ROMANS CHAPTER 12.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE TRANSFORMED LIVES OF THO0SE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. Romans 12:1 - 15:14.
I PROVE WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD BY MY TRANSFORMED LIFE. Romans 12:1-2.
In the 12th chapter of the Roman letter Paul began application to the practical Christian life of all the principles and provisions of God that the Spirit revealed through his writings in the first 11 chapters. The Roman letter has developed the thesis through these 11 chapters that "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith."
The first 8 chapters revealed how the righteousness of God was expressed in God's justification and sanctification of the sinner who had faith in Him. Chapters 9 through 11 revealed how the righteousness of God has been expressed throughout the history of the Jewish nation. Beginning in the 12th chapter Paul showed how the revealed righteousness of God should affect the daily lives of those who believe. What Paul said in chapter 12 follows directly from the great revelations of chapters 6, 7, and 8. It seems that Paul put chapters 9, 10, and 11 into parentheses. Important as chapters 9, 10, and 11 are, we must go back and review chapters 6, 7, and 8, for chapter 12 follows directly from there.
In chapter 6 Paul said that the "old self" of those who became Christians "was crucified with Christ and "buried" with Him. (Romans 6:6). He said their "body of sin" was done away with, and that they were no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:15-23). The Roman Christians had died with Christ and had been raised from among those who were spiritually dead "to walk in newness of life." Paul said they were then "alive to God in Christ Jesus" and able to "bear fruit for God" in the "walk" of their lives.
Paul said that Christians must believe in their own "death" and "resurrection" with Christ to the point that they KNOW that it is true, and then they must RECKON their lives and actions in accordance with what they KNOW. (Romans 6:6-11). KNOWING and RECKONING laid the foundation in Christian minds for practical living, practical actions, and actual doings in the lives of Christians on earth.
Faith in the facts of the gospel that have been presented in the Roman letter is the motivating force of all actions in the life which bears fruit for Christ. All actions of the faithful Christian life may be summarized in the word "obedience". Paul not only taught that faith includes obedience, but that the actions of the fruitbearing life must be based on the Christian's "obedience of faith." (Romans 1:15; 16:26). Obedience is necessarily inferred from faith, and faith does not exist without obedience.
The first two steps of "obedience of faith" for Christians are to KNOW and RECKON. (Romans 6:6-11). The next step, Paul said, is to PRESENT yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12-13). The KNOWING, RECKONING, and PRESENTING are actions which take place in the intellects of Christian souls. Christian intellects rule Christian actions. These first three steps of obedience are to lay a foundation in minds, to allow God to conform Christian minds to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), and to allow God to renew minds to be able to properly bring the actions of bodies into subjection.
Christians have no difficult tasks to perform in order for their minds to be renewed. Indeed, through their own human strivings, no matter how difficult they perceive them, they cannot renew their minds. Human strivings without God to renew minds and bring bodies into subjection are doomed to failure, said Paul in Romans chapter 7. In fact, Paul said, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:8).
But God in His righteous grace renews minds and bring Christians into useful living if they will have obedient faith. Christians do not have to strive. But they do have to obey. Christ does all the work in and through Christians. And all Christians have to do to start the process is to KNOW, RECKON, and PRESENT. God renews minds and conforms Christians to the image of His Son. Then Christian minds have laid in them a foundation for taking the next steps of obedience in the Christian life.
What is the next step of "obedience of faith? Paul said it is to WALK according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4), according to the Spirit of God who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9). God has given life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit Who indwells you. (Romans 8:11). God has placed His Spirit in Christians. God has given new life to the mortal bodies of Christians. The Christians have not done it for themselves. They have simply obeyed by KNOWING, RECKONING, and PRESENTING. Then they are told simply to WALK in the Spirit. They are not told to WALK where their fleshly, human minds might lead them. They are told to WALK only where they are "led by the Spirit of God."
The Christians' WALK is not directed by human wills. Christians do not have to strive and struggle in order to WALK daily in God's right way for them. They only have to allow themselves to be led! In obedience of faith Christians WALK only where they are led.
Oh, but we often hear Christians say that they must struggle and strive. Even though Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light," (Matthew 11:30), many Christians feel that the Christian life is a hard struggle. Christians do have a hard struggle in trying to obey the steps of KNOWING, RECKONING, and PRESENTING themselves to Christ. But the struggle does not occur in the resulting WALK in Christ's Spirit. Christ's Spirit does not lead in the way of human struggle and strife. In the Christian WALK Christ takes over lives. The struggle occurs before the WALK in Christ because Christians do not want to accept the fact of their "old man's" death, and they do not want to yield the will power of their souls to God's Spirit.
Many Christians are frustrated in their attempt to WALK. Paul said, in effect, that they have not accepted their freedom from the "body of this death" that Christ made possible in His death, burial, and resurrection. (Romans 7:24-25). They have not come to realize that it was precisely this kind of frustrated living, as if they were outside of Christ, that prompted the Holy Spirit through Paul to remind Christians that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1). Christians, still living as though "the law of sin and death" were in effect in their lives, are reminded that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2). And they are reminded that, when they finally "walk according to the Spirit," the " requirement of the law (of sin and death) is fulfilled in us" daily. (Romans 8:4). God did not cover the Christians' sins with the blood of His Son and then abandon them to live out the rest of their fleshly lives as slaves to this body of sin and death that they must drag around with them. After giving them the free unearned gift of salvation, the forgiveness of their sins, He did not leave them to make their own way through the rest of their human lives. In just the same way that He stepped in and redeemed them in the midst of their sins through His Son, He also gave them through His Son all the necessary provisions for WALKING fruitfully through their human lives. He provided the Holy Spirit to indwell them and to lead them, and to "tell" them where to place each step in their WALK through fleshly lives. All they were called upon to do was render the obedience required by their faith.
So then, after the lessons of chapters 6, 7, and 8, the Holy Spirit through Paul, in chapters 12 through 15, started leading the Roman Christians in their WALK. In these chapters the Holy Spirit said WALK. The admonitions were such as to indicate "where to place one's feet" in the WALK. Put your feet down here on this firm ground. Don't step there! There is quicksand! Here is the path over here! Turn out of that path. It goes the wrong way. Beware of the "booby trap" at this point. Circumvent it!
"(1) I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2. NASV.
In Romans 12:1 Paul restated the step of obedience of faith that was so prominently mentioned in Romans 6:12-13, the step of PRESENTING yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Paul made it crystal clear that Christians are to do something, to perform steps of obedience of faith. "I urge you therefore by the mercies of God to PRESENT your bodies." The "therefore" means that it followed logically, from all that the Holy Spirit had revealed in the Roman letter to this point, that the next step for the Christian was to PRESENT his body to God. In faith, the Christian came to know that the old man that formerly was uppermost in his body, died with Christ and that he then had new life in that body. Paul said to PRESENT the new life to God so that God's Holy Spirit could lead it.
It was possible for the Christian to PRESENT his body to God only because of God's mercy. "I urge you by the mercies of God," said Paul. Before one became a Christian, before one availed himself of God's mercy, it was not possible for a person to take this step. This step of PRESENTATION of the body was only for one who was a Christian, only for one who had already been added to the family of God, only for one in whom God had created "new life". Remember, God could not use the "old life". And the body could be PRESENTED to God only after the Christian had availed himself of God's mercy and allowed God to create new life in his body. Then, with new life, the body was to be presented as "a living and holy sacrifice."
When a human being makes a sacrifice he usually thinks of it as giving up something that is his and very dear to him. The old body of flesh the human being has inherited from Adam has conditioned the human to think of life and the body as selfishly his possession. He has a strong human urge to hold tightly to what he thinks to be his own. So he thinks of a sacrifice as something that hurts, especially the sacrifice of his body. He tends to think that he must go through great trial and great suffering in order to present his body as a sacrifice.
In fact, many people do find themselves suffering when they try to PRESENT their bodies as sacrifices to God. But it is because they try to present their "old man" to Christ. They find the old man of flesh fighting so strongly and furiously against the sacrifice that their suffering becomes more than they are able to bear. And when they have this conflict within them the "old man of sin" always prevails as pointed out by Paul in the 7th chapter of Romans. They can not present their "old man" as a living and holy sacrifice.
In these cases, the problem is that Christians have not taken the preparatory steps of obedience. They do not KNOW that the old man has already died with Christ and that they have a "new man". Or if they have the beginning of that knowledge, they have not RECKONED it as actually being of any use to them. In this case, the Holy Spirit says, take first steps first! Only God can transform them and renew their minds. They must let God do that. Then they will see that their old man is dead already, and that they have a new man that belongs only with God because God created it. The new life of that new man is at ease only with God. Presenting it to God as a sacrifice causes no suffering at all. Jesus Christ did the suffering for them once and for all. The true meaning of this sacrifice to God contains no connotation of suffering or hurt to Christians but actually means yielding to God something that already belongs to God, something that is holy and acceptable to God because it was created pure and perfect by God.
God accepts only what He created and what is His anyway. All the Christian has to do is have faith in what God has done once and for all to that old man, even though the old man keeps trying to deny it! He is dead already. The Christian does not have to struggle with him.
After one has entered into Christ, his new man can mount up on wings of spiritual flight, ignoring the gravitational pull of his old man of sin, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set him free from the law of sin and death!
The sacrifice which the Christian is called upon to make, which doesn't hurt, which doesn't cause him to suffer, is "a living sacrifice." In contrast with the animal sacrifices of old time in which the blood of the animal was shed in the animal's death, and in contrast with the sacrifice of our Lord who shed his blood when He suffered and died, in the Christian's sacrifice there is no longer any suffering and death! Jesus Christ suffered and died once and for all. Through faith the Christian KNOWS and RECKONS that his old man of sin has already died with Christ. He has a new life and "the sacrifice" he is called upon to make is the PRESENTING of that truly living new life back to God with whom he now can live.
"This is your spiritual service of worship," said Paul. The meaning of "service" here is "divine service", service to God, as in worship to God. It has the connotation of public worship in that it is in view of the public. It is the worshipful life we live in and before the world, while we are still sojourners in the flesh on earth. Moreover, it is our "spiritual service." That is, it is the service of one's spirit. It is the reasonable or rational way to live in view of the spiritual dimensions in which Christians live. In the fleshly body alone, ignoring the spiritual dimensions, we live in a world of limited dimensions. Many people do not realize that eternal reality has more dimensions that just the dimensions of the flesh. The spiritual dimensions are the dimensions inhabited by God's spirits. God Himself is Spirit. His angels are spirits. Each of us has parts which are spirit. We cannot sense these spirits with the fleshly body, but God has made Christians aware of them. The "service" which the Holy Spirit asks of Christians here in Romans 12:1 is "spiritual service."
The King James translation of Romans 12:1 has termed this "service" as "your reasonable service". (The actual meaning of the original Greek adjective Paul used was "reasonable" or "rational".) Paul clearly intimates that Christian service for the spiritual God is a service in which Christian spirits take part. In Romans 8:16 Paul wrote of the Holy Spirit working together with "our spirit" to achieve God's purpose for Christians. So the "service" Christians are called upon to give is obviously "spiritual service." But, because Christians live on earth in spiritual as well as fleshly dimensions, "spiritual service" is the only "reasonable service" and the only "rational service". Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 of the Christian's "spiritual," "reasonable," and "rational" service as they live lives as God's new spiritual creation.
In contemplation of the Christian's "service of worship" we remember that the Bible indicates that the primary activity of the spiritual beings who surround the throne of God is "service of worship." In the scenes of God's throne which the Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostle John, John saw the spiritual beings "give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever ...," and John saw them "fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and ... worship Him who lives forever and ever." (Revelation 4:9-10). In another description John said, "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:13-14). The parting command of the angel who revealed to John the scenes of God's spiritual realm was, "Worship God." (Revelation 21:9). In a very real sense the Spirit led activities of the Christian life on earth are "worship" to God, types of the activities in which the Christian will partake when he is finally "changed" into a complete spiritual being at the coming of the Lord. These activities are summed up in Paul's term "service of worship."
What is the reasonable, spiritual service of worship for a Christian? Paul's answer was to PRESENT your bodies to God for His use. It is significant, I think, that Paul did not say to USE ourselves in God's service. But he said simply to PRESENT ourselves for God's use! It is not reasonable for Christians to struggle with the flesh in trying to perform some great thing for God, for Christians do not have any great things in them that God wants. It is reasonable for Christians to PRESENT their bodies to Christ, who has already won the struggle with the flesh, and who will perform His own work in us while we serve simply as vessels.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed," said Paul. The construction of the verbs used by Paul in Romans 12:2 seem to be significant. Paul said, "do not be conformed, but be transformed. He did not say, "do not conform yourself". He did not say, "transform yourself". In saying "do not be conformed, but be transformed", the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul of forces outside the Christian to which the Christian had to yield himself. The meaning seems to be, do not yield yourself to the forces of this world which will conform you to the world, but do yield yourself to the Spirit whom God has given to indwell you and God will transform you. Christians cannot do it themselves. They must yield themselves and let God do it all!
How does the Holy Spirit go about transforming Christians? The Holy Spirit renews the minds of Christians. When does the transformation take place? It takes place upon the Christian's completion of steps of faithful obedience culminating in the Christian's PRESENTATION of that holy, living new life within him to God. What is the result of the transformation? The life of the Christian will "prove what the will of God is." The Christian's life will "prove that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Actually, the Christian can not personally, of himself, prove something about God. All the Christian does is PRESENT his body and WALK where the Holy Spirit leads. God does the rest. God does the proving through His use of the Christian. The Christian becomes the vessel in the world through whom God proves His will. God proves that what He created is good, and acceptable, and perfect. To whom is this proven? It is proven to the world, to the people of the world around the Christian. Remember that the "reasonable, spiritual service" the Christian performs is a life of public worship to God before people of the world.
Christian friends, it is a great, great thing that God does in us. He proves what is good, and acceptable, and perfect! These are superlatively absolute words, characteristics only of God. They are not our characteristics. God uses us to perform what is truly a miracle before the world. He proves His will, His purpose, His goodness, His perfection, and His righteousness. He illustrates to the world how people can become transformed and be acceptable to such a God, and even how they can bear fruit for God. It is no great or difficult thing that we are called upon to do. We just render the obedience of our faith, present our bodies, and walk where we are led. This is the normal, "reasonable" life for a Christian to live. It would be "unreasonable," after what Christ has done for us, for us to do otherwise.
I PROVE WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD BY EXERCISE OF MY INDIVIDUAL ALLOTMENT IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. Romans 12:3-8.
"(3) For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (4) For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (6) And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly; if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; (7) if service, in his serving; or he who teaches in his teaching; (8) or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12:3-8. NASV.
In this section of the Roman letter Paul gave the Christians of Rome some specific directions from God's Holy Spirit on how to "walk" in their daily lives so that the Holy Spirit might produce some "fruit" in them. In Romans 12:2 Paul started out by saying, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Then in the next verse he presented something very specific concerning the renewing of minds. "I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." This had to do with the Christian's willful human nature that he inherited from Adam.
Paul spoke here of one of those "booby traps" of the fleshly world into which Christians might "walk." The Spirit says "walk," but don't "walk" here! Don't "walk" in the kind of life that exalts ones' self! Do not think more highly of ones' self than one ought to think! Paul had already taught much in the Roman letter about thinking too highly of ones' self. In Romans chapter 1 it was the Gentiles who thought too highly of themselves causing them to ignore the evidence of God within them and causing them to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Because of the regard they had for themselves, the Gentiles were said to be without excuse. In Romans chapter 2 it was the Jews who thought too highly of themselves, causing them to pass judgment upon others and thereby storing up for themselves the wrath of God. In Romans chapter 3 all the people of the world, both Gentiles and Jews, were said to have thought more highly of themselves than they had thought of God. It caused them all to turn away from God and caused the Holy Spirit to say, "There are none righteous."
In chapters 4 through 8 of Romans Paul made it clear that only those who had ceased to think highly of themselves were counted as righteous. Those whom God counted as righteous had turned from faith only in themselves, to faith in God. They had confessed Christ and had been buried with Him in baptism. Instead of thinking highly of themselves, the had come to know that their "old man" with his selfish pride had died on the cross with Christ. They had presented their "new man" for the Holy Spirit's leadership in their walk through life. They no longer injected their own wills into their walk. They presented their bodies for God's own use as God saw fit.
In chapter 11 of Romans Paul reminded the Jews that God had cut their branches off His tree because they, the Jews, had thought more highly of themselves than of Him. God grafted back into His tree only those Jews who ceased to think too highly of themselves. Also, in chapter 11, the Gentiles were warned not to be arrogant or conceited because God had grafted them into His tree. "Do not be wise in your own estimation," Paul said, for if you think too highly of yourselves, God will cut off your branches from His tree.
This ever present problem of human pride lies at the base of much of our sin problem. As remedy, Paul said, "Think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." Only God can transform and renew the minds of Christians. Instead of following human tendencies, we must follow the renewed mind God has given us. In transforming us, God allotted to each of us "a measure of faith." Our thinking must be in accordance with what God has allotted us. God works through us. It is not we ourselves who work. So we must learn to think in accordance with this principle. This is where the Holy Spirit leads in our walk through the new life.
I think that we all constantly, and perhaps unwittingly, hinder God from producing fruit in our lives. We constantly try to inject ourselves, our own wills, into our walk. One way we do this is to limit God's actions through us by applying only a small amount of the faith God has allotted to us. The " measure of faith" which God has allotted to each of us surely is enough for God to carry out His purpose in us. How much faith has God allotted to us? It must be far more than many of us have appropriated. If we don't walk in accordance with the "measure of faith" which God has allotted to us, we are not going to allow God to accomplish in us that which He desires to accomplish. We hinder God's use of us by our meager faith. We are only willing to follow the Holy Spirit in our walk to the limit of the meager amount of faith we have accepted from God.
Faith is another gift from God. God has "allotted to each of us a measure of faith" to fuel the actions of our lives in His service. The amount of faith allotted to us is all the faith that is necessary to produce the fruit that God wants to produce in our lives. We must not limit ourselves in accepting the faith God wants to give us. But I am afraid we do! This "measure of faith" is God's gift which He wants to give us. It is God's measure, not our measure. Just because it is referred to as a "measure of faith," we should not conclude that it is limited. If it is limited, it is God's limitation and not our limitation that should be placed upon it.
When we contemplate what the Lord would do with us, should we plan in accordance with only our limited resources? Or should we plan in accordance with what the Lord tells us to do? Are the Lord's resources too limited to accomplish what He wants done? What are we to do? We should walk where we are led by the commands to action that our Lord gives us, and give out the "loaves and fishes" which the Lord provides. When our judgment places limits upon what the Lord can do through us, I believe we are thinking more highly of our judgment than we ought to think, and we are not exercising "sound judgment" as the Lord has allotted to us a "measure of faith."
When one Christian thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think, not only is his own individual work in Christ limited, but the work of the entire "body of Christ" is limited. Paul said in Romans 12:4-5, "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." The Holy Spirit wants Christians to walk together as a well functioning body, a team. If one Christian thinks too highly of his own human abilities, he may not exercise sound judgment in working together with his fellow Christians as a body. One individual may want to act as if he is the whole body, rejecting the contributions of others to the actions of the body.
Beginning in Romans 12:6 Paul enumerated some of the gifts God gave to the Roman Christians. Paul indicated that God's gifts to individuals differed according to the grace given to that individual by God. Again, Paul intimated that God provided everything needed to accomplish His purpose. The Christian didn't provide anything! Even the talents (gifts) the Christian was to exercise for God were given by God. It was God who determined what exactly the Christian was to do in his walk. God gave the "gift" that He wanted the Christian to exercise. A Christian's "gift" was to be exercised in complementary action and in harmony with all the other "gifts" given to other members of the body. And in exercising his "gift," no Christian was to act alone, thinking more highly of his part in God's enterprise than the part of others in the body. To act otherwise would have been against the "sound judgment" which Paul enjoined.
The Spirit said similar things through Paul in other New Testament letters. In I Corinthians 7:17 Paul said, "Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk." And in II Corinthians 10:13 Paul said, "We will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure." And the Apostle Peter said, in I Peter 4:11,
"Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterance of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever."
Today we must recognize that this is the way of sound judgment. We must be content to perform the service for which God has called us, according to the measure God has apportioned to us, according to the measure of faith allotted to us. Why? Because there are many other members beside each of us. Each of us is just one of the members of the body of Christ giving obedience on this earth. God has not given all the members the same function. The way of sound judgment is to perform each of our individual functions in harmony with the functions of others.
Paul's writings teach us that Christ functions not only through each of us individually, He functions on this earth as a body composed of many Christians. So, in our walk, the Spirit leads us to understand this and to walk allowing Christ to exercise the gifts we have been given individually to support the work of the whole body.
In view of these teachings, why is there such a passionate desire today in some individuals to appropriate and to exercise the old special gifts of "tongue speaking" and "miraculous healing" that were given by the Holy Spirit in the time of the Apostles? The Spirit says to every Christian not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. Why can't the Christian accept whatever gift God has actually given him and then let God use it. If God has not given one a gift of "tongue speaking" or a gift of "miraculous healing power", one should be content. One is not to strive for what one has not been given. If, perchance, one thinks God has given him a special miraculous gift of some kind, one has nothing to boast about. It is not the Christian's part to perform works with his gifts. He must let God do with him as God pleases. Only God can prove "that which is good and acceptable and perfect." No Christian will prove it personally.
I am convinced that if we would present our bodies to God as the Spirit commands, accept the full measure of faith God allots to us, and let the Spirit lead us without interjecting our own human personalities into His work, then all the claims about being able to speak in "tongues of ecstasy," and to do other miraculous things, would cease. All the divisions in the body of Christ caused by these selfish claims would be mended. No one subjecting himself fully to the Holy Spirit's leadership would dare to suggest that his own emotional "tongues of ecstasy" ought to be displayed, or that his own will concerning anything ought to be presented as God's will. When we present ourselves to God, Christ's Spirit works in us as the Spirit desires, and works far greater than mere emotional outpourings are performed on this earth.
Many Christians today do have a gift of tongues in that they have learned to speak in languages other than the one they learned as a child. Almost any of us can learn one or more other tongues and we should learn them if God leads us in our "walk" to preach the gospel to people who understand those tongues. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is seeking to lead some of us to learn other languages so that He can use us to preach in those languages. The Bible has yet to be translated into many of the languages of the world. Surely the Holy Spirit is seeking to lead some Christians today to translate the Bible into the languages which do not yet have the Bible. If one desires to speak in tongues, let him subject himself to the leadership of the Spirit to see if perchance it is God's will for him to go to school to learn other tongues.
If one desires to heal other people, let him subject himself to the leadership of the Spirit to see if perchance it is God's will for him to go to school to become a medical doctor or a practitioner of another of the healing professions. Only in this way can one "present (his) body as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God." Isn't it clear that it is sinful to inject one's human will into one's service to God? And isn't it clear that it is sinful to divide the "body of Christ" by insisting on injecting one's human will, hindering the efficient use of the body by the Lord?
In Romans 12:6 Paul said that those given the gift of prophecy should use it according to the proportion of their faith. The modern day application of this admonition might be to those who have the ability to be public preachers of God's word. The word "prophecy" in the New Testament referred primarily to "public discourse" of God's word and did not include, necessarily, the miraculous foretelling of future events. Those given the ability to make public discourse of God's word, God used for that purpose as they presented their members in faith to God.
Those given the ability to minister or serve, God used for that purpose. Those given the ability to teach, God used to teach his word. Those given the ability to exhort, God used to exhort people to present themselves in faith to the carrying out of God's purposes. Those given the ability to contribute money or other material things, God used to finance the carrying out of His work. Those given the ability to lead others, God used to lead others to carry out His purposes. Those given the ability to show mercy, God used to demonstrate in their actions the mercy God had shown to them.
Christians are to exercise the gifts given to them in the ways that are indicated in Romans 12:1-8, that is, with faith, with liberality, with diligence, with cheerfulness, with sound judgment, and without exalting themselves. Christians must let Christ do His own work in them, exercising only the characteristics of Christ Himself.
The accomplishment of the work of Christ's Body on earth does not depend on how hard we Christians strive and exercise our own wills. Our striving may only hinder the work of Christ. The accomplishment of the goals of Christ's Body depends simply upon letting Christ work unrestrained and unrestricted. If Christ chooses to give a contribution through us, that contribution will be vastly more liberal than we would give ourselves without His prompting.
Concerning gifts, or talents, that God gives us to exercise in our "walk," let us be very careful not to interject our humans wills into this service and, thus, mar or hinder the work of Christ through us. When we interject our own volition into Christ's work, it is often the input of our old "man of sin" whom we drag through life with us. Our old "man of sin" keeps wanting to come back to life and take over our lives again.
Before we became Christians, perhaps when we were children, we may have begun to recognize certain talents in ourselves. Our parents may have been helping us discover and develop our talents. We may have become very desirous of exercising certain talents, to become engineers, scientists, muscians, artists, mechanics, or even preachers. We may have laid out plans to nurture our talents by going to college and entering certain professions. The world teaches us to set our minds on certain worldly objectives allowing nothing to stand in the way of achieving them. We learn to be very willful, setting our minds to do only certain things and to avoid doing other things.
But then in our lives we come to the cross of Jesus and see our worldly lives crucified with Christ there on that cross. All our human, worldly, willful ambitions die there on that cross. That old life is over, so we bury it, symbolically, as we are baptized into Christ. Only our newly created man comes up from the waters of baptism. We now have a new life, and God's gifts and talents which He has given us have entirely different meanings now. The old talents which we were nurturing for use in this world may have no place whatsoever in our new life.
Often we say, "Lord, these are my strong points. These are my talents. I want to exercise these talents and strong points for you, as though to say, "You have done so much for me. Now I must do something for You." But what can we give to our infinite Lord? The Lord may desire to use us in an entirely different way. The Bible teaches us over and over again that more often the Lord works through our weaknesses rather than through our strengths! The most that we can do for the Lord is "to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice," to let our minds be "renewed," and just "walk" where we are led. If we insist on employing only what we think are our strong points to perform our own work for the Lord, then we are actually rebelling. We are not presenting that new man, free and clear, whom the Lord has created for His Kingdom. How much of our Christian lives are spent just "spinning our wheels" because we won't give up our old man and present our new man with no worldly strings attached.
I PROVE WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD BY EXERCISE OF CHRIST-LIKE LOVE TO OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD. Romans 12:9-21.
"(9) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9. NASV.
Here Paul mentioned some measures of faith God wants Christians to appropriate. "Let love be without hypocrisy." The word "love" used here is translated from the Greek word AGAPE. This is the "love" that God exhibited to us even when we were sinners and did not respond or give anything in return. The only way we can have this "love" is to appropriate it when given to us by God, for God is the only One who initiates this "love." When God's Holy Spirit is sent to dwell within us, then undoubtedly we have AGAPE "love" available to us for the Scripture says that "God is love. (I John 4:6).
However, the fact that God gives us "love" as a gift does not mean that we miraculously start loving everyone as God does. We have to learn to exercise this kind of "love" from a study of the word of God. And we have to wilfully practice it for it does not come naturally to human beings. Learning the practice of AGAPE "love" is a part of the renewing of our minds.
It is significant that Paul said of this AGAPE "love," "Let love be." We human beings cannot cause this "love" to be. Only God can cause it. We can only "let it". We must let Christ's Spirit exhibit "love" through us. If we let Him, it will surely be without hypocrisy! If we try, with our human natures, to cause this kind of love ourselves, it will surely be tainted with our human hypocrisy. The most we can do is to cease from hindering it. "Let love be without hypocrisy."
"Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good." The accomplishment of these admonitions is "tied in" very closely with our KNOWING, RECKONING, AND PRESENTING as taught in Romans chapter 6. With our old man dead, we have nothing left that naturally loves evil. Thus we are free to "abhor" it. With the presentation of our new life to God, that new life under the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2) will have no difficulty abhorring evil and cleaving to what is good. Thus the secret of being able to "walk" abhorring evil and cleaving to the good, is in the steps of "obedience of faith."
We must let our new man be led by the Spirit and we will necessarily abhor evil and cleave to good. God will see to that. But if we let our "walk" waiver from where we are led by God's Spirit, the world will quickly attract us to things which are not good and we will lose our abhorrence of evil.
This whole list of admonitions in the 12th chapter of Romans was prefaced in Romans 12:3 with the command "to think so as to have sound judgment." "To think," then, is a command for Christians to obey. What are we to think about? We should think about our "walk" with the Spirit. Our thoughts should promt us at all times to let the Spirit lead us. And the Spirit will surely be leading us when we read and obey the admonitions of this chapter.
"(10) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Romans 12:10. NASV.
Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
"Give preference to one another in honor." This reminds us that Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also in the interest of others."
When we let Christ's Spirit work through us this love and preference for one another will be well expressed in our lives. But when we let Christ's characteristics get replaced with those of our old man of sin, then we will cease to be devoted to one another.
"(11) Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;" Romans 12:11. nasv.
The word "diligence" used in Romans 12:11, is translated"business" in the KJV. But it is the same word used in Romans 12:8 where Paul said, "he who leads" should do so "with diligence." The same word that is translated "diligence", or "business", in Romans 12:11 is used in II Peter 3:11-12 in verb form and is translated "hasten". Peter said, "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening (there is the word) "the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat." In light of the many uses of this word in its original Greek form, it seems that Paul has directed Christians to do their leading and their acts of devotion to one another with care, intensity, and even haste. Perhaps we must conclude that Paul has pointed out that Christians should not be slothful, but diligent, hastening the carrying out of God's purposes because of the coming day of the Lord.
Paul also said that Christians are to live so as to be "fervent in spirit." The word "fervent" is often used with the word heat (as in "fervent heat") meaning the heat that makes water boil, or that melts the elements and makes them bubble. Thus to be "fervent in spirit" is to have one's spirit intensely engaged "to the boiling point". In Acts 18:25 Apollos was said to be "fervent in spirit" in his speaking and teaching things concerning Jesus.
Note that our personal spirits are to be involved in our living for Christ. If we are "fervent in spirit" then our personal spirits will be intensely engaged in whatever it is that the spirits of Christians do in their united activity with God's Holy Spirit. The realm and activities of spirits, even our own human spirits, are pretty much a mystery to us. In view of Paul's admonition in Romans 12:2 to "be transformed by the renewing of your minds," our "minds" will also be intensely involved in whatever we do. New Testament evidence does not allow us to equate the "mind" with the human "spirit". Rather the "mind" seems to be closely related with the human "soul". But certainly we must be "fervent" first in mind and soul. Then the "soul" will be able to release the "spirit" to be "fervent in spirit" in its somewhat mysterious activity with God's Holy Spirit within us.
In Romans 8:14, 16, Paul spoke of God's spirit and our personal spirits. "For all who are being led by
the Spirit of God, these are sons of God ... The Spirit Himself bears witness with öour spiritò that we are children of God." One function of our personal spirits is to commune with God's Holy Spirit. The Bible indicates that spirits are silent, carrying out their functions in dimensions other than the dimensions of the fleshly world. Neither are our personal spirits directly connected with our emotions. We cannot detect spirits with the senses of the flesh, or even with the "emotional senses." So, how can we consciously be "fervent in spirit?" It seems that we must be fervent in the transforming and renewing of our minds to that of the mind of Christ. And then, even our spirits, in the spiritual realm, will be able to be fervent in his work of communion with God's Holy Spirit.
And then, when Paul said in Romans 12:11, "serving the Lord," we are reminded that he said in Romans 1:9, "For (it is) God, Whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son." Paul knew that his personal spirit had a part in his "serving the Lord". So must our personal spirits have a part in our "serving the Lord". We are to be "fervent in spirit" as we are "serving the Lord."
We do not know how to consciously communicate directly to our spirits to do anything. But we do know that our personal "spirits" must dwell within the environment which our personal "souls" provide for them. The evidence points to this: we are serving the Lord with our own personal "spirits" when we "walk" through life "being led" by God's Holy Spirit. In that kind of "walk" we do have conscious connection with our "souls" and, apparently, faithful "souls" can communicate the desires of our lives to our personal "spirits".
"(12) Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer." Romans 12:12. NASV.
These directions on how to "walk" in the Christian life were developed earlier in Paul's Roman letter. In Romans 5:1-5 Paul set "hope" and "tribulation" within the context of God's gifts of faith, hope, and love. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Then in Romans 12:12, we are admonished to let the Holy Spirit lead us in our "walk" to "rejoice in hope and to persevere in tribulation."
Paul and the other writers of the New Testament warned us over and over again that we must expect to have tribulations in the Christian life on earth. We can expect to have tribulations. Paul said our task is to persevere in them, and not to let tribulations turn us from following the Holy Spirit.
Paul also said in Romans 12:12 that we must be "devoted to prayer." When we diligently follow the Holy Spirit, we have an open avenue of communication to our Heavenly Father through prayer just as Paul had during his life. Paul's prayer life supported him as he served the Lord. Paul said, "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, ..." This avenue of communication evidently went from Paul's "soul" to his "spirit" and thence to the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. Then, through the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, God could bear "witness" to the content of Paul's prayers.
"(13) Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality." Romans 12:13. NASV.
In Romans 12:13 Paul mentioned additional things for Christians to practice in their "walk" through the christian life. Later in Romans 15:25-26, Paul commended contributions to the saints, He said, "Now I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem." And our Lord Himself promised Christians, in Matthew 15:34-36, that as a result of contributing to needs and practicing hospitality, they would be blessed of the Father and would inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."
"(14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not." Romans 12:14. NASV.
Paul revealed that in our "walk" we will meet persecution. It can become a "stumbling block" in our lives if we curse those who persecute us. But if we let the Spirit lead us to bless those who persecute us, we will not stumble but we will be strengthened. All of these Holy Spirit inspired admonitions echo the teachings of Jesus Himself. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
"(15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15. NASV.
Paul taught that rejoicing and weeping with one another would become characteristic of our Spirit led lives. For the Spirit leads us to understand that we are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5) When one part of the Body rejoices, the whole Body has reason to rejoice. When one part of the Body has cause to weep, the whole Body weeps in sympathy with it. We must let the Spirit lead us to be sensitive members of the Body of Christ.
"(16) Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." Romans 12:16. NASV.
The Holy Spirit leads us to "walk" in the same way that Christ "walked." Paul said later in Romans 15:5 that God will "grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus." To be of the same mind toward one another apparently means to love each other as yourself, to be no respecter of persons. These are all Christ-like attributes. To be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus seems to include the thought that we all together must be seeking to carry out Christ's plan and purpose for us. Christ will not direct us to do anything that will place us at odds with all His other servants being led in their "walk" by the same Holy Spirit.
"Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly." Again we are reminded that Paul said in Romans 12:3, "Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think." We must remember that Paul said in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Also, let us remember what Paul said in Romans 11:32, that "God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all."
We are all in the "same boat", whether we are of the "upper class" of the world or whether we are "lowly" in the world. God, through His Holy Spirit, has offered us all the same mercy. So we must follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and not be haughty in mind or unwilling to associate with anyone. How can we carry out God's plan to use us as His "vessels of mercy" if we are haughty and unwilling to associate with the lowly.
"Do not be wise in your own estimation." The first five chapters of Paul's Roman letter showed the futility of being wise in your own estimation and trying to gain salvation through works of law. In chapters 7 and 8 Paul said that the end of trying to be wise through the fleshly faculties is failure, even for Christians. Being "wise in your own estimation" is to claim wisdom through the knowledge of your flesh. Paul said in Romans 8:8, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
"(17) Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men." Romans 12:17. NASV.
Paying back evil for evil requires the passing of judgment and the taking of revenge. In Romans 2:1, 3, Paul said, "You are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment ... Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?" Paul went on in Romans 2:5 to remind us that if we live in accordance with the worldly code which calls for the "paying back of evil for evil," God will render to us (every man) according to our deeds. We can expect nothing but the wrath of God. So in our Christian "walk," the Holy Spirit reminds us to never pay back evil for evil.
"Respect what is right in the sight of all men." Paul also said in II Corinthians 8:21, "We have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." How can we have respect for both what is right in God's sight and also in men's sight? Do not men often call things right which actually are not right in God's sight? Yes. Did Paul group together all things which men consider right with all things God considers right? No. Behind this admonition to "respect what is right in the sight of all men" are eternal principles of God to be considered. One is that truth which Paul stated in chapters 1 and 2 of the Roman letter. Something of God is evident within all men. Men do instinctively the things of God's law and thereby have the works of God's law written in their hearts so that their consciences bear witness to whether they are doing right or wrong. Therefore, since God is the author of all absolutely "right" things, and some of these "right" things are known within every man, we should "respect" (or take thought for) what men pronounce as right. It may actually be a truth of God. This does not mean that everything that men pronounce as right is actually right in the sight of God. It does not mean that we should wholeheartedly embrace as actual truth all that men say is right. But we should "respect" it (or take thought for it). After all, Paul has only admonished us to "respect" the opinions of men.
Another principle of God involved here is that one which Paul took up later in the 14th chapter of Romans. In Romans 14:20-21 Paul said, "It is good not to do anything by which your brother stumbles." In I Corinthians 8:12 Paul said that by wounding the conscience of the brethren who are weak, we sin against Christ. The point was that those things which men think are right, whether they are right or not in the sight of God, are entered upon the consciences of men. We must not do anything to make a brother violate his conscience, even if the brother's conscience is illtrained. If we do, we sin and he sins also. So we must "respect" or take thought for what is right in the sight of all men so that the Holy Spirit may lead them into what is absolutely right in the sight of God.
"(18) If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Romans 12:18. NASV.
By saying "if possible", did Paul mean that there may be exceptions when we can change our attitude from one of "peace seeking" to one of "war mongering?" No. We must remember that the Spirit through Paul said never to pay back evil for evil. We must not change that attitude. The phrase, "if possible," goes with the phrase "as far as it depends on you."
It may be impossible through our influence alone to keep peace. But it is not to be our attitude or action which breaks the peace. While we are truly "walking" in the Spirit, it will not be possible for us to break the peace. It is certain that the new perfect creation of God living in us, being led by God's Holy Spirit, will not break the peace. But the phrase "if possible" points out that there may be brethren still living in the flesh, who have not accepted that their old man died with Christ, who are not yet led by the Holy Spirit. They may break the peace which the Holy Spirit gives to the brethren. Even then, we must never return evil for evil.
And we must remember that, if we cease to "walk" in the Spirit, it them becomes easily possible for us to be the cause of shattered peace. Peace is a precious gift of God. In Romans 5:1 Paul said, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." This peace is exhibited by Christians who are God's new creation being led by God's Holy Spirit. "Walking" by the Spirit, we will exhibit the peaceable kingdom to the world. Let the Holy Spirit keep us in that peace.
"(19) Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. (20) 'But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:19-21. NASV.
When someone, either from inside or outside the fold of God's kingdom, causes the peace to be broken among Christian brethren, it becomes tempting to "take revenge." Witness the warring attitudes between religious publications which seem to be trying to "take revenge" against some who are believed to be "breaking the peace" among brethren. "Never take your own revenge." The phrase, "It is written," refers to a passage from the Old Testament, Proverbs 25:21-22, which quotes an unfailing principle of God. This principle is presented by Paul to be a continuous way of life for the Christian. It is to let Christ, who now lives in the Christian, overcome evil with His good. In this the Holy Spirit leads us to "walk" in such manner as to feed our enemies and give them drink, and to always overcome evil with good. In this world the "goodness" of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit through men such as Paul, is the only real remedy for evil.
(This was taken from the book "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on Romans by F. M. Perry.)
© 2002, F. M. Perry