We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with Romans 12. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul talked about salvation and being reconciled to God through faith in Christ, not by works of the law. In Romans 12, Paul instructs all who put their faith in Christ to live a life surrendered to Christ.
Paul begins exhorting us to:
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
v. 1 (NASB)
We have been bought at a price. We are not our own. We are God’s. We worship and honor Him by committing all that we have to Him.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
1 Corinthians 7:22-23 (NASB)
Paul continues instructing us to:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
v. 2 (NASB)
I often pray and ask God to show me His will for me. I always think that I have to be doing something that has an eternal impact on someone else’s life in order to be doing His will. But God repeatedly reminds me that His will is to transform me into His holiness. I often forget that He has to work in me in order to work through me.
As we conform to God’s will, instead of the world’s, He can work through us to minister to others. When we use the gifts God’s given us to minister to others, Paul explains that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Our gifts differ from one another. But all gifts are equally important because they have been given to us by God to accomplish His purposes.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
v. 3-8 (NASB)
In the rest of the chapter, verses 9-21, Paul instructs us how to faithfully serve God. I found it helpful to break down these instructions and study them one verse at a time.
Paul instructs us:
- Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. v. 9
First Timothy 1:5 says that our purpose is to love. And love (God’s love) springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience and sincere (non-hypocritical) faith. Our actions show our faith. If our faith is in God, we will hate evil and turn from it, and we will love Christ and cling to what is good. If we still love and cling to the things of the world, we are not fully trusting and putting our faith in Christ.
- Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; v.10
We should show special affection and honor to our brothers and sisters in Christ because they have been adopted into the same family of God as we have been.
- not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; v.11
The original Greek word translated here as “serving” is douleuó, which means: “slave” to the Lord. We must not look at the word “slave” in the Bible as we know it today. The world dictionary defines slave as “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” God’s definition is not the same. God did not purchase us back to force us to obey Him. He rescued us because He loves us. Even though we are His, He hasn’t taken away our free will. We still have a choice to serve Him. My husband prayed recently, “God, take my free will. I just want Your will.” God’s great love for us makes us willingly surrender all that we have to Him. Knowledge of His love keeps that fire burning in our spirit and helps us diligently serve Him.
- rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, v. 12
Nehemiah said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Staying connected to God, looking to Him with great expectation, knowing that He causes all things to work together for our good, gives us joy and strength to persevere in hardships.
- contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. v. 13
I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 8, where the Macedonian churches gave generously to the needs of the Lord’s people. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” Notice that they gave themselves FIRST to the Lord, and then God moved in them to give themselves to Paul and his fellow laborers.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. v.14
“Bless” here means to speak well of. The Bible says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech” (1 Peter 3:10, NIV). Jesus instructed us to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44, KJV). Jesus blessed His enemies as He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). Stephen blessed his enemies as he cried out to God while being stoned: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60). David blessed his enemy, Saul, by refusing to lay a hand on him (1 Samuel 24:6-7). Paul blessed all who deserted him at his first trial. When no one stood by him, He prayed, “May it not be held against them” (2 Timothy 4:16). We bless those who come against us because Jesus said, “they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. v. 15
Thinking of others, and putting ourselves in their shoes, will help us relate to what they are going through so we can sincerely weep with them in their trials and rejoice with them in their blessings.
- Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. v. 16
First Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” We are all the same in God’s eyes. None of us is greater or less than anyone else. We are unwise to compare ourselves to others and use ourselves as the standard of measurement (2 Corinthians 10:12).
- Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. v. 17
We are instructed in 1 Peter 3:9 not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. We are instructed, on the contrary, to repay evil with blessing so that we may inherit a blessing.
- If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. v. 18
We can do our best to live at peace with others by trusting God to care of the wrongs done to us. We need to remember that our struggles are not against people (Ephesians 6:12). It helps me keep peace by remembering that Satan uses other people’s weaknesses to attack my weaknesses. If we know Satan uses others to provoke us, it will help us not retaliate when they treat us wrong.
- Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. v. 19
Don’t step in front of God and tell Him “I got this. I can handle it on my own.” Let God be your vindicator. He will repay.
- “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” v. 20
We had a neighbor once that treated us poorly. No matter what she did to us, my husband and I refused to treat her poorly in return. Instead, we blessed her by helping her with things she needed done. By doing so, it convicted her and eventually changed her heart toward us.
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. v. 21
There may be a lot of evil in this world, but we can overcome it with good, because He who is in us is so much greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Thank You for these powerful truths in Your Word to encourage and help us live a life surrendered to You. Help us apply these truths every day with the help of Your Holy Spirit in us. Help us not to be wise in our eyes, but to fear You and depart from evil. For it shall be health to our body and nourishment to our bones (Proverbs 3:7-8).
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
How did God speak to you through Romans 12? Is there anything He revealed that you would like to share with others?
*This series will continue next Monday as we study Romans 13. Have a blessed week faithfully serving the Lord!