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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 12

 

 

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Verse 1

B. THE ETHICAL DEDUCTION: and PERSONAL CONCLUSION.

1. ETHICAL DEDUCTION, Romans 12:1 to Romans 15:14.

I. THE ACT OF ENTIRE SELF-SURRENDERING FAITH IS THE GROUNDING FOR ALL CHRISTIAN HOLINESS OF HEART AND LIFE, 1, 2.

1. Therefore—As the grand deduction from the great doctrine of justification and sanctification by perfect faith taught in the last eleven chapters, I beseech you, brethren, consecrate yourselves by full faith unto God’s perfect will. (Note on Romans 2:6; Romans 10:10.) Thus this ethical section becomes a full and beautiful expansion of chapter 6, in which the apostle denies that the doctrine of faith is conducive to sin, and shows theoretically that it is the powerful incentive to holiness. That production of holiness he now deduces from that faith.

By the mercies of God—As revealed through the way of faith.

Bodies—In spiritual parallelism with the body of the sacrificial victim. Yet not only is there parallelism, but there is contrast. The victim’s body is a dead body; the Christian’s a living, active body. The sacrifice of the victim was a mere animal service; that of the Christian is a rational one. And though both were alike holy and acceptable, yet there is an immeasurably higher gradation of the holy and acceptable in the Christian just because his is a rational service.


Verse 2

2. And—By the power of this complete surrendering faith.

Conformed— Is external, while transformed is internal. Full effective faith reforms us from the image of the world, and conforms to the model of the divine will. And when that is completed in the glorified man he is renewed in the divine likeness.

To this world—The word for world here, αιων, signifies not the physical frame of the globe, (for which κοσμος is the more proper term,) but the living world or age of man. The nonconformity here does not consist of that cheap nonconformity which consists of a peculiar fashion of coat or bonnet. Christianity does not prescribe a certain fashion or costume, or a special grammar. Conformity to our age in things involving no sin or moral depravation is right. It is a waste of moral strength where there is so much real sin and ruin in the world to expend our efforts on incidental trifles. And it was a terribly heathen world in which these Romans lived and the apostle wrote. Christianity had not softened and shaded the world to its own likeness. Hence the external non-conformity of that age meant a wider contrast than is possible now between the Christian and his more immediate surrounding world. Yet in the receding background our present age darkens into a darkness almost as deep as heathenism itself. The age still largely lies in wickedness.

Transformed… renewing… mind—The apostle strikes deeply. True perfected faith renews the mind, and changes it from the world’s fashion to the model of God’s will.

Prove—That is, may test or ascertain by a full, rich actual experience. The will of God here is God’s wish or requirement from us. And the terms good, acceptable, and perfect are not, as in our translation, adjectives qualifying will, but adjective nouns in apposition with it. The real meaning, then, is, Ye may prove what God’s requirement of us is; namely, the good, the acceptable, and the perfect. Faith, therefore, is our self-commitment to God, and to all goodness, acceptability, and perfection.


Verse 3

II. THE CYCLE OF CHRISTIAN DUTIES, SPRINGING FROM THIS FAITH.

1. Duties as to the unity of the Church are the following two, Romans 12:3-16 :

1. A Tempered Filling each one’s Official or Charismatic Place in the Church Unity, Romans 12:3-8.

3. I say—The apostle’s frequent phrase of apostolic authority in this epistle.

Through the grace—Of inspired apostleship, the highest position, both official and charismatic, in the young Church.

Every man—Official or unofficial. He considers the official first, and the both classes together in 9-21.

More highly—To the peace and unity of every Church nothing is more hostile than the over self-esteem by which individuals become arrogant, assuming, and contentions for personal opinions and rank. The special charisms or gifts of the apostolic age did not secure the very possessors of them from these disturbing qualities. Hence the apostle’s striking comparison of even the charismatic Church to a living body where every limb spontaneously and contentedly performs its own part for the corporate interest. The apostle’s play upon the Greek words φρονειν and σωφρονειν can perhaps be no better rendered into English than by Alford, as follows: “Not to be high minded above that which he ought to be minded, but to be so minded as to be sober minded.” Doubtless the unique word methods of Paul were adopted for the purpose of arresting the attention and impressing the memory.

Measure of faith—The measure of endowing and qualifying faith.


Verse 4

4. One body—The same effective image of the Church as a body is filly expanded into particulars in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. The point illustrated here is the quiet and due performance of his appropriate duty by each and every member in his place.


Verse 5

5. One body in the faith and atoning mercy of Christ.

One of another— Each belonged not only to the whole, but each to the other; since the good order or disorder of one limb affects every other limb. We have here a sight of the organic arrangements of the Roman Church as it existed before a later providential expediency had crystallized it into permanent form, and before the apostle had ever overseen it. The official and charismatic are so blended that while there are unity, and form, and regular cooperation, yet the polity is spontaneous and spiritual, rather than governmental.


Verse 6

6. Gifts—Charisms or supernatural endowments; sometimes added to and heightening particular natural endowments. The possessors of the gifts who are here mentioned might be divided into those of utterance and those of action. To the former class belong prophets, teachers, and exhorters; to the latter ministers, (servitors, stewards,) distributers, (almoners,) compassionaters. (Note on Romans 12:8.)

Prophecy—Primarily, the inspired prediction of future events; secondly, the inspired utterance of any divine truth; thirdly, the living and powerful preaching of truth contained in God’s inspired word. In fact all Bible truth, being originally inspired and taking hold of the eternal future, is prophecy; and every true preacher is in a true sense a prophet. The New Testament prophet blended and exercised by turn, as grace was given him, these various gifts.

Proportion of faith—Conceded to each one.


Verse 7

7. Ministry—The Greek term from which deacon and deaconship are derived. (See note on Acts 6:1.) The office, though not well defined, seems to include the performance of the secular and manual needs of the Church, though the individual was often endowed for higher functions and performed them.

Teacheth—As a catechist or expositor of Old Testament truths, or of the history and teachings of Jesus. (Luke 1:4.) The Sunday-school teacher of the present day fulfils very much the same duty.

And there is, we think, very good reason to suppose that Sunday was the day selected for much of the performance of the duty.


Verse 8

8. Exhorteth—As the teacher explained facts and truths for the memory, so the exhorter, on the same grade below the prophet, was the emotional stirrer of the heart. Undoubtedly the prophet, and even above him the apostle, could and often did both teach and exhort, (1 Timothy 6:2; Titus 2:15.) Nor was there any official boundary line preventing the teacher or exhorter, if the divine charism moved him, from rising into the prophet, but never into the proper apostle. (See note on Luke 1:2.)

GivethDistributeth, that is, the charities of the Church.

Ruleth—Or presides, whether as a permanent official or as chosen chairman for any particular occasion.

Showeth mercy—Compassion or benefaction to any case of distress.

All the good-doings thus far mentioned contribute to the united activity of the Church; but they do not specify so many officers by appointment, the whole moving by the spontaneity of the Spirit, rather than by a constituted polity.


Verse 9

9. Love be without dissimulation—Literally, unhypocritical. Let it be in the reality, in opposition to its non-existence; and let it be pure from any factitious display or even pretence.


Verses 9-16

2. Common mutual affections, Romans 12:9-16.

In this paragraph the qualities required are really within the sphere of the Christian Church, as promoting the common unity and edification.


Verse 11

11. Business—Literally, zeal. The word does not apply to secular employments, but to Christian earnestness.

Lord—For κυριω, Lord, a well supported reading is καιρω, occasion or opportunity.


Verse 12

12. In, or in regard to, hope, be rejoicing; in tribulation, patient; in prayer, persistent.


Verse 16

16. Same mind—Same spirit or common feeling.

High things—Literally: Not the lofty things, thinking, but to the humble things, condescending.

Conceits—Thereby becoming opinionated and contentious.


Verse 17

17. Provide—Premeditate. Be careful to present your Christian character before the world as to win its moral respect.

Honest—Rather, fair, honourable. Study to make Christianity appear honourable in your character.


Verses 17-21

2. Individual churchly spirit toward those without, Romans 12:17-21.

Each in his place manifesting the spirit of love by withholding all hostile tempers, a common unity of innocence and peace will be attained. The precepts of the paragraph are mostly negative or prohibitory.


Verse 18

18. In you—So far as in your power. It may be impossible, from the actions of others; but let it not be your fault that there is not perfect peace.


Verse 19

19. Give place unto wrath—We have in our language a similar idiom: Give a wide berth to it, so that you may keep it at a distance and have nothing to do with it.


Verse 20

20. Heap coals of fire—Doing him good for evil is the true Christian man’s vengeance; it destroys your enemy by making him repent of his malignity and become a better man. It is a very likely way not to kill him, but to kill the enmity in him.


Verse 21

21. Overcome evil with good—And so you will not only become a true Christian avenger, but a true Christian conqueror. It is wonderful how often love is wiser than wisdom or cunning; disarming its foes and winning its way by animating every body with the spirit to give it its way. We doubt not that Paul, with all the severity which his love sometimes wore, especially in the present epistle, often triumphed by the blessed sorcery of love.

Paul has now in this chapter organized the unity of his Roman Church, with faith in Christ for its basis, and love for its central and vital principle. How shall it deal with the powers of the world? The next chapter will show.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-12.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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