Modern Bible Commentary On Romans 12

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

The Apostle Paul uses the Greek word  Παρακαλῶ, which means to urge, exhort, invite, or to call near. Evidently, Paul is emphasizing the importance of believers to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. They are to sacrifice their energy, time, and devotion to worshipping God and obeying His commandments.

Furthermore, Paul warns believers not to conform to the pattern of this world but allow the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The world system or popular culture wants people to adopt their convictions and ideologies above God’s Word. As believers, it’s important to be in the world but not of the world. While we are to respect the governing authorities (Romans 13), our ultimate authority is established from Scripture.

When you worship God, obey his commandments, refuse to conform to the world, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform the mind, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is for your life. This is the essence of what Paul is trying to express to believers in Rome. When we follow God, He will reveal to us his good, pleasing, and perfect will. This is the simplicity of the Christian faith. Worship God and He will guide you the rest of the way.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 

In this passage, Paul reminds believers to meditate on the grace given to them. For grace is undeserved mercy that results in a humble and contrite spirit. That is why Paul tells them not to be high-minded, or ὑπερφρονεῖν, which means to be over-proud, vain, or arrogant. There is no excuse for believers to have this kind of attitude.

Instead, believers are to think soberly. They are to introspect their spiritual gifts and calling in accordance with the faith God has distributed to them. As a whole, the church is to be unified. Yet, individual members are distinct and possess certain gifts that complement the Church as a whole. The key principle is that Christ is our common ground—we are one body in Christ. Therefore, our mission should be the same: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

In these next verses, Paul discusses the spiritual gifts in accordance with the spirit. They include: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and mercy. Let’s briefly discuss each one of these.

First, prophecy isn’t necessarily foretelling of future events, although that can be part of the gift. However, the main role of prophecy is to speak the truth of God. This truth must be backed up by Scripture. If it contradicts the Word, then the prophet is false and should be rebuked in love and gentleness.

Service is an important gift. If you think of deacons and deaconesses, one of their main roles is to serve in this role by providing meals, supporting widows and orphans, counseling alongside the pastoral staff, and various other ministerial opportunities as the Lord sees fit.

Teaching is another vital gift to the church. James 3:1 does warn us that not many should be teachers because they will be judged more strictly than the rest of the congregation. I believe this is the case because teaching is a strong influential aspect of the spiritual gifts.

For example, if you teach well, believers will be more inclined to understand Scripture and be better equipped to make disciples of all nations. However, poor teaching may result in confusion, unbelief, and even heresy. Thus, teaching is a strong guard for the infallibility of Scripture and should be reserved for mature believers.

Encouragement doesn’t seem like a gift, but it really is. Some people have a natural propensity to be cheerful and full of joy in the Spirit. It’s important to have this mindset since the world is often filled with suffering and negativity. If you have the gift of encouragement, you should definitely use your gift for the advancement of God’s kingdom!

Another gift that Paul discusses is giving. God calls us to be a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6-8). Proverbs 3:9 tells us to honor the Lord with your wealth. Jesus even warns us in Matthew 6:24 that we can’t serve two masters: we can’t serve both God and money. Therefore, our hope and security should not be found in wealth but in God alone. Wealth is used to bless the church and give it the financial resources to thrive for future generations.

Leading is vital for the spiritual growth of the church. Proverbs 11:14 states, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” How much truer is this statement when it comes to the flourishing of our congregations? If you have leadership skills, use them for the glory of God.

Finally, Paul mentions mercy as a gift. Luke 6:36 exclaims: “Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.” This gift is an attribute of God. It is part of the Lord’s nature to be merciful. As Christians, we are to emulate our heavenly Father. This gift is therefore precious and must be represented in the body of Christ.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Don’t you enjoy the poetry of Scripture? Here Paul expresses this beautiful imagery of how love is to be sincere. He illustrates the contrast of hating what is evil and clinging to what is good. The Greek word for clinging is κολλώμενοι, and it can mean to cleave, glue, or stick to. There is a strong bond for believers to hold on and embrace good. For God is love and he is the essence of goodness.

Furthermore, Paul calls believers to be devoted to one another in love, to show honor, be filled with zeal, joyful in hope, patient during trials, having faith in prayer, sharing, and practicing hospitality. While this list seems exhaustive, it’s just a part of what it means to be a Christian. Isn’t it such a joy and honor to utilize the virtues God has given to us in Christ? Praise be to God.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Here the Bible proposes unconditional love. He tells followers of Christ to bless those who persecute and do not curse them back. This lavish love sets the Judeo-Christian worldview apart from a vengeful world that can lean more towards injustice and cruelty than love and respect for all.

The Apostle Paul continues to exhort the believers in Rome. He tells them to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. The message is simple: We are to practice sympathy and be mindful of the burdens and emotions experienced by others. This type of attitude will lead to a more harmonious world.

Additionally, Scripture warns us not to be proud and conceited, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Romans 12:3 declares: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20

The Bible also makes it clear not to repay anyone evil for evil. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. We are not responsible for ultimately judging people or punishing them. It’s the justice system or government who is responsible for punishing evildoers who commit crime. Moreover, God is the final judge and vindicator since our justice system is not perfect—we are to trust that the Lord of all the Earth will make things right in the end.

As Christians, our goal is to be at peace with everyone. Jesus told us: “Blessed are the peacemakers. For they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” For these reasons, we are not to take revenge but leave that responsibility up to the Lord.

On the contrary: “If you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I love what the Apostle Paul says here at the end. It encapsulates the heart of the gospel. He says, “Do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The best way to overcome evil is through love. For love covers a multitude of sin. Praise be to God.

Bible translation taken from the New International Version

Commentary written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div.)

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