Chapter Bible Study | Book of Romans
Bible study taken from Romans Chapter 12
Romans 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”
“Therefore”…what a powerful word. This one word tells us that whatever preceded it is the reason for what is coming next. In the case of Romans chapter twelve, Paul has been discussing up to this point the theme of this epistle, “The person who is justified by faith shall live” (Edwards, 1992). That is good news! We have been justified by the righteousness of God through Christ in faith and “we live”. Now Paul will look at how to live this life from the starting point of our faith, when we believed, and received the Holy Spirit. He will go on to map out some of the duties, freedoms, and changes in the life of a believer as they move from belief to behavior in this new life and reveal to us what the ultimate motivation is.
God wants us to renew our mind
Right after that one word, “therefore” Paul goes on to tell his readers, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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” (Romans 12:1-2). Here in a compact statement Paul is telling us what we need to do now that we have believed, and why we need to do it.
The thing that Paul tells us to do now that we are justified is to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2). This new life, one of which we are to conform to the likeness of Christ, begins to change us by the renewing of our minds. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (dwell in the NAS translation) about such things”. The word “dwell” comes from the Greek word “Logizomai” and means among other things: to consider, to determine, to decide, to be deliberate”.
We are to be deliberate and decide on what we allow our minds to think on and to focus on those things that are truthful (as logizomai “deals with reality”. Therefore, our transformation begins with our minds and moves into our attitudes and our behaviors when we consider our new way of living.
New life in Christ
We are now a living sacrifice. This is a broad and sobering statement. We have a new life that is in faith, obtained only by the grace of God, and yet now we are to sacrifice ourselves in this new life? What does this mean to us? First, and foremost Paul tells us not to regard ourselves more highly than we ought to (again speaking of what goes on in our mind). He just spent the first twelve chapters of the book of Romans explaining the equality of all men both in faith and in sin. He urged the reader not to judge or be conceited. Now he again stops us and tells us to think soberly about what it is we are to do starting with how God has gifted each of us.
He shares that we are all gifted by God. These gifts are in accordance to the faith God has given us. Now that we have this life of faith, it isn’t meant to be kept to ourselves. We are to recognize and employ our gifts in service to one another. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (12:6). We are to use these gifts to build each other up. In first Corinthians, we see this, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7). It is for the common good that we are given the gifts of the spirit.
Continuing the theme of the common good- Paul goes on to explain that each believer is to “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters”(14:1). Again, referring back to what some of Paul’s admonitions were in the previous chapters, he moves on to reinforce the concept that we are to act for the good of others. In the case of the Jews he addressed earlier, he may have been pointing this more to them than to his Gentile audience.
The reason being is the relationship between weak and strong and the idea of passing judgment on disputable matters. He refers to food and days of the week in this passage. The Jews held that it was wrong to eat meat scarified to idols. They also believed that it was pleasing to God to uphold the Sabbath and perhaps other special days of celebration. In these kinds of things, he encourages each person to do what is according to their conscience. We are free in this new life but this liberty is never to be used inappropriately. Paul warns not to do anything that would be harmful to a brother, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). Sacrifice for the common good again becomes the focus of how we live this new life.
The common good isn’t restricted to the brotherhood of believers either. Paul also gives his advice on living to include our civic and neighborly duty. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1 Paul is telling us that we are to live responsibly by obeying the laws of the land so that we don’t incur suffering and in order to keep our conscience clear. He then expands the idea of sacrifice to include those who aren’t our brothers…in fact they are enemies; “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).
Life in Christ is a life of service
As living sacrifices then, we live for others and not ourselves. This is the life that we now have in Christ. It is one of service to others. The main point to this service, however, is our motivation for doing this: love. Romans chapter twelve tells us that we are to “be devoted in brotherly love” and that our love “must be sincere”.
This act of service to one another in love comes from the power that God gives us to carry it out. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6). It is through our service that we display our unity and our unity in love is our testimony to the world as it is written in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.
The building blocks of this life in Christ begin and end with him. He saves us by his grace, as we believe in him. Our lives are now hidden in him and we begin the journey of a life of transformation as we conform our thinking to the things that are of him. We act in ways that are honoring to him, whether in the community, with our brothers, or our enemies. We serve each other with our gifts that come from him. In addition, by unity and love, we give witness of him to the world. That is the sacrificial life that we are to live and grow in now that we believe.
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