Your Reasonable Service
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.Romans 12:1
A verse by verse study in Romans 12
The twelfth chapter of Romans is universally recognized as one of the jewels of the Apostle Paul. The summary of Christian responsibilities to God and man are summarized concisely and powerfully.
Consecration, Transformation, EvaluationVerses 1 to 3
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
The word therefore connects the current chapter with the previous one in which Paul shows the mercy of God in admitting gentiles as well as Jews into the privilege of being selected as prospective members of the bride of Christ.
Pleading these extended mercies, Paul urges nothing less than a total commitmenta sacrifice as animals were sacrificed in Israels ancient worship. This sacrifice would be different, though, in that it would be livinga day by day presentation of ones self to the service of God.
It would be holy in that it would be first covered by the merit of Jesus own blood, justifying the recipient so that he could be acceptable in Gods sight. This presentation is described as a reasonable service in that it is a service of reason, a logical conclusion of the offerer in response to what Christ has done for him.
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."2 Corinthians 5:14, 15
The consecration, or presentation, in verse one would lead naturally to the transformation of verse two. The contrasting verbs conformed and transformed are based on two different Greek root words.
The word conformed is the Greek suschematizo based on the same root from which we get our English word "scheme", whereas the word transformed is a translation of the word metamorphoo from which we derive our word "metamorphosis." The thought is that we are not to allow peer pressure to bend our actions according to the outward "scheme" of this world, but are to be changed from the inside, from the heart, metamorphosed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.
This inward change is to be accomplished by obtaining a new mind-set, a new set of valuesthe renewing of our mind. It is through this new way of looking at things that we can prove what is Gods will for our liveswhat is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Then comes the third step, evaluation. Paul cautions that we do not make this evaluation of the role Christ would have us play with too high an esteem of our personal worth. But the word soberly implies that we do not err to the other extreme either, having too low of an estimation of our talents.
The key to balancing between these extremes is the measure of faith which God has given to each. The principle was laid down by Jesus in other circumstances, "According to thy faith be it unto thee" (Matt. 15:28).
Body of Christ
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
God does not mass produce Christians on some spiritual assembly line. Each one is as unique as is each part of the human body. Therefore they are collectively called "the body of Christ."
The individualized role of the individual Christian in the early church may well have been decided by which of a variety of miraculous gifts were bestowed upon him. Though there is strong reason to believe that these miraculous gifts have passed away, it does not make the passage before us less meaningful.
Each Christian possesses a certain set of characteristics and talents which are peculiarly his. Even today we use the expression of a talented person, that he is a "gifted" man or woman. These natural traits are to be fully employed in the service of Godaccording to the portion of faith which God has bestowed upon us.
Sundry ObligationsVerses 9 to 18
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
This list of exhortations can be variously divided. We will arbitrarily break it into fourteen admonitions.
Overcome Evil With GoodVerses 19 to 21
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Paul treats the handling of evil against us in the active voice. He advises not a passive submission, but an active countering of the evils of others with good deeds toward our enemiesa principle already laid down in the Old Testament (Prov. 25:21, 22)..
The illustration in verse 20 is a potent one. Human nature has not changed much since Bible times. Then, as now, some were inclined to impose upon their neighbors generosity with incessant borrowing. Paul is alluding to an individual from whom a loan of food was requested, where the lender not only gave the food but a pan of coals upon which to cook the food.
The incident is somewhat analogous to that referred to be Jesus in Matthew 5:40, "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also."
This active repayment of good for evil marks the climax of Christian growth and fittingly closes the exhortations of Paul in his description of the ideal service of God by a follower of Christ.