ROMANS CHAPTER 12
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. November 5, 2000)
If Paul made the fact of justification and the indwelling of the Spirit the producer of holiness in believers in Chpt. 6-8, then why does he here give a lot of commandments?
Even though we are justified, yet we must walk in the light. Even though God has put the old man to death in my baptism - yet I must do the truth; I must put on the new man.
Even though the Holy Spirit dwells in us, yet we must through the spirit put to death the deeds of the body. (8:13) Sin's power is broken in us, but we are to actively appropriate that freedom and not yield our members to sin anymore.
Paul is not laying down another law after all he has said, but is assuming the inward consecration of the Christian and from this fact calls on him to realize his obligations. (cf. Gal.5:25)
12:1 Beseech = I beg you.
therefore = from all that preceded in the doctrinal portion (1-11)
mercies = (3:25-26) What God has done for us in Christ's sacrifice.
-- The Jew's religion of service consisted mostly in sacrifices (Heb.9:9)
1. sacrifices offered before reconciliation and to obtain it (Sac. for sin, for trespass)
2. sacrifices offered after reconciliation to celebrate it (whole burnt offering and peace offering)
This epistle is divided like that:
1. the sacrifice of Christ for reconciliation.
2. the whole sacrifice of the believer to consecration. Christ gave his life for you - you ought to give your life to him.
present = the technical term of the presentation of a victim for sacrifice. The same word is used in (6:3).
living sacrifice = victim, that which is presented for sacrifice. Our bodies as our vessels are to be offered always to God for use in his service.
holy = the body not given to sin any longer
acceptable = well pleasing in the sight of God.
reasonable = λογικήν, could be spiritual (1Pet.2:2) or most likely reasonable "the service which rationally corresponds to the moral premises contained in the faith you have". The morally, logically, spiritual thing to do.
12:2 conformed = σχήμα, the manner of holding oneself, attitude, pose. Then the verb means the adoption or imitation of this pose or received mode of conduct. Do not look around you this way and that to learn how to behave.
this world = the mode of conduct and life of those who have not been born again in Christ and been renewed.
transformed = μορφή, form, organic form - from an inward necessity the believer is to respond. Metamorphosis like the caterpillar into the butterfly.
The worldly life before our new birth is not what we should imitate any longer for the use that we make of our bodies. What then? To seek a new model, a superior type, to be realized by means of a power acting within us. We are to be transformed. It’s not by looking around us, to the right or left, that we learn to use our bodies, but by putting ourselves under the dominion of a new power, which will transform us by an inward necessity.
The internal principle that transforms the Christian in the use of his body is the
renewing of the mind = Mind is the faculty of the soul that perceives and discerns. Our natural mind is impaired and self-love reigns over it and makes it see everything from a personal, biased perspective. This is the carnal mind (Eph.4:17)
"The renewing" is the faculty of mind freed from the power of the flesh and put under the rule of the spirit (8:2) recovering the capacity to discern the new model to be realized in this life, the excellent and perfect type.
prove = discern, appreciate
the will of God = By the renewed mind the Christian can recognize in every given circumstance the divine will for him, and his obligation in it - having Christ's perspective. (1Cor. 2:16)
that which is good = free from all connivance with evil in any form.
acceptable = well pleasing to God or men? Both: devotion, disinterestedness, self-forgetfulness, and self-sacrifice is also pleasing to men.
perfect = complete, mature, nothing lacking, no smattering of falling short, thoroughly and entirely the best thing to do - realizing the goal.
So the world has a false model of our life, the carnal and mundane in Adam, while over against this there is the perfect type - the will of God, which is discerned by the renewed mind of the believer, which he strives to realize in his day to day walk through faith.
That is the principle of how to live in salvation.
In the rest of the chapter Paul deals with the life of the believer as a member of the church. The natural tendency of man is to exalt himself. The new man will humbly stay in the limits God has given him by faith. The wisdom from above is characterized by humility (v.3-8) and love (v.9-21). We limit ourselves in humility and give ourselves in love.
(3-8) All these services in the church are to be according to our renewed mind and approached with a heart of humility, limiting them to the grace that God gives.
12:3 Paul wants each of us to limit ourselves according to the measure of faith God has given each one of us. I understand “measure” to mean the ability that God has given you in your capacity of faith. No one of us can be everything to everybody – so don’t try to be, or exalt yourself above that to which you ought to lay claim. We all have abilities, whether obvious and being exercised now or potential abilities that are latent and which will come into play as they are needed.
12:4-5 The church is the organ of Christ on earth (his body). There are many members and many functions to them. Each one of us is an extension of the rest of the body in the ability we have. So, in what I can do, I am your member for that function, etc.
We owe our service to the rest of the body. You were added to this congregation for a reason. Don’t tell me you don’t have a reason. I’ll just tell you to exercise your faith. I am convinced the spiritual man can do anything – but he must humbly assign his ability to the task set before him.
12:6-8 Then Paul lists some abilities or gifts that we are to modestly confine ourselves within the limits of what we can do.
Prophesy = Prophets were to give to the church what they needed from God right at the moment; speaking to the current situation. Comparing them to O.T. figures they had much the same function (speaking to current issues).
proportion = αναλογία (mathematical term meaning proportion)
of faith = The prophet’s faith gave him eyes to see and perspective to understand. He was not to go beyond this. Nothing should come from his own resources in the flesh. He had his whole trust in God as to what to say.
ministry = διακονία, a charge. Since it lies between prophesy and teaching, it probably has to do with Elders and Deacons. If you take “he that rules” as an Elder then this would be just the Deacon and the whole list is out of the usual order.
These men should voluntarily limit themselves to the work that is given to them.
He that teaches = (διδάσκολος) let him concentrate on his teaching and humbly exercise it, abiding in that function.
He that exhorts = a person who encourages, stirs the brethren up and comforts them. He knows how to speak to your heart and he is there with you where you live emotionally.
He that gives = to communicate to others one's own wealth. The bro/sis who is the one that sees a need and fills it.
Simplicity = ‘απλότης, with generosity – largeness of heart. Lit. “not turning back on oneself.” Not choking off the giving by thoughts of self.
He that rules = could be an Elder of the church which is the term “to hold an office” or “rule over others”. He should do so with zeal. Peter says, “of a ready mind.” But the term: προιστόσθαι is also used in Tit.3:8, “to be occupied with good works.” So given the order of the words in the context, this “ruling” could be someone who is “in the business” of good works.
He that shows mercy = the member that devotes himself to tending to the sick and miserable. He’s to do so with cheerfulness, ‘ιλαπότητι, lit. with hilarity. It makes that person a sunbeam that shines into the sick room or the afflicted’s heart.
All these members were to devote themselves to their particular gift of service in self limiting humility. Instead of self-exaltation. Now Paul moves from self-limiting and self-possessing to self-giving, or love.
12:9 love without dissimulation = Lit. “without a mask.” The heart should be transparent and really feeling all the affection it professes.
Abhor…cleave = These are participles that may be linked to the verb love. So, “love without mask, abhorring what is evil and cleaving to what is good.” Spiritual love is holy and it will act like this. There won’t be any decorum or fine airs put on to please what is essentially evil. And it won’t make any apology for holding fast to what is good. Love is not pure except when it is the declared enemy of evil, even when it is in the person we are loving, and it puts all its labor toward that person’s progress in what is good.
12:10 As to brotherly love = φιλαδέλφος,
being full of tenderness = φιλοστόργος, from stergo, the natural affection in a family. So our brotherly love should be full of the tender affection of members of the same family, parents and children, brothers and sisters.
As to honor = τιμή, is the respect which the spiritual man has for his brother who is also a child of God.
Preferring one another = Conducting others before you. Lit. “to put oneself at the head, in order to guide.” So, it’s the ready attitude of jumping ahead to conduct others safely before you.
Two triplets now follow in verses 11 and 12.
12:11 As to zeal = that is, in service
not indolent = not slothful.
The person who gives themselves to God is a person who has overcome self-indulgence and serves God in the spirit. He will find it easy to serve the brethren with zeal.
Fervent in spirit = love and service to God and the church is an inner fire kept up continuously by the life God has given us in the spirit. This Christian is the one who is hurrying with zeal whenever there is good to be done.
Serving the Lord = τω κυπίω, in some manuscripts is τω καιρώ, serving the time, which was a common Greek expression. It fits the context better with the idea of taking advantage of every opportunity.
But serving the Lord is what we are really doing by all this behavior. If we aren’t giving ourselves in obedience to the Lord first, then none of these other things will happen or make sense to us.
Spiritual zeal will confine itself to recognizing providential occasion and working within it; it doesn’t impose itself on situations.
12:12 Rejoicing in hope = when we are given to God and we are on his side, then the expectation we have of heaven is clear and sure in our hearts. This causes an ecstatic kind of joy to the point of triumphing in glory. It’s the universal touchdown or homerun. It’s standing in a great choir singing the Hallelujah chorus and knowing that it’s all true and God is there for you.
This joy of hope is bonded to:
Patient endurance = Rom.5:2-5; and 1Thess.1:3
Persevering in prayer = never giving up in prayer; keeping our hope and joy alive by always coming back to God, touching base with him and opening our heart to him for what we need.
Now Paul shows how love extends to three classes of people: viz. brethren, strangers, and enemies.
12:13 Distributing to the necessities of saints = being there financially for our brethren when they need help, or when you hear about a saint in need. In the spirit, every good thing we do for a brother, we have fulfilled the same thing for Christ. (Mt.25:40)
Given to hospitality = eager to show hospitality. A spiritual man is looking for ways to be of service to those who are strangers (visiting Saints). I think it is because all the familiarity which usually gets in the way of our relations is stripped away when we deal with a foreign brother and the only thing that we have in common is the only thing that must be acknowledged between us, our fellowship in Christ. There’s no hiding with a stranger – the spiritual connection is in high relief.
Bless them which persecute you = Mt.5:44, This is when our spiritual relationship with another man is tested and even fought against. It is love not giving up, not being snuffed out. It is love gone militant, if you will. It’s a communication on a spiritual level that cannot be denied even by an unbeliever.
Now Paul deals with hostilities.
“It is, that good has the last word, that evil itself serves it as an instrument: such is the masterpiece of love.” [Godet]
~ Invitation ~