Be Fervent In Spirit
Not Lukewarm

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 62b of 83


“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

[We have begun to study a list of fifteen or so directives of Paul on how the church may grow together in unity of love. In the previous instalment of the present study, we saw the first step of the fourth directive, namely that we must not be slothful in business. But now secondly, we must consider how we are to be fervent in spirit. —JJL]

2. Fervent in Spirit

a.   What does it mean to be fervent? The word that Paul uses literally means “to boil with heat, to be hot, or to seeth.” It is a word used to describe the boiling of water.

Paul is saying that we must be boiling hot in our spirit! We must have a boiling spiritual heat!

When a pot of water is boiling, we see the bubbling and steam, hear the burble and feel the  heat. That is what our Christian life should be like. You cannot see the soul or spirit of a person, but you should be able to feel the heat, and see and hear the effect of the soul boiling over for Christ.

In Acts 18, there is a description of a Jewish man by the name of Apollos. He was born in Alexandria, and he had just come to Ephesus. But immediately, the disciples of the Lord could see state of his soul.

This is how Dr Luke describes him:

“This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25).

It was clear that Apollos did not know much of the doctrine of grace, for he knew only the baptism of John. But what a zealous man he was! He was fervent in the Spirit. The heat in his soul was boiling over and could be felt by the disciples.

We ought to be hot like Apollos!

b.  Are you hot like Apollos, dear reader? Well, if you are a believer, I know that you are not really cold—or else you will not be reading this article.

But I do wonder if you are lukewarm. In fact, the problem with most of us is that although we are not cold, we are lukewarm.

Lukewarmness is desirable in various circumstances. Years ago my wife and I, and our first born lived in a poorer precinct in Wales for a year. Many of the homes there were not installed with mixer taps. So we had to turn on the hot water and the cold water at the same time, and adjust a little bit at a time to try to get lukewarm water to come out of the spout. But very often the water would be scathing hot for a moment, and then icy cold the next moment. It was very uncomfortable. We prefer the water to be lukewarm!

Well, many of us are very comfortable without even trying. We are lukewarm. And everyone else: whether Christian or non-Christian are happy with us because we are lukewarm.

But lukewarmness in our spirit is a sin! The Lord Jesus condemned the church of Laodicea for their lukewarmness.

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16)

Now, the Lord is not saying that it is alright to be cold. Those who are cold cannot really be Christians. He is telling us, instead, that we must not be lukewarm. Christians should be boiling hot, not lukewarm!

c.   Sadly many professing Christians quickly become lukewarm after their initial fervour. Are you lukewarm? Ask yourself:

·        When was the last time you gave a tract to someone or invited a person to church?

·        When was the last time you spoke to someone about Christ and His Gospel?

·        When was the last time you had family worship and enjoyed it?

·        When was the last time you visited someone at the hospital?

·        When was the last time you send a fellow believer off at the airport because you want to encourage him in the Lord?

·        When was the last time you show hospitality to your brothers and sisters in the Lord?

·        When was the last time you prayed for the church and for the government of this land?

·        When was the last time you repent of your sin and resolve to take a new step to walk with the Lord?

·        When was the last time you find your heart strangely warmed as you read and meditated on the word of God?

·        Indeed, when was the last time you took initiative to read the word of God and to memorise or meditate on a portion of Scripture?

·        And when was the last time you attended evening worship and prayer meeting?

Take heed, brother or sister in Christ. Do not remain lukewarm for that is very displeasing to Christ the head of the Church.

Oh will you not turn away from your excuses and sin? If Christ has lifted up your sin and hurled it into the ocean, will you not yank out the ice cubes of excuses sin in your heart and hurl them into the ocean too?

Whether you are young or old, you must seek to be an enthusiastic Christian. You must be on fire for the Lord. You cannot really serve the Lord, but with a fervent spirit. Indeed, as Paul reminds us, a fervent spirit is for the purpose of serving the Lord.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim