Topic: Four Pictures of the Christian reminding us of our spiritual duties
Text: Romans 12
Memory Verse: Romans 12:2
As already noted in the previous studies, Romans 12-16 entails the practical section that mainly focusses on our worship of God and service to one another. Thus in these final chapters, Paul tells us how to put our learning into practice. Today’s lesson focusses on Romans 12:1 – 21. Here, the apostle gives us four pictures of the believer that reminds us of our spiritual duties and service.
A Sacrifice on the Altar (12:1 – 2)
True service must begin with dedication to the Lord. The motive for dedication is love. Paul does not say, “I command you” but “I urge you,” because of what God has already done for you. We do not serve Jesus in order to receive His mercies, because we already have them (3:21-8:39). We serve Him out of love. True dedication is the presenting of body, mind and will to God day by day. It is daily yielding the body to Him, having the mind renewed by the Word, and surrendering the will through prayer and obedience. Believers either conform to the world, or they are “transformed.” If we are being transformed, then we are daily becoming more like the Savior (The Greek word for “transform” is the same as the one for “transfigure” in Matthew 17:2.).
When the believer is thus dedicated to God he can know God’s will for his life. God does not have three wills (good, pleasing and perfect) for believers in the way that there are three choices for merchandise such as “good, better and best.” Rather, we grow in our appreciation of God’s will. Some believers obey God because they fear chastening and discipline. However, the deepest devotion is in those who love the Lord God and know that His will is perfect for them.
As priests, we are to present “spiritual sacrifices” to God (1 Peter 2:5), and the first sacrifice He wants each day is our body, mind and will in total surrender to Him.
A Member of the Body (12:3 – 8)
In 1 Corinthians 12 we find the same truth spoken of in these verses, that the believer is baptized by the Spirit into the body and is given a gift (or gifts) to use for the benefit of the church. There is a “universal body” made up of all believers in Christ. There is also the local body, through which each believer ministers to the Lord. Most of the 112 references in the New Testament to the church refer to a local assembly of believers.
Service in the local body begins with personal dedication (verses 1-2) and then an honest evaluation of the spiritual gifts the believer possesses (verse 3). Paul tells us that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. When a man is called to serve, God will reveal to him how to use his spiritual gifts. Our gifts differ, but they all come from the Spirit and are to be used for the glory of the Lord. We are saved “by grace, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Likewise, we must exercise our spiritual gifts “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (verse 3) and “according to the grace given us” (verse 6).
Then, in verses 6 – 8 and in verse 13, Paul lists eight spiritual gifts as follows:
(1) Prophecy – defined in 1 Corinthians 14:3 – the ability to proclaim God’s truth without compromise.
(2) Serving – performing tasks that benefit others and meet practical needs.
(3) Teaching – explaining God’s truth so that others can understand.
(4) Encouraging – helping and comforting those in times of need. Helping to motivate others toward greater spiritual growth.
(5) Giving – giving material goods and money so that the needs of the work of the Lord are met. This is done in singleness of heart, from pure motives.
(6) Leadership – given to those with vision who will help govern the local church.
(7) Mercy – Having compassion for those who are suffering.
(8) Hospitality – making guests feel comfortable and at home.
In addition to this list of spiritual gifts, Ephesians 4:11 describes the gifted people that Jesus has given to His church. First Corinthians 12 (as well as Romans 12) has a list of gifts that the Spirit has given to the believers in the local church.
A Member of the Family (12:9 – 13)
Each believer has his or her own spiritual service to perform. Verses 9-13 tell us how every believer should behave in the family of God. Love should be honest and sincere, without hypocrisy (1 John 3:18). We should hate evil and cling to the good. Love should lead to kindness and humility and faithfulness. “Spiritual fervor” (verse 11) means “boiling,” or “aglow with power”. The characteristics mentioned in this section resemble the fruit of the Spirit Paul described in Galatians 5:22-23.
Believers should care for each other and share with each other. Note how the prayer of verse 12 is followed by the care of verse 13. “Practice hospitality” is literally (in Greek) – “pursuing hospitality.” Concerning hospitality, also look at Luke 14:12-14, 1 Timothy 3:2, 5:10, Hebrews 13:2, 2 John 9 – 11 and 3 John 5-8.
A Soldier (a Believer) in the Battle (12:14 – 21)
Believers have battles as well as blessings. Paul instructs us how to handle those who oppose the Word. We are to bless them (Matthew 5:10-12) and not curse them. We are to bless those who persecute us (verse 14) and never take revenge on our opponents. Rather, we should wait for God to “repay” (verse 19), either in this life or in the future judgment.
“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody” (verse 17). This suggests that the believer must be aware of the watchful eyes of others. People are watching us, and as much as possible, we should live peaceably with all people. Of course, we cannot compromise with sin. The attitude and spirit of Matthew 5:38-48 will help us be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
In verses 19-21, Paul refers to Proverbs 25:21-22 and Deuteronomy 32:35 (also Hebrews 10:30). The principle stated here is that the believer has turned himself over to the Lord (12:1-2), and therefore the Lord will take care of him and help fight his battles. We need spiritual wisdom (James 1:5) when it comes to dealing with the enemies of the Messiah. Otherwise, we may be a bad testimony for the Lord Jesus and cheapen the Gospel.
This study has sought to introduce the practical aspect of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this chapter, Paul has drawn our attention as believers to the fact that our true service of God demands our dedication of our body and mind. Thereafter, we are to recognize that we are members of the body of Christ and so we have been given spiritual gifts for the edification of all the entire parts of the body. It has also been studied that we are members of a family and as such love must reign in our fellowship. And lastly Paul encourages us as to how to handle our enemies. Finally, if we practice the principles given in this chapter of Romans 12, we can be sure that God will direct us in all things.
1. Which areas of your life demand total renewal of your mind?
2. Explain the statement that “love should be honest and sincere.”
3. Is it possible to bless your enemies even as they continue to hurt you?
4. How can you identify your spiritual gifts and develop them?