The Expository Files.

Abhor & Cling

Romans 12:9

The gospel of Christ was given by God not only to provide forgiveness of sins, but to put within us the power to live right (Col. 1:27). Part of that is to develop a healthy but intense abhorrence of sin. There cannot be a neutral or indifferent attitude toward any sin or error. But also, there must be an equally intense desire to learn and do what is right. In the words of Paul, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good,” (Rom. 12:9).

Whatever this means, it is my duty as a Christian.
Whatever this means, I must do this on a daily basis.
Whatever this means, I must do this even if nobody else does it.
Whatever this means, I can improve in my personal participation.

Abhor what is evil
This word “abhor” means to dislike, abhor, have a horror of. Clinton Hamilton said: “The idea is that the ill will toward, dislike of, and horror of evil is so intense as to cause one to shrink back from it.”

This is not just an expression of negative opinion. This verse is not fulfilled by mere criticism of sin, or sympathy with others who speak against sin and error. This is your personal opposition to all that is evil, in every way that opposition can and should be expressed.

There is an intensity about this. And that intensity is based on your close association with God. God’s disapproval is duplicated by His children! We are offended because He is offended. And because we abhor evil, we refuse to participate in it.

Here’s one way to test yourself. Read those passages in the New Testament where specific sins are described. As you read each one, monitor how you feel about it, your reaction.

“…sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness…whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful,” etc. (Rom. 1:29-31). What is your reaction?

If we truly abhor what is evil, the thought of these behaviors will be personally repulsive to us. The idea is that the ill will toward these things will cause us to shrink back from them. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil,” and “you who love the Lord, hate evil,” (Prov. 8:13; Psa. 97:10).

Cling to what is good
The word “cling” is translated, in some versions, “cleave.” That means to be attached to; devoted to. This is attachment to that which is right in the eyes of God; that which God takes pleasure in.

What is your reaction when you read passages in the New Testament like this: “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…,” (Gal. 5:22,23). Do you find these things attractive?

Our attraction for what is right should be just as strong as our abhorrence of what is wrong! And both should be based on our alignment with God and our interests in His values. Just as we are repulsed by those things that are wrong, we should be attracted to and compelled to learn and practice those things that are right, holy, good and eternally valuable. Abhor what is evil – needs to be combined with cling to what is good. Good character cannot exist without this.

It may help for us to consult Psalms 119. What is prominent in the passage is, the writer’s praise for the Word of God. This passage is inspired and skillfully presented. It is easy to read and see in this passage the excellence of the Word of God.

Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!

Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!

They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.

You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.

Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!

Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.

I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.

I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

This was written in praise of the excellence of God’s Word. Concerning the study of our text in Rom. 12:9 – “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good,” there are these helpful statements in Psalms 119.

Verse 104 – “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way.” Through precepts given by God, we are able to “get understanding.” As a result, we are motivated to “hate every false way.”

Verse 128 - “Therefore, all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.” The totality of God’s will (all His precepts concerning all things), the writer considered “to be right.” The personal outcome was to “hate every false way.”

Verse 163 - “I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law.” Here is a specific. Lying is sinful. We learn that as we read and study the precepts of God and become familiar with the mind of God. So we hate, we abhor lying. And just as we are intense and serious about our hatred of lying, we are intense and serious about our love for the law of the Lord (which is nothing but the truth). All of this in Psalms 119 should shed good light on the duty of thought and life Paul brings to our attention – “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” There is a holy kind of hatred we should have toward every form of evil, every false way. Along with that there is a holy love, desire and attraction we should find in what is good. “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

Who Perfectly Illustrated This By His Life?
Jesus Christ abhorred what is evil; Jesus Christ clung to what is good. This is evident when you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And it is taught in the prophecy written in Psalms 45:6,7. “Your Throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

The fulfillment of this? Heb. 1:8,9. “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Jesus is qualified to be our leader by virtue of His Deity, His Death and His Character; His holy, sinless life. He loved righteousness and hated law-lessness. He was not indifferent to evil. He spoke against evil. He refused to participate in any evil. And that should be my disposition, if I’m a follower of Christ, a child of God. Loving righteousness. Hating lawlessness. Good character is not possible without this! Abhor what is evil – cling to what is good. This is our duty of heart and life. This is the attitude we must maintain daily. We must do this, even if nobody else does. And each one of us can improve, can make progress in abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good. It all begins, with your obedience to the gospel.


 By Warren E. Berkley
 From Expository Files 11.10; October 2004