Brotherly Affection Must Endure

hebrews 13Brotherly affection protects one another’s purity and provides for those in need. But for it to make lasting impact, it must also endure.


In the same context where Paul speaks of doing good to everyone (Gal 6:10), especially to those in the church, Paul says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

To exercise brotherly affection is exhausting, and the authors of Scripture know it. To crucify the flesh and resist the pull towards impurity is hard. To give one self for the spiritual and physical needs of another is even more grueling.

For that reason Scripture commands us to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb 13:1). Continue reading

Brotherly Affection Provides For Others

brotherly love

Love one another with brotherly affection.
— Romans 12:10a —


Brotherly affection not only relates to purity, but also to provision.

When I moved to seminary, the Lord impressed on me the importance of working harder and longer. Impelled by Ephesians 4:28, I realized that I needed to work more hours so I could eat, pay for school, give to others, and not be a “mooch.”

I would suggest that this attitude of laboring for the sake of others is part of what it means to love one another with brotherly affection. In the context of Romans 12:10, brotherly affection is followed by the command to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This doesn’t directly apply to money or giving, but certainly we honor one another with our wealth—with the ability to give to others.

With brotherly affection, we are to look out for ways to meet the needs of our family. Continue reading

Brotherly Affection Protects the Purity of One Another

fine artPhiladelphia is well-known as the city of  “brotherly love.” But before early Colonialists planted that city, the apostles Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews used the word philadelphia to speak of the way fellow Christians should love one another.

What does brotherly love mean? Romans 12:10 speaks plainly, “Love one another with brotherly affection” (philadelphias).  But how do we do that? By looking at the six uses of the word in the New Testament, we learn that brotherly love protects one anothers purity, provides for one another’s needs, and endures in both of these ennobling graces.

Today we’ll consider the purity of brotherly affection. Tomorrow we’ll turn to protection.  Continue reading

Shepherds After God’s Own Heart

sheep‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
– Jeremiah 3:15 –

In a chapter lamenting the spiritual adultery of Israel, Yahweh promises to give his people shepherds who will feed them with knowledge and understanding. He calls these “pastors” “shepherds after his own heart.” In the context of the prophets (and in Jeremiah especially), the arrival of these God-centered pastors marks the coming of the new covenant. While there were  faithful shepherds in the Old Testament, there were few. It would take the arrival of the Spirit to fulfill this verse and to supply God’s people with shepherds after God’s own heart.

Today, firmly situated in the era of the new covenant, this verse prompts pastors and churches alike to consider the gift, calling, and responsibility pastors have to shepherd the flock of God among them. And from this verse we can see at least four truths worthy of remembrance and application. Continue reading

Life Together: A Short Review

lifeThe local church was always at the center of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s heart and theology. In his studies he wrote his first dissertation on life in the church (“The Communion of Saints: A Dogmatic Inquiry into the Sociology of the Church”).  As a theological professor he labored to train pastors for the church. And in his later writings, he often returned to muse on life together in the local church.

It’s this subject that entitles one of his most famous works, Life Together, posthumously subtitled, “The Classic Exploration of Christian Community.” Coming in at 122 pages, Life Together is not a long book. But it is one that invites you to think deeply about God’s design for his people. Overflowing with wisdom, you will run your highlighter dry if you are given to marking up books.

As we consider the One Anothers in our weekly sermons, I would encourage you to pick up a copy. A small investment in reading Life Together will pay big dividends on doing life together. Continue reading

How the Lord’s Supper Fuels Us to Love One Another

washing feet[This article originally appeared on our church website as a Lord’s Supper meditation].


In Luke 22 Jesus serves the Passover and calls it his new covenant meal: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (v. 20). Fulfilling the words of Jeremiah 31, Jesus as God’s priestly mediator brought an end to the old covenant and inaugurated the new when he went to the cross (see Hebrews 9:15–17). Anticipating his crucifixion on the next day, Jesus transformed the Passover from an old covenant shadow to a new covenant reality.

When we take the Lord’s Supper, we look back to the legal transaction that resulted in our pardon, and looking forward we see what Christ’s death accomplished— an international multitude gathered around God’s throne. In the immediate, this future reality is lived out in our local fellowship. As members of Christ’s body, we are unified to Christ and to one another.

For this reason, the Lord’s Supper can never be taken alone. It is the church’s meal. Regardless of what the modern elements look like, the symbolism of Jesus is unmistakable. The one loaf represents the unity of the messianic community, while the broken pieces portray the need for every member to receive Christ’s life (Luke 22:19). Likewise, the cup was “divided” such that the Upper Room communicants enjoyed the same wine (Luke 22:17).

For us, the Lord’s Supper reminds us of our partnership together in Christ. As such it marks out those who are his and those who are not. It is a regular reminder of our Savior’s atoning death and of our Savior’s decided accomplishment—the community created by his shed blood. As 1 Corinthians 11:25 says, it proclaims the death of Christ until he comes. But because it is taken by the saints made alive by his cross, it also proclaims the life given to us—a life lived one with another. Continue reading

All the One Anothers: Streams of Light from the Prism of Christ’s Love

lightOn Sunday I preached on Psalm 133, emphasizing how the local church is one body in Christ and individually members one of another (cf. Rom 12:5). While not using the words “one another,” Psalm 133 speaks of the family of God dwelling together in Christian unity. This is the foundation of all the one another commands.

We can’t begin to obey the Lord’s commands towards one another until we begin to see ourselves as united in Christ. But neither can we manage to love one another until we see what that love looks like. This Sunday we will consider John 13:34–35 and Jesus’ new commandment to love another.

To help you consider the content of the one anothers, I would suggest that “Love One Another” is the main command and that all others explicate this first and great command. While the New Testament lists three dozen one another commands, these are not 36 disparate injunctions. Rather, they are various but united manifestations of the love God pours out into our heart. They are the colorful streams of light that shine from the one prism of Christ’s love.

While each command deserves its own consideration, it is worth observing that the multitude of commands can be generally classified under five headings. In what follows I have listed each passage under one of these five headings. In the weeks ahead I hope to look at each passage individually.

  1. Love One Another
  2. Be at Peace with One Another
  3. Show Hospitality to One Another
  4. Do Good and Not Evil to One Another
  5. Edify One Another

Continue reading

One Anothering: How the Church Does Life Together

one another

 So we, though many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.
– Romans 12:5 –

There are in the New Testament roughly 100 places where the word ἀλλήλων, usually translated “one another,” is used. Beginning with Jesus’ command in John 13:34–35, the apostles develop a vision of church life that presses people of different backgrounds to follow Christ with one another. Using dozens of metaphors, they describe the church as as a body, a bride, a priesthood, a temple, a household, and a family.

In these word pictures, the One Another’s function as the imperatives that call brothers and sisters to get along in the Lord. Elbows and earlobes are called to honor one another in the body of Christ. Jews and Gentiles are taught they who were once divided are now united in the one new man, Jesus Christ.

Still before giving attention to the manifold imperative of loving one another, we must first realize that we are one of another. As Paul puts it in Romans 12:5, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Before we can love one another, forgive one another, or bear up one another, we must realize the One Another’s are set in the context of the local church. Continue reading

Life in Community: ‘The Roses and Lilies’ of the Christian Life

lifeWriting from Germany on the precipice of war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a classic on Christian community. In Life Together he called attention the grace of Christian community, calling it “the ‘roses and lilies’ of the Christian life” (21).

In our country, where freedom to worship remains unchecked, his words provide a needed corrective to any laissez-faire attitude we may have towards biblical community. While church membership and attendance are generally affirmed by Christians, I don’t think we see how much grace there is in our ability to gather. By contrast, Bonhoeffer watched the Third Reich run over the church and the Church in turn to compromise with the state.

In such a context, he came to see just how much grace there is when brothers dwell together in unity—true spiritual unity. Consider his words and give thanks for the community of believers he has given you. May his words spur us on to press deeper into the life of our church, or to start such a community of spiritually-minded believers, if one is not present. Continue reading

Joy in the Lord, in the Church, and in the Ministry

joy[Yesterday, I preached my first sermon as pastor of preaching at Occoquan Bible Church. Leading up to that day, here’s what I wrote to our church].

 Not that we lord it over your faith,
but we work with you for your joy,
for you stand firm in your faith.
 – 2 Corinthians 1:24 –

Joy in the Lord

Joy is what pulsated in the Godhead when the world was still an idea (cf. John 17:24–26). And joy is what moved God to create the world. While under no compulsion to create, it was God’s good pleasure to create a world whereby his glory could be displayed and enjoyed.

For the sheer pleasure of it, God created the Manatee and the Milky Way, earthworms and electricity. And in the middle of it all, he made man and woman—the pinnacle of creation (Psalm 8), the acme of his affection. Continue reading