12.1a Therefore I exhort you,
GK- No chapter breaks in the original letter. What’s the “therefore” there for?:) See the verse prior to this: (11.36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen. So it’s in this vein Paul is exhorting (speaking, sharing an uplifting, encouraging, you-got-to-move sort of word from the Lord for his readers… including you and I! So I hear Paul saying “in light of all good things sourced from God and his love for us, in light of bringing him the glory due him I’m about to speak (write) the following”:
12.1b brothers and sisters,
GK- The warmth and community of the family of God, all those who follow Jesus our Brother, Saviour, Lord and best Friend… and when I see “brothers and sisters” I immediately think “we’re all in this together”, there is the common, daily, shared life in this fallen but at times amazingly God-reflecting world.
12.1c by the mercies of God,
GK- Paul accents God’s depth of mercy over and over in his letters- as do the other writers of both Testaments. It is BY the mercies of God we breathe, stand, lie down to sleep, have food, water, grace in all it’s forms. I need the grace of God at least as much and likely more now than when I first believed and began to follow Jesus many years ago! BY the mercies, that is, strengthened by God’s actual visitations of mercy upon us (unaware as we may be!):
12.1d to present your bodies as a sacrifice
GK- Certainly Paul means our physical body but it’s not only in terms of what we eat, exercise, sexuality, proper sleep and the rest, not only about what we do with our bodies in terms of listening to this, viewing that, touching the other, the issue is deeper. Our thoughts, what we do with our minds, our emotions, our willful choices all affect and determine what our bodies actually -do-. Now the word “sacrifice” has never been famously enjoyed but the present culture would rather erase it from life than deal with it. And yes, “present” means to bring our entire selves to God as an offering (not for sins as only Jesus is sufficient for that) but out of love for Him and others, to “be present” and to “show”. Picture a general reviewing troops as they stand, presenting themselves for inspection. The Greek for “sacrifice”: “sacrifice, offering, victim, kill, slaughter”. No mistake about it, a living sacrifice is one who lives in perpetual death to -self- but one whose entire sense of genuine life comes from God Himself! In other words, life in Christ is synonymous with death to self. Paul is telling us straight-up that we are called to place our entire selves on God’s altar.
12.1e – alive, holy, and pleasing to God
GK- Really and TRULY alive! Holy due to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. As we live out that life of holiness (in our daily choices and direction we take in our life), such brings a smile to God’s face! It’s not “salvation by works nor even discipleship by works, but living in the mercy of God making choices to follow when our natural selves want to quit or actively run away (see the Book of Jonah!). Walking close and closer to the Lord each day pleases God!
12.1f – which is your reasonable service.
GK- Some translations render this “reasonable act of worship” or the like. True worship of Father, Son, Spirit is a walk which INcludes song, prayer, listening, speaking, studying, eyes to see and ears to hear both our God as well as the needs of our neighbor and actively loving both in the vertical -and- horizontal! This, as the redeemed sons and daughters of God by faith in the risen Jesus Christ when one considers the pains He took upon Himself for us… this IS reasonable service- to live our lives out for Him and in His steps best as we hear and understand His calling. Yes. NOT unreasonable, but authentic, reasonable worship and true service include all Paul is mentioning here. But fasten your seatbelt… as usual Paul goes deeper”
12.2a Do not be conformed to this present world,
GK- Ouch! The Greek for “conformed”: “fashion one’s self to, conform one’s mind and character to another’s pattern”. The target, the key conformation a Christ-follower is concerned with is to become more like Jesus! The “present” world in any slice of history is frankly, not all that concerned with what God wants so much as what they as individuals want. Note “mind and character”. I often think “what fruit of the Spirit -as in Galatians 5.22,23- am I manifesting, walking in, exhibiting RIGHT NOW”… when I’m grouchy, feeling sorry for myself or just wanting out of a situation. The Holy Spirit works change of mind (“we HAVE the mind of Christ” 1Cor.2.16) and character in us according to the thoughts and character of our Lord Jesus. Paul is talking about where we stand -but he’s also writing about the process and our own ability to make choices in the mix.
12.2b but be transformed
GK- Many believers struggle with the thought of inner change being nearly or even completely impossible. I know I worried over this as a new Christian but even now after many years it becomes clear that temptation and indeed sin still affects me. At times I still choose my way, not God’s! So the fact of transformation (which the Spirit works in us directly, by circumstances God either allows or orchestrates, etc.) DOES happen whether we realize it or not. The point is that transformation is part of God’s work in us (“For God is at work in us to work and to will for His good pleasure” Phil.2.13). Here’s partly how:
12.2c by the renewing of your mind,
GK- If we will learn to take our thoughts captive (yes… consider 2Cor.10.5 and again, Gal.5 re. the fruit of self-control) study, memorize and apply the Word of God (The Bible) to our daily decisions we will come to a new-ness, a renewal of mind through which God the Holy Spirit brings actual transformation. Others may see it a long time before we do, but it will and does come!
12.2d so that you may test and approve what is the will of God
GK- The number one question I have been asked for over 40 years of ministry is “How can I be fairly sure of the will of God for my life?” Though the details for each one of us are different (as we see when reading through this chapter where Paul highlights differing gifts and callings though we are one body of believers in Christ), the process is being unpacked by him right in these opening verses of Romans 12. AS we cooperate with Him, we think and choose differently than before we walked closely with Jesus, and we care enough to ask rather than simply act upon our desires. We begin to study scripture and link with serious Christians, pray and consider (with our mind) and therefore test whether this or that is the way to best serve Him. We then find a sense of approving (and at times actually feel God’s approval) what is HIS direction in our life. We learn to walk as opposed to merely contemplate walking with Jesus, His way.
12.2e – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
GK- Wow. Not only good (truly good for ourselves, God and others) but well-pleasing (again, to God and others and finally ourselves!) but even perfect. Perfect in the Greek: “brought to it’s end, finished, complete, involving human integrity, mature”. Wow again!! Is this REALLY possible for flawed people like you and I? Yes. Yes and yes. When God is God of our thoughts and choices, maturity buds like the most beautiful fruits and flowers in a fully fertilized, sun-drenched, well-watered garden. This is the pleasure of God- to bring us back to the garden, to “walk with Him in the cool of the day”. Restoration. Living out, walking in His will brings both God and ourselves a deeper pleasure than we’ve expected.
12.3a For by the grace given to me
GK- As I’ve said earlier, Paul is fully focused on God’s grace (un-merited, un-earned, un-earnable favor). Without such grace, nobody meets, walks with or is changed for the better in the image of God. AND… note “grace GIVEN TO ME” (my caps.). God gives it. He really does. We must learn in faith to receive, accept, appropriate, walk in that grace! It is BY grace we grow up and mature in Christ and in our walk with Him.
12.3b I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment,
GK- From the beginning of my study of these verses as a new believer it became clear to me the need for humility! “If anyone thinks they know, they do not know as they ought to know” (1Cor.8.2). We -all- have a long way to go and will never in this life reach fully sinless perfection. That’s a fact some Christians don’t seem to want to face. BUT, because of the Spirit’s constant working in us, the faithfulness of God -and as we not only believe what the Word tells us about the world, our old nature and the devil as well as about God but also about our own spiritual journey towards maturity, we learn we are continually in need of His daily grace! We learn we are neither garbage nor literally flawless. A sane, balanced view of ourselves and our spiritual need are a sobering thing- and it’s a good think to take inventory as to whether we are self-righteous or truly walking in the righteousness only Jesus can provide us.
12.3c as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.
GK- I have often quoted this part of vs. 3 to those who say they don’t -have- faith. Apparently God has given -each- person “a measure of faith”, certainly to those Christians Paul is writing at the very least… but I think this is a truth beyond that group. What we DO or DO NOT with the faith the Spirit brings to each of us is a matter of choices, an act of surrendering to the mercies of God, the grace and leading of God via His Word, His Spirit, those mature believers who bring wise input into our lives -or not. We can either live out our faith or not. In the end, it seems we do or don’t. Even in this is God’s love towards us- “you CHOOSE this day whom you will serve”. Yes.
Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn