Bible study notes for Romans 12. Enjoy!
So now we are in Romans 12 where the teaching of the previous chapters now receives its application. It’s certainly easier to argue or discuss the doctrine we’ve been reading than it is to apply it to our lives.
“The apostle having now finished the doctrinal part of this epistle, proceeds to the practical.” – Adam Clarke
1 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.
Look back at Romans 11:32 real quick, “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” Now in Romans 12 we are urged by Paul to consider these mercies of God and to act accordingly. You could also understand the “therefore” here in verse 1 as pertaining to the previous 11 chapters about how we are justified.
Now God absolutely cares about our heart, but He also wants us to pay attention to how we live. In Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 believers are called priests. Priests scarified animals. So we should sacrifice and make holy our lives. What kind of animal was sacrificed? One that was spotless and without blemish. So we should try and live holy lives. Giving our life to God in everything we do is our reasonable service.
2 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.
This is a well-known verse but perhaps not well-applied. James 4:4 says that “…friendship of the world is enmity with God.” We should not allow the world to influence us, we should surrender to Jesus Christ. Especially here in 2022, EVERYTHING the world is saying to do, is directly in opposition to what God has said.
1 John 2:15 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
C.H. Irwin said, “Likeness to God will exclude likeness to the world. The more desire we have for God, the less we shall have for the world; the more we think of the soul, the less we shall be anxious about the body; the more we think of eternity, the less we shall think of this present world; the more we think of the judgment of God, the less we shall think of the judgment of men.”
3 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.
Paul was given grace to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, and cautions everyone, no matter what your gifts or talents are, to not be proud. Be sober-minded, level-headed.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
We see this concept laid out for us several times in the New Testament such as 1 Corinthians 12, and in Ephesians 4. We all have different jobs or duties in the Christian life. The guy that cleans the church isn’t any better or worse than the guy that preaches in it, and one shouldn’t think himself any better than the other.
The church is one body with many members but the head of us all is Christ.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
On prophecy, Adam Clarke correctly states, “That prophecy, in the New Testament, often means the gift of exhorting, preaching, or of expounding the Scriptures, is evident from many places in the Gospels, Acts, and St. Paul's Epistles, see 1 Corinthians 11:4, 1 Corinthians 11:5; and especially 1 Corinthians 14:3 : He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Ministry here is where we get the word for deacon which means to serve. Paul sometimes called himself a minister/deacon like in Ephesians 3:7 or Colossians 1:23.
8 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.
It is always important to do good things for the right reasons. We should be genuine in caring for people, or giving, or whatever good work it is. Let’s love God and love others with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
“Without dissimulation” comes from one word that means not hypocritically. Some translations read, “let your love be sincere” or “genuine.”
The word translated "abhor" (αποστυγουντες) only occurs this once in the New Testament and is unrelated to the standard word for "hate" (μισεω). Αποστυγουντες means to "hate violently" or "shudder with hate." Also note that the word for evil (πονηρος) is where we get the word for porn... Christians should not tolerate evil, and we should not remain silent when we see it.
Psalm 36:4, talking about wicked people, reads, “He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.”
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
How well do Christians do this? The last part of the verse coincides with Philippians 2:3 which says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” We should not be arrogant or think too much of ourselves, but we should think highly of others.
Adam Clarke writes, “Consider all your brethren as more worthy than yourself; and let neither grief nor envy affect your mind at seeing another honoured and yourself neglected. This is a hard lesson, and very few persons learn it thoroughly.”
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
The word for business is often translated as “diligence”, so it’s important to work hard for the Lord! Adam Clarke goes so far as to say, “An idle, slothful person can never be a Christian.”
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
This goes along with Romans 5:3-4, and 1 Thessalonians 1:3. All tribulation will come to an end and God is with us through it all. The best way to get through hard times is with prayer which brings us closer to God.
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Give to the poor! Galatians 6:10 reads, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We should help each other. We should invite people over and feed them. We should fellowship frequently with other believers.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Simple command, very hard to obey. This is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 and in many other places in the NT. Paul finishes this thought in verses 19-21 to close out this chapter.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 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.
Don’t think too highly of yourself! Again, Paul here warns against arrogance. Don’t think that because you’re a successful businessman you shouldn’t associate with the ditch digger at your church. Your material success in this life should in no way affect how you treat the poor or less intelligent people or any of that.
I love what Jesus said about this in Luke 14:12-14, “Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
God takes care of us! We need to stop thinking that everything we have is ours. We are stewards of it all by the grace of God and as much as we can we should use it all for His Kingdom and His glory.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
We should not seek conflict; we should do our best to live at peace with others. Martin Luther wisely said, “Peace if possible. Truth at all costs.”
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
God has given us so much, but one thing He reserves for Himself is vengeance. That belongs entirely to God and He will do that far better and more perfectly than we ever could. The quote seems to be taken from Deuteronomy 32:35 that reads in part, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence.” It’s also quoted in Hebrews 10:30.
20 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.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
We just went through a large section of Romans ending in the previous chapter with some occasionally difficult doctrine, but here we see almost impossible application and instruction. Our job isn’t to find a way around this and look for loopholes, but to submit to what Scripture clearly tells us to do.
C.H. Irwin Writes, “It is not merely that the good, in some general or abstract sense, will overcome the evil, but that you Christians, men and women, flesh and blood though you be, may overcome the evil by the good which you can exhibit and exercise. Is not this something worth having the assurance of? Is not this something worth living for?”