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Wednesday, October 14 2020

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

Introduction

Apostle Paul is considered a man filled with the knowledge of God’s Word and His grace. His letters and books in the Bible testify of this truth. Despite this, he was a modest man and would go on to say in 1 Cor.13:9 that “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete].”. Also in 1 Cor.15:10, “But by the [remarkable] grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not without effect. In fact, I worked harder than all of the apostles, though it was not I, but the grace of God [His unmerited favor and blessing which was] with me”. In appreciation of his privileged position and calling, Paul in the concluding verses of Romans 11 will go on to express his awe at God’s depth of riches of knowledge and wisdom, and His Sovereignty (supreme power and authority). In today’s lesson, we will consider Paul’s injunction to the Spiritually transformed Christian and the Body of Christ in general.

Romans 12: 1-2 [Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice]

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” NIV

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God” (v. 1a). The word, “therefore,” links this chapter to what went before—namely, Paul’s treatise regarding God’s grace and our faith.

“to present your bodies (Greek: soma) (v. 1b).  There are two Greek words for body: (1) Sarx, often translated “flesh” the external, physical body that was seen as worldly and opposed to God and (2) Soma one aspect of the person, who is united as body and spirit. 

So Paul said, “Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts” (6:12).  In his view, there is nothing incompatible in body and spirit.  Both are important.  Both are sacred.  Both are essential to human life, and both are compatible with Christian discipleship and our relationship to God.

 “a living sacrifice” (v. 1b). Torah law required Jews to observe a complex system of animal sacrifices to atone for sin and to remind the people of the significance of their sins. Only animals without blemish were acceptable offerings (Leviticus 23:18). Christians are not allowed to substitute an animal’s life for their own but are instead required to sacrifice their own lives. The requirement, however, is no longer ritual slaughter, but is instead the presentation of the living person to God—a living sacrifice—a life dedicated to the service of God—a life committed to doing God’s will—a life lived in faith and lived out in faithfulness. They are to present their bodies for God’s purposes on Sunday in worship and on Monday in the workplace.

This living self-sacrifice, Paul declares, is “holy, acceptable (Greek: euareston - well-pleasing) to God” (v. 1). Animal sacrifices were holy, because they required taking something precious (a life) and offering it to God.

The slaughter of the animal reminded the person that, apart from the grace of God, it would be his/her animal life required on the altar. Now Paul tells Roman Christians that it is indeed their lives that are required, but not on the temple altar. Instead, they are to offer themselves as living sacrifices. Such sacrifices are holy and pleasing to God, offered in the right spirit, were holy and pleasing to God. Living sacrifices are holy in that they represent lives lived in accord with the will of God.

“which is your spiritual (logiken—rational, genuine, true) service” (v. 1). The word logiken has a variety of meanings, and it would seem that Paul chose it for its breadth. To present our bodies to God as living sacrifices is, indeed, a spiritual act. To live lives dedicated to God’s service, whether as clergy or laity, is genuine worship—the logical outcome of a decision to follow Christ.

“Don’t be conformed to this world (aioni—age), but be transformed (metamorphoustheby the renewing of your mind” (v. 2).  The word that is translated “conformed” has to do with conformation that is malleable—that can change from day to day or year to year. The person who is “conformed to this world/ age (aioni)” is free to embrace the next popular philosophy or fad at will. Being “conformed to this world” is rather like being a leaf blown by the wind, never knowing exactly where you are going next—or why [Engineering Illustration of Plastic Mould/ Frozen Water Bottle].

The word that is translated “transformed,” however, is quite different, and involves transformation at the core of one’s being. If being “conformed” would leave us adrift like a leaf, being “transformed” leaves us with feet on the ground—anchored—steady. Paul is calling us not to be caught up in every fad or wafted by every breeze, but instead to let the Spirit transform us at our core so that we can have a faith strong enough to maintain course in spite of the winds of popular opinion.

What are the things of this age that mold and shape masses of people? They include popular culture, such as motion pictures, movies, music, and sports. They include popular philosophies e.g. New Age thinking. They include incentives to succeed, even at the expense of vulnerable people. They include racism, nationalism, sectarianism, and denominationalism—forces that teach that our tribe is good and other tribes are bad, etc.

“but be transformed (metamorphoustheby the renewing of your mind” (v. 2b). Metamorphousthe is the word from which we get our English word, metamorphosis. The example of metamorphosis that comes to mind is the caterpillar, which is transformed into a butterfly. For a time, it is one thing, but then it becomes, by the grace of God, a wholly different thing. The caterpillar is not beautiful, but the butterfly is. The caterpillar crawls, but the butterfly flies on gossamer wings. So it is by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit that we who were one thing (conformed to this age) can be transformed (metamorphosized) into something wholly different—people who are Godly and holy.

Paul calls us to permit the Holy Spirit to transform our minds, knowing that the person who learns to think Godly thoughts will soon experience a changed heart as well [see 2 Cor.3:12-18, Philippians 4:8]. Godly thoughts transform every aspect of our being. As an example, the person who adopts Godly thinking often enjoys improved health, because he/she learns to regard his/her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and is therefore more likely to treat his/her body with new respect. That is not to say that Christians do not engage in unhealthy practices, but the more Godly our thinking, the less likely we are to become victims of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, tobacco, promiscuous sex, workaholism, worry, and other unhealthy practices.

“so that you may prove (dokimazein—prove, test) what is the good, well-pleasing (euareston—well-pleasing), and perfect will of God” (v. 2c). The renewing of our minds enables us to “discern the will of God” (v. 2). The world is full of people who assume that God’s will mirrors their own. If we are to discern God’s will, it will not be by trying to remake God in our own image—by having God conform to our prejudices—but by allowing the Spirit to renew our thinking, by becoming putty in God’s hands, so to speak, by allowing God to shape our thinking and our lives.

Romans 12: 3 [Not to Think of Himself More Highly]

“3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” NKJV

Paul had come from a background where Jews thought of themselves as God’s chosen people (true)–chosen for privilege rather than service (false).  He wants to make sure that Christians don’t take on that superior attitude. Unfortunately, Christians often fall heir to that failing nevertheless, even to the point that we tend to disparage other Christian brothers and sisters whose views differ from ours.

Romans 12: 4-5 [So We Are One Body in Christ]

““4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”

Paul further appeals to the Roman Christians to think of themselves realistically, humbly, by comparing the church to a human body. He uses this same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where he speaks of the interdependence of the various parts of the body. Each member of the human body has a specialized purpose, whether a hand, foot, eye, ear, or nose. The various members do not compete for prominence but cooperate for mutual benefit. Each member contributes to the body’s welfare in accord with its ability, and each member enjoys the benefits of contributions made by other members. If the various members were to be of a different frame of mind, competing rather than cooperating, seeking to gain advantage instead of contributing unselfishly, the body would cease to function effectively, and all the members would suffer as a result.

So it is with the church, which has many members, each with differing gifts and able to contribute in particular ways “according to the grace (charin) that was given to us” (v. 5). Instead of competing or quarreling, which would render the church body less effective to the detriment of all its members, the church works best when all its members work in harmony—just as members of the human body work in harmony.

Conclusion: Romans 12: 6-8 [Having Gifts Differing According to Grace]

“6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

“Having gifts (charismata) differing according to the grace (charin) that was given to us” (v. 6a). Paul mentions seven specific gifts in these verses—prophecy, ministry (or service), teaching, exhortation (or encouragement), giving, leadership, and compassion (or showing mercy).

Some have thought of these seven gifts as corresponding to official church offices, but many of these gifts have been distributed generally to believers without respect to church offices. The fact that Paul addresses himself “to every man who is among you” (v. 3) makes it unlikely that he intends these gifts to apply only to holders of official church offices. God grants grace (charis) and gifts (charismata) to every Christian, and the church is best served by honoring and celebrating each person’s grace and each person’s gift.

Difficulties arise not only when Christians begin “to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (v. 3)—in the sense that they value their personal gifts more highly than they value the gifts of others. Difficulties also arise when, like James and John, Christians seek seats of honor for selfish purposes (Mark 10:35). Our motives in seeking or accepting church offices are crucial. If we serve out of love for Christ, we can expect that Christ will bless our service (but not that he will make it easy for us). If we serve for selfish reasons, we cannot expect that our service will be a blessing to anyone.

This study is culled from https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/romans

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 04:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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