Christians tend to think they can accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and thereby gain salvation. But they refuse Jesus his place as Lord and Master in their lives. It takes courage to be different. Our natural tendency is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Our young Christians are afraid that if they dare live by their Christian convictions their peers will brand them “religious freak”. Adult Christians are afraid that their business associates will avoid them or that they will lose the goodwill of their neighbours if they do not conform to the world’s standards. As a result, professing Christians are often little different from their unsaved friends.
God has dealt with the problem of our sin. God has made a victorious and an abundant life possible to us. God has assured our glorious destiny of conformity to the image of Christ. God restores us if we stray from his path. Therefore we have an obligation to present or dedicate ourselves to him.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. –Romans 12:1-2
We have been made right with our Maker, so we need to know what difference this makes in our relations with other people, what God expects of us, and how we should apply our new resources to all the situations.
The word “Mercy” denotes that quality in God that moved him to deliver sinners from their state of sin and misery through Christ. Paul views the body as the vehicle that implements the desires and choices of the redeemed spirit. Through the body we serve God. “Holy” is a reminder of the necessity for the Christian, not in terms of rite or ritual but as renouncing the sins of the old life and being committed to a life of obedience to the Lord.
The body is not evil in itself; if it were, God would not ask that it be offered to him. As an instrument, it is capable of expressing either sin or righteousness. If we do the latter, then we give an offering “pleasing to God.” The word “living” is a reminder that spiritual life, received from God in the new birth, is the sacrifice acceptable to him. Christian sacrifice has in view a total life of service to God.
The dedicated life is also the transformed life. We must be continually vigilant lest our original decision to serve God is vitiated or weakened. The threat comes from “this world”, whose ways and thoughts can so easily impinge on the child of God. Believers have been delivered from this present evil age, which has Satan for its god. The Christians’ heavenly calling includes residence in this world, among sinful people, where they must show forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. They are in the world for witness, not for conformity.
Believers are not viewed as ignorant of God’s will, but as needing to avoid blurring its outline by failure to renew the mind continually. Dedication leads to discernment and discernment to delight in God’s will.
Christian Service – One Body:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. –Romans 12:3-5
The will of God is identical for all believers in respect to holiness of life and completeness of dedication. But the will of God for each one may be considerably diverse. Paul must remind his readers of his authority to expound this subject even though he is unknown to most of them and their gifts are unknown to him. This reminder is intended to convey the message that the authority and teaching ability of Paul can be traced to divine grace and it is the same grace that has bestowed spiritual gifts on them.
Paul grants that every believer has some spiritual gift. But his primary goal is to drive home the necessity using their gifts with utmost humility. God did not have to spread his gifts around so lavishly. Paul recognizes the danger that the possession of a particular gift can easily result in pride.
Is there some gauge that will enable a person to estimate his or her position with respect to spiritual gifts? Paul answers in the affirmative, pointing to “the measure of faith.” One’s faith should provide the basis for a true estimation of oneself, since it reveals that each believer is dependent on the saving mercy of God. That, in turn, ought to induce humility.
The various parts of the body need each other. None can work independently. Furthermore, each member profits from what the other members contribute to the whole.
Christian Service – Different Gifts:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Seven gifts are mentioned. These gifts are not talents in the usual sense, but to those functions made possible by a specific enablement of the Holy Spirit granted to believers (of course, such a gift may build on one’s natural gift). The variety in gifts should be understood from the standpoint of the needs of the Christian community, which are many, as well as from the desirability of giving every believer a share in ministry.
> Paul does not define “prophesying” here, but from the earlier references the nature of that gift is primarily the communication of revealed truth that both convicts and builds up the hearers. A prophet, in other words, is God’s spokesman.
> “Serving” is a broad term. But primarily it can be compared to the gift of “those able to help others”.
> The gift of “teaching” was to give help in the area of Christian living rather than formal instruction in doctrine; even though it must be granted that the latter is needed as a foundation for the former.
> “Encouraging” has a variety of meanings; only the context can indicate whether to render it “encouragement” or “exhortation” or “comfort.” Assuredly some encouragement could be included, but exhortation is the dominant meaning here.
> “Contributing to the needs of others” has to do with spontaneous private benevolence. Giving reluctantly or for the sake of recognition has no value in the sight of God.
> “Leadership” means to stand before others. This gift should be carried out diligently. Even in church life some people are tempted to enjoy the office rather than use it as an avenue for service.
> “Showing mercy” does not pertain to the area of forgiveness or sparing judgment. Rather, it has to do with ministering to the sick and ministering to the poor. This is to be done in a cheerful, spontaneous manner that convey blessing rather than provoke self-pity.
The standards and pattern according to which God wants his children to live are far beyond the reach of any human being. Only one with supernatural power can attain them all. But God provides that power for his children his indwelling Holy Spirit as they present themselves as living sacrifices.