With Brotherly Affection

“Love One Another with Brotherly Affection…”

Romans 12:10

Romans 12:9-21 gives us a picture of what the Christian character, and the Christian community, ought to look like. As I’ve written here over the past few weeks, this Christian life begins with a genuine and sincere love for God and for one another. In loving God, we grow to hate that which is evil, and cling to that which is good and true. Today we see how we are to treat one another.

Paul writes that we are to love one another with brotherly affection. Now while I love the ESV translation of scripture, there are times when the Greek really has more to offer. This love to which we are called to have for one another in the Greek text is really a combination of two words, philos – meaning brotherly love – and stergo – which means “natural affection. Essentially the word, which is only found in this passage in Romans, calls for a devotion or loving-kindness that is naturally found in the family – in parents for their children, or the love that binds brothers. In other words, the Christian is reminded to love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood. Matthew Henry wrote, this “kind affection puts us on to express ourselves both in word and action with the greatest courtesy and obligingness that may be.”

But let’s be honest. I grew up with an older brother and younger sister, and I know we didn’t always get along. I am raising four kids of my own, and not a day goes by that there is not some skirmish or battle between the brothers. They wouldn’t fight like this with their friends, but their brothers are free game.

Sadly, I see this in the church, too. I came to realize, very early in ministry, that often Christians will treat their brothers and sisters in Christ far worse than they would a total stranger. It’s in the slander and gossip that flows under the guise of a “prayer chain” and the cold and unforgiving glare in the “fellowship” time after worship. It’s in the dismissive attitude that one elder has for another, and in the deacon’s refusal to care for that member who’s always asking for help. The community of faith, which ought to be a witness to the forgiveness and transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, frequently clouds that witness in the way they treat one another.

How do we, then, maintain our witness as we love one another with brotherly affection?

Remember You are Brethren, Purchased by Christ.
I realize when I give bullet points like this, I usually start out with a “remember” point. There’s good reason for that. So much of what we’re supposed to do flows out of what’s already been done. What we do as the Christian community comes from who we are in Christ. It is because of what He has done, having purchased us by His blood (1 Pet 1:18-19), having broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us and made us one body in Him (Eph 2:14). Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are made the children of God, )with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph 4:5-6).

We are then, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Let us “therefore, by the mercies of God” live with love toward our brethren. When we address one another, let us remember that we are addressing one for whom Christ died, one in whom the grace of God is working, one in whom the Spirit of God is sanctifying. When we speak to other Christians, we are addressing the child of the King of Heaven, a fellow heir and saint by grace through faith, a new creation through the Spirit and the Word.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven
If you live with someone long enough, you are bound to need forgiveness. Disagreements and arguments are normal in any family, and the family of faith is not immune. You will not find in Scripture any congregation that is above correction, for on this side of eternity the Church and it’s members is being made holy – we have not arrived.

And so we are “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). This, of course, reminds us that each of us has been forgiven, and the grace we have been shown in Jesus Christ is the same grace we are to extend to one another. This means seeking out those whom we have harmed and asking for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24), and eagerly seeking to be reconciled with those who have brought us harm.

Rejoice in the Lord Always
In all things, as we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord our overriding theme should be joy in the Christ. While we may not always see eye to eyes as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can agree to let the joy of Christ be our theme.

What is this joy? It is the joy that Christ came to make complete in our lives (John 15:11). It is the joy of knowing that we are reconciled with God and at peace with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the joy of having full assurance of salvation in Christ alone. It is the joy of being one with kindred spirits as the body of Christ. It is the joy of belonging to a family whose foundations run deeper and truer than flesh and blood. It is the joy of being “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). It is quite simply that as we are one with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as Calvin once wrote, “come what may, believers, having the Lord standing on their side, have sufficient ground of joy.”


To Sum Up…

I have learned something new and interesting (to me anyway) this week.  I was translating Ephesians 1:7-14 for my sermon prep on Sunday when I came across one of those words that I don’t think I had ever paid any attention to before.  The word is 17 letters long, nearly impossible to say, is used only twice in the New Testament (the other verse is Romans 13:9. 

I cannot show you the word in Greek here on the blog, but the transliteration is, anakephalaiosasthai.  The word literally translated means “to recapitulate,” or “to gather together under one head.”  Its historic use is as a rhetorical device, such as when Paul uses the word in Romans 13:9, saying “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But here in Ephesians, the word seems to take on a totally different meaning.  Here we find that “recapitulation” is actually God’s plan for all of creation in the fullness of time.  Ephesians 1:9 and 10 tells us that God has revealed to us in Christ the mystery of his will, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

Too often we think about God’s plan in localized terms.  What is God’s will for my life?  Which girl does God want me to date?  Which job should I take to better serve the Lord?  Those are all great questions to ask.  But when was the last time you stopped to consider that your salvation, God’s plan for your redemption, is part of God’s bigger plan for the consummation of all things, for the entire cosmos, as they are drawn together under the headship of our exalted Savior, Jesus Christ? 

One commentary put it this way,

Christ is the one in whom God chooses to sum up the universe, in whom he restores the harmony of the cosmos. Earlier, “in Christ” has functioned to indicate Christ’s being the elect representative in whom believers are included, but now it can be seen that God’s comprehensive purpose goes beyond simply humanity to embrace the whole created order.  To be incorporated into God’s gracious decision about Christ is also to be caught up in God’s gracious purpose for a universe centered and reunited in Christ.

Or as we read in Colossians 1:16 and 20:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Calvin put it this way,

Out of Christ all things were disordered, and through him they have been restored to order.  And truly, out of Christ, what can we perceive in the world but mere ruins?  We are alienated from God by sin, and how can we but present a broken and shattered aspect?  The proper condition of creatures is to keep close to God.  Such a gathering together as might bring us back to regular order, the apostle tells us, has been made in Christ.  Formed into one body, we are united to God, and closely connected with each other.  Without Christ, on the other hand, the whole world is a shapeless chaos and frightful confusion.  We are brought into actual unity by Christ alone.

For some reason, I have been sort of shell shocked by this concept this week.  I hope that in my preaching I can do this justice.  I encourage you to read the passage (Ephesians 1:6-14) again, praising God for His glorious grace as shown to us in Christ, who is the Lord of all.