Romans 12



Living sacrifices (12:1-2)

1 In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul has presented the main doctrines and teachings of the Christian religion. He has laid the foundation of our faith. In brief, these teachings are as follows. We have been united with Christ. Through Christ’s death, our “old self’ has died, and the rule of sin in our lives has come to an end. Through Christ’s resurrection, our “new self’ has come to life. We have received Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, through whom we receive the guidance and the power to lead holy and righteous lives.

Now in the next four chapters, Paul describes the holy and righteous life of a Christian. if we are indeed united with Christ, then there should be some visible evidence of it in our lives. If our inner being has been changed by Christ, then our outer behavior should be changed also. Therefore, Paul now begins to talk about the Christian’s outer life, his work, his duties, his behavior (see Ephesians 2:10 and comment).

What is our first and greatest work as Christians? It is this: to offer our bodies as living sacrifices … to God. By the word bodies, Paul means our whole person—spirit, soul, and physical body together. However, this “body” (whole person) Paul is talking about is not our old self (Romans 6:6), which was under the control of our sinful nature. The “body” we must offer to God is our new transformed self, which is under God’s control (Romans 6:13,19). The new transformed self that we present to God must be without sin, holy, spiritually alive (see 1 Peter 2:5). The “body” we offer must be a living sacrifice, without blemish.

We must offer ourselves as sacrifices in response to God’s mercy. It was by God’s mercy that Christ gave His own body as a sacrifice for us. Therefore, in view of God’s mercy to us, we need to willingly offer ourselves to Him. That is the spiritual worship God wants from us. That is the service He expects from us. Such a sacrifice will be holy and pleasing to Him. Compared with what He has done for us, our service for Him is very small indeed!

Notice that, in God’s sight, the body of a Christian is holy. From the beginning we were created by God to be holy and blameless (see Ephesians 1:4). The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 and comments). It is because of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us that our bodies are made holy and pleasing to God.

2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. The word world in this verse means the “kingdom of Satan.” Here in this world, Satan’s power is great; he exercises authority over the lives of all non-believers. We must not cooperate with Satan or those who follow him. Let us not be like them; otherwise, we cannot be holy and pleasing to God (see 1 John 2:15-16 and comment).

How can we be “holy and pleasing” to God? Only by being transformed by the renewing of [our] mind can we become holy and pleasing to God. Paul in this verse is giving us a clear command: Do not conform … be transformed60 (see Ephesians 4:22-24 and comment).

When we first believe in Christ, we are spiritually like newborn infants. We must grow. We must become more and more like Christ. How does our new spiritual self grow? It grows through the renewing of our minds. By the word mind61 Paul means here our inner mind, or heart, from which all our thoughts, desires, and goals arise. From our mind come all the sinful thoughts and desires of our “old self’; and from our mind come all the good thoughts and desires of our “new self.” As is our mind, so will be our thoughts and actions. Thus, when we become Christians, it is above all our mind that must be changed. This is why Paul says here: … be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

It is actually God who takes the leading part in renewing our minds. On our own strength, we cannot make our “old evil self’ into a “righteous self.” But even though God Himself creates our “new spiritual self,” we must still put on the new self (Ephesians 4:24). Therefore, we can understand that Paul’s expression, renewing of your mind, actually means “putting on your new self.” That is, we must “put on” new thoughts, new desires, new goals, new actions—all of which are according to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

What is God’s good, pleasing and perfect will? It can be summed up in the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. … Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:3031). All other commands and rules of conduct are derived from these two great commandments (see Matthew 22:40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14 and comments).

It is easy to say: “Love God; love your neighbor.” All men agree that love is important. But in what way are we to love God and our neighbor in our daily lives? Every day we encounter many different situations. According to this law of love, what must we do in each situation?—that is the question. What is God’s will in each of the small things that make up our daily life?

If our minds have been renewed—transformed—then we can know in each situation what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is. We learn through our mind what God’s will is. When our mind is darkened and disobedient, we cannot discern God’s will. But when our mind is transformed and renewed, we can then discern God’s will in almost every situation. We are then able to test and approve what God’s will is.

To discern God’s will, two things are necessary. First, God must reveal His will. He does this in three ways: through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, and through fellow Christians.

The second thing necessary for discerning God’s will is that we must actively be seeking His will. How must we seek it? First, we must transform and renew our mind; that’s the main step. Second, we must pray. Third, we must study the Bible. Fourth, we must listen to the advice of other Christians. Fif th, we must submit ourselves to God’s will and agree to obey it—whatever it is.62 When we have done all these things, then we shall know what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is.

The Proper Use of Spiritual gifts (12:3-8)

3 Paul says here that he is writing by the grace given to him. The grace63 given to Paul was his appointment from God to be an apostle (see Ephesians 3:7). Along with the appointment, Paul was also given grace—that is, the strength and ability—to do the work of an apostle. That work was to establish churches, to preach the Gospel, and to teach and admonish believers.

Here Paul writes: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. That is, we must think of ourselves with sober judgment—rightly, honestly, and as objectively as possible. We should not overestimate or exaggerate our weaknesses, nor should we unduly criticize ourselves; for this leads to a false humility.64 On the other hand, we must not think too highly of ourselves, because this leads to pride.65

Paul shows us by what measure we must think of ourselves: … think of yourself … in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. In this verse, the word faith has a special meaning which is different from its usual meaning. Here faith means a special gift of God which we use in faith. Some Christians are given the gift of preaching. Some are given the gift of teaching, or of hospitality. We must not despise these gifts of “faith” which God has given us; rather, we must use them with humility and thankfulness. Let us remember that all good gifts ultimately come from God; we are not entitled to boast of them as if they came from us!

Recalling Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), if we have received five talents from God, we should not act as if we had received only one or two. We should use all five talents for God in accordance with the measure of faith God has given [us].

4-5 God has given different functions and abilities to the various members of our bodies. Christ’s church is like a human body: God has given to each Christian in the church a different function or ability—or perhaps more than one (see 1 Corinthians 12:12,27 and comment).

… each member belongs to all the others (verse 5). We Christians belong to each other just as the members of a body “belong” to each other. Therefore, we must use our gifts for the benefit of each other—not for our own benefit (see 1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10 and comments).

Therefore, since we are all in one body, the church, it is essential that we think of ourselves and each other with sober judgment (verse 3). Let not the little finger think it is as big as the foot!

6 We all have been given different gifts according to the grace given us (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and comment). In this verse (as in verse 3) the word grace means a special “ability” or “calling.”66 In using this expression, according to the grace given us, Paul means the same thing that he meant in verse 3 by the expression, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given [us].

Notice that we Christians receive God’s gifts according to the grace given us, or in accordance with the measure of faith God has given [us]. We receive gifts according to measurement, according to limits. However, Jesus Christ received the gifts of the Holy Spirit without measure, without limit (John 3:34), because He was God Himself.

In this verse Paul mentions the gift of prophesying. PROPHECY is a word that comes directly from God. A prophet, when he is prophesying, speaks only what God directly leads or inspires him to speak. The prophet must speak in accordance with the measure of faith given him; that is, he must speak to the extent that God has given him words to speak—no more, no less. A prophet does not speak on his own authority, but only on God’s authority. Anyone who receives a word from God and speaks it is, in fact, prophesying. A prophecy isn’t only a prediction about the future; it is of ten a word of encouragement or admonition for the present. Thus a preacher will sometimes prophesy in the course of his preaching (see 1 Corinthians 14:1,3; 1 Peter 4:11 and comments).

7 The gift of serving includes all the different kinds of assistance and service we offer to others. Christians need to “put on” the attitude of servants (see Mark 10:43-44 and comment). We need to serve with our whole heart. Indeed, whatever we do, we must do it whole-heartedly, as if we were doing it for the Lord67 (see Ephesians 6:7). If, for example, our gift is teaching, let [us] teach—that is, let us teach wholeheartedly.

8 Notice that encouraging68 others is also a gift, and it is an extremely important one. The gift of encouragement does not include rebuking and correcting others (though that may at times be necessary); rather, it means strengthening and comforting others. Encouragement or exhortation is always given for another person’s welfare and benefit. When we meet and speak with each other, how of ten do we give a word of encouragement? When was the last time we encouraged a brother or sister? How important such encouragement might be for someone—even today!

… if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. When we give, let us not calculate the cost, but let us give liberally (see Matthew 6:3-4 and comment). That is how God has given His gifts to us (2 Corinthians 9:6-8; James 1:5). Let us not give to others in the hope of gaining something in return (Luke 6:33-34). We must give to others not for our own benefit but for theirs! In particular, we should give to those who can never repay us; if we do, we shall be repaid by God (see Luke 14:1214).

… if it is leadership, let him govern diligently. The leaders of the church must govern with care and diligence; theirs is a big responsibility.

… if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Sometimes when we are doing something mercif ul for someone else, we are not happy about it; we do it begrudg-ingly. We may be caring for a very sick person—someone with foul infected wounds, for example, which are repulsive to us—and our displeasure may show on our face. Furthermore, those who most need our mercy are usually not in a happy or pleasant state of mind themselves. All the more reason, then, that we should minister to these uncheerful people cheerfully!

Some Principles of Christian Living (12:9-21)

9 In verses 3-8, Paul has talked about different gifts and different kinds of work. Now he turns his attention to some of the general duties that apply to all Christians at all times.

In the Christian life, the first and greatest principle is always love. Our love must be sincere. True love arises from our inner being, from our spirit. If our love is just on the outside, then it is a false and hypocritical love, and it will not endure. A person whose love is false and hypocritical seeks only his own interests and welfare. On the other hand, a person whose love is sincere seeks only the interests of God and the welfare of others.

Hate what is evil. This world of men is evil; it is under the control of Satan. Therefore, to say, Hate what is evil, is the same as saying, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (verse 2).

… cling to what is good. Hold it fast! Satan is always trying to draw us away from what is good; therefore, we must cling to it.

10 How should Christians love one another? We must love each other with brotherly love (see Hebrews 13:1). We must be devoted to one another like parents are devoted to their children. Christians should love all men, but they should especially love their brothers and sisters in the church (see Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:8 and comments). We should love each other as Christ loved us (see John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:1618 and comments).

Love is respectful; the person who loves his brother also honors his brother. We must always regard others as being above ourselves (see Philippians 2:3 and comment). If we do this, division and strif e in the church will never arise. Let the other person have the honor, the position, the credit; let us not seek these things for ourselves.

Why is there division in our churches? Because each of us is seeking honor for himself and not giving it to others. We suppose ourselves to be “straight” and the other man “crooked.” We imagine our work to be worthy, and the other man’s unworthy. We are always elevating ourselves in our own eyes. When we do this, division is not far away.

11 … keep your spiritual fervor. Paul is referring here to both our own human spirit and to the Holy Spirit. To keep our spiritual fervor means that our human spirit must keep responding to God’s Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit our own spirits are made alive; through the Holy Spirit we are filled with zeal. Therefore, let us do nothing to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (see 1 Thessa-lonians 5:19).

12 Because of our hope, we can be joyful. Because of our hope—that is, hope in salvation—we can persevere in times of trouble and suffering (Romans 5:2-4). And trouble and suffering are going to come one day to every Christian (2 Timothy 3:12). On that day, especially, we will need to remember this verse: Be joyful in hope.

In order to be patient in affliction, we will need to be faithful in prayer. Through prayer we will receive the strength and patience to endure affliction (Acts 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

13 Share with God’s people who are in need. We must never neglect our own Christian brothers and sisters who are in need; we must meet their needs before we go out and meet the needs of non-Christians. But we are only required to provide what they need, not what they want. Sometimes Christians can spend so much time caring for each other that they end up neglecting their neighbors outside the church.

To practice hospitality is an important Christian duty. We should always be looking for opportunities to practice hospitality—instead of doing it only when we have to! (1 Peter 4:9). And remember, let us not be hospitable only to those who can be hospitable to us in return. Rather let us be especially hospitable to those who will never be able to pay us back (see Matthew 5:46-47; Luke 6:32-34; 14:12-14 and comments).

14 In this verse, the word bless means to show kindness and love. We should pray that God will bless our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28 and comment). It is not by our own strength but only by Christ’s Holy Spirit that we can love our enemies in this way.

Christ is our example: instead of resisting, He prayed; instead of accusing, He forgave; instead of hating, He loved; instead of bringing death, He brought life (see Luke 23:34).

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Sometimes we are unhappy when our brother is happy or successful. This comes from envy (see Luke 15:25-30). Sometimes we are inwardly happy when our brother has failed, or is sad or in trouble. We are secretly pleased at his fall; because when he is “down,” we feel “up.”

But Paul says: Let this not be. When our brother is rejoicing, let us rejoice with him (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). When our brother is sad, let us share in his sadness. When our brother is burdened, let us help him carry that burden (see Galatians 6:2 and comment).

16 Live in harmony. … Do not be proud. In order to remain in harmony with one another we must remain humble; pride destroys unity (see Ephesians 4:2-3 and comment).

If we are of one body, then we must be of one mind (see 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2 and comments). Let us not look down on each other. Is the hand better than the eye? Is the tongue better than the foot? No. Therefore, let us respect one another (see 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 and comment).

… be willing to associate with people of low position.69 This means to be willing not only to associate with those of lower position but also to do their work. Paul’s point here is that Christians must never make differences between people according to such things as birth, caste, or financial status (see James 2:1-4 and comment). And especially they must not make such distinctions among fellow believers! Since we are all members of one body, those believers of higher position must willingly associate with those of lower position.

Do not be conceited. Let us not consider ourselves wise. It’s good to be wise, but it’s not good to think we’re wise! Let us not always go around thinking, “I’m right.” The man who is always sure he’s right is very hard to teach; even God can’t teach such a man.

People who are educated of ten become conceited—that is, wise in their own eyes. Let not the educated people look down on the uneducated. True wisdom isn’t learned mainly in schools! It is learned mainly from God—from His Spirit, from His word (the Bible), and from fellow believers in the church. of ten the uneducated members of the church will have more wisdom on certain matters than the educated will!

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil (see Matthew 5:38-41; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9 and comments).

We must not only do what is right in the eyes of God; we must do what is right in the eyes of everybody70 (2 Corinthians 8:21). Otherwise, we shall bring dishonor on Christ (see Romans 14:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and comments).

18 It is not possible all the time to live at peace with everyone. We cannot live totally at peace with some people—evildoers, for example. We must oppose evil. We must oppose those who oppose Christ, especially those who dishonor Him and seek to block His work. But our opposition must be under God’s guidance; we must not engage in conflict unless God is going to be glorified by it. Paul is here giving a general rule: if it is possible, live at peace—even with your enemies.71

However, within the church there must always be peace (see Romans 14:19; Ephe-sians 4:3 and comments).

19 Do not take revenge. This command is the same as Paul’s command in verse 17: Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

We must never take any kind of revenge for any reason (Proverbs 20:22). When we are hurt in some way by another person, even by a Christian brother, our natural tendency is to find some way of getting even, of taking revenge. What kinds of things do we usually do to take revenge? We might refuse to speak to the person who hurt us. Not to speak is itself a form of revenge; by not speaking we are withdrawing our friendship and fellowship from that person. Our inner desire is to hurt him. And that is revenge. Instead of refusing to talk to the person who has hurt us, we should go to him and forgive him! We should try as quickly as possible to forget the wrong he has done.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for us to take revenge: God Himself will always avenge us. “It is mine to avenge,” says God (Deuteronomy 32:35). God will judge all men; He will reward every man according to his work—whether it be good or evil (see Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 10:30; Revelation 22:12 and comments).

20 Paul here quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22. The meaning of the proverb is that if we do good to our enemy, he will of ten become embarrassed and ashamed for the wrong he has done us. He will “burn with shame.” This is one of the meanings of the words: In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. The burning coals are also a sign of God’s judgment; if our enemy does not repent, our kindness to him will make his of fense worse by contrast, and his judgment will be more severe.

There is an additional meaning in this proverb: namely, the best way to overcome your enemy is to turn him into your friend!

21 Evil is all around us. Sometimes Christians become discouraged and cast down by evil. They suffer on account of evil men. Sometimes they cry out, “I can’t take it!” Their faith weakens; they become separated from God.

Let this not happen to us! Even though evil is all around us, we can with God’s help overcome evil with good. Just as light always overcomes darkness, so good always overcomes evil.

Paul’s words, overcome evil with good, are a command, not a suggestion! Whenever God gives a command, He always provides the means and the strength needed to carry out the command.