The Result of Grace
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul makes a summary statement.
1Therefore I urge you, 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. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
In essence he is saying, "If all that I have said is true, therefore, you should respond in the following way. Become living sacrifices. If God's grace has justified you from your sins and provided the Holy Spirit to enable you to be transformed by the process of sanctification, then your response is to manifest the work of God's grace through the Holy Spirit in your every day lives."
In the final chapter of this book I will summarize the instructions that Paul gives to his readers based on what he has taught them about the grace of God in the first 11 chapters of his book. Essentially, Romans 12-16 contain a description of what the transformation he talks about in Romans 12:1-2 is supposed to look like. It is the nuts and bolts of every day sanctified living. He mentions three basic virtues that encompass the sum of the sanctified life lived by those who have been transformed through the grace of God, the topic upon which this book is based ("Grace in the Book of Romans").
- Love of other
Those who live the sanctified life are the final result of grace, and when these people come together to worship God they are referred to as the Church of Christ (Romans 16:16).
Marks of Transformation
If everything that Paul says is true, then our lives should bear the marks of transformation, the first being humility.
1. Humility – Romans 12:3-8
3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone 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. 4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Some think that a humble person is one who is shy, speaks softly or has a passive nature, but in this passage Paul describes the truly humble person as one who has an accurate assessment of himself, not less or more. Humility enables a person to say "thank you" when complimented and "I am sorry" when in error. Humility is demonstrated through service not shyness.
The point Paul is making is that our transformation moves us towards humility of mind (accurate vision of self) and humility of actions (the use of our gifts and talents in the service of others rather than self). The fleshly, proud man will use his talents to serve his ego, comfort, security, goals and to "build bigger barns." The transformed man seeks to multiply his talents in the building of the kingdom, not his own house. Humility is the first mark of transformation.
2. Love – Romans 12:9-31
The second mark of transformation is love. In this passage Paul describes some facets of the kind of love that evidences a legitimate transformation. He mentions seven marks:
9aLet love be without hypocrisy.
Not a show of love, but real love, felt love, sincere, loyal and pure love. Not sexual, social or family love, but sacrificial love that will pay a price for the other. The kind of love that goes to a cross for a friend, not double crosses a friend.
9bAbhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
A love that is high and noble and pure and right. A love that seeks the good for the other.
10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
This love builds everything and everyone it touches. It esteems and builds the brethren it loves. It works hard in serving in the kingdom, and perseveres in both good and bad times (fervent in the Spirit).
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
A love that is willing to overlook an offence and is not easily provoked. It deflects criticism and gives the benefit of the doubt.
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
This love not only feels the other's pain but shares the other's pain and joy. It is not afraid to get involved in someone else's life. True involvement is not meddling, but a willingness to listen and care.
16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Humility is an accurate view of self. Meekness is the absence of the need to have one's own way all of the time. Being of the same mind means compromise, it means giving up one's will in order to create unity. The willingness to do it the other guy's way in order to build him up, this is meekness. We must not compromise truth and goodness, but most division in families and in churches occurs because one person or group wants its own way (usually because one thinks their way is best). We can have all the outward markings of the true church but if there is no meekness within we are like the Pharisees, concerned with externals and not truly transformed.
The work of the saved is reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ to an estranged world. In a war, ambassadors do not fight. Love in a transformed heart is peaceful and actively seeks peace with others ("Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9). Paul explains not only the peaceful quality of transformed love, but also how one arrives here.
17aNever pay back evil for evil to anyone.
Deny yourself the pleasure of revenge.
17bRespect what is right in the sight of all men.
Respect what is right. You can protect yourself, stand up for what is right, use what is right to achieve justice and goodness, but do not return evil for evil.
18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20"But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."
Seek the peaceful way as a solution. This can be costly and seem like a disadvantage at times, but Paul reassures us that God will meet out justice in the end. This is His promise so we should not worry.
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Do not revert back to the actions and methods that you used in your old life, allow the "transformed" man to respond. Let grace work, not sin.
3. Submission – Romans 13-14
In chapters 13 and 14 Paul goes on to talk about the third mark of a transformed life: submission. An attitude of submission is the ability to recognize and accept authority. Whether it be the authority of a person or a system, or merely the authority imposed on us by a set of circumstances, the Christian is able to recognize and submit to authority in all of its forms.
This is an obvious and central trait of the one who knows God and His grace. If one truly knows God (has an appreciation and understanding of this being called God) and not merely knows "about" God (academic knowledge), submission is a natural reaction. In the Old Testament whenever God manifested Himself, men fell on their faces in submission and worship. There was no bargaining on their part, they went into immediate submission.
Those who say they belong to God's kingdom and are Christ's disciples are claiming that they know God in Christ, and if they do they must learn submission because that is man's place in his relationship with God (Muslims have this idea as the core of their religion: the term Islam means surrender).
Submissiveness does not come naturally, we have to learn it (even Jesus learned about submission through the confining nature of His humanity and through the things He suffered because of it). As God, He did not obey, but as man He did. We also learn about this submissive attitude of spirit through various avenues, and this is what Paul describes here:
Submission to General Authority
1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Paul lived at a time when the most ruthless world government reigned and yet explained that the attitude of Christians towards government in general was submissiveness. The role of Christians in this world is not to promote the kingdom of men, but to establish and maintain the kingdom of God. Rome fell without the political intervention of Christians, the kingdom of God eventually overtook it, as it will all other kingdoms that man establishes (Daniel 2:24-45).
Christians can be involved in politics, but only if they remember that they serve in the political arena as ambassadors for Christ. Their loyalty is to a higher government. All government should submit to God's authority and those who do not, God will depose in His time and manner. Christians show the work of the Spirit within themselves in that they recognize the true nature of government in God's plan and respond to it with this understanding.
Submission to Neighbors (Respect)
8Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9For this, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
One who is in submission to God and the government respects the society created by God and overseen by government.
Verses 8-10 summarize the attitude of the Christian in regard to society in general. The Old Testament Law regulated every form of conduct in regards to treatment of others within that society. Paul reduces all these regulations to one single command: love your neighbor. The Christian's submissive nature is seen in his attitude of love towards society in general. He lives by the rules of love to create an environment which promotes peace, respect and goodness in society including family.
Submission to Brethren (Regard)
1Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God." 12So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. 14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
1Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." 4For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 8For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name." 10Again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people." 11And again, "Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him." 12Again Isaiah says, "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope." 13Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul closes the circle (government/society, family/church). Your family is not necessarily your brethren, but your brethren will always be your family. In the last few chapters he describes the submissive attitude that needs to exist between brethren as a mark that they are both born of the same Spirit. The key verse is 15:7:
7Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
The issue at the time was the fact that some, who were more confident in the grace of Christ, permitted themselves certain things (e.g. the eating of meats once used in pagan rituals) which in itself was not wrong, but which others (less confident in that grace) did not. Conflict arose because those who had the confidence to eat without guilt became impatient with the fear and uncertainty of those who could not partake because of a weak conscience. This impatience demonstrated itself in unkindness (passing judgment on the "immaturity" of the weak; "What is his problem?"). The weak, on the other hand, seized the opportunity to criticize and condemn others who participated in something that they would not themselves do because of conscience, not the Lord's command. The result was division and isolation brought on by pride, lack of love and failure to submit.
Paul tells them to measure their attitude towards each other against Christ's attitude toward them: acceptance. The strongest of all did not judge us in our weakness. He became weak in order to save the weak.
Mutual submission in Christ sees the strong becoming weak in order to help the weak grow strong so all can be powerful in Christ and thus glorify God.
After describing the three manifestations of a life dedicated to God (humility, love and submission) Paul completes his letter with final greetings and exhortations to people he knows in the church.
Just Do It! - Romans 15:14-21
Listen carefully to what he has preached, respond to it and encourage each other to do so as well.
My own message to you, the reader, is the same. You may not understand or agree with everything in this book, but you should respond in obedience to what you do understand and what you agree is from God.
The only way grace begins its work is when we respond to God in obedience (Romans 1:17-18).
Pray - Romans 15:22-33
Paul asked them to pray for his ministry and that he might be with them in his travels.
I also ask for your prayers that God bless my own service of preaching and teaching through the BibleTalk.tv ministry.
Greetings and Praise - Romans 16:1-27
Paul has a series of personal greetings full of affection and encouragement. He warns them to be careful regarding false teachers and how to deal with them (point them out and turn them out). He finishes with a final word of praise to God for having revealed the way by which all men can be saved: a salvation offered by His grace and received through our faith in Jesus Christ expressed in repentance and baptism.
I also finish by thanking you for reading this book and hope that it has blessed you in some way. I leave you with the reminder that in the end, all I can do is explain to an extent His kindness, mercy and love, but only God is worthy of praise in Jesus' name. Amen.