressively as we are exposed more and more to the gospel of the gracious love of God in Christ. It is the love Christ spoke of when he gave a "new command":

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

He loved us and gave himself for us. Let's love one another with brotherly affection. 

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