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Romans 12:1-21

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

How to live the Christian lifestyle

How to live the Christian life

Chapters 12-16 of Romans deal mainly with the practical applications for the Christian life in reference to the theology (i.e. the doctrine of justification by faith) as described in the preceding chapters 1-11.

A Living Sacrifice

12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. 2 Do not conform 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.

In view of all that God has done for us the following actions should occur in our lives also and be filled with gratitude. Firstly we should offer our whole life (spirit, soul and body) to God like a living sacrifice on the altar on a continual day to day basis. This is exactly the type of response God earnestly desires and as such this constitutes an acceptable form of worship. The next response from our lives is that we should refuse to let out thoughts and actions be squeezed in the mould of this world’s evil standards. But rather we should be renewing our thought patterns and consequent actions by reading and imbibing the Holy Scriptures. As we practise this on a day to day basis we will become more and more proficient in recognising just exactly what God’s will is in any given situation and consequently obeying the Lord in a way that we can be sure that is well pleasing to Him.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Paul then warns us all against having too high an opinion of ourselves but rather that we should be level headed, always keeping our feet on the ground and refuse to develop over inflated opinions of ourselves. Our measure of ourselves should only be based on what the Lord has revealed to us about ourselves and certainly should not be based on invidious comparisons with our fellow men and women. Our mindset should be that since God has given every believer their particular gifting then we should be seeking to maximise the use of our gifting for the blessing and benefit of our brothers and sisters.

v4 Although the members of the Body of Christ have an organic unity in which all the organs must play their part for health , this does not mean that every body part will function in the same way. God purposed that the diversity of gifting in His Body necessitates the close interdependence of each body part (each person).

v6-8 Paul than goes on to describe seven types of gifting [1] that the Lord has graciously placed in the different members of the Church;

Prophesying; This gift brings a fresh message from God to the church and may include direction or consolation etc.

Serving; The gift is the ministry of practical helps such as serving tables and other hands-on tasks. The Greek word here is diakonia from which the English word deacon is derived.

Teaching; This gift is the ability to bring forth the truth from God’s word for the edifying of the church. The ability to communicate such truth is supernatural.

Exhorting; This gift gives the ability to both encourage and challenge God’s people and calls them to action in the service of God. This gift calls for a response to what God is saying.

Giving; The gift confers the ability to contribute towards the needs of the poor and the needy whether within the church or beyond. We should always give out of our gratitude to God and of course with no strings attached.

Leading; All leaders or elders must carry the burden of their oversight with diligence and faithfulness and recognise the great price that Jesus Christ has paid for each member of the flock.

Showing mercy; This gift confers the ability and desire to visit the broken hearted, the sick, the dying and those who are bereaved and to bring the comfort and mercy of God to the distressed soul. It often involves the reminding of the suffering person that God loves them, he truly cares and whatever the evidence to the contrary He has not forgotten them.

All these gifts have been given for the building up of the body of Christ to bring us into a full spiritual health and the ability to reproduce the church by bringing new disciples into the body of Christ.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

All this agape love that each believer demonstrates in life must be truly sincere, genuine and absolutely real. There is no place in the church for love that is merely ‘play acting’ or false in any way for this sticks in God’s throat and we in turn should hate and avoid this hypocrisy and indeed all other evils but most of all in our own hearts. Every believer should extend the full love of God to each other and ask God for the grace of learning how to put others needs before our own. Paul tells us we must learn how to consider other believers as better Christians than us. Perhaps the trick to this is to consider the evil in our own hearts and since we know our own hearts much better than anyone else’s this should keep us looking up to others and not down on them! v11 Always be full of spirit filled enthusiasm for the Lord, His works and His Kingdom. Enthusiasm from our flesh achieves nothing. v12 Knowing that we have a sure hope of our salvation and eternal destiny this produces joy and confidence in us through times of trouble and helps us sustain our prayer life with God. v13 Always be ready and willing to supply the practical needs of any Christian whether they need a meal or a bed for the night. God’s people pursue hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. [c]

Do not think you are superior. What sort of life attitude should believers adopt? As we pursue hospitality we should note that no good deed goes unpunished! All that live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution and so we are pursued by our persecutors. God’s love in us should so subdue our bitterness towards our persecutors that rather we will bless them than curse. This must cause huge confusion to Satan and his servants who cannot understand just how powerful and effective love and forgiveness can be. We must remember that our Daddy God is love personified and we are His offspring who must emulate His actions when we are persecuted. The love of God in us enables us to identify with all believers in such a way that we can empathise exactly with what they are going through. This promotes peace and harmony between the believers.

v16 Don’t be a spiritual snob but rather identify with anyone irrespective of their rank or social standing. Don’t act in a condescending manner to anyone because this reveals your pride and a self appointed superiority.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” [d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” [e]

There is absolutely no room for any form of vindictiveness or revenge in the believer’s life. The unbelievers fully understand the desire for revenge that lurks in the human heart but what they need to see is a people who refuse to act on this evil impulse. Remember Jesus’ words on the cross ‘Father forgive them they know not what they do’. How can we be salt and light when we bear grudges and seek to take revenge on those who have wronged us? Paul actually goes as far as to forbid retaliation in any form! The believer’s life is lived in full view of the world (like living in a goldfish bowl) and our behaviours and responses are crucial in our witness to the unbelievers. Paul is saying let the believer’s life not give any excuse or stumbling block to the unsaved in case it hinders their salvation. The world must see our lives to be so honest, decent and filled with love that they realise that true Christianity is distinctively different from the ways of the world. v18 We should always live a lifestyle of peace avoiding quarrels and arguments however this may not always be possible where other people’s wills are involved. We are accountable for our part in any unnecessary ‘breaches of the peace’. Our choice of a lifestyle of peace sets a good example to everyone else. v19 Paul reminds his dear brothers and sisters that they should never seek revenge but rather allow God Himself time to deal with the offence against them. God will of course extend His grace to the wrong-doer and sometimes that will be us!

v20 Paul then quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22 reminding us whose children we are and that we should always emulate our Daddy by being kind and generous to our enemies even to the extent that we would be willing to provide the necessities of life for them! The idea of ‘heaping coals of fire’ upon their heads has been given various explanations. For me the most plausible means that our enemy will be ashamed at our kindness particularly in light of his ill treatment of us. This can be a powerful redemptive witness.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We must never let evil trip us up or let it bog us down but rather continue to emulate our Big Brother Jesus Christ and never pay back evil for evil. We ought to repay evil with kindness and good deeds. The Christian life that Paul describes here is way beyond any of our natural abilities and must of course be empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is radical Christian living and goes against our natural sense of injustice when we are badly treated. We need to enter in to this victorious living.

Footnotes: [a] - [e] 1-5

  1. Romans 12:6 Or the

  2. Romans 12:8 Or to provide for others

  3. Romans 12:16 Or willing to do menial work

  4. Romans 12:19 Deut. 32:35

  5. Romans 12:20 Prov. 25:21,22

[1] See also 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (nine gifts in this passage).

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