Romans Chapter 12
KLMX March 2010
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Weíre nearing the end of our look at Romans Chapter 12. As I pointed out at the beginning of this week, Chapter 12- or at least what we call "chapter 12", using our modern chapter and verse references- is the beginning of a shift in Paulís letter. The first part of the letter- chapters 1 to 11 were concerned mostly with doctrine, that is, what we should believe and why we believe that. From Chapter 12 onwards, Paul is now concerned with the application of that doctrine. Itís one thing to know what to do, itís another to apply that knowledge and actually do it. I think weíve certainly seen Paul exhorting application in the past few days. To refresh your memory, or in case youíre tuning in for the first time this week, hereís what weíve read so far:
Romans 12:1-15 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (3) For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (4) For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (7) or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; (8) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (9) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (10) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (11) not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (12) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; (13) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. (14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Thatís where we left off yesterday. I think you can absolutely see Paul exhorting Christians to act like Christians and to be active in that acting. Donít be passive- put your gifts to work.
The next verse says this:
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Thatís a pretty straightforward verse, but it can be a hard one to keep in mind, that "do not be wise in your own opinion." I have a dog, an Australian Shepherd, and in reading about Aussies, I came across a statement where the author said that Aussies "have a high opinion of themselves." I had to laugh when I read that because, yes, my dog does have a little bit of a high opinion of himself. I also have a Border Collie and sheís almost the total opposite. If I come out on the deck with some scraps, the Aussie will shoulder her and the cat aside so that he can be first for the scrap. The Border Collie meanwhile will sit calmly and humbly and wait for me to hand her something. If I throw scraps in 4 directions, the Aussie will run around and pick them all up before he eats one. Heís greedy, selfish, and definitely has a high opinion of himself. Fortunately for him, though, he also has his good points, which I really donít want to talk about for fear of further inflating his ego. Christians should be Border Collies not Australian Shepherds.
Paulís instruction to associate with the humble recalls this passage:
Luke 14:7-11 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: (8) "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; (9) and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. (10) But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. (11) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesusí point and Paulís are the same. Maintain your humility and let God exalt you. Donít exalt yourself. There are numerous other cautions in the Bible about proud hearts. Hereís one:
Proverbs 21:4 A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin.
1 Peter 5:5-7 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." (6) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, (7) casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Well, I think the point has been made. God seeks a humble and contrite heart while those who inflate themselves will be humbled.
Paul now gives a set of instructions that go right along with the humble heart, although it might not seem so at first. Hereís what he has to say:
Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. (20) Therefore "IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD." (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This one sure goes against our grain. In many senses, the burden is placed upon us- "if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." That means, get along, even if you donít want to. Even if the other person is a cranky, irritable, irrational sourpuss, weíre to try to get along with them. And if the worst comes and they commit evil against us, Paulís asking us NOT to repay evil with evil. If someone does something bad to you, whether itís a physical act or a verbal slander, weíre not to seek vengeance ourselves but to wait on God to do that. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" says the Lord. Instead of seeking vengeance ourselves, weíre to feed our enemy and give him something to drink. In doing so, "you will heap coals of fire on his head." The concept is "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." And those statements, by the way, are quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22.
This would be pretty well impossible to do by ourselves, but itís what Christ did. According to Peter in Acts 2, evil men put Christ on the cross. Yet, he didnít cry out for help, or defend himself in the least. Rather, he met the evil of men with the ultimate good, dying in our place on the cross so that we might be saved. By myself, from my own strength, Iím positive that I couldnít follow Paulís exhortations. My instinct would be to seek revenge, to make them pay, and to give them what theyíve got coming to them. But Paul says in: (Philippians 4:13) "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Our strength to resist evil, therefore, comes from Christ Himself.
With that, weíve come to the end of Romans chapter 12. Itís a short chapter, but it has several strong points to consider. The points that jump out at me are:
Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
God gives each member of the body a gift to be used for the strengthening of that body.
If it is possible, as much as in you, live peaceably with all men.
Those are the 3 main points that jump out at me. As Iíve pointed out in this study, we often fail in those points- Christians are conformed to the world, donít use their gifts as well as they could and should, and are sometimes the most argumentative and abrasive people of all. Thatís a shame because we are called to be a light on a hill to which people in darkness are attracted, not a searchlight that blinds people and drives them away. If youíre a Christian and youíre listening to this message, consider your actions and remember, theyíre not my instructions but are instructions straight out of the New Testament. Look to Christ for your strength, remembering Paulís statement from Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Donít let the world shape you, but be transformed into something beyond this world. If you have a gift that youíre not using, please, find a body of believers where that gift can be used. Try to live peaceably, as much as you can, with all men. This doesnít mean you canít stick up for what you believe, but it means that you can do it in a firm and gentle way, rather than a rude and abrasive way. If youíre a Christian, remember, youíre one 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings.
Weíll stop here. Tomorrow Iíll review the whole of Romans 12. Tune in again at 9:45 for the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. In the meantime, I hope youíll consider this message and may God give you strength, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Romans 12, Part 3
Romans 12, Part 5