Romans 12

Romans 12  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THUS Chapter 11 ends very much as chapter 8. ended. In both we have the purpose of God and His electing mercy. Small wonder then that chapter 12. opens with an appeal based upon the mercies of God. In this Way we commence the horatory and practical section of the epistle. There is only one thing to do in response to the abounding compassion which has reached us in the Gospel-we present our bodies to God as a sacrifice livingly devoted to Him. This is reasonable, or intelligent, service on our part, and acceptable to Him.
In verse 13 of chapter 6. the Apostle had indicated that the way of deliverance from the service of sin was to yield ourselves unto God, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. We were to have the thing done, definitely and forever, as a settled thing. The exhortation here is very similar. Have we each of us had a moment in our histories when, conscious of the abounding mercies of God, perhaps overwhelmed with them, we have definitely presented our bodies as something livingly devoted to Him? Once each of us held his body as the vehicle wherein his own will would be expressed. Once we each said in effect, “I am the captain of my body and it shall serve my pleasures.” Have we now surrendered it to Another, that it may serve His will and be used for His service and glory? We perform no really intelligent service for Him until we do this. We cannot be intelligent in the Gospel without seeing that such a course is the only proper response.
This will of course involve what is enjoined upon us in verse 2. Nonconformity to this world—or age—will mark us, inasmuch as we shall necessarily be conformed to the will of God. But God has His own way of bringing this about. Sometimes we see conformed Christians—sadly conformed to this age, and their bodies continually bearing witness to the fact. Sometimes too we see reformed Christians, trying with a good deal of laborious effort to imitate Christ and do as He would do. What is set before us here is the transformed Christian, the transformation proceeding from the mind within to the body without.
Our verse does not speak of what God has done, or is doing, for us. It speaks of what we are to do. The responsibility is put upon us. We are not to be fashioned according to this age: we are to be transformed. Both these things, the negative and the positive, are to be worked out day by day. The renewing of our minds, and the transformation effected thereby, are not things accomplished in a moment once and for all, but something to be maintained and increased all through life.
Since the divine instructions to us are that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we may well inquire how we may get our minds renewed. The answer is, by getting them formed according to God’s thoughts and forsaking our own. And how shall this be? By soaking them in God’s Word, which conveys to us God’s thoughts. As we read and study the Word in prayerful dependence on the enlightening of the Spirit of God, our very thinking faculties, as well as our way of thinking, become renewed.
Here then is opened up before us the true way of Christian saintliness. We are not set to laboriously fulfill a code of morals, or even to copy the life of Christ. We are brought into contact with that which alters our whole way of thinking, and which consequently transforms our whole way of living. Thus it is that we may prove the will of God for ourselves, and discover it to be good, acceptable and perfect. What is good before God will be good to us, since our minds will have been brought into conformity to His.
The very first point where our conformity to the thoughts of God—and consequent non-conformity to the thoughts of the world—will be manifested, is in connection with self-esteem. Naturally each of us thinks no end of himself, for we have not learned to take our true measure before God. The more our minds are renewed the more we see ourselves as God sees us, and know that it is the measure of our faith that counts with Him. Faith brings God into our lives, and hence the measure of faith determines our spiritual caliber. We once heard a Christian remark of another, with gravity and a tinge of sadness, “Well, if we could buy that good brother at the price we put upon him, and sell him again at the price he places upon himself, we should make a huge profit!” God help us to learn how to think with great sobriety as to ourselves, realizing that not intellect, not social status, not money resources, not natural gifts but faith is the determining factor.
The fact is, of course, that the greatest and weightiest of us is but a tiny part of one far greater whole. This is emphasized in verses 4 and 5, where for the first time, as far as this epistle is concerned, it is intimated that though saved individually we are not to remain isolated individuals but are brought into a unity—the church of God. We are one body in Christ, each being a member of that one body. The practical outcome of this fact is that we each have our different functions, just like the members of our natural bodies have, and no one of us can absorb all the functions to himself, nor anything like all of them.
In verses 6-15 we get the practical working out of this. Each has his own gift according to the grace bestowed, so each is to recognize the part he is to play in the scheme. Each too is to take care that what he does, he does in the right way and spirit. The one who prophesies, for instance, is only to do so according to his faith. His knowledge may run beyond his faith but let him take care not to speak beyond his faith. This, if observed, would cut out a lot of unprofitable talking in the gatherings of God’s people. So too he that gives is to give with simplicity. He that shows mercy with cheerfulness, so that he does not do a kind act in an unkind way. And so on. The details of these verses hardly need remarks of ours, save that we may point out that “Not slothful in business,” (ch. 12:11) is rather, “As to diligent zealousness, not slothful” (ch. 12:11). It has no reference to the keenness with which we pursue our secular callings.
The closing verses of the chapter give more general instructions as to what becomes us according to God’s mind. Lowliness of mind; openness and honesty; a peaceable spirit; absence of the almost universal spirit of retaliation and vengeance; love, so active as to “retaliate” by kindnesses, and so overcome evil with good; these are pleasing to God, and pleasing to us in so far as our minds are transformed into conformity, to His. The figure of “heaping coals of fire” on the head of one’s enemy is doubtless suggested by Psa. 140:1010Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again. (Psalm 140:10). The Psalmist prayed for it in keeping with the age of law in which he lived. Our verse shows us the Christian way of doing it.
We may say then that this twelfth chapter gives us the good and acceptable and perfect will of God for us in many of its details. Many of the features mentioned are by no means beloved by the men of the world. Some would please them well enough so long as they get the benefit of them—they will, for instance, quite like the honesty which would lead the Christian to be a prompt payer of accounts, and the absence of vengeance when they perchance take some unrighteous advantage of him. It is only the believer with his mind renewed who can see the beauty of them all.
And it is only the believer, whose renewed mind is working out a transformation in his life, that will begin to really practice them.