Romans 12, Part 1
Dec 27, 2010
Romans 12:1 says,
(1) I urge you, THEREFORE, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Paul's entreaty begins with "therefore." In other words, because of the truths that he has set forth previously, this is what our response ought to be.
Knowing the divine plan should inspire us with the desire to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God.
Knowing that God has blinded the majority of humanity for a good purpose, and that He will also save all mankind in the end, gives us confidence that He is both totally sovereign and totally just. In other words, He is a good God--not just powerful. He is to be loved, not merely feared. His use of power may seem unjust for the moment, but all things will work together for good.
If our eyes have been opened, and our hearts are not hardened, then we can rejoice that we have opportunity to be part of "the remnant of grace." We can present ourselves as living sacrifices, knowing that we are part of God's solution in the earth--not part of the problem.
It is on this basis that we are not like other men. Our calling, our "chosenness," is based upon our ability to see and understand the divine plan. We see this plan because God has chosen us as much as the 7,000 in the days of Elijah.
(2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will [thelema] of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul does not ask us to understand or prove the divine Plan (the boulema of 9:19). The Plan is for God to perform. We are asked to prove His thelema, which Paul defined earlier in Rom. 2:18,
(18) and know His thelema, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law.
When we present ourselves to God as living sacrifices, we say that we are willing to die for Him, knowing that our death would work a greater good in the divine Plan. But God has called us primarily to be LIVING sacrifices, for we are to live the resurrected life after our fleshly, Adamic man has been burned up on the altar of sacrifice. And though we may be "considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Rom. 8:36) we have faith in the One who has devised the Plan of Creation for all history from the beginning to the end.
So it is our present task to study, know, and understand the will of God for each of our lives.
(3) For through the grace given to me, I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
This refers back to 11:18, where Paul has admonished the ethnos not to be arrogant toward the natural branches which were cut off from the Kingdom Tree. Looking deeper, it also references the earlier problem of the natural Israelites (all the tribes) being arrogant toward the rest of the ethnos. They thought that being chosen meant that they could sin with immunity, that God would never cast them off, that God would never allow His temple to be desecrated, that God loved them more than the rest of the ethnos.
But Paul has laid a firm foundation of truth to dispel such notions, presenting faith in Jesus Christ as the attribute that pleases God. And so we are admonished "to have sound judgment," or to have a "sound mind." It is to be mentally balanced in our thinking, which comes only when our feet are planted firmly upon the foundation of faith in Christ and a knowledge of the divine Plan.
(4) For just as we have many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
We must all come to know our particular place in the body of Christ in order to really be able to present our bodies as living sacrifices for divine service. This is not always so easy to know. I recall many years ago in Bible College talking to my fellow students about this. The big question on our mind was: What is the will of God for me?
Ideally, one might pray, and God ought to reveal His will to each person by revelation. But in the real world, we have difficulty hearing, and God is a bit secretive. He tends to lead us one step at a time, not allowing us to see the path farther than the lamp will reveal in the dark. He often gives us a glimpse of the far future, which we mistakenly conclude is to come shortly. He told Paul, "I will send you far away to the ethnos" (Acts 22:21), but only later did he understand this to be Rome, Spain, and Britain.
Continuing in Romans 11, let us see The Emphatic Diaglott to get a better picture of the various callings:
(6) Now having different Gracious gifts, according to that favor which is imparted to us--if Prophecy, speak according to the analogy of the faith; (7) or if a Service, perform that service. The Teacher, in the teaching; (8) the Exhorter, in the exhortation....
In other words, if you believe that you have a particular gift or calling, then learn how to do it, and just do it. There is much you can learn at home, especially today, where books are abundant. But if you are led to go to school to assist with your learning, then go, and God will provide. There are some professions that require licenses based upon diplomas. Many ministerial positions require indoctrination, man-made licenses, and ordinations.
To minister to God as a living sacrifice, however, requires only faith and the ability to be led by the Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit will lead a person to obtain some education; other times He will educate people personally. Sometimes, as with Moses, He will require first a secular education, and then a more personal one in the wilderness.
I have observed many people who believe that they have some particular calling. Some of them just do it. Others wait for men's approval. If you are called to teach the word, then you will find opportunity in life as you meet people. If you are truly called as a teacher, people will want to listen to what you have to say. If no one wants to listen, then either you are not ready or perhaps you do not yet have anything to say.
To have a ministry, one must have something to offer that people need to have or learn. Some people are so consumed with establishing their position or convincing others of their calling that they never actually begin doing the work that would provide on-the-job training. In fact, many do not want to go through the ordeal of training. The schools of men are rigorous enough, but God's School will kill the flesh.
Often this indicates that a person wants to obtain the high position the easy way--by having a well-known person anoint him to an immediate position of power. They look at David, who was anointed by Samuel at the age of eight, without realizing that this anointing was only his enrollment in God's Bible College which met in the wilderness and the cave of Adullam. God's Bible College teaches you to hear and obey His voice, for that is essential to all else.
Man's Bible Schools will teach you some facts, but God's Bible College will leave you with a personal testimony. Educated ministers can tell you what the Bible says, but God's ministers can testify how they personally lived those stories and proved the validity of the word by experience.
Not many find their way to their calling. Those who do are enormously blessed.
This is the first part of a series titled "Romans 12." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones