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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Romans 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21

Lecture 10 - Romans Chapter 12

The Walk of the Christian in Relation to his Fellow-Believers, and to Men of the World

Chapter 12

We come now to consider the practical bearing of all this precious truth, which the Spirit of God has been unfolding before our astonished eyes. In this last part of the epistle we learn what the effect should be upon the believer who has laid hold, by faith, of the truth of the gospel. We may divide this third part, roughly, as follows: Sub-division 1, Chapters 12:1-15:7, God’s good and acceptable and perfect will unfolded; Subdivision 2, Chapter Romans 15:8-33, which divides into two parts the conclusion of the matter and his own service; Sub-division 3, Chapter Romans 16:1-24, Salutations and Warning. Verses Romans 16:25-27 form an appendix to the entire epistle.

The first two verses of Chapter 12 are the introduction to this entire practical part of the letter, based upon the revelation given in Chapters 1-8, for we may very properly consider Chapters 9-11 as a great parenthesis, occasioned because of the necessity of clearing the mind of the believing Jew in regard to the ways of God.

The opening words necessarily link with the closing part of Chapter 8: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren.” The “therefore” refers clearly to the magnificent summing up of Christian standing and eternal blessing in the eighth chapter. Because you are in Christ free from all condemnation; because you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; because you are sons by adoption, because you are eternally linked up with Christ; because you are the elect of God, predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son; because you are beyond all possibility of condemnation, since Christ has died and been raised again and sits at God’s right hand; because no charge can ever be laid against the believer that God will hear; because there is no separation from the love of God for those who are in Christ Jesus-“I beseech you to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your intelligent service!” Christ gave Himself for us-a sacrifice in death. Like the first-born in Egypt, redeemed by the blood of the lamb, you are now to be devoted to Him. As the Levites were afterwards presented to God to live sacrificial lives in place of the first-born, so each believer is called upon to recognize the Lord’s claims upon him, and to present, or yield, his body as a living sacrifice, set apart and acceptable unto God, because of the price that has been paid for his redemption. See Numbers 8:11-21, and Daniel 3:28. How much do we really know of this experimentally? We who once yielded our members to the service of sin and Satan, are now called upon to yield ourselves wholly unto God as those who are alive from the dead. This will involve sacrifice all the way, the denial of self, and the constant recognition of the divine claims upon us.

The second verse makes clearer the meaning involved: “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.”

The cross of Christ has come in between the believer and the world. To conform himself to the ways of this present evil age is to be unfaithful to the One whom the world has rejected but whom we have owned as Lord and Saviour. “I would give the world to have your experience,” said a young woman on one occasion to a devoted Christian lady. “My dear,” was the reply, “that’s exactly what it cost me. I gave the world for it.” The loyal heart exclaims with gladness, not grudgingly,

“Take the world, but give me Jesus;

All earth’s joys are but in name;

But His love abideth ever,

Through eternal years the same.”

Moved by the “expulsive power of a new affection,” it becomes easy for the soul to say with Paul: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”

We are not to suppose that non-conformity to the world necessarily involves awkwardness of behavior, peculiarity of dress, or boorishness in manner. But the entire world system is summed up in three terms: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life, or the ostentation of living. Therefore non-conformity to the world implies holding the body and its appetites in subjection to the Spirit of God, subjecting the imagination to the mind of Christ, and walking in lowliness of spirit through a scene where self-confidence and boasting are the order of the day.

In 2Corinthians Chapter 3 we read that, “We all, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the unveiled face of the Lord, are changed (or transformed) into the same image by the Spirit of the Lord “ (literal rendering).

And so here we are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; that is, as the mind is occupied with Christ and the affections set on things above, we become like Him who has won our hearts for Himself; and walking in loving obedience, we prove the blessedness of the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Through the rest of the chapter we have God’s good will in regard to our relations, particularly to fellow-believers; in chapter 13, the will of God for the believer in relation to human government and society in general; in chapter 14 and the first seven verses of chapter 15, the will of God in regard to the believer’s relation to those who are weak in the faith.

We note, then, that the believer is here looked upon as a member of the Body of Christ, and this while speaking of wondrous privilege, nevertheless involves grave responsibility. It might be well to point out here that the Body of Christ is looked at in two very distinct aspects in the epistles. In Ephesians and Colossians we have the Body in its dispensational aspect, embracing all believers from Pentecost to the return of the Lord for His Church. Looked at in this way, Christ alone is the Head, and all are united to Him, whether as to their actual condition they be numbered among the living or the dead. But in 1Corinthians Chapter 12, and here in Romans Chapter 12, the Body is looked upon as something manifested on the earth, and therefore the apostle speaks of eyes, and ears, etc., as in the body here below. The absurd deduction has been drawn from this that the Church of the book of Acts and of the early epistles of Paul is not at all the same thing as the Church of the prison epistles. This view is pure assumption, based upon a far-fetched dispensationalism that destroys a sense of Christian responsibility to a very large degree wherever it is fully embraced. In Corinthians, and in Romans, too, the Body of Christ is viewed on earth; and inasmuch as there are those set in the Church who speak and act for the Head in heaven, it is quite in keeping to use the figures of the eyes, ears, and so on. “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it,” could not be said of saints in heaven. Their sufferings are forever over; but as long as there is a suffering saint on earth, every other member of the Body of Christ shares with him in his affliction.

I remember well, as a boy, gazing with rapt admiration upon a regiment of Highlanders as they marched through the streets of my native city, Toronto, Canada, and I was thrilled when I was told that that regiment had fought in the battle of Waterloo. It was quite a disappointment to me afterwards to learn that not one man of them all had been in that great battle. I was gazing on the regiment as then constituted, and the battle of Waterloo had taken place many years before; but it was the same regiment, new recruits taking the places constantly of those who passed away. So it is with the Body of Christ on earth. Believers die and depart to be with Christ and join the choir invisible above; others take their places here below, and thus the Church continues from century to century.

Now as a member of Christ’s Body I need to realize that I am not to act independently of other members; nor am I to think of myself as exalted above the rest, but to think soberly as one to whom God has dealt a measure of faith, as He also has to every other Christian. As there are many members in the human body, and no two members have the same office, so believers, though many, together constitute one Body in Christ, and are all members, one of another. But our gifts differ, and each one is to use whatever gifts may be given to him according to the grace that God supplies. If he have the gift of prophecy, he is to speak according to the proportion of faith; if his place be characteristically that of service, let him serve in subjection to the Lord; if he be a teacher, let him teach in lowly grace; if an exhorter, let him seek to stir up his brethren, but in the love of Christ; if he be one to whom God has entrusted earthly treasure, that he may give generously to relieve the need of his brethren or to further the work of the gospel, let him distribute with simplicity, not ostentatiously as drawing attention to himself, or his gifts; if he be fitted to rule in the assembly of God let him be a diligent pastor, or shepherd of the flock; if it be given him to show mercy to the needy, or undeserving, let it be with cheerfulness.

Above all things, let love be genuine, without pretence or hypocrisy, abhorring that which is evil but cleaving to that which is good.

How much we need the simple exhortations of verse Romans 12:10 : “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”

Elsewhere he writes: “Be ye kind one to another.” How rare a virtue true kindness is! How often pretended zeal for truth, or for Church position, dries up the milk of human kindness! And yet this is one of the truest Christian virtues. Dr. Griffith Thomas used to tell of an old Scotch pastor who frequently said to his congregation: “Remember, if you are not very kind, you are not very spiritual.” And yet how often people imagine that there is something even incongruous between spirituality and kindness! How differently would Christians speak of one another and act toward one another if these admonitions were but kept in view.

The first part of the eleventh verse is better translated, “Not remiss in zeal.” It is not to be taken as a mere exhortation to careful business methods, but whatever one has to do should be done zealously, with spiritual fervor, as serving the Lord.

It is hardly necessary to take up each verse in detail. The exhortations are too plain to be misunderstood. In verse Romans 12:16, however, it may be as well to point out that the apostle is not really inculcating condescension, as though of higher beings to those of less worth, but what he really says is: “Mind not high things, but go along with the lowly.” The last five verses possibly have the world in view rather than fellow-Christians, and yet it is unhappily true that even in all dealings with fellow-believers the same admonitions are needed. It is not always possible to live peaceably, even with fellow-saints, let alone with men of the world. Therefore the word, “If possible, as much lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Some have had difficulty over the meaning of the expression, “Give place unto wrath,” in verse Romans 12:19. What I understand the apostle to say is this: “Do not attempt to avenge yourselves, but leave room for the judgment of God. If wrath must be meted out, let Him do it, not yourself,” for it it written: “Vengeance is Mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Savonarola said, “A Christian’s life consists in doing good and suffering evil.” It is not for him to take matters into his own hands, but rather to act upon verses Romans 12:20-21, in simple confidence that God will not suffer any trial to come upon him through others which will not eventually work out for good.

This is not natural, but it is possible to the man who walks in the Spirit. A young nobleman complained to Francis of Assissi of a thief. “The rascal,” he cried, “has stolen my boots.” “Run after him quickly,” exclaimed Francis, “and give him your socks.” This was the spirit of the Lord Jesus “who when He was reviled, reviled not again,” and for hatred ever gave love.

No one can fail to see how like are these exhortations to the teaching of our blessed Lord, in the so-called Sermon on the Mount. Yet the difference is immense. For there His words were the acid test of discipleship while waiting for the coming of the kingdom which is yet to be displayed. But here we have exhortation to walk in accord with the new nature which we possess as children of God. It is not in order that we “may be the children of our Father in heaven.” It is the manifestation of the Spirit’s work in those who belong to the new creation.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/romans-12.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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