Romans 12 is Paul’s answer to the question, “What now? Now that I have believed in Jesus, how does God expect me to live?” This chapter answers that question with an appeal to readers to live lives worthy of the mercy God has shown them in Christ.
Some readers of Paul’s letter to the Romans might be tempted to argue with his teaching on justification by faith alone. “If a right relationship with God is a matter of his grace and our faith, then does that not permit immoral living?” People were already asking that question of Paul himself (Romans 3:8, 6:1). Romans 12 is his answer.
I have recently been trying to stimulate interest in the book of Romans. I have prepared brief introductions to each chapter on this blog site. Chapters 1-8 are about justification by faith. Paul uses legal terminology to describe the way of salvation to people living under the laws of Rome. “Law” is not the means by which we gain acceptance and right standing with God.
Chapters 9-11 remind us that the gospel is for Jews as well as Gentiles. Israel is not permanently set aside in the plan of God. There were Jews and Gentiles worshipping together in the Christian assemblies in Rome. Paul reminds them that the Jews are still beloved for the sake of God’s promises to the ancient patriarchs. His calling and gifts are irrevocable. God has planned a glorious future for restored and redeemed Israel.
Now we have arrived at a turning point in the letter. Paul knows that his discussion about justification by faith demands an answer to the question about right living. Right living begins with surrender to the will of God (Romans 12:2). The name of this site is “His Will Blog.” It is based upon the assumption that it is possible for Christians to know and to do the will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 describe the Christian’s approach to God in worship. Romans 12:3 is about living with oneself. The rest of the chapter is about living in community with others (Romans 12:4-5). All Christians have gifts (abilities) to use to contribute to the life of the church. Paul lists some of them: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and mercy (Romans 12:6-8). By his grace, God gives these special abilities to his people to meet the needs of others.
As we serve one another in this way, we must be motivated by love. It must be sincere. We can’t fake it. If we are to “honor one another above ourselves” it will only be because our minds have been renewed by surrendering to the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 12:2).
Furthermore, this loving service should be enthusiastic (with “zeal,” v.11). An apathetic and bored church member is a poor advertisement for the gospel. With fervent and hopeful spirits we are to give ourselves to prayer, hospitality, blessing, forgiveness, peace, and empathetic acceptance of all kinds of people (Romans 12:12-20).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12;21). This is a word for us today. We live in a society torn apart by selfishness, violence, immorality, idolatry, lies, racial hatred, and slander. People all around us are distressed about the direction our nation is going. Romans 12 is a compelling picture of what a Christian’s life should look like before a watching world. If the people around us saw these attractive qualities in us, perhaps more of them would be drawn to Christ.
Francis Schaeffer famously said that the world has every right to reject our message if they do not see us Christians living lives of love.
Pastor Randy Faulkner