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Welcome to the second to the last episode of our Evidence of Spiritual Life series. I’m so proud of you for making it all this way, and I pray this series has been insightful and helpful for you you.
My name is Aaron Michael Brewster, and I thank the Lord that I have had the privilege of traveling and speaking more this year than any prior year. It’s an honor to meet the churches, communities, families, and individuals who have opened there homes and hearts to me.
I love ministering God’s truth to His people. There is no greater calling or blessing, and I want to say “Thank you” to everyone who joins me every week to open God’s Word and worship Him together by becoming the people He created us to be.
Thank you, and thank you.
And be sure to continue your study by accessing today’s free episode notes, transcript, and life resources on our blog at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And now let’s investigate the next leg in our spiritual journeys.
1. The Definition of Brotherly Kindness
As we diligently mature in our faith, we will grow in our knowledge of God and submission to the Holy Spirit which will enables us to live a self-controlled, consistent, morally excellent life in conformity to the character of Jesus Christ. And though there is much that defines such a life, there is one dynamic character trait in particular by which all of God’s people must be known.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But even though there is one primary character trait (love), there are two very important characteristics that must define this trait. This week we will be studying the relational necessity of Christian love, and next week we will be studying the personal responsibility of Christian love.
The word translated “brotherly kindness,” “brotherly love,” and “love of the brethren” is one Greek word, philadelphia, which is used 5 times in the New Testament. It is grammatically related to the Greek word phileo which is used 25 times in the New Testament. Though there is often much nuance in the Greek language, these particular words are frequently used in reference to a familial affection that is reciprocal in nature. It’s a love that flourishes in mutual relationship.
As you will see from the 5 passages where philadelphia is used, each commands and illustrates relational interactions, and this is consistent with the frequent admonitions in Scripture that God’s people live in community with each other.
Among other things, we are commanded to engage in corporate worship of God and corporate discipleship of each other. This is the focus of II Peter 1:7 where we are commanded to supply brotherly kindness in our godliness.
Proverbs 18:1 reads, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” The tendency to pull away, cloister, and be a lone wolf is the result of immature selfishness, whereas brotherly love requires that we humbly set aside ourselves in order to serve others.
In Romans 12:9-21 we read, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
We will look at this passage again in more detail later, but for now it’s important to consider why—from this passage—brotherly love is the necessary outflow of godliness.
If God Himself sacrificed everything to lavish His love on us, how could we not be equally as loving since we are the recipients of His love?
2. The Requirements of Brotherly Kindness
Brotherly kindness is the love that drives us to serve others and commune with them in Christian fellowship and familial unity. It’s what motivates our relationships with other believers, and it’s something in which we must constantly mature.
I Thessalonians 4:9-10 says, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.”
The Thessalonican church was known everywhere for being a church that overflowed with love for God’s people. But listen to what Paul said next. “But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”
If perseverance in Spirit-controlled godliness is the goal, we recognize that we will never perfectly achieve it in this life. Therefore, it must be our constant endeavor to mature in this regard. However, we will never grow in our love for God’s people in our own strength. It’s impossible to truly love someone for selfish reasons.
Consider I Peter 1:22-25, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, ‘All flesh is as grass, and all its glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.”
According to these passages, in order to love the brethren as we should, we must . . .
1. Know the living and enduring Word of God.
2. Believe the Word of God and thereby be born again from its imperishable seed. And . . .
3. Purify our souls in sincerity to the truth.
If you are truly born again and growing in your knowledge of the Scriptures, you should discover that your relationships with God’s people are multiplying and deepening.
But is that your reality?
A person who hates, rejects, and avoids God’s people is someone who likely doesn’t possess spiritual life.
Now, I’m not talking about avoiding the people who claim to be God’s people, but who are living in sin. Actually, after reproving them, if they refuse to repent, the Bible commands us to avoid them.
I’m talking about avoiding the imperfect people who are trying to please the Lord in their imperfection. I’m talking about avoiding Christians who want to sharpen and disciple us. I’m talking about the professing believers who claim they don’t need the church to glorify God.
So, how would you describe the quantity and quality of your relationships with professing Christians?
In addition, who can you say is biblically discipling you?
If you are not in active fellowship with God’s people, you’re not engaging in brotherly kindness, which means you’re not persevering in godliness which is the fruit of Spirit-control as taught in the Bible which is believed through faith.
3. The Relationships of Brotherly Kindness
Lest we fly past this important consideration, let’s consider a few relationships in your life that should be affected by your spiritual life in Christ.
Consider Hebrews 13:1-9. “Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ 6 so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Here we see seven unique relationships. In order of how they were revealed in the passage we have: love of the church, strangers, persecuted Christians, spouses, community relationships, God Himself, and our spiritual authorities.
Of the church, we’re commanded to love them. Of strangers, we’re commanded to be hospitable. In regard to persecuted Christians, we’re commanded to remember them in prayer. Our spouses? We’re commanded to honor them. When it comes to our relationships in the community, we’re commanded to be someone who is content. Of God, we’re commanded to trust Him. And in regard to our spiritual authorities, we’re commanded to imitate them.
My friends, none of that will happen divorced from life-on-life relationship.
God expects that as we become more godly, our closest relationships, most distant relationships, and every relationship in-between must reflect these attributes, and those attributes are just the beginning.
So, the question you have to ask is, “Are my relationships identified by God’s definition of brotherly kindness?"
Think about it—of the 7 relationships I just listed, with which 3 do you not have strong, reciprocal, Christ-honoring relationships, and why?
Those may be a wonderful starting place for you as you seek to mature in your brotherly kindness.
Now, let’s return to Romans 12:9-21 to consider even more markers of brotherly kindness.
When I have my counselees study this passage, I provide them a handout with rows and columns. The vertical columns list the 7 relationships we just discussed. The 20 rows itemize 20 expectations from Romans 12:9-21 that God has for our relationships. I’m going to read those expectations to you momentarily, but I want to describe the rest of the assignment for you first.
I ask my counselees to write a number from 1 to 10 that describes how mature that character trait is (on average) in their relationships. For example: 1 = This character trait is not evident in this relationship sphere, 5 = This character trait is evident in about 50% of this relationship sphere, and 10 = This character trait it evident in nearly ever facet of this relationship sphere. I also ask them to write “N/A” in the top box if they have no contact with anyone from this category.
So, I know this will be difficult for you to do this as you listen. I’m going to move too quickly, and it may be hard for you to keep the 7 relationships in your mind. But when you get to a place where you can meditated on this, come back to this episode, or—better yet—check out our blog and look at the relationships and attributes there.
To what degree are your relationships not hypocritical? What about your mutual hatred for evil and your mutual love for good? How strong is your devotion for each other in each category? How about selflessness in the relationship? Are you diligently fervent in the service of God together? To what degree do you rejoice in the hope of God? Do you preserve in difficulty? How often do you pray together? Are you equally bonded in caring for needy Christians? What percentage of your relationship involves being hospitable? To what degree do you bless those who treat you poorly? To what degree to you rejoice when the other rejoices and weep when they weep? Are you unified in Christ or does He separate you? What percentage of the time are you humble with each other? How about loving? Are you consistently righteous in your interactions? What about peaceful? How much of your relationship is defined by that?
Now, again, each of those questions need to be asked in regard to each of the 7 relationships. And—of course—you can go into even more detail as you consider individuals within each of those categories.
If you are maturing in your walk with Christ, then you will also be maturing in your brotherly kindness as defined and described in the Scriptures.
I want to close by doing something I don’t normally do. Usually, I try to keep my conclusions shorter, and I try not to add too much new information in at the end. But today I want to bring this to a close by reading some more passages of Scripture and allowing them to speak for themselves.
Remember, we’re doing this study to discover whether or not we have spiritual life, and we’re also doing it to better understand the expected trajectory of our spiritual maturity.
So, its important to grapple with the fact that brotherly kindness is not merely a trite descriptor of superficial relationships. The biblical idea of brotherly love is deep and reciprocal. It describes relationships where all the New Testament one-anothers are thriving, where each participant is sharpening the other, and where God is at the center.
But, remember, this is not an optional part of Christian growth. Consider the following expectations from the verses I’m going to read and carefully judge your relationships to see if they are the product of growing godliness.
I Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another.”
I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another.”
Ephesians 4:2-3, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
I Corinthians 12:24-26, “But God has so composed the body [of Christ], giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Galatians 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 5:21, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another.”
Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be spiritually strengthened.”
And, finally, I John 3:23, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”
That is a lofty expectation, and it requires a lot of maturity in the power of the Holy Spirit to live that way.
Please do the kind thing and share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that your friends and family can learn how to mature in their spiritual life.
And if you would like personalized help in growing in your brotherly kindness, please email us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the final consideration for this series . . . true, biblical love.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
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AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.