Romans 12:1–8. Lesson 22. Our Response to the Gospel.
Key Notes: The mercies of God. Testing God's will. Competing "isms" and gods. Finding your gift.
Because this lesson is so important, we thought it was reasonable to do it twice, written from two perspectives by different teachers. One of our commentaries (J. M. Boice) devotes 79 pages to this short passage.
As with most of his letters, Paul puts theory (theology) first, and practice (ethics) afterward. I & II Corinthians are the exception. When Paul talks to the Corinthians, he tackles their practical prblems from the beginning. In Romans, Paul works the major practical issuesof reconciliation with God and victory over sin throughout the first 11 chapters.
Having theory before practice acknowledges that what we do depends on what we believe. Ethics cannot not stand by itself, as our generation is discovering. We would be operating in an ethical near-vacuum if it were not for the fact that “the law written in the heart” is there for sinner and saint alike. If God is there, and He always is, you have an immediate road-block to doing whatever you want. If you do whatever you want, you are acting as if God is not there; you are a “practical atheist”. Since we do not intend to act as if God is not there, we will pay the more attention to what Paul says.
12:1–2 What are the mercies of God? He refers to multiple mercies. Mercy is compassion, pity or sympathy.
How do God’s compassions express themselves? One list would be the dozen or more mercies that make up our salvation, all mentioned in Romans. Each is one of God’s compassionate acts.
election ~ foreknowledge ~ calling
forgiveness ~ justification ~ redemption
regeneration ~ reconciliation ~ sanctification
adoption ~ union with Christ ~ glorification
Why present my body? It is my soul and spirit that count.
Obviously, but the body is important, and the body will go wherever the mind, soul and spirit lead it .[However, it must be added that the mind is limited by what the body permits. The aging body loses capacity. The body says "sleep" and we cannot long refuse.] It is the final common pathway of all our actions.
If I were to give my body as a living sacrifice to God, what would He do with it? He would faciliate it.
By His mercies, the body and I will be better by far. God empowers people. He gave Bezaleel the art of jewelry making for the Tabernacle. God gave David the ability to sing and to win Israel’s battles. He gave Timothy his faith. He gave Peter his sermon. He gave Paul one of the finest minds ever known, and at least one weakness.
That is our spiritual worship? What is worship? "Worship" comes from old English "worthship"--worth-ship--giving someone what he or she is worth. What is worth the most to us? What do we value most in life? What is our first priority? Many will say it is the family, my career or my education. If so, that is what we worship. Worship Our Lord and God.
And how is this sacrifice of our lives to our compassionate God energized?
By the renewal of our minds.
12:2 The word “do not be conformed" (Gr. root for our English "scheme") has to do with dress, fashion, pattern and shape. The English word "conform" suggests being shaped or formed, but the Greek has the idea of keeping the common dress code, the generally accepted behavior patterns of society. The second word, to be "transformed", in Greek, is the basis for our word "metamorphosis". Don't just go along with the world but be completely different.
If we had only the instruction not to keep the habit patterns of the world around us, we would struggle. We have to conform to a large extent. We are compelled to be “in the world.” We use the common language, drive the same cars, wear the same clothes and take home the same money. But metamorphosis is a radical change, like the larva becoming a butterfly or the 8-cell embryo becoming a 120-lb. woman. The word is used in two other places: Christ was “transfigured” (metamorphosed) before his three disciples (Matt. 17:2, Mk. 9:2). We are also being transformed (metamorphosed) by contemplating His image. (IICor.3:18)
II Cor. 3:18 ~ "We are being transformed". Rom. 12:2 ~ "Be transformed".
How can both be correct? Is the process active or passive?
II Cor. 3:18 has the answer. Both. Please revisit it.
This world conforms by many "isms". These are not gods in the ordinary sense, but are the ideas to which most people conform.
*Secularism comes from "saeculum" a Latin word for "an age" world. Secularism says, “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” Secularists are blocked out of heaven, locked into this age and stuck with their feet in the mud. They are of the world, mundane (L. mundus, "world").
* Humanism says that “man is the measure of all things.” God is not allowed to participate in human affairs or to make laws governing them.
* Scientism says, “If you can measure it, it is real.”
*Relativism says, “Truth depends on who you are and where you stand.”
* Statism says, “Government will care for you from the cradle to the grave.”
In its emptiness, Western society also bows down to foreign gods in disguise:
- Venus (lust and illicit sexuality in all its varied forms)
- Bacchus (altered consciousness from alcohol and recreational drugs)
- Mercury (money and business)
- Mars (violent sports, war and power)
- Apollo (dance, music and entertainment)
The world seduces us, bombards us by way of newspapers, TV, magazines, the way people look and behave, the books they write, the clothes they wear, the morals of public figures. We have to go along. We accept without protest images and ideas that were unspeakable 20–30 years ago. The bikini was scandalous in’57. Gay marriage? Our Puritan ancestors would be shocked. It is easy to go along, lose our way and become absorbed in the culture. As transformed people we must stand away from these seductive influences. We march to a different drummer. We are members of the counter-culture, at the same time accepting what is good and decrying what is evil.
12:2 “Prove the will of God”. The word is literally to test and approve, or to assay something such as a metal. Are we to challenge God’s will? He invites the experiment.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psa. 34:8)
To test the will of God we must first know what the will of God is. This is a puzzle for many people. But Paul is simple and direct in I Thess. 4:3:
“This is the will of God, your sanctification….”
If our holiness is the will of God, can we test it? Is it the right way? Does it work? Will following the Ten Commandments keep us healthy? What will be the outcome?
Simply, “…pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
We are metamorphosing into Christlike people, by our desire and the power of the Holy Spirit, with the goal of seeing Jesus.
12:3 Paul goes on to give us directions for our lives. He speaks about our opinion of ourselves and the grace given to him, using a word for thinking four times in this verse. A literal rendering would be, “…not to be high-minded above what it behooves you to be minded, but to be minded so as to be sober-minded to each.” In other words, think about who you are. Unfortunately, we think much too much about ourselves and why we are not appreciated for what we really are.
I knew a man with a stomach ulcer that proved very hard to heal. He always came to the clinic in polished black shoes, a white shirt and a black suit. Most of the other patients were in boots, jeans and plaid shirts. I asked the nurse if she knew who he was. She said he was a janitor who did not believe he was a janitor. People did not treat him as he deserved. He could not admit his problem, but his stomach did—and it wept and bled. We are much healthier if we can accept our God-assigned place.
12:5 Paul points us not to our secular work assignments but our church responsibilities, which concern us but little. Here Paul refers to the members of the body as parts of the church, not parts of individual human bodies as in Rom. 6:12–14 or I Cor.6:15. As in his other lists of church workers, he puts the communicators higher than the service people, although the hierarchy is not pronounced. Each person has a function based on grace given. How do we find our gift? The group may well direct us and if not, trial and error works. Listen to the church's "Why don't you...?" Help with the children, lead a small group, sing in the choir. For each task, Paul adds an encouragement.
In the Church
* the prophets are, or should be, the preachers.
* the service people are the deacons and deaconesses and the paid staff.
* the teachers are in Sunday School and week-day Bible studies.
* the exhorters? They are our musicians, the church's cheer-leaders.
* the contributors are the people in the pews. May they be generous.
* the aides help in the Christian day-school and Sunday School.
* the givers of mercy are repairing damaged homes of flooded or tornado-stricken areas.
When we show the unity and diversity of the Church, we preserve the only true community outside of the family.
Let us do our part.