Romans 12:9-13


Basic Rules for Living the Christian Life (Romans 12:9-13)


In this section are the following twelve specific rules for Christian living:

    1. Love sincerely (“Let love be without hypocrisy”)
    2. Develop good priorities (“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good”)
    3. Be affectionate toward others (“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love”)
    4. Don’t always insist on being first (“Give preference to one another in honor”)
    5. Work hard and do your best (“Not lagging behind in diligence”)
    6. Be enthusiastic (“Fervent in spirit”)
    7. Give yourself to God (“Serving the Lord”)
    8. Be optimistic (“Rejoicing in hope”)
    9. Hang in during the tough times (“Persevering in tribulation”)
    10. Don’t forget to pray (“Devoted to prayer”)
    11. Don’t hoard what you have (“Contributing to the needs of the saints”)
    12. Be gracious (“Practicing hospitality”)


Rule 9Hang in during the tough times - “Persevering in tribulation” (v.12) - While all the rules on this list are important and none should be neglected, I think the 8th rule on the list, found in the middle part of Romans 12:12 is particularly important.  For if we fail to learn and live by this particular rule, we set ourselves up for a life of frustration and failure.  This rule speaks to the one quality that virtually all successful people in any arena of life—academics, athletics, business, entertainment, law, politics, medicine, ministry, media, social work or whatever—have in common.  And that is the ability to hang in and not give up in the face of adversity.  The words translated “tribulation” and “perseverance”  are both rich in meaning...

  • “Tribulation” is a translation of the Greek word “thlipsis.”  The word literally means “pressure.”  The idea behind the word is a crushing weight.  It was the word used to describe the process by which grapes were crushed to make wine and olives were crushed to make olive oil.  It is interesting that the moment of the greatest tribulation in the life of Jesus took place in a garden called Gethsemane.  The word Gethsemane means “oil press.”  When Romans 12:12 speaks of “Persevering in tribulation” it is not referring to a light, easy to bear pressure.  It is speaking of the kind of crushing tribulation Jesus faced in Gethsemane...
  • “Persevering” is also rich in meaning.  The word is “hupomeno.” “Hupo” is a preposition meaning by or under and”meno” is a verb meaning to stay or remain or abide.  So, hupomeno” means to remain by or to stand fast.  The word was used to describe a soldier under enemy fire who stands his ground, refusing to break and run.

And the clear meaning of “Persevering in tribulation” is that we are to stand our ground, to hang in there during the tough times of life.  And fortunately, as believers, we do not have to do that in our own strength.  God gives us some resources to help us hang in there when things are tough.  Resources such as His people and His Word and His Spirit.


Rule 10Don’t forget to pray“Devoted to prayer” (v.12) - This is the second time which the NASB uses the English word “devoted” in this passage.  At the beginning of verse 10 we are instructed to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...”  Now in verse 12 we are to be “...devoted to prayer.”  However, it is important to understand while the English words are the same, the Greek words are totally different.  We saw in a previous session that the word translated “devoted” in verse 10 carries the idea of affection.  It is a combination of the words used to describe family love and emotional love.  However, the word translated “devoted” in the phrase “...devoted to prayer” in verse 12 is a totally different word.  The word is “proskartereo” and it is made up to two words:

·         ”pros” is a preposition meaning “moving toward” or “moving forward”...

·         ”kartereo” is a verb that carries the idea of being strong and steadfast, of enduring...

The idea behind the phrase “...devoted to prayer” is to be constantly moving toward endurance, steadfastness in your prayer life.  There is a statement in the NT that provides a good explanation of the phrase “…devoted to prayer…” It is found in James 5:13.  James is the person Eusebius described as having knees like a camel because he spent so much time in prayer.  James has a lot to say about the subject of  prayer, but James 5:13 sums it all up.  The verse says, “Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” That  verse reminds us that being “…devoted to prayer…” means to pray when things are difficult and to pray when things are good. 


Rule 11Don’t hoard what you have ­– “Contributing to the needs of the saints…” (V.13) - There is nothing complex about that statement.  The word contributing” is a basic word for sharing and “saints” is a common NT word that means all believers.  The meaning of the phrase is that we are to share what we have with those who have needs. 

Some see this statement as a specific reference to the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea who were suffering immensely because of a famine that had struck that part of the world.  Paul had urged other churches to send a relief offering to those suffering Christians, and some speculate that in the phrase he was encouraging the Christians in Rome to participate in that offering. 

But behind the phrase “...contributing to the needs of the saints...” is a much larger principle than just a passing reference to specific offering.  It may be an over-simplification to state it this way, but basically there are two kinds of people in our world --givers and takers.

  • There are those who go through life giving themselves (their time, energy, abilities, love, and resources) to others...
  • There are those who go through life taking (time, energy, abilities, love, and resources) from others...

My observation is that generally, the givers are happy, fulfilled people and the takers are unhappy, unfulfilled people. 

No doubt you have heard the statement "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  That's a statement Jesus made, but it does not appear in any of the four gospels.  Paul quoted the statement in his farewell address to the church at Ephesus that is recorded in Acts 20.  The root meaning of the word translated "blessed" means happy or fulfilled.  His statement can be paraphrased "Giving brings more happiness/fulfillment to your life than getting."


Rule 12Be gracious“Practicing hospitality…” (V.13) - That little phrase is rich in meaning.  I want to take just a moment to explore both of those words.

·         “Practicing” is a very graphic word.  The basic meaning of the word is to pursue, chase, or run after something.  The idea behind this word is that it is not enough merely to show hospitality toward others.  We are to do so with a spirit of energy and enthusiasm. Christian hospitality should not be practiced in an hesitating or grudging way.  We are not to flee from it, we are to chase after it.  The verb form indicates a continuing habit of “practicing hospitality.”  This is not to be a one time or occasional event in the life of a Christian.  It is to be a habit of life.

·         “Hospitality” is also a very graphic word.  It is actually a compound word made up of two words put together.  The first part of the word “hospitality” is philo, which means beloved, dear, friend.  The second part is xenos, which means a foreigner, guest, or stranger.  So the word “hospitality” basically means to treat a stranger as you would a friend. 

Putting those two words together, “practicing hospitality” means constantly to be looking for ways that we can befriend those people and express love to those people who have special needs in their lives and who may feel alienated, disenfranchised, cut-off from others. 


The New Testament has a lot to say about God’s people “practicing hospitality.”

·         In I Timothy 3:2 and again in Titus 1:8 being hospitable is listed as one of the requirements for those who would be overseers or bishops or pastors of churches…

·         In I Timothy 5:10 showing hospitality is listed as one of the requirements elderly widows must meet to be put on a list to receive financial assistance from the church…

·         In Hebrews 13:2 all Christians are instructed “…to show hospitality to strangers…”

·         In I Peter 4:9 we are told to “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”