This is part 4 in our look at Chapter 12 and what we’ve seen thus far in the first 5 verses is our opportunity to present ourselves as a living sacrifice – not a sacrifice from the flesh’s production, but a sacrifice of submission to the Spirit of Life Himself. It is in this that we prove the perfect and good and acceptable Will of God because the Spirit of Life will transform our thinking so that the direction of our thoughts is always true north – towards Him. But, we also saw how this living sacrifice concept isn’t just something we keep to ourselves, but indeed impacts the collective body of believers, known as the church, the Body of Christ. Even though we are all members of His body, individually, yet, we, as Paul says, are members one of another. It is in light of this, that Paul is going to take some time over the next few chapters explaining how this oneness–this unity–is to impact our interactions and existence with one another.
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 12:7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
We finished part 3 (click here to review) by demonstrating that all members of the body are necessary for the body to function as God intended. There are not members that are more important than others. Furthermore, no one petitioned God for their function, for Paul told the Corinthians that God has placed every member of the body as it pleased Him. No one campaigned and won a vote with God as to where they were to function. However, it is therefore incumbent upon the believer to recognize the gifts he has been given of God in order to optimally fulfill his function in the body.
Paul says in verse 6 that gifts differ, but not according to what we demand of God, but according to the grace that God has given us. Whether these gifts are of prophesy (professing truth/preaching), then to exercise this gift according to faith. Preachers and preaching are not the means by which one person gets to set the direction for the rest of the body. The message of truth, being Christ Himself, sets the direction. Those who preach that message are simply illuminating truth to the body and the body therefore responds. The purpose of this gift is not self-aggrandizement, but is to champion and march faith forward.
Some may have the gift of ministry and Paul says to be patient with it. There is a tendency of believers to rush into ministry “opportunities” because of a self-produced feeling of obligation to the cause. In other words, if I’m not doing anything “for God” right now, then something is wrong. No, not so! For those who are ministering, sometimes you’ll have to be patient. It is a novel concept, but we shouldn’t be preempting the Spirit’s leadership (which, invariably makes us the leader). Not only should we be patient in waiting for ministry so we can recognize where the Spirit is leading us, but we should likewise be patient IN ministry. People are still people, even professing Christians. There are needs of small impact and those of large impact. There are needs that can be satisfied in a moment of time and there are needs that seem to transcend the years as they pass. Nonetheless, patience in ministry is necessary in order to remain stable and have your eyes open to witness all the good that germinates from ministry, despite how trying it can be.
Paul says that those that teach or exhort to do the same. It is easy for those who have learned a few things to want to run out and start teaching and exhorting, but waiting on teaching and exhortation that one would receive personally will ultimately equip you to return the same. In verse 8, Paul says to let those who are prone to give, to give with simplicity. The word simplicity comes from a word that means “singleness” or “without pretense.” Whether you are prone to give or not, any giving we do as believers should always be with singleness of heart. Giving should be an expression of humility and grace and not a means to self-promote or to in-debt your fellow believer. Giving should never be done out of the intention of keeping score, so as to benefit you at some time in the future. Giving is graciously emptying yourself for the benefit of the one who has none. This doesn’t just involve money, by the way, but of anything that is within our power to give out, whether material or immaterial (like time and effort).
The ruler is to rule with diligence. The ruler doesn’t sit and absorb himself with his title, for it isn’t a title at all. Rulership is a function that is fulfilled by leadership and a leadership that is diligent in their craft – not slothful or careless, but direct and precise in their dealings. The ruler understand his function is to be mindful of those whom he rules over. He is selfless, but at the same time, he recognizes his function is merely one part of the body, for true rulership is the Head, which is Christ.
Those who are prone to show mercy, Paul says to do so cheerfully. This is kind of odd because often we show mercy out of “well, I’m a Christian, so I guess I have to” type mentality. Yet, Paul says mercy is to be shown cheerfully – why? Because everyone of us are full of cheer when we think of the mercy that God has shown us–and even more so when we understand His mercy was poured out of His own doing and nothing we did earned it – it was “graced” to us.
Titus 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Paul says that as members of the body, our love for one another should be without dissimulation – it shouldn’t be kept under wraps or in secret, but should be open. Love here is our purposeful choice to provide for one another. We shouldn’t be ashamed to do so and shouldn’t try to hide it. This isn’t to say that we do things to be seen, supposing to bring status upon ourselves, but it is to say that as a body of believers, we should seek to love one another openly. In so doing, we can avoid that which is evil and cleave unto that which is good. The word “evil” comes from a word that carries the idea of that which harasses by means of labor. We might think of this as Monday mornings. We should avoid that which causes pain and burdens upon our fellow believers and rather cleave ourselves unto that which is purposeful and good – that which is useful to the body. We love one another by providing that which is good to one another and not providing that which is evil.
While it may seem obvious at this point, Paul still goes on to describe this a bit further in verse 10. We are to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love and to prefer one another in honor. How often do we honor one another? Sadly, many believers are bent on tearing down others in order to make themselves sound more credible. But, I remind you that the scribes did the very same thing and yet it was said of Christ,
Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 7:29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
This theme of preferring one another is common in Paul’s writings – probably because it is vital for our understanding. Note these few examples,
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Philippians 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
The function we all have, regardless of gift given to us, is that we are to prefer one another in honor.
Paul goes on fleshing this out,
Romans 12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
For the most part, this is pretty self-explanatory, however, there are a few things I want to draw attention to. Verse 13 mentioned distributing to the necessity of the saints. This goes along with verses 9 and 10 that our preferring of one another would necessitate we be mindful of our fellow saints’ necessities. The body of Christ is to be aware of one other’s needs and supply to meet them therefore. It isn’t for a committee of members to determine what need is worth meeting and what is worth tabling for the time being. Love is to be without dissimulation remember – to be open and our giving should be the same. When a need presents itself, the body is to come together to meet it, without fail.
Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
There is much in these two verses. It is very easy for the flesh to do what it can to defend its honor. To that end, we seem to be wired to seek vengeance at every turn, yet Paul says we are not to recompense (pay) to not man evil for evil. The believer is to, in the face of evil received unto himself, to provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it is therefore possible, as much as within our control, it is our duty to live peaceably with all men. Imagine if we took this verse seriously how it would impact our view of civics and politics? In fact, we are going to get into the civics question in chapter 13. I think we’ll see that there is a bit different mindset that believers should have than what we witness by the so-called “religious right” in the United States. We’ll see more of this in chapter 13. Suffice it to say at this point that our purpose isn’t to be the arm of God’s justice to each other, nor to mankind.
Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 12:20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Providing things honest in the sight of all men is the motive for how we interact with even those who would be deemed our enemies. When writing to Timothy, Paul describes how praying for those in authority serves a central purpose for the believer:
1Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2:2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
The believer’s goal is a peaceable life defined by godliness and honesty, it is not ransacking society for the sake of “standing up for God.” I might suggest that God needs no defense for with the words of His mouth, He could render all that is to nothing. We do not stand up for God as if we are marching on the streets, demanding injustices are rectified. We stand up for God in that our lives are categorized by godliness and honesty, by our quiet and peaceable. In other words, if we want to plant a flag in the ground, we do so by the life we live, not by the pots we stir. Our stand for the Lord is a humble stance of faith, not a rowdy litany of civic demands. Let this resonate – this will be key to our understanding as we move into chapter 13.
Is Paul suggesting we are to be pacifists? Is Paul suggesting a non-aggression policy? Is Paul saying we don’t even that the right to defend ourselves?
What is Paul saying?
Our story continues…