While reading Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:9, a thought came to me that I do not find in any commentary that I remember. It may therefore be without merit, but I think it worth your consideration. In the ASV it reads, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” In the Greek text, both “abhor” and “cleave” are present participles, not imperatives. We realize that present participles have the force of imperatives, for if one is told, “Let love be without hypocrisy, abhorring that which is evil” one would need to abhor the evil just as if he had been commanded to abhor the evil.

However, in every case of which I am aware in the New Testament, when we have an imperative joined with a participle phrase as in the above example, the participle phrase defines the way the imperative is to be done. It is my strong conviction that the Holy Spirit used exactly the language He wanted to use to let us know what He had in mind. When He uses for “love” the term “agapao” He means one thing. When He uses “phileo” He means something else. When he uses “ta panta” He means one thing. When He uses “panta” he means something different. When He says, “We are saved by the faith,” He means something different than when he says, “We are saved by faith.”

In the expression in Romans 12:9, my judgment is that when He says, “Let love be with hypocrisy, abhorring that which is evil,” He wants us to realize that He is emphasizing that the kind of love about which He speaks is not merely one which is not in pretense in a general way, but the love He is commanding must also be one that abhors evil. One can theoretically love in a way that is real (from an ordinary human standpoint) without reference to abhorring evil. But for a Christian to have the kind of love of which Paul speaks, it must have two qualities.

It must be the kind of love that hates evil. It must do more than merely hate evil. It must cleave to that which is good. A parent who has this kind of love toward his children will not merely give them what they want or things for which they ask. The parent will have a love that so abhors bad things that he will try to do whatever it takes to keep his children from them. He will also realize that merely keeping children from bad things and bad companions is not enough. He will so love the good that he will not only talk about it, but cleave to it, involving sticking to it like glue, giving one’s self earnestly to it.

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