Love Without Dissimulation

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There are an estimated 783,137 words in the KJV of the Bible, and one of these words has recently captured my thinking: dissimulation. According to the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, “dissimulation” is a noun that means, “hiding under a false appearance; or, a counterfeit appearance.” The core Greek term is taken from the semantic domain of the theater, and denotes “one who acts; or one who is an actor.” Therefore, the expression dis-simulation profiles one “who is not acting, or not counterfeiting in appearance.”

The word “dissimulation” is significantly positioned in Romans 12:9: “Love without acting;” or better, “love without hypocrisy.” It is interesting to observe that the KJV translators use “dissimulation” only one other time in their translation and this is in Galatians 2:13. In this text they translate a related Greek noun to identify the beloved Barnabas as one “participating in dissimulation.” The idea of hypocrisy cannot be missed, and the meaning is less than flattering. 

In the context of the book of Romans, the term “dissimulation” is instructive. Paul spends his first eleven chapters developing his understanding of the Gospel of God. Now, in these final chapters (12-16) he answers the question: What does the Gospel look like in the lives of those who embrace the truths that he has just celebrated? The heartbeat of Paul is not just “right doctrine” for which he has strenuously sought to describe, but “transformed living” which these Gospel truths undeniably produce. James Dunn explains that Paul “sets out the basis for all Christian lifestyle and relationships” in 12:1-2 (2:707), and in 12:9-21 he addresses “love as the chief mark of Christian discipleship” (2:740). For Paul, when anyone professes faith in the Gospel, he or she will not play-act the appearance of love, but will love “without hypocrisy.” Therefore, Paul gives commanding force to his short phrase: “love without dissimulation.”

The obvious question then, is this: Since there is so much play-acting at love, what does genuine love really look like? Paul answers this question two ways. First, he has already expressed in 12:1-2 that the genuine believer will inevitably manifest a transformed way of life. In fact, his body is now “a sacrifice, which is living, holy, and acceptable to God;” whereas, in his former days he used his bodily members in dishonorable ways (1:24) making his body his god (1:25). Second, not only has the Gospel transformed the way he used to worship his body, but also now in 12:9-21, Paul gives 18 specific ways, which reveal how complete this Gospel transformation really is. Narrowed down to one sentence: The genuine believer will use his body to sacrificially love, and this love is so unique that both the Christian church (cf. verses 10-13, 15-16) and the unsaved community (cf. verses 14, 17-21) will be affected.

In sum, I see two important applications: First, the Gospel is God’s power which creates a sacrificial (selfless) love in each believer; and second, this phrase moves my heart to specifically pray that my testimony (our testimonies) will be known by both the church and our neighbors as those who love without dissimulation.

This article is from the "Truth from the Agora" section of the Exposition, VBTS's monthly e-bulletin authored by President Daniel Davey. 
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