Over the next several posts, I hope to consider Romans 12:1-2 and some of its implications for our lives. Before looking at the first portion of this passage, it will be helpful to take a look at the context.
Context: The book of Romans is one of the clearest and most logical (not to mention lengthy) presentations of the gospel. It was written by the Apostle Paul around A.D. 57 from the city of Corinth in order to strengthen the faith of those in Rome. While it is not a complete compendium of Paul’s theology, it is one of the fullest expressions of what he believed. He announces the premise of the letter in 1:16-17 by writing, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The rest of the book elaborates on the gospel and its implications for life. The first three chapters testify to the revelation of God and the utter sinfulness of man: All have fallen short of the glory of God and are without excuse before their Maker. He explains mankind’s need to be reconciled to God (1:16-4:25), and that such reconciliation can only come through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By faith in Christ, the believer is justified—which is to say that he is declared righteous before God. The result of being justified by faith is that the believer is then progressively sanctified—a process of being made more and more to reflect the image and character of Christ (5:1-8:39). In the proceeding chapters (9-11), Paul describes his sorrow over those Jews who have failed to embrace the saving power of the gospel; they have rejected Jesus in an effort to make themselves righteous through the Law. However, he rejoices in God’s great mercy extended to the Gentiles who have been grafted into that salvation. In the final five chapters (12-16), Paul highlights how the gospel should affect the believer’s everyday life. The gospel which is the power of God unto salvation is the very means by which God intends to transform the lives of those who experience it.
Text: Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Therefore points Paul’s readers back to the previous eleven chapters. The instructions that Paul is about to give concerning the Romans’ response to the gospel is rooted in the gracious activity of God in saving them. What he is about to tell them to do is entirely grounded in what God has already done for them in the work of Jesus Christ. (See A Gracious Reading of Scripture for more examples!!)
Brothers indicates that Paul is addressing fellow believers, which seems obvious from the rest of the verse when he calls on them to remember God’s grace as they respond in obedience to Him. Notice Paul’s tone is very tender, much unlike his tone toward the Galatians who were flirting with a false gospel. His purpose is to guide the Roman believers toward dedicating their whole selves to the things of God.
By the mercies of God is a call to remembrance. Paul is asking them to intentionally reflect on the kindness that God has extended to them. God has not given them the punishment that their sin deserves. Instead, He has been merciful in granting them salvation. But like all humans, the Romans were in danger of forgetting what God had done for them. As a result, they would fail to live as those who have experienced the saving power of God which is evidenced by the fruit of transformation. In short, the effectiveness of the gospel would be demonstrated by the changes in their lives.
Forgetfulness prevents Faithfulness: This call to remembrance reminds me of the story in Joshua 4 where the Israelites were instructed to erect a monument of twelve stones. These twelve stones were meant to be a visual reminder of God’s power and faithfulness toward His people. He delivered them, led them to the Promised Land, and gave them the power to inherit all that He had provided for them. How easily we forget God’s faithfulness to us. How quickly we lose sight of the blessings He has bestowed upon our undeserving hearts. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did that so that we might be reconciled to God, and share in the inheritance of His righteous Son. He gave us the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, convict, and ultimately sanctify us. Our salvation is the greatest mercy that God has provided for us, but there are countless others that could be mentioned as well. As we consider our calling to live lives worthy of the gospel, might we do well to consider the great mercies of God with humble hearts of gratitude!
Questions for Meditation:
What are some of the chief mercies that God has displayed toward me, and how have I responded to Him in light of them?
In light of His mercy in spite of my sin, how well do I grant similar mercies toward others when they sin against me?
Blessings in Christ, Gabe