Romans 12:1–2. Lesson 21. Our Response to God's Mercies. Pt. I.
Key Notes: Living sacrifices. Be transformed. Renewed minds.
Paul is Christianity’s greatest theologian, and Romans is considered to be Paul’s greatest theological work. One gets the sense from this letter and others, however, that Paul didn’t consider himself primarily as a theologian, but as a missionary pastor. We should expect, therefore, that Paul's letter to the Romans is not just a theological treatise, but also a pastoral letter. Knowing what to believe is never enough; Christians must go on and apply the truth to their actions.
Chapters 12–15 of this book do just that. In verse 1 of chapter 12, Paul begins with “I urge you, therefore…” And as has often been said, whenever you run into a ‘therefore,’ you need to see what it’s there for. We have been examining in great depth the mercies of God – those things that God has been orchestrating throughout history in order to be gracious unto us – and it is appropriate to ask how we will respond.
Chapter 12 can be viewed as a threefold answer to this question. First, we learn how we should respond to God. (12:1–2). Second, we learn how we should treat other Christians. (12:3–13). And lastly, we learn how to relate to non-Christians (12:14–21), which leads smoothly into a discussion of the Christian’s position toward the government in chapter 13.
12:1–2 The Christian's relationship to God. The instruction is brief and comprehensive.
Living: the blood of bulls and goats are no longer necessary, because the price for sin was paid once for all by Jesus’ death. ( Hebrews 10). We are walking, talking, breathing, continuous offerings to God, which means that every moment of our lives is be lived for Him.
Sacrifices: God required Israel to offer Him the best of what He provided to them: the first of the harvest, the best of the flock. It sounds great, but it was hard to practice! Even the few hours we dedicate to God are often half-hearted, forced, or routine. God deserves our best. In light of His mercies, we should give Him our best.
“Reasonable” or logical ("logiken") service comes from the Greek root "logos". Offering our whole lives to Him is the logical response to what He has done for us.
Do not conform, but be transformed: Don’t let the world’s ways define yours. The form of this world is doomed. (1 Cor 7:31). The Greek word for “transformed” (metamorphousthe) is only used two other places in the NT: one is in 2 Cor3:18, which teaches that believers will, with unveiled faces, be transformed into Christ’s likeness. The other is Matthew 17:2 (also Mark 9:2) where Christ is ‘transfigured’ – He exhibited the radiance of His divine nature. Clearly our transformation is also a supernatural event.
Renewing of your mind: renewing (Greek: anakainosis – to “again make new”) is a rebirth of the mind! It is part of the new self. (Ephesians 4:23). A renewed mind enables us to test the will of God-- to prove it--in order to establish its goodness and perfection.
Although it sounds like an event, it is a process. Paul also proclaims that the old man has been put to death with Christ, but then he turns around and encourages believers not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. (chapter 6). The event of salvation is the beginning of a process. God has certainly done something new to our minds, opening them to the beauty of His law. The natural man has no ability to appreciate the goodness and perfection of God’s commands. However, we cannot say that our minds are completely renewed yet. Therefore we are in a unsure position when it comes to proving the will of God.
Paul uses a passive verb (be transformed), inferring that it is God’s work and not ours. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. But then he commands us to do it. Isn’t that a typical example of sovereignty and free will? We might stand perplexed at this paradox, like Nicodemus did when Jesus told him he must be born again. How are we to accomplish “being transformed?” How do our minds get renewed? Paul doesn’t really elaborate, but it’s not a trick question. It occurs by developing our relationship with God through prayer and meditation, but that alone is not enough. We are able to deceive ourselves and convince our consciences that God has given us permission to do all kinds of sinful things. Thus we also need to be familiar with the Scripture, and to be honest in its proper application. We must also seek the counsel of our Christian communities and sometimes heed the advice of our brothers and sisters even when it conflicts with our own personal judgment.
We also must pay great attention when praying for God to reveal His will to us. What "will" do we really want to know? Are we asking for God to help us discern what is good in His eyes? God calls us to seek out and do what is right anyway.
God’s mercies should also affect our relationships – to our Christian brothers and sisters, and to a world that does not share our values and commitments. The rest of this letter will focus on several aspects of these relationships.
This lesson was prepared by Greg Meyer