About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Chapter 12:1 - 8
12:1 Ė 8)
Bible teachers suggest that here in chapter 12 Paul shifts directions in his
writing. They say he now drops his
discussion on doctrine and starts a discussion on practical Christian living.
I don't see it as a shift in subjects.
I see it as a natural progression in what he has been saying all along.
bothers me when people attempt to separate the doctrinal issues from practical
issues. I see no separation between
the two. As a matter of fact, I
don't believe you can live what some call the practical Christian life without
understanding the life you are to live as is taught in the first 11 chapters of
has just ended chapter eleven with his doxology. He
seemed so overwhelmed with the doctrinal issues that he had just taught that he
naturally broke out in praise to God.
Bible teachers over the years have said that Paul and James differ on the topic
of faith and works. I see no problem
between the two men. I see that they
say the same thing but from a different perspective.
James says, "Show me that you have real faith by what you do.
Your works should prove your faith."
Paul would agree and would say; "the foundation of your works must
be faith and nothing else. Real
faith will produce real good works, the works that he is about ready to
I comment on verse 1 let me explain a Roman cultural mindset that is seen in
verse 1. The cultural mindset concerns the patron client relationship.
Here's how it works. If
someone needed help in any matter of life he would often receive this help from
another. The one offering the help
was considered the patron while the one being helped was considered the client.
Once the client received the help from the patron, a relationship was
established between the patron and the client.
If the patron ever needed any assistance, the client would be expected to
help the patron based on the fact that the patron had helped the client.
We see this clearly at work here in Romans 12:1.
1 begins with the word "therefore", meaning, as a result of all that
Paul has just said he has something important to say.
This tells me that if you don't fully understand the first 11 chapters of
Romans you will not be able to follow through properly on the rest of what Paul
says in Romans. So, in light of what
Paul has taught in earlier chapters and also in light of Godís mercy, he urges
the Romans to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God.
Paul is using Old Testament terminology here when he speaks of
sacrifices. He is putting a New
Testament spin to an Old Testament practice.
We see the patron client relationship here. God is the merciful patron
and we are the client in receipt of God's mercy.
Since we have received mercy from God, it is expected that we in turn
will give something back to Him. What
we give back according to Paul is our very lives.
Greek word "soma" is translated as "bodies" in the NIV.
It means more than our physical bodies.
It means the totality of who we are.
Paul is saying that since God gave all of Himself in Jesus to us, we
should give all of ourselves to God in return.
is saying that we should be a living sacrifice.
Simply put, Paul is saying that we need to come to Jesus in faith, lay
ourselves at His feet to be who He wants us to be and to do as He wishes.
As he says in Romans 6:18; "We are to be slaves of
righteousness". That's what is
known as a bond slave, meaning a slave by choice.
Just as Jesus presented Himself as the ultimate living sacrifices, so we
should do the same. Mind you, Jesus provided the Father with a living sacrifice during His life on
earth, but in the end, His death was the ultimate sacrifice.
We are not to provide God with a death sacrifice but with a living
church history past some monks castrated themselves thinking that would drive
sexual thoughts away from them. Some
monks slept in darkened rat infested dungeons and caves to punish themselves for
sin. Some walked on hot coals.
Many monks thought of many harmful and brutal ways to obtain right
standing before God. This could be
seen as a sacrifice, but this is not the kind of sacrifice Paul is talking
about. A living sacrifice is when
someone gives all of Himself to Jesus and does what Jesus wants him to do.
A sacrifice is something that is presented to the Lord.
Therefore, when we present ourselves to Jesus and say, "here I am,
do what you please with me," you are presenting Jesus with a living
kind of sacrifice according to Paul is a spiritual act of worship, or a
spiritual sacrifice as some translations put it.
To me, this is the first definition of the word worship.
Yes, singing and raising our hands to the Lord on a Sunday morning can be
called worship, but what makes this expression true worship is the fact that we
have first offered ourselves to Jesus as a living sacrifice.
words "living sacrifice", although Jewish in nature would be
meaningful for the Christian in
this point in my commentary I would like to insert an article I wrote helping
explain what Biblical worship really is from Romans 12:1.
In Christian terms, the
word "worship" means different
During the late 1940's
and early 1950's my dad played guitar for a popular local country and western
band. They had their own weekly
radio show and they performed at dances throughout the region.
That all changed when he became a Christian.
The Evangelical culture of the day did not permit dad to play in a
secular band. It also did not permit
him to play his National triple neck steel guitar in church.
He was frustratingly trapped in a state of limbo between two cultural
communities. That eventually
changed. Somewhere along the line
Evangelicals sanctified guitars for the service of the Lord, permitting my dad
to play his guitar with other musicians in churches across southern
I recall Alfred Reid.
He was our congregation's organist when I was young.
I believe I can safely say that worship for him was one hand raised to
Jesus, the other hand on the keyboard, and a few tears sliding down his cheeks.
I'll never forget his heart felt expression of worship.
When my dad finally got to play his National steel guitar in
congregational worship, he thoroughly enjoyed accompanying Mr. Reid.
Although I haven't played
my guitars, banjo, or harmonicas, in congregational worship lately, playing
music in that setting has been a big part of my life over the decades. On
one occasion in 1981 I had lunch with the former lead guitar player for a
popular Washington D C rock band. When
he became a Christian he left the world of rock and roll behind, and that
included his electric Gibson Les Paul guitar.
If he would have offered me that guitar I would have thanked the Lord and
received it in a heart beat, but of course, he wouldn't have wanted to taint me
with his past worldliness by giving me his guitar.
His reasoning for leaving it all behind seemed reasonable for him. Beyond
the fact that his electric guitar was associated with his past life of immoral
and unhealthy excesses, he considered his Les Paul something that fed his
addiction to ego. Many heavy rock
guitar players admit that the rush they feel while wailing away before adoring
fans is addictive. The bolt of
energy of electrical proportions that blasts its way through their system while
their fingers fly across the fret board beats most drug induced highs.
So, this former rocker left the world of electric and entered with world
So what's the Biblical
bottom line to worship? I
believe Romans 12:1 helps answer this question.
The NIV reads; "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in the view of
God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God
- this is your spiritual act of worship."
Let's dig into Paul's admonition and see what he is saying.
In light of God's great
abundant mercy directed our way, Paul encourages us to offer our bodies as
living sacrifices. He calls this
offering "our spiritual act of worship". The terminology Paul uses
here puts a New Testament spin on the Old Testament practice of sacrificial
The Greek word
"soma" that is translated as bodies in Romans 12:1means more than our
physical bodies. "Soma" is
often in reference to the totality of who we are, as I believe is the meaning
here. In other words, the New
Testament view of a sacrificial offering is offering every fiber of who we are
Our English verb "to offer" is
translated from a Greek aorist active infinitive verb.
An aorist verb is a one time action verb, something that is completed and
not ongoing. Paul is saying here
that once and for all time, we must decide and actually do in real time, hand
our lives over as a living sacrifice.
We derive our English
noun "liturgy" from the Greek noun "leitourgia", which
simply means "a service" that one provides for another.
It's not a service in the sense of a Sunday service.
The verb form of leitourgia is "latreuo", which means "to
serve". It's translated in the
"proper worship" here in Romans 12:1. The
meaning of latreuo tells us exactly what Biblical worship is, and again, it has
little to do with any Sunday morning activity.
Biblical worship is the
sacrificial, moment by moment, continuous, act of serving Jesus with every fiber
of who we are. If this is how you
attempt to worship, and if you're honest, you'll agree that such worship is a
sacrifice. It doesn't come natural
to fallen humanity.
How we serve Jesus in
Sunday worship is a small part of worship. How
we serve Jesus from the moment we wake from sleep is the big part of worship.
Imagine how your expression of church life would change if this was
everyone's understanding of worship.
I don't have a Gibson Les
Paul like my Washington D C former rocker had.
I've got a Fender Stratocaster. If
I can leave my ego in bed when I rise each morning, I can serve Jesus as I wail
away on my electric guitar. If I
bring my ego along with me to a gathering of the saints, I don't serve Jesus
when I wail away. I serve my ego.
In fact I worship or idolize myself and not the Lord.
At this point worship becomes theatrical, and, theatrical worship isn't
Biblical worship. It's pure
entertainment, and, there's nothing wrong with entertainment, but let's not call
now return to my commentary. The words "living sacrifice" to me also
suggests that we are to be a living example of Jesus to the world.
Our example cannot be in word only, although we must speak the word.
Our lives must show that we do in fact represent Jesus on earth to the
world. Such an example is holy
and pleasing to God as Paul says here. So,
if you want to please God, then being a living sacrifice is what you should be. It's
more than a matter of doing. It's a
matter of being.
verse 2 Paul tells us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind. What
does this mean? Paul makes two
points here. He first says that we
need to not follow after the ways of the world.
The word "world" is better translated as "age".
The old time Evangelicals used to call this "worldliness".
We are not to be worldly in our thinking or in our actions.
We donít want to leave it here as I think some Evangelicals have left
it. There is a part two to Paulís
point here. He says, "but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind."
This is all about educating yourself in the ways of the Lord.
word "transformed" here is translated from the Greek word "metamorphoo"
which means to "change into another form," like a caterpillar changes
into a butterfly. The same Greek
word is used in Mark 9 when Jesus was transfigured before the disciples and
spoke with Moses and Elijah. Jesus
most likely looked the same but in my thinking had some kind of spiritual body,
as did Moses and Elijah. Here Paul
says that we will be transformed, changed into something different than what we
are, even though we are still recognizable for who we are.
Greek verb translated as "be not conformed" is a present middle
indicative verb. The present tense
suggests that this conforming is in present time.
Being a middle verb suggests that you are actually involved in the
conforming. It's like you are
reaching into this age's secularism and grabbing what it offers and
incorporating it into your thinking. Being
an indicative verb means that you are purposely attempting to have the world
around you influence your thinking. Paul
says that this must not be.
Greek verb translated as " be transformed" is a present passive indicative verb.
This means that the transformation must be in present time.
It's not a past transformation or a future transformation.
It's an ongoing present endeavor. The
fact that this is a passive verb means that you are transforming yourself,
obviously through the help of the Holy Spirit.
The fact that this is an indicative verb means that this transformation
is a certainty. In short, we are to
make the effort and allow the Holy Spirit to continually and certainly transform
are we transformed? Paul says we are
transformed by the renewing of the mind. The
Greek word "anakainoo" is translated as "renewing" here.
This word simply means to "make new".
Paul is therefore saying that our minds need to be renewed, needs to be
made new. We need a mental
make-over. The way we think needs to
come in line with Godís thinking. Once
again, with our hearts we believe and are saved, but with the renewing of the
mind we are made into something new and different.
In this new framework we can know, test and approve of Godís will for
our lives as Paul says.
your lives are transformed by the renewing of our mind then all of the doctrinal
issues that Paul taught in the first 11 chapters of Romans cannot be ignored, as
they often are in the modern church. How
we live life is a product of how we think. What
we think is a product of what we put into our minds.
If we don't put Biblical doctrine into our minds, we will not have our
lives renewed. It's that simple.
NIV uses the word "approve" in verse 2 while the KJV uses the word
"prove". What is meant
here is that once we are transformed, then we can test Godís will and then
approve it. It is not as if Godís
will needs to pass by our desk for our stamp of approval.
It is more like, once we test Godís will, we will respond by saying,
"yes! Thatís it. Thatís
right for me." We approve or affirm that we want Godís will in our lives.
Our lives will prove that doing
God's will is the only way to live.
goes on to say in verse 3 that by the grace given to him we should not think of
ourselves more highly than you ought."
Paul was "given grace" to say such things, meaning, he had the
God given ability to say these things. We
may or may not have such grace to say such things to others, but one thing we
can do is to repeat what Paul says to others.
says that we need to think of ourselves soberly, meaning seriously, according to
the "measure of faith God has given to us."
Now this is interesting. All
along Paul is telling us that Salvation is by faith, by trusting Jesus.
Now he is saying that this faith or trust is actually given to us by God.
Some may try to reword this, or reinterpret these words, but Paul is
pretty clear. God gives us this
faith. It is like this.
In our frailty we look up to Jesus, we cry or call out as we saw in
chapter ten. Jesus responds to us
and gives us faith, or He gives us the ability to trust Him as we ought.
Without such help I believe it is impossible for man to have true faith
or trust in Jesus. We are that
depraved. Christians ask God for
more faith, when in reality we should be asking Him to help us trust Him more.
people differentiate between saving faith from faith to live by.
They say that there is more than one aspect to faith.
They say that man has the ability to believe and therefore he can have
faith to be saved., yet beyond this saving faith God can give us more faith, or
add to that which we already have, to help us live as we should.
There may be a truth to this. We
can at least say that man has the ability to cry out to God in order for Him to
give us faith.
who believe strongly in man's depraved state believe man is so far lost that he
does not have the ability to even believe, that is why God needs to give us the
divine ability to believe. There may
be a truth to this as well. So we
have two camps. One camp believes
man can believe, the other believes he canít and therefore God needs to give
him faith. The has been a debate
ever since the dispute between John Calvin and Martin Luther.
do think we have some ability to trust. Remember
trust is faith. We trust the bank
with our money. We trust in lots of
situations of life. Inherent within
man is some ability to trust, but this trust as it concerns God, needs some
supernatural help. I do not believe
we can trust God as we should without His help.
thing to note here is that the faith talked about is in relation to being
members in the body of Christ as seen in verses 4 and 5.
This faith is the God given ability to do what He wants us to do in the
Body of Christ. What He calls us to
do in His body He also gives us the ability to do it.
I now insert an article that I've written that details further the phrase "according to the measure of faith God has given you."
of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has
given you" (Romans 12:3 NIV).
What does "according to the measure of faith God has given you"
English word "faith" is translated from the Greek word
"pistis" in this verse and throughout the New Testament.
Pistis means trust; a trust that is based on one's assurance in the
ability that something or someone claims to possess.
For example, when you sit in a chair, you trust the chair will not
Bible Dictionary defines Biblical faith as "a trusting commitment of one
person to another."
As it applies to Jesus, faith is a trusting commitment to Jesus.
It's the assurance that we can trust Him with our lives.
Faith is resting in His ability, not our ability.
said that God gives us faith.
In other words, He enables us to trust Jesus.
This tells me that we have no capacity to generate genuine faith on our
are that depraved (Jeremiah 17:9).
We can't even approach Jesus without God's assistance (John 6:65).
For this reason God has to enable us to trust Jesus.
said that God gives us the ability to trust Jesus in measure, or in allotted
all of us have the same ability to trust Jesus.
In context, both when and how much God enables us to trust Jesus is
determined by our placement and responsibilities in the Body of Christ.
Some responsibilities require more ability to trust in Jesus than others.
If this is a new thought for you, read the next few verses beyond Romans
might wonder how God gives us the ability to trust Jesus more than we presently
answer may be unsettling.
It's found in 1 Peter 1:6 to 10.
"Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all
kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith Ö may be proven genuine."
If you desire to trust Jesus more than you presently do, don't blame the
devil for your troubles.
God allows trials to come your way to test your trust in Jesus. In
the midst of the struggle you're presented with the option to trust Jesus or to
If you choose Jesus, His Spirit will enable you to submit to God's will
despite of the trial.
When it's all said and done, you'll trust Jesus more than ever.
Then, sooner or later, another test of trust will come your way and the
process begins all over again.
Faith is the ability to trust our lives to Jesus,
something we do not have the capacity to do on our own.
God, therefore, enables us to trust Jesus in allotted measurements
according to our God given responsibilities in the Body of Christ.
If you are serious about faith in Jesus, God will test your trust, and if
you're willing, He'll enable you to pass the test.
You'll end up trusting Jesus more than you presen
why is Paul encouraging us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought?
It is because, even though we are individual people, we as Christians are
part of a group of people. Paul
compares this group of people to a physical body.
Our body consists of many parts. All
parts have their own roll to play in keeping the body healthy.
Paul says that God has given each of us grace and faith to be the kind of
part we are called to be and to do our part in that Body of Christ.
tells to think soberly in respect to being a part of the Body of Christ.
We should be clear minded, knowing both our position and our job in the
Body of Christ. All parts are
important, but we cannot think of ourselves more important than another part. Some
may prophesy, some may teach, some may encourage.
The list can go on. The
important thing is that we all do our part.
We perform our tasks by the measure of faith and trust Jesus has given
us. If we do not perform our tasks in
faith, we in fact sin, as we will
see Paul saying in Romans 14:23. Humility
must be seen in us all, that that's not the way it always is in church.
is another Roman cultural mindset that isn't seen as much in our western world
today. Westerners are very
individualistic. We think of
ourselves over the community. Just
the opposite was true in Paul's day, especially n Jewish circles.
The community was thought of more than the individual.
Thus, individuals saw themselves not as islands unto themselves but as
part of the whole community. This is
seen in verse 5 when Paul says that each member of the Body of Christ belongs to
the other members.
often do we as Christians think in terms of belonging to others in the community
of Christ. I think more often than
not, we think in terms of belonging to a church organization rather than people.
What does belonging to others in the Body of Christ mean?
I think it can mean many things, not the least of which is that we
receive input into our lives from those to whom Jesus has joined us.
We consult with these people to make sure we're making right decisions.
We work with these people in harmonious relationship to build up the body.
We are in fact a family, where family members respect, listen to, care
for, and all of the rest that go into a healthy family.
verse 6 Paul says that we have different gifts according to the grace that God
has given us. Once again, grace here
means the God given ability to perform our tasks in the Body of Christ.
Grace in this instance does not mean unmerited favour.
That definition does not fit into the meaning of this statement.
It is also clear from what Paul says that not all have the same measure
of grace, the same measure of God given ability.
We need to recognize this. Many
preachers try to make people in their congregation do more than what his people
have grace to do. It is like the
parable of the sower spoken of by Jesus. Some
people who plant the seed get a harvest of 30 fold, some of 60 fold, and others
of 100 fold. The reason for the
difference is that the God given ability to do His will varies from person to
person, and also from one stage in a life to another stage in a life.
One problem in respect to this in our modern church is that far too often
leaders place people into positions, or, people put themselves in a position that they do not have either the grace of calling to fulfill.
often say that God is no respecter of persons, and that is true in respect to
salvation, but beyond that, in one sense of the word He is a respecter of
persons. We see that here.
He gives more grace to some and less grace to others, and that's based on
the roll they play in the Body of Christ. This
is not a matter of being unfair on God's part.
It's a simple matter of giving whatever is necessary for an individual to
perform God's will.
verses 7 and 8 Paul states the motivation for what we do in the Body of Christ. We
should view ourselves as servants. I
always say, the mark of a mature Christian is his ability to serve others.
We often think a mark of a good Christian is if he is famous, knows a
lot, preaches well, and so on, but that's not true.
Serving shows maturity. Serving
is giving of one's self. Just as
Jesus gave Himself, so we should give ourselves, and, as I said earlier,
"serving forms the basis of true Biblical worship". Of
course, true service is not service that is self-serving.
It's not service where we enjoy being in the limelight.
list of tasks Paul states in verses 7 and 8 are certainly not exhaustive.
If you read 1 Corinthians 12 you'll note that he adds more to this list,
and even there, his list is not exhaustive.
There are surely ministries and callings in modern times that did not
exist in the days of Paul. Whatever
your ministry is, according to Paul in this section of Romans, you must have
sufficient God given ability to perform your ministry and you must perform your
ministry in context of the Body of Christ, or, with those to whom Jesus has
called you, because you belong to them as stated in verse 5.