Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by 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

Immediately following the listing of the Motivational Gifts, Paul launches into a series of ethical exhortations for how to function as a member of the body of Christ. The great thing about this section is that whether we understand how we are uniquely gifted or not, these ethical exhortations apply to us all regardless of our gift. We will just walk through these exhortations and make a few comments as we go.1

Another critical comment before getting into the exhortations is to state that our adherence to these exhortations can only come about as a result of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and our union with him. Basic gospel theology tells us we are, outside of Christ, dead in trespasses and sins. The kind of behavior called for by Paul (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him) is not possible in just human effort. The gifts are gifts of God and so is the power to live up to the ethical exhortations Paul gives us. There is a reason all of the gifts are God are referred to as grace gifts, we can’t earn them.

Genuine love and real goodness

“Let love be genuine…hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” 

Gifts are manifestations of God’s love. These exhortations make it clear that we must be connected organically with other believers in order to obey God’s instructions for his gifts. It is a function of body life. These exhortations to love genuinely, brotherly, and outdoing one another in honoring one another make it clear that we need the mercy Paul referred to in Romans 12:1 that includes all of the mercy described from Romans 1-11. Without God’s love, we cannot love genuinely.

Moral Purity

“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Immorality and willful sin cancel out the effectiveness of our gifts. They cloud our spirit and block the flow of God in us to others.

Zeal and wholeheartedness

“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

One who is filled with the Holy Spirit is by definition enthusiastic about Jesus. The word comes from en + theos god. Filled with God.

Stability

“be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

This calls for rootedness in God’s word. A person who is patient in tribulation has a longer view of life than present comfort. One who is constant in prayer is also one who has a longer view of life and of God. One who is constant in prayer is one who has learned the constancy of God and the appropriateness of ongoing supplication.

Active Involvement

“be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Humility

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first law of life is receptivity.

Paul began this teaching with, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

In order for these gifts to accomplish God’s purpose, they must be delivered in an unpolluted fashion, unpolluted by immorality and willful sin, unpolluted by phoniness, unpolluted by laziness and sloth, unpolluted by impatience, unpolluted by arrogance. Remember, we are ambassadors for Christ as his new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

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  1. Much of this material on Motivational Gifts, comes from an unpublished syllabus created by one of my early professors, Dr. Donald Pickerill.