Bible Commentaries
Romans 12

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


In this Chapter, the Apostle shews some of the blessed Effects, which, through Grace, arise out of a Justified, and Sanctified State, before God. And he very sweetly proves thereby, the Work of Grace upon the Soul.

Verses 1-5

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (3) For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (4) For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: (5) So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.

In order to a right apprehension of the Apostle's meaning, we must carefully keep in remembrance, all that went before. Paul begins at this Chapter to shew, what gracious consequences must follow, in the life of a child of God, brought into the blessed enjoyment, of being justified freely before God, in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. He had in the foregoing Chapters, very fully displayed the electing love of God the Father, the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the regenerating work of God the Spirit, upon the souls of God's people. Having therefore shewn, both the ground-work, and superstructure of the Church's mercies, and traced them up to their fountain-head, in the Covenant-love and faithfulness of Jehovah, in his three-fold character of Persons; he now calls upon the Church, with all the earnestness and affection of a brother, to live by faith, in the daily, hourly enjoyment of those glorious privileges. I beseech you therefore brethren, (saith he,) by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

It becomes a point of infinite importance to the peace and comfort of every child of God, to have a right apprehension of what is here meant. My views, I confess, differ from all that I have heard or read upon the subject. I therefore, very affectionately, entreat the Reader to look up to the Almighty Author of his holy word, who guided his servant the Apostle's pen, that the Lord the Spirit may be his teacher in the perusal of it. And my soul is looking also to the same matchless Instructor, that both the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary may together be taught of God.

I will first beg to observe, what appears to me cannot be the sense and meaning of the passage, according to true scriptural grounds of faith, before I venture to offer, what appears to me to be, the real meaning of it. And when I have presented both before the Reader, I shall very humbly leave him to form, under the Lord, his own conclusions.

And here I begin with observing, that the living sacrifice, which the Apostle calls upon justified believers in Christ to present unto God, cannot possibly mean anything of their own; for Christ is the One only sacrifice before God, and by that one offering of himself once offered, he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified, Heb_10:10; Heb_10:14 . Neither can the holiness the Apostle speaks of, in which they are to present their bodies, mean any holiness of their own; for there is none holy but the Lord; and the Church hath no holiness but in Christ and from Christ, 1 Samuel 2:2 ; Isaiah 54:17 . And Paul could not be supposed to mean the holiness of the creature; for he had told the Church but just before, in this Epistle, that his body was a body of sin and death, Romans 7:14-24 . He could not mean, therefore, that the Church was to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and holy, unto the Lord. And equally foreign to the Apostle's meaning must it have been, to suppose, that the Church was to look for acceptance in themselves before God, in any righteousness of their own; for Paul himself taught, under the Holy Ghost, that it is to the praise of the glory of God's grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, Ephesians 1:6 . So that upon none of those grounds, could Paul be supposed to recommend the Church to present their bodies before God.

Having shewn, and I hope upon true scriptural authority, what cannot be supposed to be the sense of the Apostle's words, I will now venture, and upon the same authority, to bring before the Reader what appears to me to be his meaning.

Let it be again remembered, that the Apostle had before fully established the doctrine of the Church being elected, called, justified, and sanctified by God in Christ. He begins an exhortation from these premises. And that little word, therefore, as an illative particle, he useth, as deducing all he had to say, and all he entreated from them, in consequence thereof. / beseech you therefore brethren, brethren in Christ, and as he elsewhere calls them, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, partakers of Christ, interested from an union with Christ, in all Christ's communicable holiness, grace, and glory. See Hebrews 3:14 ; John 15:22 .

Next, I pray the Reader to observe the Apostle's expression, when be saith, I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of Goo, What mercies did the Apostle mean? All are mercies we have from God. But I humbly conceive Paul alluded to what the Prophet taught the Church, and which Paul himself afterwards explained, the sure mercies of David. If the Reader before he prosecutes the subject further, would consult the scriptures on this point, I venture to believe, that he will be inclined to conclude with me, that such God the Holy Ghost referred to in this passage. (Compare Isaiah 55:3 with Acts 13:32-39 .) And, if this be supposed, Paul's exhortation will amount to this, that he desired the Church by the mercies of God in Christ, to come to God in Christ, and make this the one, and the only foundation in coming.

Now then we arrive at the main subject of enquiry, concerning this presentation of their bodies, which is to be, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, and (saith Paul) your reasonable service. Holy scripture reveals no sacrifice but one. And this indeed is, a living sacrifice; for Jesus ever liveth to make it effectual, as a life-giving principle to his people. Having opened a new and living way by his blood, he ever liveth to keep it open by his intercession. And God the Holy Ghost by putting forth the efficacy of it, unto the persons of the redeemed, makes it truly living in their hearts and consciences. In this new and living way we are commanded to come, and very blessed are the consequences promised to our coming; when our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Compare Hebrews 10:19-22 with Ezekiel 36:25 . (I need not tell the Reader, that the waters here spoken of by the Prophet, means the blood of Christ; for the blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24 . And the Holy Ghost is never said to be water sprinkled, or put upon us, but a well of water in us, John 4:14 .)

If, therefore, the Apostle had in view, (as it should seem from all that he had said before in this Epistle he had,) Christ the living sacrifice, in whom, and by whom, the Church alone is justified; then in that living sacrifice and Person of her Lord, she was to present her whole body. And this, indeed, is a living and life-giving sacrifice, truly holy, acceptable unto God, and our reasonable service; for it is most reasonable that the services of spiritual worshippers, acting under the Spirit's constant influences, should thus present themselves continually before the Lord. But unless the words of the Apostle be considered in this sense, it is impossible to conceive, that Paul should direct the Church to do, what he himself could never perform, to present his body a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, when he groaned daily under a body of sin and death. Yea, he had before said to the Church, if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness, Romans 8:10 . And how shall a body dead because of sin, present itself a living sacrifice?

Reader! The Lord give you a right understanding in all things, 2 Timothy 2:7 . And, if under divine teaching, your views and mine correspond, we shall both see and through grace be enabled to follow, what the Apostle so affectionately recommends, when justified in the Person and work of Christ, by those mercies of God, to present our bodies indeed as well as our souls, daily, and hourly, upon the Altar of that living sacrifice, which is holy, acceptable unto God, and our reasonable service. For Christ is our New Testament Altar, (neither is there any other,) our sacrifice, and the sacrificer. And, as the whole person of every child of God, both soul and body, is united to Christ, both are included in this presentation. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:17 . And the Lord Jesus himself saith, speaking of the persons of his people. That they all may he one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, John 17:21 . And, while we know that he abideth in us by the spirit which he hath given us, we know also, that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in us, 1 John 3:24 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19 . And, as it is by consequence of this union in our souls with Christ as regeneration, we are made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; and at the separation by death of soul and body, the soul joins the society of the spirits of just mm made perfect, until the morning of the resurrection; so, from the same union with Christ, the body at death sleeps in Jesus, until the last day, and equally one with Christ in body as well as soul; the body will be raised by virtue of it, to live with Christ both body and soul forever. The Holy Ghost bears sweet testimony to this most blessed truth in his word. For if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you, Romans 8:11 . See 2 Peter 1:4 .

I do not think it necessary, after having so largely stated what appears to me to be the Apostle's meaning of the daily presentation of the child of God in the first verse of this chapter, to offer anything more on what follows, in relation to the effects which arise out of it. No one who is a child of God, and who daily lives in acts of faith and grace upon the Person of Christ and his living sacrifice, will be conformed to this world. A conformity to this world, and its vanities and customs, is wholly the reverse of a life of grace. For it is expressly said, that God in his foreknowledge of his children the Church, did predestinate them to be conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:20 . So that the very predestination of the children is to this conformity to Christ, that Christ may be both the head to his body, and the first-born and brother among many brethren. And where this is the case, all such will be transformed, by the daily renewings of God the Holy Ghost. And, as each regenerated soul is a member of Christ's mystical body; so, through grace, each will be led into the suited office of that membership, being manifestly a part of the one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.

Verses 6-18

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; (7) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; (8) Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. (9) Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (10) Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; (11) Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; (12) Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (13) Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (14) Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. (15) Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (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. (17) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (18) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Here are gracious directions, which arise out of a life of grace in the heart, and such as are suited to the whole members of Christ's mystical body; both to the ministers and people. And what is necessary to be observed, they were not given for the Church in that age only, but had respect to the Church of God in all ages. I mention this the rather, because it might be supposed from what the Apostle saith about prophecy, that as the gift of prophecy, or fortelling future events, hath long since ceased, as being no longer necessary, this exhortation is done away. But the prophecy the Apostle seems to have had in view, when writing to the Church in common, as in this instance, had no reference whatever to that sense of prophesying which means predictions. Prophesying is sometimes used for preaching, see Matthew 7:22 . And the Apostle recommended the Church at Corinth, to follow after charity, and to desire spiritual gifts, but father that they might prophesy. By which may be supposed he meant preaching, if the Lord should call them to it, 1 Corinthians 14:1 .

In like manner, when the Apostle in this exhortation, recommends the Church not to be slothful in business; it cannot be supposed that he meant worldly business, and the concerns of this life. For, although it would be at all times reproachful for men to neglect the laudable and honest concerns of themselves and families, for the maintenance in the station of life where the Lord in his providence hath placed them; yet, for the most part, men are too much alive, and even the Lord's people also, to the pursuits of things temporal, to need exhortations on this point to worldly cares, it is plain that Paul, when he said, not slothful in business, meant spiritual business, for he immediately added, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. And this became a sweet and gracious recommendation of the Apostle, and a proof of his feeling in himself what he had said to others just before, of being kindly affectioned. But had Paul been living in the present hour of the Church, what would he have said to that cold indifference which marks the age in the lukewarm, Laodicean spirit, so painful to the real follower of the Lord Jesus, and so highly reproved by Christ himself! Revelation 3:15-16 .

There is not only a great loveliness in the Christian graces which the Apostle hath enumerated in those verses, but also a beautiful order in the manner in which he hath marked them down. Rejoicing in hope, is very suitably placed before the being patient in tribulation. And the rejoicing with the happy, before the weeping with them that Weep. For until the child of God is himself established in the grace of hope, he cannot know how to minister to others the consolation. Neither can one mingle the tear of grace with the mourner, unless he himself hath had his own tears mingled with the spiced wine of the pomegranate. I refer the Reader to my Commentary on these points for the right apprehension, according to my view, of those sweet and gracious employments, Romans 5:1-5 ; Matthew 5:1-12 .

Verses 19-21

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (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. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

What a very lovely view is here given of the Apostle's mind, in the recommendation he hath here set forth to the Church, in our dealings with our enemies! And how tenderly hath the Apostle enjoined it, as if conscious of the difficulty of the thing itself, in opening what he had to say, with dearly beloved! Reader! was there ever a recommendation like this, discoverable, but in the holy religion of the holy Lord Jesus? I pray the Reader to turn to the words of Jesus, and he will perceive from whom Paul learnt the sweet lesson, which he here recommends to others, Matthew 4:25 and Commentary. And what a beautiful figure is added by the Apostle of heaping coals of fire on the adversary's head. Not to hurt, neither to expose him to the anger of the Lord; but to meltdown his angry passions, and to win him over to the cause of God and Christ, Oh! the blessedness of that grace of the Lord, which, when in lively exercise in the heart, can, and will, enable a poor sinner thus to feel for another poor sinner; and in the contemplation of the blessed Jesus, to recompence good for evil, and to overcome evil with good!

Verse 21


Precious Lord Jesus! in the unceasing view of thee, and thy living sacrifice, through the mercies of Covenant-love, oh! may I be enabled to come daily, hourly, to the throne of grace, and present myself in thy holiness, for acceptance before God, as the reasonably service of thy redeemed. And do thou Lord, grant me grace, to be daily, hourly, weaning from a world, from which I am momently departing, that I may no longer be conformed to it, but transformed, by the renewing of my mind, in the unceasing renewings of the Holy Ghost. Yes! thou dear Lord! through thee I shall prove my membership in Christ, and with his Church, in the exercise of all those sweet graces thy servant Apostle hath enumerated. And do thou, my honored Lord, so help me on by thy gracious, unceasing manifestations, through the whole of my walk and conversation while here below, that I may daily feel my need of thee, and daily act every grace upon thee, and by thee. Surely, Lord! grace is kept alive by grace received from my Lord. And, if my Lord will give my poor soul out of his rich fulness, grace for grace, then will his grace be manifested in all my life and conversation. Living upon Christ, walking with Christ, and receiving from Christ, then will all the fruits and effects of his grace be holiness, and Christ my portion forever.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.