Romans 12

We saw that Ephesians was written to the new first century church which existed before the fall of Jerusalem. The church there was made up of all classes of people, rich, poor, bond, free, male, female, Jew, Gentle. The makeup of the church was quite different than the Jewish church which it was replacing. (The Jewish church did not cease until Jerusalem, the heart of the Jew's region, was destroyed.)

The superior or proud attitude from the corrupt Jewish religion found its way into the church by the new Jewish converts. Christ confronted that attitude as did all the Apostles, and urged unity under the one head, Christ.

"Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"

Paul lists 5 offices established by God in the new church. Two of those offices passed away with the death of the last inspired Apostle. The other three are permanent offices required for the perfecting of the saint for the work of the ministry: Evangelists, pastors and teachers. Paul lists 7 more gifts in Romans 12. Let's follow the context to v. 7:

First, v. 1, "reasonable service", in the vocation to which we are called.

Second, v. 5, "one body in Christ," or unity in Christ. The elect are not to divide themselves as an elite leadership vs everyone else.

"Living sacrifice". We certainly do not present our bodies as an atoning sacrifice, for Christ sacrificed his body as for the atonement. Our sacrifice or offering is pictured in Leviticus 7:12:

"12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. 13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings."

This sacrifice was made with leavened bread. Leaven represents corruptibility. This sacrifice with leaven represents our gifts and service to God, which are never sinless, and they will always pass away. Yet even our sin-tainted gifts and service are our "reasonable service".

Look back in history at the many godly works started in the name of the Lord. All the protections possible were built in to keep those works from going to the devil, yet they still move into the enemy's camp.

Harvard was formed in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the early years the College trained many Puritan ministers. Today there are several occult groups residing at Harvard:

"‘Satanic Black Mass' to Take Place Tonight at Harvard", by Daniel Halper, May 12, 2014.

"The performance, which will take place Monday night at Cambridge Queen's Head Pub in the basement of Memorial Hall, is organized by the Extension School's Cultural Studies Club with help from the New York-based Satanic Temple..."

This nation was established for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel of Christ.

Present our bodies a living sacrifice.

Our service cannot help but be corruptible for we are sinners, yet we are told many times of the requirement of our "vocation". The call of the elect is to serve the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind. (Matt 22:37. Rom 6:13, 6:16, 1 Cor 6:13, 6:20.)

V. 2, be not conformed" or don't let the time in which we live mold us into its image. Rather, we are to be transformed from our unsaved worldly image into the image of Christ, by the "renewing of our mind." That is, a new pattern of thinking.

Only reading and meditating on the word of God will change our thinking, and change us from the image of this world to the image of Christ.

The Christian faith is not merely a private and spiritual matter, but is very much a public and private expression of God's life and law through us.

Though the preaching of the gospel, God claims the bodies of the elect. Then through their bodies, he reaches out to the rest of his creation. It is through the yielded bodies of the elect that the kingdom of God is advanced into this corrupt world.

V. 2, Paul says to quit being fashioned by the world. The elect are to have a radical reversal of values.

V. 3, we are not to be governed or evaluated by our own opinions or by the opinions of others. Our evaluation must be by God's standards.

"2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."

We cannot judge ourselves in terms of our gifts or abilities when compared with others. We must be evaluated in terms of God's measure of Grace. Paul strikes at the very heart of any feeling of self-importance based upon one's particular God given gift or ability.

Any talent one might have is from God, and we must realize that we are what we are by God's grace. We must see ourselves in terms of what God has done in and through us, for nothing is of ourselves. The purpose of what God has provided is not self-glory, but God's glory and the advancement of his kingdom.

In 1927, Southern Baptist Theologian A. T. Robertson said of this verse. We must be in our right mind, and not over-think of our selves. "Self-conceit is here treated as a species of insanity."

Daniel warned Nebuchadnezzar against self-conceit, but he continued in it anyway, and was given over to insanity. His right mind returned to him when he lifted up his eyes to heaven. Daniel 4:30-34.

Luther said that "faith is nothing else than obedience to the Spirit." And there are different degrees of obedience.

Vv 4, 5. Paul calls for unity, as he gives us God's picture of the new humanity in Christ. There is no division between an elite class of church leaders and the congregation. Though there are many diverse gifts which aid one another, all are equally important to the body of Christ.

* The head of the body is Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23).
* The church is Christ's body, and the body is ruled by the head (Col. 1:18).
* Christ the Head is also "the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:10).

The Head controls and uses the body for His divine purpose. How many "Christian" message today are how can men get Christ to be man's servant? How can man use Christ to meet his needs. They want him to make them feel better about themselves. Messages on self, and how to use Christ to meet one's needs will draw a crowd. Those messages reduce Christ to little more than a pagan god. In those pagan religions of old, men served a pagan god to put that god their side.

That pagan god was expected to serve the needs of the individual. If he failed, then the individual found a different god.

Certainly, there is a "feel good" side of Christianity. That is a clear conscience over the confession and forsaking of sin against man and God. Then there is "feel good" when we know we have pleased our Lord and master according to his word.

All of the elect are members of the one body, and "every one members one of another", and all are under the One Head. Although certain members of the body may be more prominent than others, all members are used by the Head as instruments to accomplish His purposes.

The elect are called "according to his purpose", not according to our purpose.

Here in Romans 12:2, Paul is warning against the world's attitude and doctrine. He is warning against the attitude with which men set themselves up as "kings". They feel they know what is best for the masses, and in the civil realm, will even use force to subdue the masses to their will. They are proud and lifted up with self-importance.

Paul is writing to the pagan, superior "elites" attitude that seeks to control everything out of the church.

I know a pastor who insists that all his people report even their financial records to him so he can be sure they are giving the Lord the tithe.

From my personal experience with various churches, it is the pastor's secretary or the pastor's wife who ends up controlling everything but the sermons, and people know she is in control. In larger churches, people are attacked to her because she is the source of power in the church.

Paul uses the illustration of many members in one body to teach that no one is better than another, though each has his or her unique gift.

Vv. 6-13

Paul not only deals with the issue of self-importance, but deals with the idea that "all men are created equal", and idea that came out of Aristotle. As we have said, the only equality in man is that they are all equally guilty of sin, and need a Savour.

In pagan thinking, "All men are created equal" means that the Creator's law gives all equal abilities and opportunities, which is obviously not true. "All men are created equal" focuses on man and his rights, rather than on God's order.

But Paul is emphasizing God's sovereignty, and his differing measures of grace given to his people. He is emphasizing God's grace, not man's abilities. Neither a church nor society can exist unless each person is content with what God has given him. "I have learned that in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content". We are to be grateful for the abilities God has blessed us with. We are to seek to pass them on. We must be grateful when others try to pass abilities on to us.

From beginning to the end, our life is anchored in grace. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 tells us that God's grace uses man's weakness to accomplish his diving and everlasting purpose, so that "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord"..

The gifts listed in vv. 7-12 cover the whole Christian life and thought.

V. 6. The emphasis is on the Giver of the Gifts, not on the receivers of the gifts. And the gifts, or abilities, are not for man's benefit nor glory, but to glorify God and expand his kingdom on earth.

V. 4, "same office", or "same function". (RWP) The gifts are not to exalt one above another, but are to function for the common good of the Kingdom of God.

"Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;"

In addition to the three permanent offices in Ephesians 4, Paul lists seven more in Romans 12:6-8.

The Gifts:

First, these gifts are always presented as results of the Grace of God given to individuals according to his good pleasure.

Second, Paul purpose in both Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 is to urge unity

Third, throughout the New Testament, there is strong condemnation of pride and envy over the various gifts.

1) There is the danger of exalting one gift more highly than another–one being more desirable than another, and everyone seeking the showcase gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 and 13

2) There is the danger exalting one person over another because of his gift.

Third, there is only the Head of the Body who can bestow an individual gift. So the church needs to prayerfully recognize those who have the various gifts, and place them properly in the assembly

Fifth, Christ gives the gifts according to his divine purpose in his church: there can be no pride involved by those who have particular gifts. And it is the church's responsibility to place men according to their proper gifts not according to their personalities.

After I left the first church where I was on the staff full time, they sought a new pastor. They insisted that he have a Phd, hoping he would be able to draw in college students. That attitude is not at all uncommon in religious circles.

Both religious and secular institutions place particular men into places of authority because they might be a successful business man, or maybe looked up to by the community outside of the church, or be a good public speaker. He will be placed in an important position even though he is not what he should be as a faithful Christian.

Paul warns Timothy to "Lay hands suddenly on no man". 1 Timothy 5:22.

It seems that worldly acclaim means far more that godly ability. Exaltation because of worldly acclaim is a problem dealt with throughout the New Testament.

There are seven "gifts" listed here, which are not leadership offices. They certainly are not limited to one gift per person. God may equip a person with more than one in order to accomplish God's particular call within the individual's Christian vocation.

1) prophesying
2) ministry or simply rendering practical service
3) teaching, which was mentioned in Eph 4.
4) exhorting
5) contributing to the Kingdom work as well as to the needs of people
6) exercising leadership
7) shewing mercy.

All believers are required to practice these 7 things, but individuals are given special grace to fulfill their place in the body.

Contributing is a good example. Though every believer is required to contribute to the Kingdom work, some have a special gift in this area. I have known several men with this gift.

I worked for a man in Indiana who did not make it past the 6 grade. But he had a gift to make money. He was a school bus dealer. He looked and acted as though he did not have a penny to his name, but he was quite wealthy. He had the special grace of financing the kingdom of God, which came with the ability to make money, and he invested many tens of thousands of dollars in a particular church that was reaching into the city of Chicago.

This man had very little education, and sent his children to a Christian college. They came back with a strong attitude of self-importance.

About 12 years after I worked for him, we moved back to Indiana, not far from his business. When we visited him, we found his son had a very "elite" or self-important attitude. He made sure that I knew that he was now a deacon in the largest Baptist church in Danville, Il.

12:6, "Prophesying". We encountered this word in Ephesians as those sent by God with divine authority to speak for God. Here it fits more with

"Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See [thou do it] not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

"According to the proportion of faith." Note here that not all men have the same amount of grace, so each has a different requirement in "prophesying". The 19 year old boy who went into the Jungle.

We cannot say, "I would never do that", because God gives the measure of Grace to accomplish what he requires of us.

V. 7, 2) Ministry and 3) teaching are listed among the "gifts".

Ministry refers to service to the Christian community, and to teach means to give instruction. Neither word should be limited in their meaning to the church.

V. 8, exhorting, giving, ruling, and shewing mercy. Exhorts means calling a person to one's side. That is, to help, encourage and to admonish one for the Lord. The ability to do this is a gift, and is a function of grace.

Giving means sharing more than financial giving. The emphasis is on supporting the community of faith. It is to be done with simplicity and liberality. This includes sharing what we have with simplicity. That is, properly using our God given resources and abilities to teach, help, finances, or anything else grace has supplied .

"Ruleth" means to take the lead. "diligence" is required. That is, an earnest and business like approach in ruling.

"Mercy" to recognize needs and meet it, particularly in the Body of Christ.

"Cheerfulness" I cannot see this word without remembering the first church in which I served. When the time of the offering came, 2 Corinthians 9 was commonly used:

"6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."

The emphasis was on "cheerful", and we were reminded every time that the basic word was hilarious, which includes readiness of mind.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:

"In 2Co 9:7 (in loose allusion to Pr 22:9) Paul refers to the cheerfulness of generosity. The sense approximates to liberality. {cf. Ro 12:8} This cheerfulness contrasts with the grumbling and questioning of Php 2:14. Reception of God's gift provides the motivation. {cf. 1Pe 4:9-10}"

That is, cheerfulness means we rejoice at the ability to help when we see a need, particularly in the body of Christ.

I must admit that over the years I have enjoyed helping when I see a need. I enjoyed helping a Christian neighbor down the road from where we lived in New Richmond with his corn harvest by taking the wagons from the field to his storage bins.

The tractor I used was a huge 8 wheeled bend-in-the middle John Deer. It was strange to get used to.

V. 9, love without dissimulation. God's loving and unmerited grace is to find its outlet though us:

"2 Corinthians 6:6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned," — honest and sincere.

"Psalms 97:10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked."

Love for God is shown in our hatred or avoidance of evil. We are to abhor evil. It is to be repulsive to us, and we are to join to or give ourselves wholly to that which is good.

Notice that because we are sinners saved by grace, we are attached to evil. It takes commitment and grace to avoid evil.

The conflict between the old and new nature in Romans 7:14-25 has been discussed to no end. I cannot speak for others, but it pretty well describes me at times. The desire to live godly is always there, but too often it is overwhelmed by the old law of sin.

"Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Falling into sin does not mean we either have fallen from Grace nor that we have no Grace at all. But those who live in sin are clearly identified in Scripture of having no work of saving Grace in them.

The rest of Romans 12 begs for our examination, we will stop here and return to Ephesians 4. We went through Romans some time ago.

The emphasis not only in Romans 12 but in Ephesians 4 is on the Grace of God. The warning is against pride and self importance over the measure of grace given to each individual. The purpose of that grace is not so I can be healthy, wealthy and wise and feel good about myself. The purpose is that individuals will be united under one head, with one goal, and that goal is to advance the Kingdom of God into all the world