This chapter seems to fall into three divisions: verses 1-2, our consecration and dedication to God; verses 3-8, our consecration and dedication to duties and gifts in the body of Christ; and verses 9-21, our general attitude and behaviour towards another.
(V. 9.) "Let your love be sincere," without pretention and hypocrisy. Our love to one another, like our love to Christ, must be genuine and sincere and from the heart - not in word only but in deed and truth (1 John 4:7,8, 19, 20).
"Hate what is evil." Believers sin, but they do not love sin either in principle or deed, nor do they excuse or justify it in themselves or in others (Ps. 51:3, 4). The word "cleave" means to "be glued to" or to "keep company with." Walk with God and with those who know God. Hold to the principles of godliness, associate with people and go to places which contribute to your spiritual growth. (Read in Amplified Version 15:33.)
(V. 10) The believer will in truth love all men. There is no room in a regenerate heart for hate, grudges and bigotry, but there is a special love for those who are called brethren. The word here is "love one another as members of the same family, giving precedence and honour to one another." (Phil. 2:3, 4; 6:10)· In making others happy, we find happiness. In giving, we receive. In promoting another's welfare and honour, we are honoured. A man's character is not always revealed in what others say about him, but in what he says privately about others.
(V. 11.) There are two opinions here; both are true.
1. Make the Lord's glory your rule in everything. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. If you are engaged in secular work for wages, or if you serve the public, work as if the Lord Jesus your employer (Eph. 6:5-7; Col. 3:22, 23).
2. Let not the worship and business of the Lord degenerate into a cold formalism. Let our religious duties (such as study, prayer, witnessing, singing, giving and preaching) be always motivated by fervent zeal and interest.
(V. 12.) "Rejoicing in the hope" we have of eternal glory in Christ (1 John 3:1-3). Someone said, "Rejoicing in hope is placed between serving the Lord and being patient under trial because nothing tends to motivate a believer to serve God and to endure trials with patience like the hope of being like Christ."
Let us learn to expect trials and bear them without murmuring against God, who sends them (for our good) and without being bitter against men, who are but his instruments (John 16:33). Prayer is needful at all times (1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 5:19, 20).
(V. 13.) When another believer is in need, the church will respond to that need. We are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and see that the family of God is provided for. Our homes are to be hotels of hospitality open to all believers (Matt. 25:34-40).
(V. 14.) Many Christians, through the years, have had to bear real persecution. We know little of this, but we do have opposition and unkind feelings for the sake of the gospel. We are to pray for our enemies as our Lord did, "Father, forgive them." and as Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
(VV. 15, 16.) When brethren are of one heart, they are able to identify with one another in joy and sorrow. A strong love produces a strong interest and concern for one another.
"Be of the same mind one toward another." John Brown said, "Be united in your affections, sentiments and goals." It is difficult to love every Christian with the same degree of love, for all are not equally lovable and amiable, but we can love with the same kind of affection.
"Mind not high things," etc. Be not haughty, snobbish and but readily adjust yourself to people of every station and give yourself to humble tasks (Jer. 45:5; Matt. 23:8-11). We ought to cultivate habitually a deep sense of our own unworthiness and ignorance.
(VV. 17, 18.) Private revenge is contrary to our gospel. We are to repay evil words for evil words or evil deeds for evil deeds. Providing things honest in the sight of all men has to do with our business dealings, our clean conversation, our conduct in public and our faithfulness to family, civic and business duties.
"If possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." We are not to disturb others nor let them disturb us. The first is in our power the second is not. The chief offender in this warfare is the tongue!
(VV.19, 21.) Here is the cause of most unrest: people taking on themselves to avenge themselves. To get even or to strike back is our nature. "Give place to wrath," yield to it, do not resist it, keep out of its way and let it spend itself. Do not brood over misunderstandings and keep them warm. Let them die. God will someday settle all accounts!
Your anger will never win the heart of a foe, but your kindness may reach his heart and conscience.
Do not let evil men and evil thoughts dictate your course of action. Do not let hatred and hard feelings get the better of your Christian principles. Do not let evil revenge displace the divine light of forgiveness.