Romans 12:3–15comment (0)
September 15, 2011
By Eric Mathis
Related Scripture: Romans 12:3–15
Bible Studies for Life
Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership, School of the Arts, Samford University
Find Your Place of Service
In the past two weeks, we have reflected on the importance of community and individual ways to grow in spiritual maturity. We now move from reflection on our place in the community to action on behalf of the community. Indeed the call upon today’s Christian is no different from Paul’s exhortation to the community in Romans 12: “Renew your minds and get to work!”
Romans 12:3–15 is the focal passage for this week’s study, though to fully understand this passage, we must pay attention to what Paul had written previously. In earlier chapters of Romans, Paul explained that God’s righteousness comes through faith in Christ, apart from the Law (1:18–5:11). He explained that righteous living is a component of God’s righteousness (5:12–8:39) and God will give mercy to all ancient people as He has to the Gentiles (9:1–11:36). However, one question remained for Paul and the Romans: How were these principles to work in a diverse community of faith? The answer to this question is the topic of Romans 12.
Serve in the Body (3–5)
The first verse in Romans 12 states that God’s mercies call Christians to serve Him, though the condition for this statement is that the Christian way is aligned with God’s way rather than the world’s way (Rom. 12:2). Paul moved forward to describe the transformed person’s behavior in community. Unsurprisingly community life was the critical issue for Paul in the remainder of this chapter (and arguably the remainder of Romans).
Christians are to evaluate themselves, their role and their contribution to the community carefully. Overestimating our place in the body of Christ is problematic but so, too, is underestimating our potential contributions to the community. Once again, Paul applied the analogy of the body to community life, yet he made this analogy specific to his readers. Communal living functions most efficiently as people understand their individual gifts and combine them with others’ contributions.
Serve Through Giftedness (6–8)
Although not necessarily an exhaustive list, Paul provided examples of seven ways people might serve the community. The first four gifts relate to the community at worship: prophecy, ministry, teaching and exhortation. The final three describe caretakers in the community: the giver, the leader and the compassionate. These gifts are described as “charismata.” This emphasis reminds us that salvation is a gift of God through Christ but spiritual gifts are from God brought into the community by the Holy Spirit’s work.
As we search for opportunities to serve our communities, we can take our cue from Paul’s list or observe the actions of those around us. We are to identify the diversity of spiritual gifts God has given and ask the Holy Spirit to empower us for service in the body of Christ.
Serve With Godly Attitudes (9–15)
After emphasizing actions (Rom. 12:6–8), Paul emphasized attitudes. In a series of pairs and triplets, Paul spoke directly to the virtues necessary for life together in Christ’s service. Christians are to love one another, hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good (9). They are to love one another and outdo one another in showing honor (10). They are to serve the community and be zealous in spirit serving the Lord (11). They are to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer (12). They are to help those within and outside of the community (13). They are to bless rather than curse those who persecute (14) and rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (15), and so the list of virtues continues through the remainder of the chapter.
“Renew your minds and get to work!” Indeed this was Paul’s mantra in Romans 12, and we would do well to make it our mantra as we pursue spiritual growth. This week, reflect on the ways you have been transformed through life in Christ. Then take stock of your spiritual gifts, evaluating how you might use them in the church and the world. Remember that your action is to be bathed in the love of God — the One from whom all good gifts come.