ROMANS 1 2-13
"1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
"1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
Historical Context & Message
The concept of giving God our bodies as a living sacrifice encompasses all of our being - body, mind, soul and spirit. "God wants you, not just your work. You may do all kinds of work for God, but never give Him your self." (1) He did not give His Son, Jesus, so that He could have little drones of workers; He gave us His Son so that He might have us - relationship. Paul is urging his listeners to make the decision to give all of themselves to God for His purposes. "The thinking of our age says that our body must tell the will what to do; but the Bible says that our will must bring the body as a living sacrifice to God. The body is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master." (2) Our society too often relies upon the body to provide direction, whether it is regarding food, sexuality, commitment, etc. If we don't feel like doing something, then we don't. Paul is telling us that we are to submit ourselves wholly to God and His service at all times, even at the times when we don't feel like it. If we take away our devotion when we feel like it, then that isn't true submission to God. The thinking of our society as a whole is warped and backwards. First, we choose to commit ourselves to God, then our body will follow suit - not the other way around - which is why Paul then speaks of renewing our minds.
We must get our thinking right if we are going to live a holy life, pleasing to God. Our thinking can't be based on our feelings or on obligations. God wants us, and He wants us to want Him. One day our feelings may lead us away from God and to false religions. Or our obligations may lead us to work in the church, but never commit our lives to Christ. We must be led by something greater than these; we must be led by the Spirit into submission to Christ. How? By renewing our minds. By not thinking as the world thinks. The word transformed is the Greek word metamorphoo, where we get our word metamorphosis. It means to change into another form, to transfigure, to reproduce the same image (of God, pertaining to Christians). "The same word is used to describe Jesus in His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). The only other place Paul uses this word for transformed is in 2 Corinthians 3:18: 'But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.' For Paul, this transformation and renewing of our minds takes place as we behold the face of God, spending time in His glory." (3) You know the old saying, "you are who you surround yourself with?" Well, the same is true of our relationship with Jesus. The more we spend time in His presence and in His Word, the more we will begin to be transformed into His likeness and think the way He thinks. Renewing our minds doesn't just happen when we become Christians. It is a life-long process on the part of the believer, and it requires persistent action and resolve. We must choose to be renewed in our thinking and in our hearts. In verse 3, the word testing is another word for prove. When our lives are transformed by Christ and our minds are renewed by the Spirit, we become a living proof of God's good and perfect will. God's will is higher than to what we usually equate it. God's will is for us to live in the Spirit. When we do this we operate out of the Spirit, and therefore make decisions and choices based on what is holy and pleasing to God. This is how we remain in God's will - His will is submission to His Spirit. When we have submitted to His Spirit and walk accordingly, we don't have to wonder if this is God's will or that is God's will, making decisions like we're using a magic 8 ball. We can assuredly know the decisions we make are within God's will if we walk and live out of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit keeps us in check, so that anything outside of God's will makes alarms go off in our spirit-man.
In verses 4-8 of chapter 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts. The word for gifts is the Greek word charisma, meaning a gift of divine grace, a favor one receives without any merit on his own. So often, we place our spiritual gifts on a pedestal above the God who gave them to us. We can be so easily fooled into thinking we deserve these gifts, when in fact, they are gifts of grace. Grace is the unmerited (undeserving) favor of God. We did nothing to acquire these gifts, but they were bestowed on us by the giver of all good things (James 1:17).
Paul then discusses the attributes of living in the Spirit in verses 9-21. We can often use this as a checklist for righteousness, attempting to emulate these attributes on our own and taking God out of the equation altogether. Paul isn't saying do these things and you'll be golden, that would be contrary to everything he has written in the previous 11 chapters. Paul is saying this is what it looks like to be a Christ-follower and this can only be accomplished through living in the Spirit. In other words, we can't do this on our own; we need God and His Spirit filling us and guiding us to live holy lives pleasing to Him.
As a politically-charged society, we so often discount authority if the candidate for whom we voted doesn't make it into office. The passage today deals with governing authorities, and more specifically, with submission to those governing authorities. Daniel 2:21 says, "[God] changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings." In other words, God is completely and totally sovereign. Nothing that happens on this earth takes Him by surprise. He works His will and His way in the midst of our chaotic world. So, if there is a leader in command, God allowed them to be in that position. Paul is calling our attention to this fact to help us in our submission to their authority. Because I know that God is over all things and all people, I know I can submit to the governing authority even if I don't agree with it because God's got it all under His control. We are to respect, honor and submit to our authority figures, knowing that ultimately God is the final authority.
In verses 6-14 of chapter 13, we are given commands on righteous living. Now, this may seem out of place with the first half of the chapter dealing with submission to authority, but it isn't out of place at all. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus Himself instructs us to submit to our authorities. This isn't a suggestion, but a command. Submitting to our governing authorities is in conjunction with obeying the other commands referenced these verses. Paul is calling us to wake up and get right with God by obeying His commands. In verse 11, the word sleep in Greek is the word "hypnos," where we get our word hypnosis. It means spiritual lethargy. The fulfillment of end time prophecy could happen at any moment. When God says it's time, it's time. "Because we know the danger of the times and we anticipate the soon return of Jesus, we should be all the more energetic and committed to a right walk with God instead of a sleep-walk with God." (1) God calls us to righteous and holy living.
We are to not let the devil have a foothold in our lives; so, let us put on Jesus Christ. “Putting on Christ is a strong and vivid metaphor. It means more than put on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, signifying rather, 'Let Jesus Christ Himself be the armor that you wear.'” (2) When we seek Jesus wholeheartedly, He works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:12b-13). He is our protection from the enemy and our guard against delighting in the desires of the flesh. Jesus is a transforming power and when we walk intimately with Him and seek to know Him more, He changes us from the inside out - molding us to be more like Him. He empowers us to overcome the pull of sin. We can't overcome the flesh - it's too much and its hold too strong; but, Jesus has already overcome the flesh. He came, He conquered and He gave us victory through Him. We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-37).
How do we live in the Spirit? We live in constant communion with God. As Christians, we are in a relationship with Jesus. How great would your marriage be if you only saw and talked to each other once a week? Not very great. A relationship requires constant communication with the other person. No, this doesn't mean constantly talking, for you introverts out there. We can live in constant communication with God through reading His Word, through prayer, through listening to His voice, through being still in His presence, through worship, through Christian fellowship, through meditating on His Word, through church, and even through our work. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us, so He's always with us. When we dwell in His presence throughout our day and seek Him continually, we live in His Spirit. I challenge you to bring Christ into everything you do, every conversation you have and every thought you think. Praise Him, seek Him and talk with Him throughout your day. Saturate your heart and mind with His Word. Only then will our minds be renewed. Only then will our image be transformed into His likeness. Only then will our spiritual gifts be effective. Only then will our lives be examples of love, grace and holiness to others. And, only then will we be living fully in the Spirit.
We are set apart, God's elect. We are called to holiness. Let us fiercely pursue God. Let us cling to Him and seek to know Him more. Let us put Him on daily so that we will overcome the desires of the flesh. Let us fix our eyes on Him and live as He lived. This world isn't our home and we need to stop acting like it is.
1) What does sacrificial living look like? Explain.
2) Where are you in your walk with the Lord? Do you spend time with Him often in prayer and worship? Are you taking time from your busy schedule and from your serving to fill up with Him and grow in your relationship with Him?
3) Talk about a thought pattern you believe that is contrary to God's Word and will for you. Read Philippians 4:8 for a complete list of what our thoughts should be centered on. As a group, encourage one another by offering the truth of scripture to each person for their specific situation and thought pattern. Look up scriptures together and make a plan to keep each other accountable to choose to believe scripture over the lies.
Father God, thank you for your Holy Spirit, dwelling within me. I come to you now and ask that you renew my mind through your Spirit. Give me the desire to seek you continually and remain in you as you remain in me (John 15:4). Show me how to live in your Spirit and operate out of it. Let me not fall into pride or self-righteousness. Keep me humble. Give me a renewed resolve to live a life holy and pleasing to you. I choose to submit my will to yours, following Christ's example in Luke 22:42. I trust you to guide me, Lord, knowing that as I seek you you will show me which way to go (Proverbs 3:5-6). In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!