In chapter twelve, Paul finally changes the course of the discussion. In the previous eleven chapters, the apostle analyzed the many different angles of the Jewish/Gentile controversy. He reiterated the point time and time again that the Jews were no longer God's chosen people, and that the Gentiles had been granted repentance unto life. Here in the twelfth chapter, Paul turns his attention to other issues regarding the church.
Humility and service are two concepts that we find in chapter twelve.
Paul begins the chapter by saying, "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. 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" (vv. 1-2). In the Old Testament, the Jews made physical sacrifices, but in this New Testament dispensation, we are to be living sacrifices; that is, our whole lives are to be sacrificed for the cause of Christ. This is spiritual language, of course. To put it another way, "I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Is Christ living in you? Are you living for yourself or for Christ?
I love the way Paul says that this is our "reasonable service" in Romans 12:1. God is not asking too much of us. In light of all that God has done for us, it is reasonable for us to give our lives to Him! But really, when you think about it, what God has asked of us is NOT hard. After all, "His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
In verse two, the apostle urges us to NOT be conformed to this world. Christians today try too hard to fit in with the world, when we ought to be doing the very opposite. Are you willing to stand out, to be different? Are you willing to rebel against worldly fads if those fads contradict righteous and holy living?
Beginning in the third verse, Paul begins to discuss the body of Christ, and he focuses primarily on the different functions that we all have as members of the body, or church. God has dealt to each Christian a "measure of faith" in the sense that we all have different gifts or abilities that are to be used within the church (vv. 3 --> vv.6). Different gifts are listed here: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and showing mercy. While miraculous gifts have ceased and vanished away (see 1 Cor. 13:8-11), the fact remains that we all have different abilities and talents. Some are natural leaders. Others are gifted teachers. Some excel in the area of service. Some are older while others are younger, and there are benefits to both. Some have more money than others and can contribute in that way. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. Each one of us is to actively use our gift(s) to promote edification within the body of Christ.
Having said that, I'm afraid that too many Christians are apathetic in this area. They are pew-warmers, but they contribute very little to the growth of the church. We see our brethren on Sundays and Wednesdays, but we have no desire to spend time with our brethren outside of services. God designed the church to aid us in our spiritual growth, not just to be something we mark off of our to-do list each week.
In the remaining part of the chapter, we find a series of random admonitions regarding the spirit and attitude of Christians. Let's summarize these:
- Let love be without hypocrisy (vv. 9).
- Be kind towards one another (vv. 10).
- Serve the Lord with zeal and sincerity (vv. 11-12).
- Do all that you can to help others; open your home to others (vv. 13).
- Love and bless your enemies; leave vengeance to God (vv. 14, 17-21).
- Be humble in your view of one another (vv. 16).
You'll notice here that God demands more of us that faithful church attendance and morality. He demands our hearts. He wants us to love Him and to love others. Attitude is a critical element to faith. How are you doing in this regard?