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An Exegetical Commentary on Romans 12:1-13

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  • Category: Bible

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Paul’s Letter to the Romans has proved itself to be one of the important letters of Paul because it is the longest at the same time the most systematic of the letters in terms of the unfolding of the thoughts of the apostle. As such, this gospel has attracted a number of Catholic and Protestant theologians and clerics. Martin Luther himself gave an extensive commentary on this letter precisely because some of the important tenets of Protestantism could be found in it.

In this paper, we will look at Romans 12:1-13 and show that in this pericope, what are perceived as demands of Christian love (or charity) are in fact a result of the transformation in the Christian brought about by the acceptance of the justification brought about by Christ. In the end, doing justice is plainly following Christ’s lead. It means truly loving and cleaving to and doing what is good for the benefit of the others: acts of justice and charity that have all become possible because we have been justified through Christ.

  1. Introduction on the Letter to the Romans

Paul’s Letter to the Romans was written between 56 and 58 A.D (NAB introduction to Romans, p. 1261), and was probably written by Paul when he was in Corinth, Greece. He wrote it before he reached Rome, and has written a Letter for a group of Christians he probably has not yet met. He planned to go to Rome to collect some funds for the impoverished Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and to enlist support from Rome for a mission in Spain (NAB introduction to Romans, p. 1261).

The fact that he wrote this letter to Gentiles whom he never met may explain why he wrote it in such a way that he had to speak of the place of both Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan. The letter is written in such a way that the foundations of the faith are first provided, and only after the establishment of this foundation did Paul speak of the duties of a Christian. It should also be noted that the foundation is written in such a way that there is no assumption that the readers of the Letter share the same foundations as the Jews. Instead, the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are justified through faith in Christ is emphasized.

N.T. Wright gives another explanation as to the content of the letter. It is important to note that the Roman church is not plainly a group of Gentiles who need further instructions on Christian life. Apart from the proselytes from the capital, this church also originally consisted of converted Jews (Wright, 1995, p. 34). But, in 49 AD, Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, which could have led this church to establish their own identity as Christian Gentiles. This identity is presumably different from the Christianity of converted Jews.

This led to some sort of Jew-Gentile split in 54 AD, when the Jews returned upon Claudius’ death (Wright, 1995, p. 34). It is possible that Paul stressed on the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are justified to quell this tension. For someone who intends to use Rome as his “base of operations in the western Mediterranean,” (Wright, 1995, p. 35), resolving a conflict such as this at the same time establishing the necessary foundations of the faith for such a mission is of prime importance. Thus, so far, it could be said that Paul wrote this letter for the following reasons: 1.) to instruct the Gentiles from Rome and 2.) to quell the tension in that church, both of which are important if the church of Rome is to be Paul’s base of operations in the Mediterranean.

N.T Wright, a Pauline scholar, makes a distinction between the narrative and the poetic sequence of the text. The narrative sequence of Romans refers to “the wider worldview or belief system in which Paul draws” (Wright, 1995, p. 32), while the poetic sequence of the text refers to the “actual arrangement of the letter” (Wright, 1995, p. 32), the discussion of the individual points of the text, as the text presents itself. To be able to understand the text apart from Paul’s purpose, it would be best to look at the narrative sequence of the text at this point. This should be helpful in understanding the “doctrinal foundation” of Paul the established in the letter.

 Although the structure of the letter is such that even a non-Jew should be able to appreciate it as it does not allude to Jewish culture, nevertheless, Wright pointed out that the basic ideological foundation of Paul himself is still the covenant of God in the Old Testament with the Jews. What Wright proposes as the starting point of Paul’s theological reflection has exactly this “covenant faithfulness” of God as its assumption. Specifically, Paul’s theological reflections begin with the assumption that “what the creator/covenant god was supposed to do for Israel at the end of history, this god has done for Jesus in the middle of history” (Wright, 1995, p. 34).

Hence, Jesus was the fulfillment of the old covenant. Jesus, as an individual, brought Israel’s covenant to fruition (Wright, 1995, p. 34). In this sense, “Jesus borne Israel’s identity by himself” (Wright, 1995, p. 34) and as such, he was the one vindicated. Jesus, the Messiah, was vindicated and it is only proper that it is through him that we are justified. Romans 1-11 work on this foundation. It is an elaboration of the role of Christ in this covenant, how Christ has brought the believer, both Jew and Gentile, to a new position in God (Darby, 1995, Introduction to Romans).

Peter Samuelson points out that Romans 1-11 develops the role of Jesus Christ as the “righteous one,” He who was vindicated by God, the “model of goodness” (Samuelson, 1990, p. 296) who should be looked at to know what it means to act rightly. In Christ we live the new life (Romans 6:4); he is the teacher who tells us the “new walk” in this new life. Samuelson (1990, 296) likens Christ’s role as that of a dance master, with God as the choreographer. God plans and knows that it is to be righteous, Christ shows us how. We on our part are to imitate. In this sense, we truly become God’s instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13). All this becomes possible if we accept God’s invitation to this new life. All we need to be admitted is faith (Samuelson, 1990, p. 296).

            Working on the foundation that Paul has established in the earlier chapters, Romans 12 onwards speak of the duties that a Christian has. Chapter 12: 1-13 specifically talks about the need for sacrificing one’s mind, body, and will (Wiersbe, 1989, p. 554). In this sacrifice, a Christian is asked to see how she/he is a part of the body of Christ and in the process do his/her role in this mystical body. Christians are also asked to love one another genuinely in this chapter. This chapter is most needed to provide the praxis of all the theories that he provided in the previous chapters. After stating what a Christian is, he has to tell the Gentiles what acts and/or characteristics embody a Christian. It aims at doctrine and practical ethics, ideas of faith and practical consequences of such ideas.

  1. The Call to Sacrifice in Romans 12:1

In Romans 12:1, we read, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (NKJV). In order to understand this passage, it will be best to look at the key words in it.

Samuelson pointed out the use of “therefore” in this verse. It will be odd to begin a chapter with a “therefore” not unless that chapter is a conclusion of previous premises that were developed in earlier chapters. In this sense, we could point out that Chapter 12 is indeed the continuation or shall we say the logical consequences of the ideas developed in earlier chapters (Samuelson, 1990, 296). We have already mentioned above how the earlier chapters dealt with Christ’s role in bringing about our justification, in being a “master dancer” towards righteousness. This first verse of Romans 12 is an affirmation that what are to follow are the logical conclusions once we accept God’s invitation into this dance.

J.B.Phillips (in Guzik, 1998) pointed out that Gk. parakalw, translated in English as “beseeching” means to appeal to one’s will. Hence, for Paul, offering oneself to God (that which is being beseeched by Paul, which we will speak about in a short while) ought to be a free act, a volitional act, an act that results from one’s choice. In this sense, Gk parakalw is different from the Gk. ezanagkasmos which refers more to coercion. Gk parakalw  implies an appeal to the intellects and wills of the faithful. Hence, the request or the appeal to offer oneself as a sacrifice to God is an appeal to knowingly and willfully choose God to be the master of one’s life. It is far from a blind and fanatical religiosity.

Before even going through the offering that Paul asks from Christians, he adds the intervening phrase, “by the mercies of God.” Guzik comments on this and says that such a phrase stresses on the Christian’s dependence on God’s grace even in the very act of making an offering. Hence, we are only able to do an offering of ourselves precisely because God made us capable of doing so: “…we are only able to offer ourselves to God as He works His mercy in us. God commanded us to do this, and He makes it possible for us to do it” (Guzik, 1998, Commentary on Romans 12:1).

Thus, an offering of oneself to God ought to be nothing else but an occasion to realize how much we have been given and graced that made us follow God’s command in the first place. The strength does not really come from us, so there is no place for pride in the very act of self-offering. This is a point that David Brown concurs with. In Brown’s commentary, he states thus regarding this phrase: “those mercies, whose free and unmerited nature, glorious Channel, and saving fruits have been opened up at such length” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 2004, “Commentary on Chapter 12”). The grace provided by God was freely given by God to man, even if man did not merit such grace.

W.E. Vine gives an interesting interpretation of the word “mercy” in this passage. In Greek, the term oiktirmos refers to a specific type of mercy different from eleos and splanchnon. W.E. Vine (in Bayliss, 2006) provides the distinction this way: oiktirmos refers to the “inward feeling of pity and compassion towards others” while eleos refers to the “outward display of pity in the meeting of someone’s need” and splanchnon as “the feelings of affection and goodwill towards others.” As we could see, the Greek version used the term oiktirmos. Hence, this would mean that “the actual basis of the reaction” (Bayliss, 2006), the motivation of the faithful’s reaction for the appeal made by Paul, would have to be the pity and compassion that God “feels” for us.

Because God is merciful, i.e., because God feels for us, such would be enough motivation for us to heed Paul’s appeal and offer our bodies as living sacrifice. Now at this point, it is unclear why Paul used oiktirmos and not eleos nor splanchnon. Why should the motivation be God’s inward feelings and not his outward display of pity nor his feelings of affection and goodwill towards us? Also, why was the plural used (i.e., mercies) and not the singular form? What does it mean for God to feel pity for us in a plural way? I cannot press on these questions as the answers seem not apparent at this point. Instead, I will leave that question unanswered and proceed to the next point.

What is being beseeched, i.e., what Paul appeals to (via our intellects and wills) is the presentation of the faithful’s body as a living sacrifice. This exhortation to offer one’s body as a living sacrifice is an analogy to the Old Testament’s sacrificial system (Sailhamer, 1994, p. 530). Nevertheless, unlike the old Mosaic code where sacrifices had to follow directions, the sacrifice being asked in the New Testament is a sacrifice that entails the use of one’s good judgment on how one would offer one’s body as a living sacrifice. The contrast between the Old Testament sacrifice and the New Testament sacrifice is presented in the NAB commentary this way:

The Mosaic code included elaborate directions on sacrifices and other cultic observances. The gospel, however, invites believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice.  Instead of being limited by specific legal maxims, Christians are liberated for the exercise of good judgment as they are confronted with the many and varied decisions required in the course of daily life. (NAB, p. 1276)

This New American Bible commentary, though concise, says many things. For one, it says that the sacrifice being now asked from Christians is that of their bodies. This sacrifice, furthermore, ought not to be restricted (or restrictive), but instead calls into the factor the good judgment of the Christian. Let us speak of these things individually.

            Christians are called to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. Samuelson points out that in Paul’s time, to offer a sacrifice does not only mean burning offerings for the atonement of one’s sins. It also most specially refers to “a feast to celebrate God’s goodness” (1990, 296). Thus, a sacrifice, in Paul’s time, was closely related to feasts, to celebrations. Thus, in the act of sacrificing, a certain celebration of feast happens. This is a point we shall go back to later.

            The body ought to be sacrificed as a living sacrifice. It might be asked, “why the body only?” In this instance, there seems to be a consensus that what is truly being referred to is not only one’s physical body but one’s whole self. Guzik explains it by saying that “it is best to see the body as a reference to our entire being. Whatever we say about our spirit, soul, flesh, and mind, we know that they each live in our bodies” (Guzik, 1998). David Brown, on the other hand, says it this way: “that is, yourselves in your body, considered as the organ of the inner life” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 2004, “Commentary on Romans 1:1”). Nevertheless, the use of the term body has also taken the fancy of many commentaries such that the use of the term “body” has also been speculated to mean other things.

For Bayliss (2006), for example, offering one’s body as a sacrifice meant letting the “rubber hit the road,” to make one’s dedication truly felt in one’s life. Hence, the sacrifice of one’s body means living a life where one’s faith may be witnessed. This also means taking the consequences of one’s embracing of one’s faith to its logical conclusions, without wavering especially in times of trials.

Samuelson, on the other hand, presents the idea that Paul presents a “positive view of the human body” (1990, p. 296). When for the Greeks the body is a dirty thing, Paul presents the body this time as the “place where the righteousness of God will be worked out in the world” (Samuelson, 1990, p. 296). As such, the body truly becomes the instrument wherein God’s righteousness is manifested: “we offer our bodies as God’s instruments so that the world may feast its eyes on the dance of God’s righteousness” (Samuelson, 1990, 296). Here we go back to the idea of a sacrifice as a feast. The body becomes the instrument for this sort of feast to take place.

 Now, sacrificing one’s body has to be done in such a way as offering it as a living sacrifice. At this point, varied interpretations emerge. I would present two. J.B. Phillips explains the term this way: the sacrifice is living because it is brought to the altar alive, and it stays alive in the altar, i.e., it is ongoing (in Guzik, 1998).

In this interpretation, the term “living sacrifice” refers to our ongoing daily sacrifice of our bodies, a continuous witnessing of our faith via our bodies. It is also possible to interpret the term to refer to a sacrifice that is similar to that of Christ. In our case, this may refer to dying from sin and being reborn into a new life (Bayliss, 2006). This would then mean that by making our bodies living sacrifices means living a new life that is dedicated to God. It would mean forgetting worldly vices and instead living a life where one’s body may truly be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Though the term “living sacrifice” may not have a clear meaning, Paul nevertheless gives us “properties” of this “living sacrifice”: it has to be both holy and acceptable. One’s living sacrifice of one’s body ought to be “holy.” By “holy” we refer to the Greek term hagiasmos which means “set apart” (Bayliss, 2006). Hence, this would mean that it would be necessary that our bodies be set apart from the others whose bodies are not in the service of God (Bayliss, 2006).  Not only is our living sacrifice a holy one (i.e., a sacrifice that is set apart), it is also acceptable. Again, at this point, there seems to be opposing opinions.

J.B. Phillips interprets “acceptable” in terms of what is acceptable in Leviticus 1:10 and Deuteronomy 15:21, i.e., that the sacrifice ought not to have any blemish. Now, if this is the interpretation of what is acceptable, it would not seem to make sense to say (as we have above) that sacrifice in the New Testament is different compared to sacrifice in the Old Testament. We have to always bear in mind that the sacrifice being called for in Romans is our response to Christ’s justification of us. As such, it seems that Bayliss (2006) seems to be more accurate in saying that the term “acceptable” isn’t conditional, and as such, “if we offer ourselves then the offering is acceptable.”

Lastly, we ought to look at the term “reasonable” service. The Greek text used the word logikhn, logikos. By logikos, it may either (or both) refer to one’s living sacrifice of one’s body as the logical service given that we have been justified by Christ or that our sacrifice ought to be a mindful one. In one way or another, it implies that since we have been given this much, it makes sense that we sacrifice our bodies because of what we have been given (Henry, 2005, “Commentary on Romans 1:1”). Hence, the sacrifice is a logical one. Though, we may also look at it in the vantage point of logikos” meaning rational. One’s service ought to be rational, i.e., mindful. As Bayliss (2006) says, our service ought to be a “mindful cooperation” with God.

III.  The Call for Continuous Transformation in Romans 12:2

So far, we have looked at Paul’s exhortation that we make a living sacrifice of our bodies mindfully and willfully. Now, let us look at Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Suschematizo refers to a “conforming” wherein one “takes on the outward appearance of something that is not really true to the object’s nature” (Bayliss, 2006). This is distinct from morphe which refers to the metaphysical form (otherwise known as “nature”) of an object.  By not conforming to the world, Paul probably refers to not taking in the ways of the World precisely because this world is not correspondence to the nature of man. Now, by world here, i.e., aion, we refer to age in which we live (Bayliss, 2006). Hence, Paul concretely tells the faithful not to conform their lives according to their society’s norms and culture.

This is something we could easily understand since Rome’s dominant culture at that time was neither Jewish nor Christian but still largely pagan. Instead of conforming oneself to the world, Paul asks the faithful to be transformed, i.e., metamorfousqe. Here, we have the essence of the word morphe. As stated above, this refers to form or nature. To be able to understand this better, let us take a short look at how the word “form” and “nature” has been used in the Ancient times. By morphe, philosophers referred to that which makes something what it is. Hence, the morphe of a table is table-ness and the chair would be chair-ness.

Simply, form refers to the very essence of a being. As such, when Paul says that the faithful ought to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, he refers to a change that entails touching one’s nature, that by renewing one’s mind, one’s essence is changed to that which is pleasing to God. Now, this would not be understood not unless we know what is meant by renewal (anakainwsei). The term anakainwsei refers to moving to a totally different thing, which nevertheless entails an ongoing process of adjustment (Bayliss, 2006).

Hence, the renewal that is being asked in not some sort of going back to the old days but moving one’s thought to something new at the same time continuously being formed towards that new direction. Simply, this means that “the transformation is radical, (but) the process is gradual” (Bayliss, 2006). Hence, the process of transforming oneself by changing the direction of one’s mind may strike a person in an instant; nevertheless, the process of change will always be ongoing.

For Guzik to renew one’s mind means that “Christians must think differently” (1998, “Commentary on Romans 1:2”). To think differently means to making the mind be now centered on Christ, when initially it was probably centered on the self or the world (Samuelson, 1990, p. 296). This, for Samuelson, is the transformation that is called for. A transformation that is a sort of a metamorphosis wherein the Christian, through the grace of God, now thinks and is according to God’s likeness and image: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). To say it succinctly, “we [now] have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

To transform one’s mind is to think differently in the sense that a metamorphosis has now happened to the Christian, such that now, the center of his/her thoughts is Christ. The Christian has now the mind of Christ. It is in this transformation that the Christian may know what is good, acceptable, and the perfect will of God. Plainly, in taking the form of Christ (He who is good, acceptable, and perfect) through the transformation that is required, the Christian gets to literally know what is truly good, acceptable and perfect (Samuelson, 1990, 297).

This changing of mind to transform oneself is to be done so that one could prove what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. Again, we need to define what is meant by proving (dokimazo). By dokimazo the Greeks meant “testing with an expectation of approval” (Bayliss, 2006).

By this it is meant that knowing what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God entails testing, i.e., experiencing, with an expectation that performing the test will result in something that is worth approving. At this point, Paul may probably be saying that in transforming one’s mind, one is made capable of truly experiencing that which is good, acceptable, and perfect and actually finding out that living a life in accordance with God’s will results in a life that is worth approving.

If we were to formulate a summary of Romans 12:2, it would mean that the faithful ought not to live their lives conforming to one’s age (especially if one’s society is an unhealthy one); instead, the faithful ought to experience some sort of transformation that is a product of a change of mind, which in turn, continues to be changed because of the transformation.

Now, such a transformation makes the faithful ready to experience that which is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. This experiencing result in the approval of God’s way, a way that cannot be grasped better without experiencing it. It is one thing knowing it theoretically; it is another experiencing it. Better yet, in this transformation, the Christian takes in the form of Christ who is himself good, acceptable and perfect.

  1. The Call for a Balanced Perception of Oneself as Part of Christ’s Body in Romans 12:3-8

Romans 12:3 reads: “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.”

Romans 12:3 exhorts the faithful to have a balanced perception of oneself, to be sober when one thinks of oneself. This is very important especially because the next verses talk about our different functions in Christ’s body. Romans 12:4-5 talks about our individual roles in Christ’s body, as we all form part of this body. Just like any body, we may all be members of the same body (i.e., Christ’s), nevertheless, we hold different functions in the same way that different body parts do different things. Now, precisely because of these differences in functions should we have an honest perspective of ourselves. One cannot truly serve well in Christ’s body if one displaces oneself from one task to another. Let us discuss these ideas further.

A Balanced Perception of Oneself

Romans 12:3 has always been interpreted to stress the need for humility and level-headedness in evaluating oneself. It is important to take note that Paul exhorts us to think properly about ourselves (Samuelson, 1990, p. 297), not too high nor too low. Haughtiness and self-contempt are both unwelcome. For Guzik, this meant not to be masochistic but to see ourselves as we really are (1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:2”). The ultimate purpose of this “balanced perception of oneself” would a sound mind (Wycliffe, 1963, p. 1219). At this point, the crucial question seems obvious: “What, then, would constitute a balanced perception of oneself?”

The answer to this question lies in the second part of the passage, “to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every many the measure of faith.” John Wycliffe explains this passage by saying that by faith, Paul in fact meant “working-for-God-faith” (1963, p. 1219). This meant an  interdependence between the amount of one’s faith and the task to be accomplished such that the Christian should be able to say after doing a task for God, “Here is the faith I have for carrying out this or that particular task for God” (Wycliffe, 1963, p. 1219).

This naturally leads the Christian to the inevitable understanding of his/her dependence on God even on the amount of faith that the Christian has. This should lead to the humble prayer, “Lord, grant me more faith.” It might be confusing at this point as to why Wycliffe spoke of “tasks” when the original passage did not speak of such. The reason why Wycliffe spoke of tasks when we spoke about the measure of one’s faith precisely because for Wycliffe, the amount of one’s faith is directly proportional to one’s tasks, and as such, we could only come up with a sober perception of our ourselves and of our faith if we are to look at our tasks as well.

To have a balanced perception of oneself is to see oneself as dependent on Christ, the master dancer (Samuelson, 1990), whom we should imitate since He is good, acceptable, and perfect. It is to see ourselves humbly as we truly are: dependent on Christ for our faith, which in turn is needed to be able to accomplish anything.”  In the end, it is to acknowledge that “I am nothing in myself, and therefore I will lay out myself to the utmost, in the strength of the grace of Christ” (Henry, 2005, “Commentary on Rom. 12:3-8).

The Different Roles in One Body

After the exhortation on the need for a balanced perception of oneself, Paul now speaks of the different roles of Christians in the one body of Christ in Romans 12: 4-8:

For as we have many members in one body, and all member have not the same office; So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another. Having the gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy let us prophesize in proportion to our faith, or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches is teaching; he who exhorts in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

This passage speaks of the unity of the Church universal (Wycliffe, 1963, p. 1219), we all belong to Christ’s body. Wycliffe brings to our attention the presentation of the Church universal as a sort of an organism, “with every member drawing life from Christ” (Wycliffe, 1963, p. 1219). This “organism” works in a certain unity, with Christ as the head (see Eph. 1:22-23). We are all united in Christ who, as the master dancer, the common ground (Guzik, 1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:4”), leads us to righteousness. Nevertheless, in spite of unity, there is no uniformity in the Church universal (Guzik, 1998, Commentary on Rom. 12:4). The members keep their individuality  (Guzik, 1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:4”).

            An assertion of the members’ individuality at the same time a show of unity of purpose is best expressed through the different tasks that members of the body do as a form of their expression of their “work-for-God-faith.” In Rom. 12:6-8, Paul enumerates some of the tasks that Christians do: prophecy, ministering, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and showing mercy. It is important to point out that Paul stresses on two things regarding these tasks: that the capacity to do these tasks is a gift; and that since Christians are provided with these gifts, they should use them (Wycliffe, 1963, p. 1220).

Since these are gifts, we do not deserve having these capabilities, though they were freely given to us by God. At this point, we recall our earlier point on the need for faith in fulfilling a task. As such, a Christian ought to have a balanced perception of himself/herself such that the dependence on God both on faith and grace should be expressed in the humble exercise of his/her task in the mystical body of Christ.

  1. The Call to Genuine Love of God and Love of Neighbors in Romans 12:9-13

Romans 12:9-13 speaks of loving the other members of the Christian family:

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another in brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

            This passage speaks of the need to genuinely love. If love is to be considered true, it can never be hypocritical (Guzik, 1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:9). It is interesting to note that right after this exhortation to genuine love, Christians are asked to abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good. For Paul, there is always a clear connection between loving and that which is good and true.

This is best illustrated in 1 Cor 4-7 where love is characterized as kind and not rejoicing in wrongdoing but rather rejoices in the truth. Now, if to love does not seek its own interest (1 Cor. 13:5) but rather the good of the other, to love, then, is to help each other abhor what is evil at the same time to aid each other cleave to that which is good. (Guzik [1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:9]) reminds us that the Christian is asked to do both: the abhorring and the cleaving.). Christians are to give each other brotherly love and hence are encouraged to display genuine affection for each other (Guzik, 1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:10”).

Romans 12:11-13 exhorts the faithful to be diligent, fervent, and serving the Lord; the faithful ought to rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, and continuing steadfastly in prayer; they are to distribute to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. If there is something that ought to be clarified in the text, it is what is meant by the faithful distributing to the needs of the saints and given to hospitality.

Again, the Greek word used was koinonero, meaning to share in. As such, the Christian is expected to share with other Christians in their daily needs. The sharing implied here is nothing occasional; what is meant is the sharing of one’s means to meet the daily needs of others. To be hospitable, on the other hand, refers to “loving strangers” (Guzik, 1998, “Commentary on Rom. 12:13”). Bayliss (2006) interprets it this way: “we are supposed to be caring outgoing people to everyone the Lord places in our path.”

            Romans 12:1-13 speaks of the ethical/moral consequences of the Pauline theology established in earlier chapters. Romans 12 speaks of how a Christian should be if he/she is truly to take in Christ’s form. Initially, a Christian is asked to transform his body and mind, to offer it up and make these according to God’s image and likeness, ready to follow the instructions of the dance master, i.e., Jesus Christ. Given this transformation, a Christian becomes ready to form part of Christ’s body, in unity and individuality, taking in a task that the Christian is capable of doing out of grace. Lastly, a Christian is called to extend brotherly love towards one another, the seal that make him/her truly a Christian.


Reference List

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