In the Old Testament Scripture when a Hebrew slave was purchased he served his master for 6 years, and then was free to go out as a free man. But in some cases a slave out of love for his master would voluntarily become a slave for life. He will live the rest of his life in service to his master in love because the master had been good to him. The slave has no will of his own but live to obey his master.
The apostle Paul considered himself a slave of this sort in the book of Romans but not to a human master but to Christ Himself (Romans 1:1). Jesus Christ had freed Paul from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and had given him a future in heaven so Paul voluntarily became a slave of Christ for life and dedicated his total person to God's service.
In Romans chapter 12:1-2 Paul deals with the believers relationship with God by exhorting the Roman believers to become a bond-slave for life considering the compassion and mercy God has shown them. I would like for us to look at Romans 12:1-2 to learn of the proper response to God's mercy towards us, from our justification through faith in Jesus Christ (1:18-5:21), to providing the power for our sanctification (6-8:17), and to him giving us the assurance of our future glorification (8:18-39) when we will be delivered from the presence and effects of sin forever. God's gracious action towards us should encourage a response from us. Paul suggests the response:
I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1
The word translated "urge" is the present active indicative of the verb parakaleo meaning to urge strongly, to exhort, to appeal or to encourage. Here Paul is encouraging strongly the Roman believers to do something. The word parakaleo in this context was used among the Greeks of exhorting troops who were about to go into battle.
The word "therefore" refers to the results of the entire argument of the previous chapters (1-11). The phrase "by the mercies of God" is worth looking at in some detail seeing that it reveals what should control our wills. The word "by" is the Greek preposition dia with the genative case (showing possession) informing the reader that the mercies of God are the power by which this exhortation should take possession of ones will.
The word translated "mercies" is the Greek Oiktirmos meaning to be concerned about another's unfortunate state or misery. These mercies are references to the previous chapters where God through Christ was merciful and compassionate to us in delivering us from our sin and misery. He saw our unsaved condition and our misery and moved with compassion to do something about our sin problem through the work of His Son. He delivered us and withheld from us sinners what we deserved because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul is encouraging the believers to do something in response to the mercies of God of Chapters 1-11.
The Mercies of God
Paul gave an exposition of the Gospel in the previous chapters of Romans. Jesus Christ is the subject of the Gospel or good news, and the theme of the Gospel was the righteousness of God, a righteousness that men needed in order to be saved from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the presence of sin forever. All men are condemned by a Holy God being sinners by nature (Romans 1:18, Romans 3:23).
Jesus Christ satisfied the righteous standard of God through His life, and the Justice of God through His death on the cross. Righteousness demands righteousness, and justice demands that whatever is not righteous to be condemned. Because of God's character men were condemned, but Christ who knew no sin (2 Corinth. 5:21) became sin for us and paid our penalty so we could go free and receive as a gift the righteousness of God by faith (3:24-26).
Justification is God declaring righteous those who put faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross instead of their own works. Justification is a legal term and means "to acquit" and is an act of God. He acquits the believer and declares him righteous. It is not through any principle of law that they are justified (3:21-26). Justification is a grace gift from God.
Grace is the Greek Charis , and the means for Chara (Joy). Grace means pure unrecompensed kindness and favor. It is kindness that sinners do not deserve, but because of Christ work on the cross God gives a status of justification to the believer in Jesus Christ. It should give the believer great joy, and thanksgiving to know they are Justified by faith alone in Christ alone. They are no longer the object of God's wrath.
God used Christ to purchase our deliverance from the penalty of sin. Jesus Christ was the payment for our sins (Luke 23:46). It was at the cross that Jesus Christ satisfied the righteousness, and justice of God the Father, and removed sins (5:25). Christ was the sacrifice of atonement that satisfied God and removed sins. God forgave Old Testament believers sins because Jesus died on the cross once and for all. Animal sacrifices of Judaism only removed sins temporarily, but through Jesus Christ God dealt with sin once and for all (3:26). He died for all but only believers in Jesus Christ receive justification.
The results of being Justified by faith in addition to past Justification are 1) Peace with God 2) Access to God's Grace 3) Joy in suffering (v.3) 4) The Indwelling Holy Spirit (v.5) 5) Deliverance from future wrath or condemnation (v.9b) 6) Present reconciliation with God (5:10-11).
In chapter 6:1-14 Paul explained the believers relationship to sin, by explaining the implications of our union with Christ. Believers have been set free at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ from the dominating effects of the sin-nature, but in order to have freedom in practice from the domination of sin in our lives and become slaves to sin again believers need to "know", "Reckon", "Present", and "Obey". We are to "know" certain facts about our union with Christ. That is, sin no longer possess the dominating power over us that it has over the unbeliever (V. 3-10). Two, we are to "Reckon" (believe) these facts to be true of us personally (v.11). Three, we are to "present" ourselves to God in dedication as His slaves to perform righteousness (vv. 12-14). Four, We are to "obey" God and not be slaves to the sin-nature (v. 15-23).
In chapter 7:1-6 Paul explains that believers are no longer under the obligation to keep the Mosaic law because of our union with Christ. He then warns believers that they can become slaves to the flesh if they put themselves under the law, and the indwelling sin-nature makes it impossible to keep the law (7:7-14). Jesus Christ has made the provision of the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables the believer in the sanctification process 7:13-24. The believer doesn't have to live in defeat anymore. He has access to the power of the Holy Spirit (Chap. 8).
Paul in Chapter 8 bring out that though he failed in Chapter 7 there is still no condemnation having already being justified. He didn't lose his salvation. The Holy Spirit, now in Him, will enable Paul to do what he couldn't do under the law, live a righteous lifestyle.
Paul explains the benefits of sanctification made available through the presence and power of God's Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. God fulfills the Law's requirements ("requirement") in us by His Spirit, who indwells and empowers us. However, this is not automatic simply because He indwells us. He fulfills them if and as we walk by the Spirit, rather than walking "according to the flesh." Walking by the Spirit means walking in submission to and dependence on the Spirit (cf. Gal.5:16). Walking "according to the flesh" means behaving as the flesh dictates, and allowing our sinful nature to govern our lives. There are two lifestyles here, walking after the Spirit, and walking after the flesh. The unbeliever walks after the flesh and the believer after the Spirit. The flesh dominate the unbeliever but not totally the believer having the Spirit. Paul also brought out that Believers are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (8:17).
The final aspect of the believer's salvation is our future glorification, in which God our father will deliver us from the presence and the effects of sin forever when we receive our resurrection bodies (8:23), and be conformed perfectly to the image of His Son. God uses everything now including suffering to bring us into conformity to the image of His Son (8:28-30) .
God will not lose one believer no matter who and what is against us but will bring all to glorification. The believer's salvation is completely secure in God's hands. God will carry out His plan of salvation perfectly. No one and nothing can stand in God's way in bring us into glory as believers in Jesus Christ. In this life we as believers will suffer much affliction (John 16:33). None of these things can remove us from Christ love, but is meant to conform us to Christ image (Romans 8:28-29). In all these things believers instead of being separated from Christ's love we are more than conquerors (8:37).
Paul then deals with the remnant concept in (9:1-29). God not only will fulfill His promises to believers but to true Israel as well. True Israel is those who believe.
Paul deals with Israel stumbling in (9:30-33). He then explain the reason for that stumbling in 10:1-4. The majority of the Jews rejected Christ and God's grace offer though they had zeal for God. There is a faith righteousness and a works righteousness (10:4-6). The Jews tried to gain righteousness on the basis of works and not realizing God's provided righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Since Israel rejected this righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ, God turned to the Gentiles but have not withheld salvation from the Jews.
Paul brought out that there is a remnant in Israel chosen by grace as it was in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10). God hardened the rest who would not believe. He will provoke them to jealousy. Did God reject His people? By no means Paul says! The purpose for the stumbling of the Jews was to offer salvation to the Gentiles, and to make Israel envious (Rom. 11:11-22; Deut. 32:21). This turning to Gentiles may save some of the Jews and those who believe will be part of the remnant according to God's grace. Gentiles did not replace Israel as heirs of the promises God made to Israel. There have been a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in.
Israel in whole will be saved from tribulation at the end of the 7 years of tribulation. God's gift and calling of Israel as His chosen people is irrevocable though there is a partial hardening in the church age. God's plan of salvation has always included all and all who have been shown mercy are to give glory and praise to Him.
Our Response to the mercies of God
..... present your bodies a sacrifice, living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Believers are encouraged by Paul in response to the compassion and mercies of God to "present" their bodies a living and holy sacrifice. The word translated "present" is the aorist infinitive active of the Greek verb paristemi meaning to present as presenting a sacrifice, placing it beside for a purpose. The believers are encouraged to present their bodies as a thusia meaning offering, sacrifice to God.
This sacrifice to God, their bodies, is to be a living and holy sacrifice. The word "bodies" is a reference to the whole person. Living sacrifice stands in contrast to the dead sacrifices which were killed under the Old Testament sacrificial system and refers to a constant dedication of the whole person. All the sacrifices was giving up on the alter (Lev. 1). The offering is to be "holy" from the Greek word hagios meaning set apart from profane things or daily use and dedicated to the service of God. Believers are to set apart their bodies in holiness as an offering for the service of God in view of His mercy toward them. This sacrifice of self is well pleasing or acceptable to God. We at times give God what we would like for him to have but here God through Paul reveals what He wants from us. He desire dedication of the whole person in service to Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the example of self sacrifice in service to God. Jesus Christ allowed himself to be offered up as a sacrifice (John 6:38). this was the will of the Father for His incarnation and He voluntarily gave Himself up. Have you made that dedication of yourself to the service of God?
And not be conformed to this world, but be you transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
The second response to the mercies of God is here in verse 2. The believer in Jesus Christ is not to let the world mold them after it's pattern. The word translated conformed is the present imperative passive of the verb suschematizo meaning to mold after something. It refers to the external conformity to something. The verb indicates the adoption or imitation of a received mold of conduct. The passive means the subject is receiving the action.
Whenever the present imperative is used with the negative "not" it indicates the discontinuation of an action in progress or that action is not to be continually done. Paul commands the believers to "not allow yourselves to be molded any longer to this world". The world here is the Greek word aion meaning age. Paul is making reference to the present evil age. Living in conformity to the present evil age which seeks to exclude God from life is to be put aside by believers in Jesus Christ.
The present evil age seeks everyday to mold the believers lifestyle in conformity to its habit patterns that leaves God out. Do not let yourselves be molded! Resist the peer pressure!
In contrast to allowing yourself to be molded by the present evil age Paul says, "but be you transformed by the renewing of the mind".
The word here translated into english transformed is the present imperative passive of the Greek verb metamorphoo meaning to change inwardly in character or be changed (see 2 Cor. 3:18). We get our English word "metamorphosis" from this Greek word, meaning a total change from inside out. The word renewing is the Greek ana-kai-nosis meaning "renewal". The key to this change is the renewing of the nous translated "mind" . The mind is the battle ground, and the control center of our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions. The phase by the renewing of the mind explains how the transformation takes place inside the believer, and works itself out.
The transformation to which we as believers are exhorted is not mere external change but a change which results from a changed heart or mind. The heart throughout Scripture is a reference to the mind of a person (see 1:28; Eph. 4:17,23 and Col. 2:18). So goes our thoughts, so goes our character and actions. We will act like the rest of the world if we think like the rest of the word. We renew our minds by reading, meditating on, and memorizing Scripture. We don't change ourselves inside out but the Lord does through His Word. As we as believers in Jesus Christ continue to renew our minds by the input of God's Word, our lifestyle keeps on being changed or transformed.
It is the goal of the Father to make us more like Christ but we must think like Christ. When we think like Christ we begin to approve, desire, and promote God's good, acceptable, and perfect will. As our minds are renewed we lay aside our own wills for that which is the will of Him who loved us and saved us. In closing, please know that the only way to ascertain, do, and enjoy God's will for our lives we must allow ourselves to be changed inside first by the renewing of our minds by means of the Word of God. Romans 12:1-2 are extremely important for us as Christians as our responsiblity to God is our most important responsibility. Submitting to the Lordship of God in our lives is what the Christian life is all about. It only takes faith for salvation, but to be a disciple in a Biblical sense it takes obedience. To maintain our commitment we must continue to renew our minds.
Keithian L. Starling
"We are and become what dominate our thoughts"