Less theology, more behavior. That is what happens with the beginning of Romans 12. Paul gently moves the reader from his dense theological musings into the realm of practical application in everyday life. Of course, he makes this transition with one of the most fascinating lead-ins ever: Romans 12:1
There is not a whole lot to discuss on the translation side. The chapter is pretty cut-n-dried. However, it is interesting to note that the word “fervent” in verse 11 is closely associated with the word for “boil”, which is quite the word picture for spiritual life.
The chain of gifts (vv 6-8) is not as easy to handle as it might seem. There is no easy flow from noun to verb, as seemingly each verb has some kind of different application. For that reason I worked it over thoroughly to make it fit English grammar.
A Bible student could spend a decade trying to figure out what exactly verses 1 and 2 are all about. I will only, therefore, make a couple of observations here. First, the center of Christian worship is not about rituals or dead animals. In worship there is something about denial, self-sacrifice, discipline, patience, and even mortification, but this worship is not dead but alive, and it is physical. Worship is done with our living bodies. Second, worship is more than our bodies, it is also what happens in our minds. We must exercise control of our thoughts and transform (metanoia, as opposed to paranoia) the way our minds work. That indicates to us that the Christian life is reasonable, logical, and driven by conscience choice, not bleeding hearts.
Some might parse out verse one as being about worship while verse two is about discipleship, and that might be correct, but Paul might rightly ask us what is the difference?
Verse 21 is sobering to me. The world is filled with evils, and as followers of Christ we are not called to simply endure them or to tolerate them, but to overcome them. We do not overcome them with worship or with prayer, which is odd. We do not even overcome evil with scripture. These are the things we would think we would need to overcome evil–worship, prayer, and the word. But no, worship, prayer and the word are the building blocks (c/f v. 2 for knowing the will of God) that inform us what is “the good” we should do in the world. It is our actions in the world that defeat evil.
1. Therefore, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, because of the compassion of God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God, your thoughtful act of worship.
2. Do not model yourself on this age, but be transformed in the renewal of the mind, so as to determine what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is.
3. I speak to all those among you by the grace given to me, do not think highly of yourself but think reasonably, each one by the faith God has given.
4. Just as we have many members in one body, but every member does not have the same function,
5. so in Messiah we are many in one body, but as individuals we are members of one another.
6. By the grace given to us, we are given different gifts. If it is prophecy use it in proportion to faith,
7. if service then as a deacon, if teaching as a teacher,
8. if encouraging in encouragement, if sharing in sincere generosity, if leadership in diligence, or if one has mercy in gladness.
9. Love without pretense. Abhor evil. Cling to good.
10. Let sibling-type love be tenderly affectionate among you. Lead out with honor for one another.
11. In diligence do not be timid. Serve the Lord with a fervent spirit.
12. Rejoice in hope. Endure distress. Continue faithfully in prayer.
13. Contribute to the needs of the saints. Pursue hospitality.
14. Bless the one persecuting you. Bless and do not curse.
15. Rejoice with those rejoicing. Cry with those crying.
16. Think of one another as the same, not arrogantly, but be associated with those who are humble. Do not be too thoughtful of yourself.
17. Repay no one evil for evil. Think ahead about what is honorable in the eyes of all people.
18. For your part, if possible, live at peace with all people.
19. Do not vindicate yourself, beloved, but rather put wrath in its place. For it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I myself will repay,’ says the Lord.”
20. But, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, doing this heaps fiery coals upon his head.”
21. Do not let evil conqueror you, but instead conquer evil with good.