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Living Sacrifices May 3, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 12:1-8.

Summary: In this passage, Paul uses his entire argument up to this point in Romans to motivate his readers to devote their entire selves – body and soul – to God’s service in a perpetual and immaculate manner that pleases God; this devotion must flow from their minds. His readers should not emulate unbelievers in terms of their character and actions; instead, their mindset should be transformed so that they can both know what pleases God and approve of and practice the actions that fall under this category. Now since the Holy Spirit has given Paul all of the gifts that are inherent to being an apostle, Paul is qualified to tell his readers that they should not overestimate their stature in God’s kingdom; instead, they must properly assess this stature and the nature of their gifts based on the amount of faith that they currently possess. To help his readers understand the underlying purpose of their gifts, Paul appeals to the example of the human body, noting that it has many members that perform distinct functions – yet they are all made alive by the same principle of life. Similarly, the body of Christ has many members that perform distinct functions, yet they are all made alive – and united – by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Note that each member of the body of Christ has received a particular gift from the Spirit, and Paul provides the following instructions to various subsets of his readers regarding the proper use of their gifts:

  • those who had the ability to hear from God and communicate His words to others, including interpreting doctrinal truths and predicting future events, should use this gift in a way that conforms to previously established Christian truths
  • those who had the ability to manage the external affairs of the church and care for the sick and poor within it should focus on using this gift
  • those who had the ability to teach others what they had learned from the Scriptures and/or from apostles and prophets should focus on using this gift
  • those who had the ability to exhort and comfort others should focus on using this gift
  • those who had the ability to provide for the material needs of others should exercise this gift “with no strings attached”
  • those who had the ability to exercise authority in the church should be meticulous and driven when exercising this gift
  • those who had the ability to care for the sick and suffering should be kind and cheerful when exercising this gift.

Thoughts: This passage marks the beginning of the “practical” section of Romans. Of course, the reader should not view this section as being completely disconnected from the preceding “doctrinal” section. Hodge weighs in as follows:

This is a summary of all that Paul has said about the justification, sanctification, and salvation of men. It is all attributed not to human merit nor to human efforts, but to the mercy of God. Paul brings the whole discussion to bear as a motive for devotion to God. Whatever gratitude the soul feels for pardon, purity, and the certain prospect of eternal life is called on to ensure its consecration to that God who is the author of all these mercies.

Unfortunately, it is relatively easy for Christians to fall into one of two traps: 1) consider all that God has done for us in His salvation plan, marvel at His works, and express thankfulness to Him – yet fail to serve and honor Him in response, or 2) serve God fervently and perform many actions that are designed to please Him – without taking the time to consider why we are serving Him and pleasing Him in the first place. Here Paul is calling us to strike a proper balance in our spiritual lives between these two extremes.

Based on my ministry experiences and conversations with fellow Christians, I know that I have the gift of teaching. When I was reading through this passage, I thought, “wouldn’t it have been better if I had one of the ‘less prominent’ gifts, such as the gifts of encouragement or showing mercy? Doesn’t the fact that I have a ‘more prominent’ gift make it easy for me to become puffed up and arrogant?” After giving this some thought, I remembered that God has given each person a particular gift – or set of gifts – according to His divine purposes, so it is not our place to question His choices in this regard. Moreover, each of God’s gifts, whether it is “more prominent” or “less prominent,” has its own set of opportunities and challenges. One of the key points of this passage is that no matter what gift – or gifts – we possess, we must use it wisely so that the body of Christ can truly benefit from it.

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