The appeals of this chapter are given to the church as a whole and the individual members as they relate to the whole. As body they are a community that represents on earth the continuance of the life of Christ. The church is still call to suffer, even as Christ suffered, and not to return reviling for reviling. God has given gifts of grace to create both unity and growth in the body of the redeemed and to enable this kind of perseverance in godliness.
I. Romans 12:1, 2 – Paul surveys mentally all the mercies that have been displayed in effectual power to bring together the redeemed community. From his initial discussion of the devastation wrought by sin all the way through the divine plan—involving unsearchable wisdom and power—of redemption according to an eternal purpose, Paul brings salvation to bear on the present life of believers in community. These mercies have been displayed in such a way that each believer should realize that he is not his own for he has been purchased by Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice. Our redeemed lives, as the purchase of blood, no longer are to be used in the service of sin, Satan, this world, or what we might even mistakenly see as neutral self-interest. Paul thus call on believers by means of a rational contemplation in surveying these mercies to give the entire life as a sacrifice. Had we not been redeemed, we would be our own sin-bearer and the death symbolized by the death of the sacrificial victims would be ours. We are, therefore, already a sacrifice but now, still living, we can reflect the holy, well-pleasing aspect of that unblemished life lived before God, unsusceptible to his wrath. This view of rationally considered worship leads to a transformation of life. Instead of continuing to allow the values of this age press us into its mold, the truth of God rescues us from the present evil age [Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:13]. Such meditation truly transforms the mind, leads to an eschewing of the values of the world and gives one insight more and more into that which is intrinsically good, and acceptable, and perfect. In this lies the will of God.
II. Romans 12:3-8 - To accomplish this transformation God has granted to his people gifts of grace by which they may advance in their expression as a body the beauty of Christ as the body of Christ. The gifts that are given cover a variety of necessary functions for the comprehensive wholeness of the body’s vigorous development.
A. On the basis of God’s gift to him, [“By the grace given to me” 3] Paul appeals to them. Paul never flagged in assuming his apostolic authority both for the evangelizing of unreached areas and the maturing of those that are already reached [Romans 15:16-21]. He therefore, issues these instructions to them about their gifts, instructing them concerning the context in which each gift should find its maximum usefulness. None are to assume more for themselves than God has given them. They must think soberly and learn to discern between that which is consistent with the truth and that which is the result of vain ambition. Some might want more influence and a greater display of public ministry than Go has assigned them; they must be able to discern that which is spiritual in their desires frm that which is self-serving and carnal.
B. 12:4, 5 – These gifts are given, not for the acclamation of any single individual, but for the health and growth of the entire body. This image of the body carries with it a dynamic that Paul finds useful in other places. 1 Corinthians 12 gives an extended discussion of this and Ephesians 4 carries through the same theme. It seems as if God created the body in the way it is for the express purpose of reflecting the interdependence of all the redeemed on one another and all together on the head, Christ himself as he sends gifts to the members of the body through the Spirit.
C. 12:5-8 – As each person discerns, through sober judgment, how his gifts are appropriately developed within the context of causing the entire body to grow and mature in spirituality and divine knowledge, he should concentrate on the use of that gift and exploit its maximum potential. Recognizing, therefore, the sovereignty of God in the dispensing of these gifts [“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them.”] Prophecy, that is the reception of special revelation concerning new covenant truths for the instruction of the whole community, must not exceed the bounds of what one knows is received from God. It must never be at odds with those things already revealed and received [See Ephesians 3:4, 5; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 Corinthians 14:37-39] so with each of the other gifts, Paul is instructing each to find a way to maximize the usefulness of that gift; concentrate on al the manifestations it could have within the body and pursue it with a spirit that reflects the joy of being among the redeemed of God. E.g. The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness”] With what joy did our Redeemer go through death and hell to gain us and did it with the joy set before his eyes.
III. Romans 12:9-13 – While each person exhibits the peculiar traits of his gifts with a zeal and purity that edifies the body, and none seeks to usurp the functions of another’s gifts, some tings should be characteristic of all person in the body. Reciprocal relationships within the body should be true demonstrations of love. The more we understand the love of God in the giving of his son and as a manifestation of his internal nature, then the more will mutual relations be affected by that knowledge. Let love be genuine, without hypocrisy, without dissimulation. Everything opposed to love will, therefore, be excluded, and our expressions of love will mount to the highest degree of unselfish giving in consideration of the spiritual family relationship. Showing deference and honor to one another, zeal for the common cause, fervency in spirit, continual consciousness of our service to Christ in all these issues, patience under difficult circumstances, constancy in prayer, and awareness of how the needs of brothers in Christ may be met. All Christians, no mater what their peculiar gift, may cultivate and practice these things.
IV. Romans 12:14-21 – In the way that relationships within the congregation of believers should be manifestation of specific gifts fort the edifying of the body and corporate graces that build mutual edification, so the Christians relation with those outside the congregation should reflect a merciful, sympathetic disposition. It seems to me that all of these admonitions concern how best to present a witness to the world of the consequences and glory of redemption. Verse 21 in the summary statement, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A. 12:14 - In a condition of persecution, the Christian must not seek any means of retaliation, but find ways to bless those that are so blind as to harm the good and godly. Christ did this, and as his body in this world, still prior to the time that he will come in judgment, we must continue his attitude of willingness to suffer with the knowledge that out of those that persecute, God intends to make some of them his people. God himself will accomplish the vengeance when the day comes and until then we must consider the ongoing patience of God as salvation, for none of his elect will perish, but he will indeed call them. When they come he will draw them from among those that presently scoff and deride. [2 Thessalonians 1:5-10’ 2 Peter 3:8-15]
B. 12:15, 16 - We must show complete sympathy with those that suffer trouble that comes to all in common and experience the joys of common humanity. As we are in the world, we must show that we are not haters of those things that give us a common sense of dependence on stability of economy, political justice, etc. We can find joy in living in harmony with other in the world in those things that do no violate God’s commandments, put us into a position of idolatry or immorality, or destroy a robust sense of holiness. We sow and reap, we buy and sell, we receive wages and pay wages, we depend on good service and seek to give good service for the common good, we admire heroism, virtue, strength and talent wherever it is displayed. Since God has saved us when we were without hope, we must demonstrate compassion toward the lowly and never show a haughty or arrogant spirit toward the downcast of society.
C. 12:17-21 - God has not given us the responsibility to take vengeance. He has reserved that for the properly elected officials [the subject he deals with in Romans 13] and for himself in the end . We do not, therefore, need to seek ways to measure how to achieve the most accurate way to even the score with our opponents or persecutors. Our goal is to seek to live peaceably with all. The picture of mercy under the pressure of unjust opposition, of acts of kindness in the face of hostility strikes a cord deep within each person’s humanity as one’s enemies find no reason to justify their aggressive attempts to bring to combustion an attempt to destroy. Though some may be so far gone into hatred that even the return of kindness will only further infuriate them and might result in greater and more intense persecution, the Christian’s commitment to good, rather than evil, is not merely pragmatic, it is an absolute that we gain from our observation of how Christ conducted himself toward his oppressors [John 18:33-38; 1 Peter 2:21-25]
Thus Romans 12 gives a concentrated look at how divine mercy constitutes a new community. It is in the world but not of the world. This community strengthens itself from within by an increasing awareness of the nature of the saving mercies of God, and by the faithful stewardship of grace gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. This strengthening gives spiritual competence to live in the world and be salt and light as the redeemed community continues to fill up in its body that which remains of the sufferings of Christ.