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Romans 12 1

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 your true and proper 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. 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 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, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, 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. 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. Do not be conceited. 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,” 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.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Romans 13

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Background

This week’s lesson is based on two chapters of the Book of Romans. So we have a challenge on how to pull several chapters into a meaningful Bible Study. Breaking down Romans into parts, we find  the following discussions:

  • Romans 1-8 Paul’s theological discussion
  • Chapters 9-11 are more of a narrative on Israel’s story and history
  • Chapters 12-16 are about the Christian life and how the Roman Christians are supposed to live

Our study material, therefore, is intended to guide the Christian life.

The book of Romans is the Apostle Paul’s masterpiece, a carefully constructed summary of Christian theology. If you had to pick one New Testament writing to guide your life, it would be the book of Romans. Here Paul explains God’s plan of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Divinely inspired, Paul passed on truths that are followed by all believers to this day. Now today, we are a divided people. However, Paul is not talking about our political views, he is talking directly to Christians. He is doing it in a very personal way, through a letter. Let’s look at just a few of the featured points discussed by Paul in our two chapters.

Chapter 12 tells us that we are to be a living sacrifice – Exactly what does that mean?  We are not to be passively conformed to this world. In other words, statisfied wit the status quo. Instead, our transformation is to be positive, transformed by the renewing of our minds. With his “renewing minds” phrase, Paul is telling us that this involves thinking in authentic ways about God and our own place in God’s world. It involves understanding the following:

  • Believers in Christ are called to be holy (1:7)
  • The truth of God’s eternal power and divine status must be continually affirmed by worshiping God rather than any other created thing (1:18-25)
  • All people are prone to sin and stand under God’s judgment (2:1-2, 14-16; 3:9-20)
  • We cannot “boast,” or take credit for our faith (3:27-28)
  • We are to value hardships and live through them in hope. This opens us up to God’s love expressed through Christ even while experiencing hardships (5:3-11)

Paul is challenging his readers to live out their faith in ways appropriate to the amount and type of faith that God has gifted to them. Similarly, different amounts and types of faith may lead people to different roles. One person might have the kind of faith that leads into a career as a missionary, and another may have the sort of faith that leads to work as a corporate accountant and use their expertise to serve others as God provides opportunities. Both life models can be appropriate for people in the church. Paul’s main point about spiritual gifts is that God has given us these gifts as members of the body of Christ. So we are to use the particular gift(s) God has given us to help the body function, not to promote ourselves or show how we as one part of the body are better than another body part.

As Paul continues, he calls for the kind of behavior produced by a renewed mind and states that this is the proper response to the mercies extended to us by God. Love is the overarching theme for the whole passage. Paul echoes Jesus in calling attention to love as the key everyday normal for God’s people. Jesus had said that all the law and the prophets hang on two commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul echoes something similar in Romans 13:8-10. Here in 12:9, Paul assumes that his audience knows that they are to love; he encourages them to make their love for each other genuine. Paul had begun this section of 12:9-13 with “let love be genuine” (verse 9), and then shows what this love looks like. Generally, true love is summed up like this: Hate what is evil and hold onto what is good (verse 9b). Those who have offered their bodies as a living sacrifice and renewed their minds will be able to discern what is good (verses 1-2).

Paul then goes on to give examples of how to cling to the good (verses 10-13). He uses the word agape for love in v. 9, but then becomes more specific by using phileo in verse 10 to refer to the family love of those living in community. He asks us to “participate in” others’ needs, to give of ourselves and our own resources for the material needs of others, like food, clothing, and shelter.  Paul’s type of true love is fervent, relentless, and practical. Because Paul’s readers have been shown mercy, they are to show mercy by tending to enemies in need, the way they provide for the material needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

By treating opponents like family, opponents are shamed (Proverbs 25:21-22a in verse 20): the image of heaping of burning coals on the enemy’s head suggests making them red in the face. Notice that Paul is not asking his audience to simply practice self-control. We are to do more than just refrain from repaying evil; we are to initiate doing good to opponents. In doing so, Christians overcome evil with good, showing that they “cling to what is good,” expressing the definition of true love.

Now for Chapter 13. The Christian religion was designed to extend throughout the world. Christians professed supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; he was their Lawgiver, their Sovereign, their Judge. Therefore, a question arose of great importance and difficulty, “what kind” of allegiance they were to render to earthly leaders? The kingdoms of the world were then “pagan” kingdoms. The laws were made by pagans, and were adapted to each type of paganism. Those kingdoms had been generally founded through conquest, and blood, and oppression. Many of the rulers were blood-stained warriors,  unprincipled men; and were not of the best character in either their private, and/or public lives. Whether Christians were to acknowledge the laws of such kingdoms and of such rulers, there was always this serious question. Whom to they follow?

There “were” cases where it was right to “resist” the laws. This is the Christian religion clearly taught; and in cases like these, it was indispensable for Christians to take a stand. When the laws interfered with the rights of conscience; when they commanded the worship of idols, or any moral wrong, then it was their duty to refuse submission. Yet when there was a line to be drawn, early Christians would wrongly “refuse” any and all submission, even when it was proper. Paul was telling them to be a subject and submit. The word submit Paul used denotes the kind of submission which soldiers gave to their officers. It implies “subordination;” a willingness to occupy a proper place, to yield to the authority of someone over us. The word used here does not designate the “extent” of the submission, but merely a general principle to obey in all things which are not contrary to the Law of God.

Paul winds up our chapter 13 with a “wake up call.” This comes in the chapters where he is teaching about mutual love and acceptance in the fellowship of faith (13:8-10; 14:1-15:6); Paul interrupts himself, in his writings, to remind his readers that they all share a common hope, God’s coming day of salvation (vv. 12-13). This hope, our hope is to be the motivator for the new ways of relating to one another that Paul wants the Jewish and Gentile Roman Christians to adopt. As we live in a world whose divisions are growing deeper, Paul’s words bring needed perspective. 

When we wake up, we get dressed. Paul tells us what to wear: “let us put on the armor of light” (v.12); and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 14). Why the military image of armor? It’s as if we are awakened suddenly from a dream of nighttime proportions, and discover that we are in a military encampment during the hours just before dawn. The camp is busy preparing for imminent battle. The soldiers are busy putting on their armor and grab their weapons. This image is intended to tell us that we’re in the middle of conflict. Instead of fighting each other, we need to unite against the common enemies of our world today.

Items for Discussion

  • What is the hardest part about “renewing one’s mind?”
  • Have you ever taken time to think about your spiritual gifts?
  • What is the hardest part about “loving your enemies?”
  • Paul is pretty explicit on what constitutes overreach of government and leaders. Added to help discussion is Paul’s list:
    • Pay taxes-Are there any taxes that you take issue with?
    • Pay debts-Yours and what about the government?
    • Give respect and honor-Where is society failing today on this issue?
    • Do not commit adultery-What are the pressures on people that even Paul was concerned about?
    • Do not murder-While we may not overtly murder, where do we support murder as Christians today?
    • Do not steal-Of course we have thieves-How does this commandment touch the average Christian?
    • Do not covet-Do we still do this today? Where?
  • What are the issues driving a wedge into the Christian community today?
  • Do you view the survival of Christianity today as a battle? Why or why not?

Discussion Challenge

  • Describe how you would use the church, the Body of Christ, today to solve the problems in our communities and country or even the world?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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