A Voice in the
"Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God." (vs1-2)
With this chapter we see a division in the book. Up until this point we have had a meticulous, methodical, comprehensive discourse on Salvation. Chapter One begins by laying the foundation of the world's sin and corruption, defining 'what' sin is, and 'how bad' it is. Even those today who attempt to excuse their "alternate lifestyles", run away from and ignore chapter one. It tells them JUST EXACTLY "what" they are. They will distort other Scriptures to excuse their sin, but when confronted with chapter one, they are left speechless. Their mouths are "stopped". (3:19)
The book continues, describing how mankind is without excuse before God. (ch2) That both Jew and Gentile are guilty. That the Law could not bring about salvation. (ch3) That only Jesus Christ could. That He provides the grace and faith necessary to save. (ch4) It then goes on to describe the life of faith, the relationship with God through Christ, via the Holy Spirit. (ch5-8) And finally, a specific addressing of Israel's situation. (ch9-11)
So far, Romans has been all "theoretical" and "Spiritual". "HOW" one is saved. Now it's time to consider the "so what?" aspect. James speaks of the relationship of Faith manifesting itself into Works. (Jas2:14-26) If ch1 describes in detail the nature of sin being acted out; now that we are saved, we need to know how a proper Christian lives in this world. We understand the struggle between the flesh and the spirit (ch7), and we know the solution is to live "according to Spirit". (8:1) But where does the "rubber meet the pavement" in the day-to-day outworkings?
It begins with our attitude. And here we find something totally opposite from the world's ways. Paul says, "therefore..." Therefore, now that you are saved (chs3-11), "I call on you through the compassions of God..." Other translations say "beseech". If we can look at this like children playing in the school yard, and a group of children are involved in the 'game' they are playing. A child has been in detention (sin), but now has been released (saved), and comes to the edge of the playing field, somewhat tentatively; feeling "good" at being outside, "free" from detention; but not quite sure about joining in with the games. So Paul is calling out, C'mon over here and join in the games. And with the "compassions of God" he calms the child who had until recently been under discipline, Things are all right now. It's OK. Come and join with us and let's play together.
Now, here comes the "mind" which has been "transformed" and "renewed". Remember that he says, "If anyone is in Christ...old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!" (2Cor5:17) Isn't this part of the very definition of "repentance"! The "changing of one's mind". Changing directions. Changing outlook and perspective. The new perspective is one of "proving" what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God. (vs2) Which is in stark contrast to those who "did not think fit to have God in their knowledge". (1:28) Where sinful man, "conformed to this age", takes God's good things and corrupts them, the transformed mind seeks to do the "will of God". (12:2) The corrupt mind does everything for "self"; and perverts its flesh. But the renewed mind presents its "bodies a living sacrifice". (12:1)
What was the nature of a "sacrifice"? The animal was brought before the priest. It was killed. It's blood was shed. Its body was cut up into pieces. And then placed on the altar where it was burned. NO WONDER Jesus spoke of "count the cost" (Lk14:28) regarding following Him. To be a "living sacrifice" is an -ultimate- situation, isn't it. In other words, the Christian life is not for self. It is not "what I want", -my- plans, -my- life, -my- desires. But rather, as Saul/Paul responded to Jesus when he was saved, "Lord, what do You desire me to do?" (Acts9:6)
Right here we see that most of those claiming to be "Christian" today, are not. This is why they rebel at the concept of "repentance". If they truly repented, it would mean their lives have to change. But they don't want that! They want to keep "their" lives, and -add- Jesus into the equation. So they have distorted the Scriptures to teach "faith only" ...and "repentance isn't necessary". But Jesus taught that you "cannot serve two lords". (Mt6:24)
But also notice that the sacrifice is a -living- sacrifice. The Believer does not actually -physically- die and get cut up into pieces. We have died to sin. (6:11) But our living is a -sacrificial- living. Paul speaks of, "Day by day I die..." (1Cor15:31) While he was speaking this in the context of physical resurrection, and of the physical peril he was in from persecution; he lived his life with -others- first; "To all I have become all things, that in any and every way I might save some. (1Cor9:22b) "..esteeming one another to surpass themselves." (Phil2:3b)
And so, this is the first order of business. If we get this down, the rest of the details will naturally follow. "I say to everyone being among you, not to have high thoughts beyond what is right to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God divided a measure of faith to each." (12:3) You see, here we get back to the -basics- upon which the Law was ordered. The "greatest commandment" was to "Love the Lord your God..." (Deu6:5) And if that is in order, the natural outcome will be "love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev19:18)
If each individual has the right mind-set, then the "members" of the "one body" will smoothly function together with each other. (vs5) But the proper mind-set realizes that not everybody has the same function. (vs4) [See also: 1Cor12] But we function to the fullest in -whatever- is our "gift". Each "different gift" is given "according to the grace" ... "even as God divided a measure of faith to each." (vs6,3) Each member's gift is given by God; just as the "master" gave out the talents before going on the long journey (Mt25:14); He fills out the duty roster as he knows each servant's abilities can fulfill.
If a person is gifted in ministry, he should minister. The one sharing, in simplicity. If you're a leader; lead. As we will see in ch14, we do not look to see "what about this man?" Jesus says, "You follow Me." (Jn21:21-22) Man your post. As though to say with human examples, If you're the pilot, fly the plane; If you're the navigator, don't try to fly the plane...watch your radar scope and charts; If you're the engine mechanic, don't try to load the torpedo tubes. Do that which you are given to do. And DO IT WELL. Even if you're only bringing the pilot his coffee. Do it according to the abilities God gave you. Be diligent; not lazy; fervent. Always remember that, while you may be ministering to people, you are "serving the Lord". (vs11) You may lead a sinner to saving Faith, but you have done so as Christ's "ambassador". (2Cor5:20) The person is not -your- "convert".
Jesus said, "By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love among one another." (Jn13:35) Remember that -love- is a gauge of "being a Christian". If you are a Christian, a natural outcome is "loving" other Christians. If you don't love them, you are not a Christian; you are a "liar". (1Jn4:20) And Paul says, "Let love be without dissimulation" (vs9) In other words, don't hold back with your love. Don't hide it. Let it be seen. "..loving fervently" (vs10)
And there's a whole list of things you can read for yourself in those verses; how to do good, shunning evil. All the different ways and attitudes by which Believers interact, exhort, support, nurture each other. But while we flee the evil, we latch onto and "cleave" to the good. (vs9) We grab the good and don't let go. As one reads these verses of all the various ministries amongst the Body, there is a sense of what one sees watching busy ants, continually on-the-go, swarming; each doing their individual tasks, but also doing it all together. If that dead worm or bug is too big for one, several gather around and get into the act. But they eventually get it into their burrow...working together.
But notice what kind of "love" it is. It does not say, God accepts you "just as you are" along-with-your-sin, being all lovey dovey sweetness; not wanting to "upset" anybody by confronting sin. Fervent love absolutely despises and hates sin. It "hates even the garment having been stained from the flesh." (Jude23b) Remember, our minds are "renewed". If we understand that sin was sending us to hell, anything that reminds us of that life is utterly abhorrent to us! We will "flee" from it (vs9), which is what true repentance naturally leads to; and will seek to "snatch" others from it, as well. (Jude23)
So... what of the world? If you are persecuted, do you talk back? No. "bless, and do not curse." (vs14) Remember, Jesus "gave" Himself to those who crucified Him. (Is50:6) "..having been reviled, did not revile in return; suffering, He did not threaten." Jesus was our "example" of how to "follow His steps" (1Pt2:21-23) We do not "get even" or retaliate. We don't shout back, "God is going to -get- you, you so-n-so!" But we "give place to wrath." (vs19) What does this mean, "give place"? Let's go back to "school" again. Everybody is lining up for the door to open, or at the drinking fountain, lunch line, or...whatever a person lines up for. The bullies come along and push their way ahead in the line, knocking the "sissies" out of their way. "Wrath" is like those bullies. Rather than trying to jostle back and get into a scuffle, the Christian pulls back, clears a space for the bully, motioning with the hand to say, "Here you go. Here's your place...ahead of me." Because, you see, the Lord is like the 'hall monitor' who saw the whole incident. He comes along and says to Mr.Bully, "Into the principal's office, young man!" The retribution to Mr.Bully coming from the principal has meaning to him. He suffers consequences. Where, if you try to tackle the issue yourself...you -both- end up in the principal's office. So, "if one hostile to you hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for doing this you will heap coals of fire on his head" ... "and Jehovah shall reward you." (vs20,Pr25:21-22) Let God take care of "getting even". He promises to "repay". (vs19)
If it's possible "be in peace with all men." (vs18) Even if you find yourself in a difficult situation and your unequal yoke wants to leave, Paul wrote, "..God has called us in peace." God hates divorce and the Believer should stay married; but if the unbeliever wants to leave, let them leave and don't stir up strife.
But you see, all this begins with the attitude of the "renewed mind". When that bully comes around, our nature wants to assert "my rights". But as a "living sacrifice" I -determine- to behave differently. My "self-esteem" doesn't matter, compared to "peaceability". If it was a fellow-Believer who wronged me, perhaps unintentionally; love "will cover a multitude of sins" (1Pt4:8) We do not want to "bite and devour one another." (Gal5:15) But rather, be "building up itself (the Body) in love" (Eph4:16)
When we truly have a renewed mind, the opposite of "high thoughts" is "humility". As we are "providing right things before all men" not "returning [evil] for evil" (vs17), we then "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome the evil with good." (vs21)