Romans 12:1-21

Romans 12:1-21

Romans 12:1-2 – Having concluded eleven chapters of what God has given to man we are told what our response should be. God has given us all that we need and more, we need nothing else but to serve Him. This is the key to victorious Christian living, losing our lives so that we might truly find it. God gave Himself for us in order that we might give ourselves to Him.

Our response is to serve Him in our role as priests of God for we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). We serve God with all that we are this is one of the key aspects of what true worship consists of (Hebrews 13:15-16). True worship includes many things besides prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. It includes serving God by serving others in His name, especially fellow believers.

No other offering is acceptable to God unless we have first offered Him our souls. Only those who have been purchased by God can present a living sacrifice to God, because only the redeemed have spiritual life. And only believers are qualified as priests who can come before God with an offering that is acceptable.

The gentle command “urge” is given by Paul in light of all the truth that has been given. It is really the continuation of the line of reasoning that ended Romans 8, that nothing will separate us from God’s love. Romans 9-11 is an illustration of God’s steadfast love, His faithfulness to Israel. In light of that love we are urged to surrender our bodies to the Lord so that He may use us and our bodies to bring glory to Him.

No other offering is acceptable to God unless we have first offered Him our souls. We are a living sacrifice, just as Isaac was and just as Yeshua was. Only the redeemed can present a living sacrifice to God, because only the redeemed have spiritual life. And only believers are priests who can come before God with an offering. Before anything else worthwhile and acceptable can be given to God, we must first give ourselves to Him this is why the Macedoinian believers were so commended (2 Corinthians 8:5).

Those who are carnal or self controlled cannot please God (Romans 8:8). This is what Paul was getting at in his explanation of love entails (1 Corinthians 13:3). If a person does not possess the love of God, all of his offerings, no matter how costly, are worthless to Him. The word “therefore” that begins this chapter is directly linked to the doxology (Romans 11:33-36). We can only glorify the Lord—we can only want to glorify the Lord— when we understand that we have been saved by the mercies of God.

The word “present” that is used here is was a technical term for a priest’s placing an offering on the altar. Believers are exhorted to perform what is essentially a priestly act of worship. The first thing we are commanded to present to God is our bodies. Because our souls belong to God through salvation, He already has the inner man. But He also wants the outer man, in which the inner man dwells.

Our bodies include our humanness, our humanness incorporates our flesh, and our flesh incorporates our sin, as Romans 6-7 so clearly explain. Our bodies encompass not only our physical being but also the rebellious nature of our mind, emotions, and will. (Romans 7:5).

It is helpful to understand that dualistic Greek philosophy still dominated the Roman world in New Testament times. This pagan ideology considered the spirit, or soul, to be inherently good and the body to be inherently evil. And because the body was deemed worthless and would eventually die anyway, what was done to it or with it did not matter.

For obvious reasons, that view opened the door to every sort of immorality. Tragically, many believers in the early church, who have many counterparts in the church today, found it easy to fall back into the immoral practices of their former lives, justifying their sin by the false and heretical idea that what the body did could not harm the soul and had no spiritual or eternal significance.

Much as in our own day, because immorality was so pervasive, many Christians who did not themselves lead immoral lives became tolerant of sin in fellow believers, thinking it merely was the flesh doing what it naturally did, completely apart from the soul’s influence or responsibility. Yet Paul clearly taught that the body can be controlled by the redeemed soul. He told the sinful Corinthians that the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:11-13).

Scripture makes clear that God created the body as good (Genesis), and that, despite their continuing corruption by sin, the bodies of redeemed souls will also
one day be redeemed and sanctified. Even now, our unredeemed bodies can and should be made slaves to the power of our redeemed souls.

As with our souls, the Lord created our bodies for Himself, and, in this life, He cannot work through us without in some way working through our bodies. If we speak for Him, it must be through our mouths. If we read His Word, it must be with our eyes (or hands for those who are blind). If we hear His Word it must be through our ears. If we go to do His work, we must use our feet, and if we help others in His name, it must be with our hands.

And if we think for Him, it must be with our minds, which now reside in our bodies. There can be no sanctification, no holy living, apart from our bodies. That is why Paul prayed, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

It is because our bodies are yet unredeemed that they must be yielded continually to the Lord. It was also for that reason that Paul warned, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12). Paul then gave a positive admonition similar to the one found in our text Romans 12:1, preceded by its negative counterpart: “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). Under God’s control, our unredeemed bodies can and should become instruments of righteousness.

Paul rhetorically asked the believers at Corinth, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). In other words, our unredeemed bodies are temporarily the home of God! It is because our bodies are still mortal and sinful that, “having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

Our spiritual “citizenship is in heaven,” Paul explained to the Philippians, “from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

We cannot prevent the remnants of sin from persisting in our mortal bodies. But we are able, with the Lord’s power, to keep that sin from ruling our bodies. Since we are given a new, Spirit-indwelt nature through Christ, sin cannot reign in our souls. And it should not reign in our bodies (Romans 8:11). Sin will not reign “if by the Spirit [we] are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13;6:16). (For a complete discussion of Romans 6-8, see the Romans 1-8 volume in this commentary series.)

Paul admonishes us, by God’s mercies, to offer our imperfect but useful bodies to the Lord as a living and holy sacrifice. As noted above, Paul uses the language of the Old Testament ritual offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple, the language of the Levitical priesthood. According to the Law, a Jew would bring his offering of an animal to the priest, who would take it, slay it, and place it on the altar in behalf of the person who brought it.

But the sacrifices required by the Law are no longer of any effect, not even symbolic effect, because, “When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption”. (Hebrews 9:11-12).

Sacrifices of dead animals are no longer acceptable to God. Because the Lamb of God was sacrificed in their place, the redeemed of the Lord are now to offer themselves, all that they are and have, as living sacrifices. The only acceptable worship under the New Covenant is the offering of oneself to God.

From the very beginning, God’s first and most important requirement for acceptable worship has been a faithful and obedient heart. It was because of his faith, not because of his material offering, that “Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). It is because God’s first desire is for a faithful and obedient heart that Samuel rebuked King Saul for not completely destroying the Amalekites and their animals and for allowing the Israelites to sacrifice some of those animals to the Lord at Gilgal. The prophet said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). David, Saul’s successor to the throne, understood that truth. When confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his adultery with Bathsheba, David did not offer an animal sacrifice but rather confessed, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). David offered God his repentant heart as a living sacrifice—apart from outward, visible ceremony—and he was forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13).

A helpful illustration of the difference between a dead and a living sacrifice is the story of Abraham and Isaac. Isaac was the son of promise, the only heir through whom God’s covenant with Abraham could be fulfilled. He was miraculously conceived after Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was far past childbearing age.

It could only be from Isaac that God’s chosen nation, whose citizens would be as numberless as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore (Genesis 15:5;22:17), could descend. But when Isaac was a young man, probably in his late teens, God commanded Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” (Genesis 22:2).

Without question or hesitation, Abraham immediately began to obey. After reaching Moriah and having tied Isaac to the altar, Abraham was ready to plunge the knife into his beloved son’s heart. Had he carried out that sacrifice, Isaac would have been a dead offering, just like the sheep and rams that later would be offered on the Temple altar by the priests of Israel. Abraham would have been a living sacrifice, as it were, saying to God in effect, “I will obey you even if it means that I will live without my son, without my heir, without the hope of your covenant promise being fulfilled.”

But Isaac, the son of promise, would have been a dead sacrifice. Hebrews 11:19 makes clear that Abraham was willing to slay Isaac because he was certain that God could raise him from the dead if necessary to keep His promise. Abraham was willing to commit absolutely everything to God and to trust Him, no matter how great the demand and how devastating the sacrifice, because God would be faithful. God did not require either father or son to carry out the intended sacrifice. Both men already had offered the real sacrifice that God wanted—their willingness to give to Him everything they held dear.

The living sacrifice we are to offer to the Lord who died for us is the willingness to surrender to Him all our hopes, plans, and everything that is precious to us, all that is humanly important to us, all that we find fulfilling. Like Paul, we should in that sense “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), because for us “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). For the sake of his Lord and for the sake of those to whom he ministered, the apostle later testified, “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (Philippians 2:17).

Because Jesus Christ has already made the only dead sacrifice the New Covenant requires—the only sacrifice that has power to save men from eternal death—all that remains for worshipers today is the presentation of themselves as living sacrifices.

The story is told of a Chinese Christian who was moved with compassion when many of his countrymen were taken to work as coolies in South African mines. In order to be able to witness to his fellow Chinese, this prominent man sold himself to the mining company to work as a coolie for five years. He died there, still a slave, but not until he had won more than 200 men to Christ. He was a living sacrifice in the fullest sense.

In the mid-seventeenth century, a somewhat well-known Englishman was captured by Algerian pirates and made a slave. While a slave, he founded a church. When his brother arranged his release, he refused freedom, having vowed to remain a slave until he died in order to continue serving the church he had founded. Today a plaque in an Algerian church bears his name.

David Livingstone, the renowned and noble missionary to Africa, wrote in his journal, People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward of healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought!

It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.

(Livingstone’s Private Journal: 1851-53, ed. I. Schapera [London: Chatto & Windus, 1960], pp. 108, 132)

Like Livingstone, Christians who offer a living sacrifice of themselves usually do not consider it to be a sacrifice. And it is not a sacrifice in the common sense of losing something valuable. The only things we entirely give up for God—to be removed and destroyed—are sin and sinful things, which only bring us injury and death. But when we offer God the living sacrifice of ourselves, He does not destroy what we give Him but refines it and purifies it, not only for His glory but for our present and eternal good.

Our living sacrifice also is to be holy. Hagios (holy) has the literal sense of being set apart for a special purpose. In secular and pagan Greek society the word carried no idea of moral or spiritual purity. The man-made gods were as sinful and degraded as the men who made them, and there simply was no need for a word that represented righteousness. Like the Hebrew scholars who translated the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), Christianity sanctified the term, using it to describe God, godly people, and godly things.

Under the Old Covenant, a sacrificial animal was to be without spot or blemish. That physical purity symbolized the spiritual and moral purity that God required of the offerer himself. Like that worshiper who was to come to God with “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4), the offering of a Christian’s body not only should be a living but also a holy sacrifice.

Through Malachi, the Lord rebuked those who sacrificed animals that were blind and otherwise impaired. “When you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” (Malachi 1:8). Those people were willing to give a second-rate offering to the Lord that they would not think of presenting as a gift or tax payment to a government official. They feared men more than God.

Although we have been counted righteous and are being made righteous because of salvation in Jesus Christ, we are not yet perfected in righteousness. It is therefore the Lord’s purpose for His church to “sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

That was also Paul’s purpose for those to whom he ministered. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy,” he told the Corinthian Christians; “for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Sadly, like those in Malachi’s day, many people today are perfectly willing to give God second best, the leftovers that mean little to them—and mean even less
to Him.

Only a living and holy sacrifice, the giving of ourselves and the giving of our best, is acceptable to God. Only in that way can we give Him our spiritual
service of worship.

Logikos (spiritual) is the term from which we get logic and logical. Our offerings to God are certainly to be spiritual, but that is not what Paul is speaking about at this point. Logikos also can be translated reasonable, as in the King James Version.

The apostle is saying that, in light of “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” and of His “unsearchable … judgments and unfathomable … .ways”; and because “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:33,36), including His immeasurable “mercies” that we already have received (Romans 12:1a), our only reasonable—and by implication, spiritual—service of worship is to present God with all that we are and all that we have.

Service of worship translates the single Greek word latreia, which refers to service of any kind, the context giving it the added meaning of worship. Like paristeômi and hagios (mentioned above), latreia was used in the Greek Old Testament to speak of worshiping God according to the prescribed Levitical ceremonies, and it became part of the priestly, sacrificial language. The priestly service was an integral part of Old Testament worship.

The writer of Hebrews uses latreia to describe the “divine worship” (Hebrews 9:6 NASB), or “service of God” (KJV), per formed by Old Testament priests.

True worship does not consist of elaborate and impressive prayers, intricate liturgy, stained-glass windows, lighted candles, flowing robes, incense, and classical sacred music. It does not require great talent, skill, or leadership ability.

Many of those things can be a part of the outward forms of genuine worship, but they are acceptable to God only if the heart and mind of the worshiper is focused on Him. The only spiritual service of worship that honors and pleases God is the sincere, loving, thoughtful, and heartfelt devotion and praise of His children.

During a conference in which I was preaching on the difference between true and false believers, a man came to me with tears running down his cheeks, lamenting, “I believe I’m a sham Christian.” I replied, “Let me ask you something. What is the deepest desire of your heart? What weighs heaviest on your heart? What occupies your mind and thoughts more than anything else?”

He answered, “My greatest desire is to give all I am and have to Jesus Christ.” I said, “Friend, that is not the desire of a sham Christian. That is the Spirit-prompted desire of a redeemed soul to become a living sacrifice.”

Romans 12:6-8 – Last week we began to consider the seven gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8 which are all in the categories of speaking and serving. The first spiritual gift in this list is prophecy. The gift of prophecy here is the work of God to proclaim God’s Word already written in Scripture. The second spiritual gift is that of service, it comes from the Greek root where we get the words deacon and deaconess or those who serve.

The third spiritual gift is that of teaching. The Believer with this gift has the special ability to interpret and present God’s truth understandably. Exhortation is the fourth gift mentioned. This is the ability to motivate, advise, encourage, comfort, and warn people. The fifth gift spoken of here is that of giving. The Greek word carries the connotation of giving sacrificially of one’s self.

When asked by the multitudes what they should do to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance,” John the Baptist replied, “Let the man who has two tunics share (the same Greek word) with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise (Luke 3:8,11).

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:28 that, whether or not a believer has the gift of giving, he is to have the spirit of generosity that characterizes this gift. Those who give generously are those who give without ostentation like those Yeshua warns of in Matthew 6:2. It is characterized in by the Believers of Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:2-5) who gave generously, believing that sowing bountifully meant reaping bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Romans 12:9-13 – An aspect of our call to offer our bodies as living sacrifice consists of the willingness to place our personal desires, goals and objectives to the will of God by yielding to the Spirit of God that He might be glorified in our lives and not ourselves. Our motivation to live this kind of life is gratitude to God who has given us all things and has also forgiven us of our sins.

While gratitude is a wonderful motivation it is not the sole reason that we act as we do. Another reason is that God commands us to. When we fail to obey His commands there are consequences. The Lord disciplines us when we disobey His Word and ignore His will (Hebrews 12:5-7,11).

The mark of a genuine believer is a desire to live for God rather than self. It is not that our lives will be perfect or that we will never waver in our commitment and obedience, but that the direction of our lives will be god-ward and the desire of our hearts will be to become more and more like Yeshua. A person living that kind of life will find themselves experiencing a life powered not by inward strength but by supernatural strength from God’s Spirit.

This kind of living brings great freedom in that it is no longer under in bondage to sin, but enslaved to the righteous will of God. Through Romans 12:8, Paul has laid out the doctrinal foundation of the justified, sanctified, and dedicated Christian life. In the rest of this letter he focuses on specific ways in which believers are called to live their lives a call to practical, holy living.

Romans 12:9 The greatest command that we have is to love. The Greek word use here for love is agapeô which was rare in Greek literature because it represented a love that included unselfish devotion which was so uncommon in that culture it was even ridiculed and despised as a sign of weakness. But in the Scriptures it is taught as the supreme virtue.

Love focuses on the needs and welfare of the one who is loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs. God is the ultimate definition of love (1 John 4:16). Jesus made it clear that in both the Old and New Testaments the two greatest commandments are:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

Love is more important than any spiritual gift we may have. (1 Corinthians 13:13). The first “fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22) and it is by our love that “all men will know that we are disciples” (John 13:35).

We are told that love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Secondly we are called to hate what is evil. Evil is the direct opposite of holiness and godliness.

Evil is the enemy of God and the enemy of love and we as Believers are called to “Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Psalm 97:10). Psalm 1 counsels us on the importance of avoiding evil and evil men. We are told that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Timothy 6:10).

The thirdly we are told of supernatural living is to cling to what is good this is defined in (Philippians 4:8). We understand what is good when are minds are transformed rather than be conformed to the world.

Romans 12:10-13 We are called to brotherly love this is one of the key ways that the world knows that we really are believers, by the love we have for each other (John 13:35;1 John 3:10,17-19;4:20;5:1). Flowing from that kind of love comes the call to give honor a brother above yourself (Philippians 2:3). It means demonstrating genuine love by not being jealous or envious. Not lagging in zeal and fervor.

This means doing the will of God with enthusiasm (Ecclesiastes 9:10). And Everything we do should be for His glory and not our own otherwise it will rapidly become work in our strength rather than the power and strength of the Lord. This is how we have hope, we know that, if we are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” our “toil is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

We can therefore look forward to one day hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). It is because of that hope that we can persevere in tribulation. Because we have assurance about our ultimate future we are able to persist against any obstacle and endure any suffering (Romans 5:2-5).

In fact it is the trials that cause us to faithful in prayer continually looking to the Lord for His strength, power and wisdom in every situation and circumstance in our lives. Meeting the needs of fellow believers was one of the distinguishing signs of the early church.

In the eyes of the world, we rightfully own certain things, but before the Lord we own nothing. We are stewards of what He has blessed us with. As His stewards we are called to use our resources to contribute to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Messiah. (Galatians 6:10). We are also called to practice hospitality. Literally the phrase in the Greek is, “pursuing the love of strangers.” Hebrews 13:2.

In our text, Paul is speaking to all believers, but he also makes clear that leaders are to set an example by their own hospitality (Titus 1:8). All virtues must be exercised without hypocrisy or self-interest (Luke 14:12-14).

Because inns in New Testament times were scarce, expensive, and often dangerous, families commonly opened their homes to believers who passed through their towns. Our attitude should be like Onesiphorus who demonstrated the kind of hospitality rewarded and noted by God (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Romans 12:14 We are not only called to love the brethren but also to love unbelievers; to bless those who persecute us. The word “bless” in the Greek means to speak well of. Picture how difficult this is when you are verbally or physically attacked: mistreated, insulted, overlooked, cursed, abused, or injured.

What does it mean to bless and to speak well of? To not react against them by speaking harshly, or striking out at them; not trying to hurt them either verbally or physically. On the contrary, we are to seek to find something that is commendable about them and then speak of that (Ephesians 4:31-32).

It means to pray for our persecutors as Jesus said and did (Matthew 5:44;Luke 23:34); Think of the impact when an attitude of love and blessing is demonstrated toward them, and some persecutors are won to Messiah. This is what God is after. It means further to do good to our persecutors (Luke 6:27;35;Romans 12:20;Exodus 23:5;Proverbs 25:21). To truly bless those who persecute us is to treat them as if they were our friends.

Romans 12:15 Remember that worship is from the root word work or serve we are to worship or serve God in our roles as priests but priesthood also is a call to serve men. We are called in that role to rejoice with those that rejoice. This does not mean that we are to participate in the partying of the world.

Far from it, God calls the believer to separation (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). What it means is that we are to rejoice with our neighbors and friends when something good happens to them. We are to join them in their moment of joy at the birth of a new baby, or some promotion or whatever the moment of joy is, we are to rejoice with them.

Sometimes we have a difficult time in rejoicing over another person’s success. God rejoices in the blessings of His people (Psalm 35:27). We are to weep with those that weep. When those we come in contact with are facing some trial or loss, or a season of suffering. No matter what it is that causes the weeping, the Believer is to draw near the person and feel with him.

The noteworthy trait of the believer is empathy, the fact that he is touched by the hurts of others. This too, is a trait of God (Isaiah 63:9;Acts 20:35;Romans 15:1;Galatians 6:2;James 1:27). If we rejoice at someone’s calamity we leave ourselves liable to God’s rebuke (Proverbs 17:5).

Romans 12:16 We are then further called to eliminate bias and favoritism. Three specific instructions are given:

1) The believer is to “be of the same mind” toward others. This refers primarily to our attitude and behavior toward others and their lot in life. We are called to understand the other person to such a degree that we can identify and feel with the person (1 Corinthians 1:10;1 Peter 3:8). How can we demonstrate such love and empathy? The next two points answer the question.

2) The believer is not to be proud but rather to care for the poor and lowly and to give our life in meeting their needs. The believer is not to be above the lowly to neglect, ignore, separate, and criticize them. He is to meet the needs of a desperate world (Micah 6:8;Luke 22:26;James 2:1-4).

3) The believer is not to be conceited. What is it that makes people conceited, that makes them feel above others?

People feel above and better than others because of the clothes we wear or the people we associate with our our education or position and wealth, and a myriad of other things. The list could go on and on, but consider how weak a foundation these provide to life, all of them could disappear or collapse overnight. We are called to walk humbly, knowing that we are just like all other men.

We are of great value, yes, but of no more value than any other man even those who have little of this world’s possessions (Proverbs 3:7; Isaiah 5:21 Galatians 6:3).

Romans 12:17 The command in Scripture “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24;Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy 19:21) related to civil justice, not personal revenge. Its purpose was to prevent the punishment from exceeding the severity of the offense. Two actions are mentioned:

1) We are not to react, to return evil for evil to anyone (Proverbs 20:22;17:13). Reaction will most likely lose the relationship of the person and lose hope of reaching them for Jesus. On the other hand, if the believer returns good for evil, he opens the door for a relationship furthermore reaction is not the way of God.

2) A believer is to demonstrate good behavior in the sight of all men. The expression translated “be careful” in the Greek means to think before acting. The idea is that when someone does evil against the believer, the believer is to think before he acts. Why? So that he can respond in the right way.

Romans 12:18 The believer is to live at peace with all men. By definition, a peaceful relationship cannot be one-sided. Peace is not always possible. There are two qualifications. Some people are troublemakers and have no interest in living at peace with the believer. We are called to work for as much peace as possible. We are not to give up, not as long as there is hope for some degree of peace. Two significant points need to be considered:

1) The cause of conflict must not come from a believer.

What determines whether a believer is to turn the “other cheek” or to defend himself? For example Jesus did not always turn the other cheek (John 18:22-23); neither did Paul (Acts 23:2-3). The governing principle is clear in Romans 12:21.

There are times when an attacker, if allowed to continue in his attack, is encouraged in his evil; If allowed to continue, his evil has the potential to overcome the believer either internally through bitterness and revenge, or externally through domination. In this way a believer is not to sacrifice truth in order to preserve peace. Evil is not to be allowed to overcome truth.

Romans 12:19 The last two characteristics Paul have to do with returning evil for evil. Never take your own revenge we are to leave the matter to God. Quoting from the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 32:35), Paul reminds us that it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (2 Samuel 22:48;Nahum 1:2;Hebrews 10:30). In God’s time, the wrath of God will come (Colossians 3:6).

Any person who follows God is to leave vengeance up to God. Vengeance belongs to God, not to man. The right to judge and to execute vengeance is God’s alone. However, Scripture is clear: God will repay He will execute vengeance. The day of His wrath is coming and it will be inescapable. If a believer takes vengeance he allows evil to conquer him.

Romans 12:20 But merely not returning evil for evil does not fulfill our responsibility. To withhold vengeance is one thing. It requires only doing nothing. But to return good for evil is quite another. The admonition Do not be overcome by evil has two meanings and applications.

First, we must not allow the evil done to us by others overcome and overwhelm us. Second, and even more important, we must not allow ourselves to be overcome by our own evil responses. Our own evil is more harmful to us than is the evil done to us by others.

Where Jesus Walked: A Jewish
Perspective of Israel’s Messiah
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