Lesson 83: "Be Ye Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind" (Romans 12:2)
Welcome to Lesson #83. Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. O.K., we're ready for ch. 12. Before we begin; seeing that we now stand in this study at the close of Paul's discussion of his Jewish brethren, his kinsmen in the flesh (ch. 9-10-11, a long section); I am constrained to take a moment to hop across the centuries that separate us from Paul, considering the church of the first century, the Jewish-Gentiles relations at that time and the gospel that has not changed; let us open our eyes very briefly and take an abbreviated glance at modern times. I said we'll spend a moment! You recognize that's an impossible task; but, let's try. After the war of A.D. 70, when the ancient Jewish nation that Paul knew, was destroyed by the Roman army, the Jews living at that time were exiled and gradually (over the years) were spread across the face of the earth being absorbed by many nations. This, and much more, is exactly what God said would happen in Deut. Ch. 28 and many other places in the O.T.; if they rejected God. It happened! But, sometime around the beginning of this century, i.e. the 20th century; and especially did it begin to take roots following WW one; people from over the world, claiming Jewish blood and coming from the common genetic pool of the Jewish people; began a movement to establish a Jewish national system. The, by shortly after WW two, this movement had gained enough momentum that they were able to push aside some of the Palestinians and established a, so-called, homeland. And, I grant, they had as much right to do that as the Americans a few centuries before had to come in and push aside the American Indians. Both the Americans and Jews have been very clever in accomplishing these things. So, skip the politics, O.K., (our minute is disappearing fast). The point is, there is now, in and around Jerusalem a nation known as Israel, or modern Israel that came from that movement (I trust you are aware), claiming of course, to be the descendants of Paul's kinsmen, the Jews (discussed here in ch. 9-10-11). Paul identified himself as being of the tribe of Benjamin, this he said with pride. But, the Jewish gene-pool today is not that simple and neither is it that pure. As a matter of fact; through their exiled history of servitude and political depression, those people cannot even trace their roots, for the most part. But, let us quickly cut through all the ridiculous claims that are made and come to the facts of the case. That nation, known as Israel today, has nothing , ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, to do with the prophecies in the O.T. and they are no more the Israelite nation that stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai under the leadership of Moses; than Kentucky is that nation. It is simply a political ploy; with this exception of course: they claim, I SAID THEY CLAIM, to be following the Jewish religion deduced from what we call the Old Testament. They have no temple. They can't even tell you which tribe they came from; so how can they have priest from the tribe of Levi? But, let's, for the moment, skip over any such claims. The thing you need to understand, in connection with the Bible is simply this. And this point is widely misunderstood. Even our presidents are not clear on this point. I heard President Carter in one of his speeches say it was prophesied in the Bible that Israel would return to their home-land, blah, blah, blah. From Babylon, Mr. Carter, they did return to their homeland; about 2500 years ago. President Reagan has shown his ignorance of the Bible on this subject n a similar way. But, my friend, learn it now and get it straight. Israel today would like for the world to believe they are Israel of the O.T.; it's their doctrine, that's their claim. But, it's a false doctrine. So, don't be taken in! Scripturally, today, there is no difference in Jews, Greek, Gentiles or any other race. It couldn't be said plainer. In Rom. 10:12, (we've covered that, go back and re-read it) Paul said [are you listening?] "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [i.e any Gentiles]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." Its' just that simple. It may make good politics; but, it is not Bible truth. If confuses a lot of people. Don't let it confuse you. O.K.?
Now, is our minute up? Focus on ch. 12! AND,. Let me ask you a question: can one just live as he pleases, associated with the devil, drag through the mire of immorality and still be saved by faith? Surely, that question has crossed your mind; hasn't it? Paul's thesis in this book: "The just shall live by faith" (1:17), has now been discussed by the apostle and laid to rest. Through all those chapters; the apostle to the Gentiles, put much emphasis upon faith; believing and understanding that Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, he arose again from the dead. Paul's emphasis has been faith, faith , faith. Thus, some have taken his discussion in those chapters, so far to the extreme, as to make it teach FAITH ONLY, i.e. separating and associating our faith from our conduct. My friend, it cannot be done! Anticipating, I suppose that some would try to hide their sins behind such garbage; Paul, in ch. 12, having completed his thesis on faith; broke into a little exhortation on Christian living. If you will read c. 12, it dispelled any such thoughts and he certainly taught no such doctrine as FAITH ONLY. As important as faith is; it must be mixed with the gospel (Heb. 4:2) and it must be mixed with and direct our conduct. If you can read Rom. Ch. 12 and conclude anything else; you better read it again. Let's read it. Starting in v. 1, we'll read two verses. Are you ready? "I beseech you there fore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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." How do you prove your faith? Paul's thought here is very close to James' axiom we have looked at before: "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26). The word 'beseech' means to beg or solicit compliance. Other translations here use: "exhort,": "entreat," "appeal," "plead," and "beg." Now, WHO did Paul say this to? "Brethren!" What brethren? The Gentile Christians at Rome. But, in a secondary sense, it applies to all of us. What about "therefore?" Paul is basing this pleading request upon all that had been said in prior chapters about grace and faith, "the just shall live by faith." O.K. Paul! What is it you are soliciting? "That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." That simply means: dedicate yourself to God's service. Back in ch. 6:11, Paul said, concerning baptism; "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God..." Here he is saying more that that. Perform dedicated service to God. Anything that is dedicated to God is holy. Then look at that word: "acceptable." What does that mean" Is that what I want, or is that what God wants? You see, that implies, we must do that God wants, it doesn't mean to simply do something, live as you want, do what comes naturally, and then toss God a few scraps of your life and then say, there God take that! I'm doing it for you! Then finally, to nail down this thought to those who might be inclined to complain, Paul said: this is your reasonable service. Some translations say, "spiritual service." Now, Paul, how do I do that? He answered, "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." First of all, how does (or how would) one CONFORM to the world? That means to comply with, adhere to, obey, heed and respond to all the fashions, codes, conduct, behavior, customs, habits, traditions and observances in the world around you. But, check that three letter word, "-O-T." Paul said "be ye NOT conformed to this world." What does that mean? Sometimes, we have to go against the grain. I might have to be a little antisocial and say "NO!" Now, how can one "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Now, YOU are in control of these things. To be transformed means to be changed. How do you go from AC current to DC current, electrically speaking? Use a transformer! Right? How do you change electric current from 220 volts to 110 volts? Use a transformer! Right? Our thinking must be run through a transformer also; called the mind, M-I—D, its right there in the middle of v.2. To ":prove" in this case means to check out, or establish "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Ye got it? Yeah! Most of us understand it. It's when you're under about a ton of peer-pressure, the real difficulty comes. Isn't it? My friend, there's more said here than my come through; unless you gave it a little of that mind activity called thinking. If we as Christians don't prove by the Bible what is right and what God wants; we'll drift into the customs and the clutches of other religious people. We must use the Bible to guide our speech and to guide our actions. Alright, v.3! Let's read down through v.8. Please read! "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; 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."
As you think back through v.1-2, it's easy to understand THAT and try to do those things; but, to be (at the same time) caught up in pride and a feeling of superiority to the pint we undo most of it in our influence to others. So, you could substitute the phrase: do it with humility, for v.3 and you wouldn't miss Paul's thought very far. We are "not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think." To think "soberly' means to think sensibly. Then, the commentators have a field day and God dealing out the measure of faith (at the end of v.3). V.4-5-6-7-8 are very close to I Cor. 12-13-14. Do you remember Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts? It's hard for us to keep those brain cells lit-up all the time; but, we need to remember: there was not a written N.T. at the time of Paul. At best, it was in part only. Some books of the N.T. had been written; when Paul wrote Romans. But, did the Roman brethren have those books? Well, I'm not sure! Probably not! How did they operate? With the help and benefit of spiritual gifts. This "many members in one body" (v.4), you'll remember Paul illustrated with great length (back in I Cor. Ch. 12). "We...are one body in Christ" (v.5). Not only are there many members in one body, i.e. the church, in v.4; don't miss the last part of v.5: "every one members one of another." Not only are we organically connected to the head, which is Christ in heaven; we are organically connected to each other, i.e. every other Christian, through our spiritual nervous system )so-to-speak), we are connected to every other Christian. Now, there are differences of opinion on this; but, my understanding of the word "gifts" in v.6 is: spiritual gifts or miraculous gifts as were prevalent in the churches at that time, as we have already mentioned. The gifts listed here (v.6-7-8) are: prophecy, faith, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling and mercy. As some have pointed out, the list probably progresses from the more miraculous to the less miraculous and no doubt beyond the miraculous. Prophecy refers to teaching with miraculous help. Teaching probably referred to simply passing on information that was learned from an inspired source; very much as Bible teachers do it today. Notice the connecting "or" which connects prophecy, ministry, teaching, and exhortation. Then give, ruling and showing mercy are followed by: simplicity, diligence and cheerfulness; but, the colon after exhortation ties these things all together giving the idea we must put something into it. Giving with "simplicity" is in other translations rendered: liberality. The ruling with diligence probably has reference to elders.
Let's read on! Beginning in v.9. Whereas the previous section had to do with regulating church activity; this section extends on into other activities that deal with civil affairs, employment and contacts with worldly people Are you ready? We'll finish the chapter. "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with 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 the saint; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 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. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, fee him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
O.K. back to v.9! Love without dissimulation means love without hypocrisy, i.e. "Put-on" love, so-to-speak. Love in v.9 is commanded love or agape. To abhor evil means to hate wrong-doing and stick to that which is good. "Brotherly love" in v.10 is "Philadelphia", i.e. phileo love or to be a friend, fond of, or buddy-buddy love. This is not "agape" or commanded love. Thus, friendship love is encouraged among Christians in this verse. Paul touched on many aspects of life in these later verses; but, I think you'll have no trouble understanding them. I suppose a book could be written on any one of these. What about: preferring one another? Or not slothful in business? Or patient in tribulation? Or instant in prayer? In v. 13, "Distributing to the necessity of saints" means to be a partner with in time of need. What about hospitality? It's not just something that's optional; Paul commanded it. V.I4 seems to be a paraphrase of what Jesus said in the sermon on the mounts, (Matt. 5:11-12). V. 17-21 (here) covers Christians dealing with unfriendly and unchristian people. The "vengeance" quote in v.19 comes from Deut 32:35. Then v.20 is a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22. These thoughts help set the stage for what is said in Rom. Ch. 13. What is said in ch.13 is merely a continuation of this section. We'll get to that in our next lesson. Until the have a good day.