“FOR THE LOVE OF THE SPIRIT”
1. For those of you who are visiting our church, either for the first time, or you have attended only a few of our services, some explanation of my Sunday morning approach to preaching would benefit you.
2. I strongly believe that it is unlikely that a sermon can be effectively delivered with the design being to both feed the Christian and to evangelize the unconverted. I have come to this opinion after having considered the ministry of the 19th century English Baptist, Charles H. Spurgeon.
3. I wondered how that pastor of the largest church in the world in his day could have strong, vibrant Christians when it seemed to me that he preached only evangelistic sermons at each of his church’s services. Then I learned that he always taught an exposition to believers before he preached his sermon, which was almost always directed to the unconverted who were in attendance.
4. So, following his lead, my usual practice on Sunday mornings is to teach Christians from God’s Word, during the exposition time, and then preach a more directly evangelistic sermon to those unconverted people in attendance when I deliver my sermon.
5. On Sunday nights and Wednesday nights my regimen involves verse by verse expositions, with strong evangelistic applications from time to time. And this practice will likely continue until our congregation has a high enough percentage of truly converted people, who will be willing to work very hard at evangelism on Saturdays, that we can then engage in what I believe will be difficult but very productive outreach.
6. Once that happens, and we are seeing numerous visitors attend each of our Sunday services, then, of course, I will preach strong evangelistic sermons both Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. So you see, we are really a congregation in transition, on our way to being a group of believers who are very determined to work very, very hard to reach the lost with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
7. I give you that background information because, today, I am departing from my usual course. Today, both my exposition and my sermon will be informational, to both the saved who are present and the lost. My prayer is that the truths I will teach you will be a great blessing to you.
8. When I was baptized, 29 years ago, I rather quickly discovered that the pastor of the church taught and preached the same things over and over again. Not line upon line and precept upon precept, but simply repeating sermons. During the first 18 months I was in that church I remember hearing sermons preached three different times.
9. As well, I remember person after person complaining about not being fed. Each time someone told me that I would take him to the pastor so he could deal with the situation, but the sad fact was that we weren’t getting fed much.
10. The great mistake I made, I suppose, was thinking to myself, on more than one occasion, that the Bible was so vast and rich and deep that someone in that position should always be able to teach people something they didn’t know. So, when God called me to the gospel ministry, I vowed to make sure that each and every person I taught and preached to would always have presented to him something he had never before been taught. Down through the years I have worked very hard to keep that vow.
11. I so very much want you to learn something today that will profoundly bless your life. Two weeks ago I focused on God’s love. Last week I focused on Christ’s love. Today I will focus on the Holy Spirit’s love.
12. But before we turn to our text for today, allow me to provide for you some background information that will serve as a foundation for other truths to rest upon.
1A. First, THERE IS WHAT WE ARE TOLD TO BE THE BELIEVER’S LOVE
1B. The Lord Jesus Christ said, in John 13.35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” That is, one of the distinguishing characteristics that sets believers in Jesus Christ apart from mere professors of religion is the love that we have for one another.
2B. So important is the love that one Christian has for a brother or sister in Christ that the apostle John declared it to be vital to showing one’s self a real Christian. First John 3.24: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
3B. So, one of the indispensable characteristics of genuine Christianity is the mutual love that Christians have for each other. To observe Christians without love for each other, then, or to observe congregations who do not demonstrate love, is to observe declared Christians who are professors only, and not real possessors of eternal life.
2A. Next, THE SOURCE OF THE BELIEVER’S LOVE
1B. The Bible is very clear in showing that “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” The reason for this, of course, is the depravity of each and every person. Contrary to what false religions and secular humanists would have you to believe, individuals are not by nature good. We are a corrupt and fallen race, and it is not society or various conditions that are to blame for man’s ills, but man himself, who comprises the society and who is responsible for the conditions.
2B. That tenet of historical and orthodox Christianity stated, what is the source of a believer’s love, if it does not come from within, if it is not generated by that individual, if it is not somehow conjured up when the fellow finds himself in a good mood?
3B. Romans 5.1-5 is very clear in declaring from where this love that Christians have comes:
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
4B. Thus, this passage shows that we who are justified by faith, who have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, have the love of God “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
5B. So, the source of the love which the believer has, which does not come from himself, which he can take no credit for conjuring up in his own mind or heart, is the Holy Spirit of God which is given to those who are justified by faith in Christ.
6B. So now you know, those of you who are converted, why you just love Christians so much, why you just love your pastor so much, why you just love missionaries so much, and why you actually love other Christians more than you love blood relatives and lost members of your immediate family.
7B. You actually have more in common with a believer you have never met than you have with an unsaved brother or sister you grew up with. Your sins are forgiven. The Father is your heavenly Father. Jesus is your Savior. The Spirit indwells you. And the Spirit has shed the love of God abroad in your heart. But none of these glorious realities is shared by a Christian and his unsaved brother or sister.
3A. Now, LET ME SHOW YOU THE CERTAINTY OF A BELIEVER’S LOVE
1B. In Galatians 5.13-25, the apostle Paul is contrasting two types of individual, the lost man who is in the flesh and the saved man who is in the Spirit:
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
2B. Decisionists, in their effort to explain the horribly inconsistent lives of unconverted people who claim they are Christians, insist that a believer can pass back and forth between being in the flesh and in the Spirit. But such a view does not hold up to close scrutiny.
3B. What this passage really teaches is that those who are unconverted will live lives that are markedly different than those who are genuinely converted. Not that a Christian cannot behave carnally and sinfully, but that the sum total of the one’s life is not comparable to the sum total of the other’s life.
4B. And this brings me to the fruit of the Spirit, in verses 22-23. My friends, these are the personality characteristics that are introduced into the believer’s life by the indwelling Spirit of God. Do you see what characteristic is named first? Love. Does this not harmonize completely with what the Lord Jesus Christ said? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
5B. So you see, love is so intertwined and a part of the Christian experience, because of the indwelling Spirit of God, that suspicion is not only reasonable, but necessary, in the life of someone who claims to be a Christian but who does not exhibit Christian love for other believers. To make a Biblical application of this truth, listen to what Paul wrote along this line in Romans 12.10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”
6B. So, you see, not only are Christians instructed to be nice to each other as an expression of our love for each other, but we are directed to prefer each other over the lost. That is, Christians are to prefer Christians over others. Why so? Spirit is more important than blood. This explains why a Christian woman, when confronted with the difficult choice of choosing her church or her unsaved husband’s demand that she leave her church, is told by Paul, “if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.”
4A. Finally, THE MATURITY OF A BELIEVER’S LOVE
1B. Christians are not without sins. Neither are Christians come into the faith fully developed spiritually. The Bible is very clear in teaching that not only do Christians have an ongoing, a lifetime, struggle with personal sins, but we also experience progressive growth in our Christian lives toward greater maturity.
2B. An indication of the need for spiritual growth and greater maturity as believers is seen in First John 2.13, where the apostle distinguishes Christians of different levels of maturity: “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” Three different levels of spiritual maturity shown.
3B. An indication of the course of this spiritual growth toward greater maturity is found in Second Peter 1.5-7:
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
4B. Why are Christians not uniformly loving at all times? Why are believers not always capable of displaying the same type of Christ-like love to foes as well as friends? Two reasons: First, we are still sinful. Second, many of us are spiritually immature.
5B. Second Peter 1.5-7 shows that growth in Christian maturity does not occur accidentally. It is the result of purposeful steps in a Christian’s life, with diligence being a chief additive, that enables a babe in Christ to progress over time from an immature believer whose love is present but inconsistent, through the stages of knowledge and temperance and patience and godliness and so on, to someday becoming a child of God who matures past brotherly kindness to charity, which is a personality that is consistently and powerfully dominated by love.
1. So, Christians love each other. Christians love each other because the Holy Spirit Who indwells each believer has poured love into our lives and personalities. That a Christian will love other Christians is a certainty. But spiritual immaturity explains our inconsistencies in showing our love.
2. Has this look at a believer’s love not explained a great deal? It explains why some Christians don’t love at all. They aren’t real Christians. It explains why others love with less consistency than is desired. They are immature believers.
3. Now, brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon.
1. My text for this morning is Romans 15.30. Please find that verse in your Bible. When you have it located, please stand for the reading of God’s Word: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”
2. On the occasion of this letter to the Romans, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem with an offering collected from the Gentile Christians in the churches in Macedonia to alleviate the suffering of the Jewish Christians.
3. The offering was part of Paul’s plan to, first of all, alleviate the suffering the Jewish Christians were experiencing. Second, he wanted to form a bond of affection that would eradicate some of the anti-Gentile sentiment still held by many Jewish Christians.
4. Do Christians love each other? Yes, but sometimes a little help is needed to overcome prejudices, to overcome personal sins, to overcome other spiritual obstacles. Paul’s mission to Jerusalem had as its goal the overcoming of obstacles to Christians loving each other.
5. In our text, I want to point out three items related to the love of the Holy Spirit of God.
1A. First, TAKE NOTE OF PAUL’S PRESUMPTION
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit”
1B. As he writes to the Christians in Rome, Paul presumes two things about them:
1C. First, that as Christians they would do something for Christ’s sake. Have you ever done anything for Christ’s sake? What will you do for Christ’s sake? I guess a better question would be, What will you not do for Christ’s sake?
2C. Paul’s second presumption about those Christians, and a presumption that is reasonable of you if you profess to be a Christian, is that they would do something for the love of the Spirit. That is, the Spirit of God so worked love in their hearts that they would do something purely from a motive of love for a brother in Christ.
2B. Along with this presumption of Paul’s, do you see what is missing from this verse? What is missing is an appeal to apostolic authority. In other words, Paul is not asking them to do anything for him because he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He is presuming that they will take action for no other reason than because he is a brother in Christ who is in need.
3B. Can I presume that “the love of the Spirit” will move you as Paul anticipated it would move the Roman Christians? Can I take it for granted that your love for Christians, that love that comes only from the indwelling Spirit of God, will move you to do things unconverted people will not do?
4B. Keep in mind that Paul did not know these people. He had never met them. But he is presuming the love of the Spirit will move them to do something for someone they have never met, and that when he arrives in Rome they will then do more for someone they will at that time have met.
2A. Next, TAKE NOTE OF PAUL’S PLEA
“Now I beseech you, brethren, . . . that ye strive together with me . . . .”
1B. Paul really is pleading with his readers here. He is not faking anything or being over dramatic. He faces some real obstacles in accomplishing his goals for the cause of Christ, not the least of which is staying alive. There are those who would kill him if they got the chance.
2B. So, he is actually pleading with his readers to do something that would require great effort from them, something that would require a high level of personal commitment. And this can be seen by his terminology. He pleaded that they “strive together” with him.
3B. The word is pronounced sunagonizomai, and is similar to a word that you have heard before, the word agonizomai. In Luke 22.44, we see the word agonizomai translated “in an agony.” Our word in Romans 15.30, sunagonizomai, means to be in an agony together with me, or to strive together with Paul.
4B. So, presuming the Roman Christians to have “the love of the Spirit,” and that their love of the Spirit would prompt them to action, he asks people he has never met to “strive together” with him, to agonize with him, to partner with him in doing something very, very hard, requiring a great deal of effort.
5B. Can I presume that the love of the Spirit would move you to sacrifice, would move you to strive with me? If I asked you to loan your car to a missionary for a week, would you do it? Or would you have to think about it and talk it over? If I asked you to put someone up in a spare room for a week or two, would you do it? Or does that not fit into your schedule or scheme of life?
6B. If I asked you to strive together with me, what would you do? Would you do it? Would you not do it? Would you eagerly do it? Would you grudgingly do it? It’s an indication of the love of the Spirit in your life. Did you know that?
7B. Have I ever asked you to “strive together” with me? Those of you who know me well know that I am a naturally timid man, a reluctant man, and not at all bold in my own strength. So, I may not have asked you to “strive together” with me, when I should have. Please be patient with me. When I do ask you to “strive together” with me, be ready.
3A. Finally, TAKE NOTE OF WHAT PAUL ACTUALLY PLEADS FOR . . . PRAYERS
1B. You might not think that praying has much to do with striving, with agonizing, but you would be wrong. Right praying, proper praying, real praying, can involve a great deal of physical effort, and is a heart-rending exercise. But that is what Paul wanted from those Roman Christians . . . prayers.
2B. Understand, there would come a time when he would plead for more from them. When he arrived in Rome he would want more than prayers. Again presuming they were motivated by the love of the Spirit, he would put this hand out for a great deal of money, along with their prayers. And he got it.
3B. By the way, God answered their prayers. Paul was protected from those who would kill him. The believers in Judea did receive his offering from the Macedonian Christians gracefully. And Paul did end up in Rome. But instead of traveling there of his own free will, and having to pay for it, he was escorted by a Roman centurion, under arrest. Man proposes and God disposes. Amen? But he got to Rome and accomplished his mission, God answering both his and the Roman’s prayers asked for in our text.
1. What will you work hard to accomplish for the love of the Spirit? In what way does your love for Christians move you to “strive together” with other church members to accomplish something for God?
2. Paul pleaded with those Romans to pray for him, to agonize in prayer for him. Literally, to agonize and to strive in prayer with him. Have you ever done that? Have you ever willingly agonized in prayer, asking God to do some great thing?
3. There will come a time in the not too distant future when I will ask you men to meet me here at the church house on a Friday night at 10:00 PM, for an all night prayer meeting. We will come at 10:00 PM and we will wrap it up at 6:00 AM. I will teach and we will pray for 8 hours.
4. Why will you do that? When we do that you will do that because of the love of the Spirit. The Spirit of God will so work in your life to love other Christians that you won’t hesitate or quibble or make excuses about pulling an all nighter so we can pray for each other.
5. You see, there will come a time when your wife is really sick, or your child is really sick, or you have just received a truly scary diagnosis, and you will want every man you know to pray all night with you. Well, when we pull an all nighter in a month or two it will be a good way to learn, if you’ve never done it before.
6. And as God strengthens our love for each other, and as we band more tightly together to “strive together” in this great gospel enterprise, we will come to know who will stand with us in the heat of battle, who will sacrifice with us to do great things for God, and who the sunshine patriots are who talk a good talk but who cannot really be depended on.
7. Are you a Christian? Then, like Paul did with the Romans, I can presume that you will be moved by the love of the Spirit to join with me in doing things for God. And as I look out over this crowd, and can tell you ahead of time that it will be a privilege to serve God with you.
 Romans 7.18
 First Corinthians 7.12