Romans 12 Study Notes
12:1-2 Paul commonly used the indicative mode of speech to make statements about what God has done for us before using the imperative mode to outline our proper response (e.g., Therefore . . . I urge you). The order of presentation is doctrine first, and then duty. Our true worship entails offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, which means dedication of the total person to living for God’s honor. Christians are to be different from non-Christian society. We should experience a progressive transformation of life by the renewing of our mind. The mind is changed by prayer, by reading and reflection on God’s Word, by worship, and by meditation on God’s acts as the Holy Spirit works in us.
12:3-8 As part of a renewed mind, the Christian is to think wisely about himself and what his function is to be in the body of Christ (the church; see 1Co 12:12-28). Measure of faith may mean a person should measure himself by the gospel. Others see it as different apportionments of faith. Either way, Paul exhorts Christians to be humble and to use what God has given for the good of the body. Based on Rm 12:3; 1Co 12:8-10; Eph 4:11; 1Pt 4:10, Christians are given gifts to use for the good of others.
The NT lists at least seventeen kinds of gifts. Christians are defined not just by their personal faith but also by their inclusion in local faith fellowships that are expressions of the body of Christ (see 1Co 12:12-31). Only some of the gifts are explained in this present passage. Prophecy in the NT churches was direct revelation from God before the canon was completed. This gift was to be used and measured in concert with the objective body of Christian truths. Service (Gk diakonia) is the origin of the word “deacon.” A deacon here is not a member of a board of directors but a servant. It describes not a title or office but a gift of ministry. Pastors should have this gift. Teaching is an essential gift. Parents teach children, older believers teach younger believers, vocational pastor-teachers are the primary instructors in a church, and elders should be able to teach also. All believers can teach to some level, but those who have a special facility for teaching are responsible to develop and use it. Exhortation is the gift of motivating and encouraging. This gift is similar to the Holy Spirit’s function. Giving is to be done with generosity. All can give, but capacities differ. Some delight to give out of very small means (Mk 12:41-44); others give a “reverse tithe”—they give ninety percent and live on ten percent. Leading is a gift of vision and direction that is effective but should not be overbearing. Mercy is helping the sick, the poor, and the sorrowful. This gift is to be exercised with cheerfulness. Practical assistance to needy members was a main emphasis of the early churches. This same emphasis should characterize churches today.
|Uses in Romans||6|
|Uses in the NT||24|
|Focus passage||Romans 12:1-2|
The Greek noun nous was a common term that referred to human intellectual capacity and moral judgment, thus the mind. The related verb noeo means to think, perceive, understand. All but three NT occurrences of the word nous are in Paul’s letters. Luke 24:45 refers to nous as the seat of understanding, and Revelation 13:18 (understanding) and 17:9 (mind) refer to nous as the seat of wisdom. Pauline usage is similar but emphasizes that the mind is the seat of the intellect and thus affects the will; that is, the mind controls what a person says and does, as can be seen in several passages in Paul’s letters (Rm 1:28; 7:23; 14:5; 1Co 14:19; Eph 4:17; Col 2:18; 2Th 2:2; 1Tm 6:5; 2Tm 3:8; Ti 1:15). Paul encouraged believers to be transformed by renewing their minds. This transformation comes through the study of God’s Word and results in being able to “discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rm 12:2).
12:9-16 Transformed thinking is explained in a series of short exhortations. Paul has expounded divine love in this letter; now he shifts to the disciple’s “faith working through love” (Gl 5:6). Christians are one family, and they should honor one another and love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. They should be fervent in the Spirit or let the Spirit kindle and motivate their service. They should also rejoice in the hope of Jesus’s return, share what they have, and share the joys and sorrows of the church family. Keep praying—in the afflictions and persecutions of life, members of the body are to support one another. Pride is a great sin and humility is a great virtue. One shouldn’t think too much of oneself. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1Pt 5:5).
12:17-21 Christians often suffer hatred and persecution from society (1Pt 1:6; 2:11-12; 3:14-17; 4:12-16; 5:9). The normal response is to retaliate, but Christians are called to serve and minister God’s grace to a lost and hostile world. Jesus is our model. As much as possible, we are to live at peace with everyone. God is the sovereign who can convert even a Saul who persecuted the church. God is the judge and the administrator of wrath. Our role is to display God’s grace and love in our lives. God in Jesus conquered evil on the cross. We are not to let evil conquer us but to conquer evil with good.