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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 12

 

 

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Verses 1-8

The believer's walk through this world

" translation="">Romans 12:1-8

Paul, having taught in the preceding chapters the great doctrines of redemption by grace through faith, now turns to the results of redemption – the life of grace and godliness, or the believer's walk, conduct and conversation in this present world. Our attitude and duties to God, to the church of God and to all men may be summed up in one word – love! He loved us (1 John 4:16) and we love him (1 John 4:19) and we love one another (1 John 4:20-21). If we do not understand this and are not motivated by love, we fail before we even begin our discussion of duties and works (Galatians 5:13-14).

Romans 12:1. ‘I appeal to you, brethren, by the mercies of God.’ Whatever we are called upon to do, say, be or give is not by way of threats, fear or even bargaining but because of the mercy of God to us (1 John 4:11; Ephesians 4:32; Luke 6:35-36).

‘That you present your bodies a living sacrifice.’ Paul is talking about just what you think he is talking about – our human faculties. Let our tongues be employed in praising God. Let our feet take us to worship, to the assembly, to the door of others to minister. Let our arms be used to embrace and lift the needy. The believer, as a priest, offers himself to God as a living sacrifice. ‘Here am I, Lord, send me’ – to preach to the lost, to care for the sick, to support the missionary, to cheer the faint, to comfort the weary – but somehow use me to accomplish your purpose! Is that not our reasonable service, since we are not our own, but bought by his blood?

Romans 12:2. The word ‘world’ means the nature, character, opinions, goals and attitude of unregenerate men. The worldly man seeks the praise of men; the believer seeks the praise of God. The worldling thinks only of himself; the believer considers others. The worldling cares for the body; the believer cares for the soul. The worldling looks only upon that which is seen; the believer looks on that which is unseen. The worldling cares for what he shall eat, drink and wear; the believer seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

This spiritual attitude can only be accomplished by a renewing or regenerating work of God in the mind and soul. It is contrary to the nature of flesh (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 2:12-13). As old leaves drop off a tree to make room for the new ones, so the renewing work of the Spirit in our minds and hearts pushes out pride, envy, malice and covetousness. In this way we both experience and manifest what is pleasing and honoring to God (Ephesians 5:9-10).

Romans 12:3. Paul exhorts us to cultivate a crowning grace – humility! (Jeremiah 9:23-24; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.) We need to remember that our gifts, knowledge, ability and even faith are the gifts of God (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Romans 12:4-5. The apostle illustrates the union of believers by the human body. The human body is one, but it has many members; and each member is placed there in proportion to the others for the good of the whole body. The eye sees, but it does not hear. The ear hears, but it does not breathe. So we are one body in Christ and are in a union together, having gifts and ability differing but serving the same purpose – the good of the body and the glory of Christ.

Romans 12:6-8. Several of these gifts are mentioned, not all by any means!

Prophecy – At this period prophecy is the proper understanding of and preaching of the Scriptures. This is done according to God-given ability.

Ministry – This is service, such as deacons and others who minister to the needs and welfare of others. There is no need to restrict this to official office, but it applies to all who are devoted to the needs of the body of Christ.

Teaching – Fitness to teach others the word is the gift of God; and if one possesses the gift, it should be used diligently.

Exhortation – I suppose this would fall mainly to the pastor or elders, but it is certainly the duty of all believers to give a word of encouragement, warning and comfort (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Giving – This does not mean that some are to give and others not, but some are blessed with the ability to give more, and it should be done liberally, without fanfare and with simplicity.

Ruling – This is the place of leadership and responsibility, such as pastor, elders, deacons, husbands, fathers, taking our responsibility seriously and ruling in love.

Mercy – This is a gift all possess and it involves kindness, forgiveness, a good word and understanding. We should not be reluctant to exercise this grace, but do it cheerfully!


Verses 9-21

Our attitude toward others

" translation="">Romans 12:9-21

This chapter seems to fall into three divisions: Romans 12:1-2, our consecration and dedication to God; Romans 12:3-8, our consecration and dedication to duties and gifts in the body of Christ; and Romans 12:9-21, our general attitude and behavior towards another.

Romans 12:9. ‘Let your love be sincere,’ without pretension and hypocrisy. Our love to one another, like our love to Christ, must be genuine and sincere and from the heart - not in word only but in deed and truth (1 John 4:7-8; 1 John 4:19-20).

‘Hate what is evil.’ Believers sin, but they do not love sin either in principle or deed, nor do they excuse or justify it in themselves or in others (Psalms 51:3-4). The word ‘cleave’ means to ‘be glued to’ or to ‘keep company with.’ Walk with God and with those who know God. Hold to the principles of godliness, associate with people and go to places which contribute to your spiritual growth (Read in Amplified Version 15:33).

Romans 12:10 The believer will in truth love all men. There is no room in a regenerate heart for hate, grudges and bigotry, but there is a special love for those who are called brethren. The word here is ‘love one another as members of the same family, giving precedence and honour to one another’ (Philippians 2:3-4). In making others happy, we find happiness. In giving, we receive. In promoting another's welfare and honour, we are honored. A man's character is not always revealed in what others say about him, but in what he says privately about others.

Romans 12:11. There are two opinions here; both are true.

1. Make the Lord's glory your rule in everything. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. If you are engaged in secular work for wages, or if you serve the public, work as if the Lord Jesus is your employer (Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:22-23).

2. Let not the worship and business of the Lord degenerate into a cold formalism. Let our religious duties (such as study, prayer, witnessing, singing, giving and preaching) be always motivated by fervent zeal and interest.

Romans 12:12. ‘Rejoicing in the hope’ we have of eternal glory in Christ (1 John 3:1-3). Someone said, ‘Rejoicing in hope is placed between serving the Lord and being patient under trial because nothing tends to motivate a believer to serve God and to endure trials with patience like the hope of being like Christ.’

Let us learn to expect trials and bear them without murmuring against God, who sends them (for our good) and without being bitter against men, who are but his instruments (John 16:33). Prayer is needful at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 5:19-20).

Romans 12:13. When another believer is in need, the church will respond to that need. We are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and see that the family of God is provided for. Our homes are to be hotels of hospitality open to all believers (Matthew 25:34-40).

Romans 12:14. Many Christians, through the years, have had to bear real persecution. We know little of this, but we do have opposition and unkind feelings for the sake of the gospel. We are to pray for our enemies as our Lord did, ‘Father, forgive them,’ and as Stephen, ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’

Romans 12:15-16. When brethren are of one heart, they are able to identify with one another in joy and sorrow. A strong love produces a strong interest and concern for one another.

‘Be of the same mind one toward another.’ John Brown said, ‘Be united in your affections, sentiments and goals.’ It is difficult to love every Christian with the same degree of love, for all are not equally lovable and amiable, but we can love with the same kind of affection.

‘Mind not high things.’ Be not haughty and snobbish, but readily adjust yourself to people of every station and give yourself to humble tasks (Jeremiah 45:5; Matthew 23:8-11). We ought to cultivate habitually a deep sense of our own unworthiness and ignorance.

Romans 12:17-18. Private revenge is contrary to our gospel. We are not to repay evil words for evil words or evil deeds for evil deeds. Providing things honest in the sight of all men has to do with our business dealings, our clean conversation, our conduct in public and our faithfulness to family, civic and business duties.

‘If possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ We are not to disturb others nor let them disturb us. The first is in our power – the second is not. The chief offender in this warfare is the tongue!

v.19, 21. Here is the cause of most unrest: people taking on themselves to avenge themselves. To get even or to strike back is our nature. ‘Give place to wrath,’ yield to it, do not resist it, keep out of its way and let it spend itself. Do not brood over misunderstandings or keep them warm. Let them die. God will someday settle all accounts!

Your anger will never win the heart of a foe, but your kindness may reach his heart and conscience.

Do not let evil men and evil thoughts dictate your course of action. Do not let hatred and hard feelings get the better of your Christian principles. Do not let evil revenge displace the divine light of forgiveness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-12.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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