Notes for Young Believers on the Epistle to the Romans: No. 19 - Chapter 12

Romans 12  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Chapter xii. We come now to practical righteousness, the state and walk of those who have been made the recipients of the grace of God, who have been taken up in sovereign, free favor, justified from all things; without condemnation in Christ. It is by this very compassion of God that these precepts are addressed to them. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies [or compassion] of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable [or intelligent] service." It certainly does require some intelligence, as to these bodies, to yield them up thus in intelligent service. We are "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Chap. viii. 23.) They are about to be fashioned like unto His glorious body. We are about to bear the image of the heavenly. Even as to our bodies, we shall soon see Him, and be like Him. (Phil. 3:20, 2120For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20‑21); 1 Cor. 15:4848As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:48); 1 John 3:22Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2).)
Now, having intelligence as to all this, we can give up our bodies beforehand, to be His now, to be used in holy separation to Him, and for Him. What a privilege! But this cannot possibly be, if we are conformed to this world—a world at enmity with Him. And as we have been renewed in spirit, "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
If God has saved us, in pure mercy and compassion, then let us intelligently seek to know His will, prove what that will is. This will require spiritual intelligence as to the time or dispensation in which we are found. The good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God as to this can only be known and proved in lowliness of soul and entire dependence.
Verse 3. " For I say, through the grace given unto me." What a constant need of the sense of the free favor shown to us individually, and given unto us! It is this that enables us to have low thoughts of self, and to think soberly, or to think so as to be wise, as God has dealt to each a measure of faith.
Verses 4, 5. As there was one nation in the flesh in the past dispensation, and a covenant of commandments adapted to that dispensation, "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." What a contrast this is to Israel; and we must have intelligence as to this, or we cannot prove the excellent will of God to us now. In the past no person could be in Christ. Christ must die, and be raised from the dead, or remain alone; but now we are one body in Christ. And this truth must rule all our obedience to Christ. We are to act in union, like the various members of the human body, even as we are one body in Christ. It is not so much the doctrine of the one body here, as the practice of all the members of that one body.
Verse 6. Still ever remembering, " Having, then, gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us." Surely, whatever may be the service in the one body in Christ, it is all grace all free favor. With this blessed sense of the free favor of God, let us be diligent in the service, whatever it may be—whether prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, or ruling. Let all be done with cheerfulness, and thus these heavenly precepts are so plain, they need no explanation further than seeing all must be done in reference to the one body in Christ. And yet each precept is of the utmost importance, and can only be kept as walking in the Spirit; indeed, these are fruits of the Spirit. Will the flesh, still in us, " cleave to that which is good," or, " in honor preferring one another," or will it " bless them which persecute you"? Nay, it will ever persecute that which is born of the Spirit.
Verse 16 should be, " Have the same respect one for another, not minding high things, but going along with the lowly." The very opposite of this world's ways.
Verses 17, 19. How liable we are to forget this blessed teaching; how ready the flesh is to return evil for evil. And how sad when indolence takes the place of providing things honest in the sight of all men. Yea, without care, the Christian may fall into the almost universal dishonesty of the world. Is not a deceitful, dishonest transaction of the same character as highway robbery? These are words that need to be put up in every office, shop, and house:”Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Oh, for more faith and unswerving obedience in the common things of every-day life. We are persuaded it is carelessness in these things, if not worse than carelessness, that is the cause of much of our weakness. And how the flesh in each of us would avenge ourselves! But these are the words of the Spirit to us: " Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves," &c.
Did He, whose precious name we bear, avenge Himself? The day of vengeance, of judgment on an ungodly world, will come; but are we not the followers of Him who healed His enemy's ear? Oh, to be more like Him. What tender words are these: "if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink." Where shall we find such words apart from the inspired scriptures of truth? Leave man to himself, will he act thus? No, no, these are the precious fruits of the Spirit. May they abound in us more and more.
Chapter xiii. The path of the heavenly man on earth is continued. What is to be his conduct as to the government of this world? He is to be subject. He is to regard the powers of government that be, as appointed of God. He is to be far from lawlessness and insubordination. " And they that resist shall receive to themselves judgment" [or, bring guilt upon themselves]. The Christian is to be, of all men, most loyal, even for conscience sake. " Render, therefore, to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."
Let it be observed, there is no precept here that we should take a place, or part, in the world's politics; but be subject. The church, or the Christian, is always looked at as not of the world, yet, in it, he must be subject: whatever the form of government, his path is to be subject; and, dear young believer, God is wiser than we are.
Chapter xiii. 8. "Owe no man anything." These few words are very comprehensive. Not merely debts when due, but to seek to pay all demands as soon as due. To do this, a Christian should always seek to live below his income, and do his business within his means. This may require much diligence and self-denial, but what misery will he avoid. These words, then, are important, when applied as to income and expenditure. And also, whatever kindness may be shown us, let us seek to return it with large interest. " Owe no man anything, unless to love one another" (New Translation). Ah, that is a debt never fully paid, for it is to love one another as He hath loved us.
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:55And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5).) Now, in its exercise, it flows out to others—the love of God in our hearts by the Spirit—and the result is, " he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Thus the commands as to our neighbor are all fulfilled. " Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This is by the twofold power of the love of God, already shed abroad in our hearts, and by the Spirit which has been given. This is not putting the Christian under law again, and telling him, if he keep it, God will love him, and give him the Holy Spirit. Neither is it telling him to pray for the Spirit, that he may keep the law. It is the opposite of all this. The love of God and the Spirit he has, and love worketh no ill to his neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. How beautiful the order of God is, and the effect is never put before the cause.
Verses 11-13. Again, there must be intelligence, in order " that, knowing the time," &c. But if Christians do not know the time, but suppose the very contrary, that the world is about to be converted, or to get better, that the night is not far spent, indeed that it is not night at all, but a grand day of development and human advancement—if thus so dark and mistaken, how can they know the perfect will of God for walk, of holy separation from a world doomed to judgment? Is it not impossible?
What a word for this moment!—"Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep.....The night is far spent, the day is at hand." What an arousing motive for holiness! Beware of all pretended holiness that has not this intelligence and this motive. What! is the Lord at hand, and we, Christians, asleep?—whether we think of joy to us, forever with the Lord—how near now our salvation—or the day of wrath and judgment on a rejecting world.. “Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." If the world is steeped in dishonesty in this dark night, " Let us walk honestly, as in the day." What a change there would be in the conduct, even of Christians, if we were really to awake, to expect our Lord, day by day.
Should you like to be found of Him walking in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness, or in strife and envying? Surely not. " But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Oh, that we may awake from sleep, and, waiting for our Lord, thus put Him on. The world will not hear the gospel—they will not read Christ in the word. May they, then, see Christ in us, and in all we do—living epistles, read and known of all men.
They will look at us, narrowly will they watch us. They know not how Satan seeks to trip us up. They know not the temptations and buffetings of the believer, and, without constant dependence on the power of God, how liable to fail. But may the world never see us making provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. The Lord bless these precious precepts to both writer and reader. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Oh? how soon we shall be forever with the Lord!