"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Study in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – “On the Road of Righteousness”

Chapter Twelve– Practically Transformed and Living Sacrifices

~~ By James Fire

(Note: Due to the richness of this chapter, it will be divided up into sections, perhaps several)


A BRIEF REVIEW –

Having completed the trilogy of chapters in Romans (9-11) that deals with the nation Israel, her condition of unbelief as a nation, and yet always retaining by the grace of God, a believing remnant, and how the nation is distinct from another holy nation (the church), we now proceed to chapter Twelve where the apostle Paul picks up on a previous thread from the end of Romans chapter Eight.

As previously mentioned, if the epistle to the Romans could be envisioned as a cathedral, chapter Eight would be its highest pinnacle; it glorifies the grace of God as well as the Spirit of God towards repentant sinners, who are transformed saints; as opposed to the relationship that the Holy Law of God has with sinful humanity. It exults in the love of Christ and how nothing (read that as “NOTHING”) can separate us from this Eternal, Almighty Love! All of the blessings and graces and benefits that God simply lavishes upon us, His children who are born of His Spirit (John 3:3-5) are manifested in this chapter full of such doctrines of truth, righteousness and grace.

SAINTLY SACRIFICE in SERVICE –

Now in chapter 12, as a result of such incredible gifts and blessings Paul gets into what our response should be towards the Giver of all these things, the LORD God – our Creator and Redeemer; this chapter gets into the very practical and vital aspects of Christian living, empowered by the Spirit of God! Paul starts right out with powerful exposition on the practical application of God’s Word as he was inspired to write . . .

ROMANS 12: 1

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service
.


Paul begins this chapter with the same methodology that he had laid out the entire epistle with previously, building one proposition on top of another, initially proving that all have sinned (the pagan, the moral and the religious person) and that all are sinners, for which the Law could do nothing to save us, but only to condemn.

He later illustrated the deplorable and helpless condition of humanity to help ourselves out of our conundrum and this inevitably led to the Person of Christ Jesus, Who alone offers us salvation, and specifically up until chapter 12 involves that aspect of salvation known as justification.

Of course justification is by faith in Christ alone, and it’s a function that the LORD performs on behalf of the sinner, bringing them into right relationship with God according to the grace afforded to us by the atonement of the blood of the Lamb. It’s something wholly conducted by God on behalf of the repentant sinner.

Chapter 12 deals with that aspect of salvation known as sanctification, and while it is likewise an operation of God, it does require the cooperation of the (once sinner) saint in yielding to God and allowing His holy influences to not save the soul but to renew the mind, that is to ‘put on the mind of Christ’ (Phil. 2: 5; Eph. 4: 23-24) as it were. Justification is a one time process that commenced our spiritual (“born again”) life’s journey, but the journey itself until our arrival on God’s celestial shores is a daily process of walking with the LORD, walking in the Spirit, denying ourselves, that is our flesh and picking up our crosses; mortification and vivification, allowing Christ to live through us just as He lives in us. In its most basic terms, sanctification is simply growing in spiritual maturity in becoming like Jesus (Eph. 4: 13)!

“Therefore” is that conjunctive word that connects what Paul teaches here with what he had previously taught in chapter Eight. As a result of all the grace and spiritual blessings bequeathed to us, we therefore ought to present our bodies as a living sacrifice – note this carefully.

Any sacrifice of the Levitical sort, offered on any altar was alive, but once sacrificed was dead. Not too terribly profound I know, but the point is, we are not dead as sacrifices to God; rather, we are living by the Spirit of God and our bodies (while still influenced by the sinful nature) are presented as holy as well as acceptable to God.

A remarkable truth, seeing that our bodies are still under the curse of sin because they are corrupt (1 Cor. 15: 49-50; Rom. 8: 21-23); yet just as our justification is by faith, so likewise is our sanctification. We are to count it as being so (Romans 6: 10-12), that because of Christ, our bodies are holy or sanctified or “set apart” not for our own use, but for the LORD’s use (1 Cor. 6:12-14). It’s been said before that the body of the saint is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), not an amusement park to be visited at the discretion of the believer.

Note also that this sacrifice on our behalf is considered “reasonable” or logikos in the Greek, meaning: “rational, being mindful of the mercies of God; this is a rationale affecting the soul (1 Peter 2:2); this sacrifice is intelligent and volitional, not compulsory and ritualistic (as for the most part, in the Old Testament sacrifices). Strongs Concordance, Greek Lexicon (logikos; #3050).

Not only do we offer up ourselves as living sacrifices but we as the disciples of Jesus Christ offer up “spiritual sacrifices” as stated in Peter’s first epistle:

1 PETER 2:5

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ
.


LIVING LIBERATED –

No saint in light of the Supreme Sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ, Lamb of God slain since before the foundation of the world can consider any sacrifice on their part as ‘radical’ compared to that wrought by our LORD. Any such sacrifice on our part in response to our LORD’s can only be viewed as normal – or as it states here, reasonable.

2 TIMOTHY 2: 20-21

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these (vs. 16), he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work
.


Other scriptures that speak on consecration (akin to sanctification) are as follows: Numbers 32:12; 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chron. 15:15Psalm 40:7; Acts 6:4; 2 Cor. 8:5; Phil. 3:7-8; 1 Thess. 5:23.

Even though we are living sacrifices there is an aspect in which the saint is to die and is dying as they identify with the cross of Christ. This is by no means bondage or slavery, but the exact opposite: it is liberation!! A liberty afforded to us by Christ by which we are freed from the shackles of sin’s pervasive influence upon us, delivered from the overwhelming enticements our flesh is prone to, the very emancipation from evil as found in our Adamic nature, having been granted the divine nature through our spiritual rebirth and baptism into Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1-3, 12-14; James 1:25).

This aspect of our being living sacrifices has to do with the mortification of our flesh (an ongoing, daily process in which more of the Adamic nature is eradicated from our minds and thought processes) as spoken of in the following passages: Matt. 5: 29; Rom. 6:6; 13:14; Gal. 5:16, 24; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 2:11; 4:2.

ROMANS 8:4-6

4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace
.


GALATIANS 5:13

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another
.


MATTHEW 16:24-25

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it
.


PUT TO DEATH, PRACTICING LIFE –

The putting to death of our flesh and the tendency to fulfill such desires and lusts that the ‘old man’ (flesh) exhibits will mean the ‘death’ of the corruption that this mind set produces. That is, the death of self and its sinful corruption brings an end to their deadly influences in our walk with the LORD. The mind set of the ‘new man’ (spiritual) brings about manifestation of the life of Christ (that indwells the hearts of all regenerated believers) more fully to our minds and lives.

With the mortification of our sinful nature in progressive fashion (by daily dying to self via our identification with the cross of Christ) we experience the liberty afforded to us through the LORD Jesus Christ and His empowering Spirit and with sin increasingly out of our way, there is a tendency not to hide from one another (as Adam hid from God when he sinned) but we find ourselves open hearted to one another, fearless in being vulnerable and able to truly love and serve one another, and this is the reason for liberation by Jesus Christ for His purposes in His church; it is certainly not a ‘get-out-of-hell-free’ card and a license to sin!!

The LORD Jesus Himself expressed His views on personal sin and how we are to deal with it: if anything offends us (that is, influential in our falling into sin), we are to extract it from our lives mercilessly (Matt. 5:29-30). This is the essence of denying ourselves and losing our own sinful lives and lifestyles and is required for any that would follow Jesus Christ and be named as His disciple! It’s also vital that as His disciples that we continue in His Word – not just in reading and understanding, but in living out the spiritual truth that His Word conveys (Matt. 7: 24-27; John 8: 30-32).

The Word of God in conjunction with the Spirit work together to eradicate sin from our lives (Psalm 119: 11; Rom. 8:13).

NON-CONFORMIST CHRISTIANS – The REAL TRANSFORMERS

ROMANS 12: 2

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
.


This is a very powerful verse and speaks abundantly to my heart! There are two key words here that express the dynamics of the truth as written by Paul via the Holy Spirit: “conformed” and “transformed”. Let’s take a few moments and explore the meanings behind these important words –

In the Greek, the word used in this passage for “conformed” is different than the word used in the 8th chapter, verse 29 where it refers to the saint being conformed to “image of His Son (Christ)”. In the passage before us the word here used is suschematizo, and it means “to fashion or shape one thing like another; fashioning or shaping one thing like another. This word could not be used of inward transformation, but stresses outward conformity and means to shape one thing like another, describing what is transitory, changeable and unstable”.

The other word, “transformed” is from the Greek word, metamorphoo and it means, “to transform, to change to another form; referring to believers as in Romans 12:2 the obligation is to undergo a complete change which under the power of God will find expression in character and conduct; morphe lays the stress on the inward change, schema (the preceding verb in the verse – suschematizo) lays stress on the outward; the present continuous tense indicates a process (not an incident). 2 Cor. 3:18 describes believers as being “changed into the same image (of Christ in all His moral excellencies) the change being effected by the Holy Spirit”.


So we understand then that this world, the very spirit of disobedience that is in this world, empowered and promoted by the god of this world (Satan) is pressuring that which opposes it – that is, the church and the residing Holy Spirit that has made us His temple – to conform to its evil. This is a power that cannot truly change us, but only by pressures and intimidation seek our compliance and conformity in an outward sense.

EPHESIANS 2:1-3

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others
. (See also Eph. 5: 6-10)


Here is the impossibility of religion in truly transforming a person’s life demonstrated: because religion is itself an outward influence that exerts pressure to conform upon the adherent it can do nothing to alter “our conversation (manner of life) . . . in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. . .” to say nothing of transforming our nature and delivering us from God’s wrath as children of wrath!

NOT PLAYING MIND GAMES!

It’s only the Holy Spirit that can enter in, once the heart is repentant and as a recipient of the grace of God through the atoning sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ and His blood, made clean and purified, a hospitable habitation for the Holy that one can genuinely experience the transformational power of God.

This is what the Bible speaks of as being “born again” (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:2-3; Ezekiel 36:26), and this begins the process that continues in the actions of the Almighty as found here in this 12th chapter of Romans. The spiritual rebirth is the result of provision by God for our justification; sanctification is the continued process whereby our minds (involving our souls) are being transformed by the same Spirit of God. Putting it directly, its only God that can actually ‘change our minds’ as it were, so that we begin to think alike with the LORD Jesus Christ, and have therefore by the Spirit the very “mind of Christ” by degrees of spiritual maturity (1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 4:16); see also:

PHILIPPIANS 2: 5-8

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross
.


To appreciate what having the mind of Christ entails, a review of 1 Corinthians, the 13th chapter would be most conducive. This is commonly known as ‘the love chapter’; the operative word here being agape which intimates the most unconditional, sacrificial love that can possibly be known and this is amply demonstrated by God’s love in offering up His Son for us (John 3:16) as well as the love of the LORD Jesus Christ on our behalf (John 15: 12-14).

Also compare the unregenerate person’s life with that of the regenerate person’s – the one’s works produced by the flesh (self) versus the other’s fruit produced by the Holy Spirit (God) as found in Galatians 5: 19-23; also note the key verses 24-25 that exemplify what it means to live such a life, and the power thereof!


Notice that in vs. 1 and 2 in Romans 12, the repetition of the word “acceptable” or “fully agreeable” – the very fact that we can by the grace of God so conduct our lives and hearts that our sacrificial life and renewed minds can be “fully agreeable” by the Holy and Eternal God; a true testimony to the power of God’s grace!

WHAT’s YOUR ALTITUDE of ATTITUDE?

ROMANS 12: 3

3 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
.


No saint can ever think of themselves more highly in attitude and conduct than the altitude of attitude of our LORD Jesus Christ Himself Whose own mindset was that of a servant, even though He is God Almighty, and humbled Himself as the Lamb of God Who has taken away our sins! Our LORD assumed a level of such low degree, how can we possibly see ourselves as worthy of higher?

Yet we all struggle with pride, of thinking better of ourselves and wanting others to perceive us in a better light than what really is; we all tend to take offense on our own behalf when we are wronged. There is the predilection of every one of us, in our flesh, to desire the preservation of our lives and that which we esteem highly. This is something that requires the death of self, the humility of Christ upon and within us and to see ourselves as precisely what we truly are: sinners saved and accounted as saints!


There is of course the attitude of false humility which is merely pride turned ‘inside-out’ and those with so-called low ‘self esteem’ (a term that in my opinion doesn’t belong in the vocabulary of a Christian who endeavors to lose his life, deny self, etc.) that need to get a ‘reality check’ and understand precisely how God sees us in truth, and not our own misperceptions and warped way of thinking.

The child of God readily admits their sinful nature and tendencies and yet can also make the claim to be God’s child and having on robes of righteousness and thus God’s approval. This is how we “ought to think” and attribute our worth based solely on the LORD Jesus Christ and nothing on ourselves.

Sobriety is something that seems to be lacking today in the Western Church: there is emphasis on entertainment, on the ‘happy Gospel’ and on health and wealth prosperity dogma rather than the serious mindedness that the true Gospel entails in light of the burning flames of hell that is never full even though scores of millions of souls rush headlong there, daily. Sobriety is a requirement for warfare in the believer’s walk (1 Peter 5:8-9).

This doesn’t negate the truth that the life of a believer is also to have the fullness of joy in salvation and in relationship with the living God as our heavenly Abba, but joy is not happiness (though happiness can be derivative of joy) or any human emotion but a condition of a soul that is in right relationship with the LORD.

This verse indicates that God has given to “every man the measure of faith” and yet elsewhere Paul indicates that “…all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Is this a contradiction? By no means, though there are a couple different ways to look at these two verses:


Some suggest that God has given to everyone, that is, everyone in the church who is saved, a measure of faith but not to the lost who are outside of the church. This has entirely credible grounds from Scripture but then the opposing view has some credence as well.

God in His grace and mercy has furnished humanity with what is required to come to salvation, and having granted the stewardship and capacity to express faith awaits to see what each individual person does with it; those who fail to exercise faith, lose that capacity eventually until Paul’s observation in 2 Thessalonians is realized.

BODY LANGUAGE for the CHURCH –

ROMANS 12: 4-5

4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another
.


The church of Jesus Christ is emphatically not an organization; its construct is not devised by mere humanity, its members are not placed in accord with the whim or desires of themselves or those accounted as leaders in the church.

Its goals and purposes are not determined by a hierarchy. Thus the church cannot operate as a business; it is a body – the body of Christ and He is the Head of the church. Each individual member by definition as a member of the body of Christ must be born again; baptized into Christ Jesus our LORD, and infused with the Holy Spirit, and therefore together we comprise a living, holy temple for God.

As we have already seen so far in this chapter, the church is to offer herself a living, holy, acceptable sacrifice, and deny any conformity to the world but rather have our minds transformed and renewed; also to attain and maintain a humble, sober attitude by faith.

All of these things are pre-requisite for verses 4 and 5 to function properly for we the church are in fact ONE BODY, not two, three or several, but one. Such unity can only be possible in the body if the individual members apply the truths of verses 1-3 and function truly as a singular entity, in accord with our LORD’s own prayer in John 17:

JOHN 17: 11

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are
.

The Greek word used here for “one” speaks not of a singular one, but a united one, just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a united one, so unified that it can rightly be declared of them, “Hear O Israel the LORD our GOD is one LORD . . .”

That Paul should use this analogy of “the body of Christ” is very appropriate because just as our bodies naturally function, so likewise the body of Christ ought to: notice that not one part of your body serves itself, but rather serves the rest of the body.

For example you see some object flying at great speed towards your eye. What happens? You flinch; your eye lids snap shut, your neck turns your entire head away from the projectile. All of this action committed just to protect your eye. Or you have an itch in the middle of your back; without even thinking you reach back there with your hand and scratch it. You become hungry and your stomach growls; your entire body goes into action, seeking food.

There is of course one exception to this rule of our natural bodies; there can arise a member within our bodies that serves no other member; only itself - it's called cancer. I submit that an attitude of selfishness, or self-esteem is a kind of 'cancer' in the body of Christ.


Likewise the body of Christ, each individual member is not to seek out their own needs, but the needs of others; we see this amply taught throughout the Scriptures:

MARK 10: 42-45

42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many
.


JOHN 13:13-15

13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you
.

GALATIANS 6:2, 10

2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith
.


Christ Jesus our LORD modeled servanthood for us as the KING of Heaven Who came to this fallen world to be the humble servant of YHWH (Phil. 2:7); if He bore the title of servant as an emblem of honor, how much more should we mere humans be willing to serve, rather than be served!

I have of late been learning and receiving the joy of servanthood in meeting the needs of a brother in Christ, and while this is time consuming, I consider it time extremely well spent, a needed blessing and ministry for my brother in need, and something that I believe honors the LORD in tending to one of His sheep.

As a demonstration of our unity in the body Paul elsewhere comments:

1 CORINTHIANS 12: 25-27 (see vs. 12 – 31 to read this passage in context)

25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular
.


What Paul deals with in the proceeding verses has to do with what’s been commonly known as ‘body ministry’ or as some might put it “in-reach” (as opposed to out-reach); these verses have to do with the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit and how He functions in the body of Christ.

This relates with the same passage as outlined above, 1 Corinthians chapter 12, but also chapter 14 and we will get into this in the next segment of this teaching in ROMANS: ON THE ROAD TO RIGHTEOUSNESS. Until then, may the LORD Jesus Christ bless all of you saints - - WAY TOO MUCH!!

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