Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Romans 12 (web)

The Christian Lifestyle

Submission to God

12:1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.

Non-Conformity to the World

12:2 Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Humility - Spiritual gifts

12:3 For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably,
as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.
12:4 For even as we have many members in one body,
and all the members don't have the same function,
12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
12:6 Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us,

Love

12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor that which is evil.
Cling to that which is good.
12:10 In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another;
in honor preferring one another;

12:11 not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12:12 rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer;

12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.

12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don't curse. (Luke 6:28)
12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.

12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another.
Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.

Don't be wise in your own conceits.

12:17 Repay no one evil for evil.
Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men.
12:18 If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men.

12:19 Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath.
For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord." (Deut 32:35)
12:20 Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink.
For in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head." (Prov 25:21,22)
12:21 Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Discussion Questions

vs 1 Though you may have ways in which you are obeying God, what are examples of your obedience that requires a sacrifice on your part?
vs 2 In what ways does the world try to conform us to its way of thinking?
vs 3 If you were to evaluate yourself with sober judgment, in your view what are your strengths and weaknesses.
vs 4-8 Of the spiritual gifts listed, which best represent your strengths?
vs 9 How might those who have a misconception of "love" practice it insincerely?
vs 10 Are there people that you can say that you are devoted to? Are there Christians who are devoted to you?
vs 11-12 How does your zeal affect your service for God? Describe a difficult circumstance in which you have overcome discouragement and continued to zealously serve God.
vs 13 What charities would you recommend? How would you evaluate between real needs and merely desires when in comes to generosity?
vs 15 Under what circumstances should we rejoice and weep with others? (Considering Matt 11:7)
vs 16 Would you say that the people you associate with presently are of a low position? What kinds of people around you would be considered of a low position? "Low" in whose eyes?
vs 14,17-21 Have you ever had to respond to hostility against you because of your Christian faith? You did you do?


Comments

Spiritual Worship

Rom 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship.

No other chapter in the Bible contains such an extensive listing of characteristics of the Christian life. This is the most intensely application oriented chapter in the whole New Testament. But you will notice in this chapter that the primary focus is upon attitudes which work themselves out into applications, rather than simply regulations.

Concerning this first subject of worship, the spiritual act of worship incorporates far more than merely singing hymns. Rather, the spiritual act of worship incorporates all that you do as a Christian in service to the LORD. In particular in speaking of your "bodies" I infer first of all he isn't talking about the Church as a community. For where the Bible speaks of the Church the "body" of Christ it emphasizes the singular whereas Paul uses the plural here. ("we who are many form one body" Rom 12:5 and "There is one body and one Spirit" Eph 4:4a) But here Paul is referring to each Christian's physical body. That is, spiritual worship is taking action on your faith. We are called to a life of service. For "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them" 2Cor 5:15a

Under the Law, not just any sacrifice was acceptable to God. The lamb had to be among the firstborn, male, unblemished, which by analogy means that God is not pleased with just any sacrifice we make. Quality counts. Attitude counts. Jesus said, "if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Mt 10:42b But if we're only offering lukewarm water, Jesus said, "because you are lukewarm— neither hot nor cold— I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Rev 3:16 What quality of service are you offering the LORD? And then there's quantity of service. "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." 2Cor 9:6 ("Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Heb 13:16) Are you excusing yourself from doing ministry by filling your life with unnecessary things and activities. "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs— he wants to please his commanding officer." 2Tim 2:4

I pray "that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God" Col 1:10

Be a Non-Conformist

Rom 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will."

The first step in not conforming to the pattern of this world is identifying the distinction between the pattern of the world with the pattern of the Christian life taught in the Bible. Among other things it's going to involve making judgements based upon what the Bible says. What are the primary challenges today that Christians face with regards to this matter? While that's a matter of perspective, what got Paul most upset about the Corinthians was their disregard for what the Bible says concerning sexual immorality, as we read in 1Corinthians chapter 5. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: " 1Cor 5:1 Likewise today there are many churches and consequently many Christians who disregard what the Bible says about sexual immorality, or more generally they disregard the very nature of the Biblical relationship between men and women, largely the result of the influence of feminism over the decades.

For example while Jesus said, "at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female." Mark 10:6, there are Christians today who claim that God made them homosexual or transgender or other such foolishness. "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 And there are those who despite what Jesus said, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." Mk 10:11b,12 (for "a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives." 1Cor 7:39a), will nonetheless willfully commit adultery in such a manner, let alone the fornicating Christians who don't even bother getting married. But perhaps the most insidious of all within the church is the disregard of what the Bible says concerning the subordinate role of women. For " I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man" 1Cor 11:3, for which reason Paul says, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." 1Tim 2:11,12

These are some significant areas in which Christians have the opportunity to distinguish themselves from the world. But there are many more categories - money, purpose in life, view towards suffering, hope in the resurrection, and so forth. The world constantly tries to mold us into its image. It tries to shape our values, our morals, and our perspective on life. Those who don't conform to peer pressure are threatened with dishonor, contempt, hostility, loss of relationships and loss of security. But as Jesus said of his disciples "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:16.


Reckon Yourself with Humility

Rom 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has distributed to you.

Humility is the most essential of all virtues. For all other virtues are dependent upon this one. But humility is not to be confused with unconfidence or having a poor self-image. Rather it's having realistic - sober - view of oneself in the light of what the Bible says.

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Php 2:4-8

But what does the last phrase "in accordance with the measure of faith God has distributed to you" mean? He's not talking about saving faith as that's not a matter of measure, and the Greek word for "distributed" is "merizo" which means to divide. What he's talking about is the distribution of  spiritual gifts as he will elaborate upon in verses 6-8 For "we have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Rom 12:6a Notice also 1Cor 12:9 in the middle of a list of spiritual gifts it says, "To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit". Once again, "faith" certainly cannot refer to saving faith in such a context seeing as it implies not all those born of God have that gift, and yet to be a child of God and receive the Holy Spirit one must have saving faith to begin with. So there's a difference sense in which "faith" is used with respect to spiritual gifts than with respect to a requirement for salvation.

And therefore also he is saying that we need to value ourselves in accordance with the spiritual gifts God has distributed to us, and likewise we need to value other Christians, who though different from us, have spiritual gifts essential to edifying the body of Christ.


Members of One Body

Rom 12:4,5 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Thus Paul likewise wrote in 1Cor 12:12-14 "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many."

Now we often talk of the Christian community being a family, and indeed we are spoken of as being the family of God. But the illustration here is even more intimate, being members of the same body. Here he speaks of each member belonging to the others and consequently everyone child of God influences every other child of God. So if you're screwing up, that harms me and everyone else. And if you're living a spiritual healthy Christian life, that benefits me and everyone else.

But contrary to much of the history of institutional Christianity, not only must each member do its part, as Paul writes, "we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:15,16, but also each member must be allowed, indeed encouraged, to do its part, exercising the particular giftedness which God has granted. For much of the history of institutionalized Christianity is simply a history of an audience watching a few players do the work, and the few players not allowing the audience to participate. Consequently the body of Christ has largely been alseep through the centuries, gagged and bound by the birds that nest in its branches.


A Diversity of Gifts

Rom 12:6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.

While we are to have unity with regards to truth and attitude, it is God's will that we be diverse with respect to ministry.  For "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:" 1Cor 12:4-7 and "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms." 1Pet 4:10 In contrast the worldly get it backwards, demanding diversity where there should be unity, and unity where their should be diversity. And "The same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." 1Cor 12: 11 Every believer has spiritual gifts and consequently has the responsibility to use them in service to God. If you want to identify your spiritual gift or gifts, then go and serve God, do some sort of ministry, and you'll discover what you're gifted at.

With regards to prophecying, there are some different opinions as to what constitutes prophecying in the New Testament sense. But in any case it is spoken of in 1Corinthians as a very significant gift. "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy." 1Cor 14:1 That chapter also indicates that some gifts are more essential and edifying than others. For example he says, "He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues" 1Cor 14:5b, the reason being because prophecy more effectively edifies the Church.

Prophecying, along with teaching, are also two gifts which not only express what the person does, but also describes one of the essential roles or positions in the Church. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers" Eph 4:11 You can get a taste for the exercise of such a role in 1Cor 14:29-31 "Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged." Note that their words are not to be taken as infallible, but to be scrutinized, weighed carefully. And not only with regards to truth, but also with regards to application, which I think is an essential part of the prophecy. In fact I think that prophecying in this sense is speaking out scriptural applications.

There's a shade of difference in Teaching, in that teaching emphasizes explanation, and thus the teacher's goal is to bring revelation through explanation while the prophet's goal is convict the heart with regards to some application of a scriptural principle.


Serving and Teaching

Rom 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach

These gifts of service and teaching are also mentioned here: "And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues." 1Cor 12:28

As I mentioned previously, prophecy and teaching are a couple of the most essential roles among the body of Christ, prophecying focuses on convicting the person of applications, and teaching focuses on explaining the scriptures. (For example you may have noted that I enjoy explaining things to death) But let those who teach or who want to teach take warning. For some "want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm." 1Tim 1:7 and in fact "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." Jam 3:1 And those who seek to be taught should likewise take heed. For there are those who in order "to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2Tim 4:3,4

Those with the gift of service focus on meeting practical needs. For example there were some women who cared for Jesus during his ministry. And when he was crucified, "some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs." Mk 15:40,41 For Paul it was  Epaphroditus who was commended as, "my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs." Php 2:25

Christ himself set the example of service, for  the "Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mt 20:28 And the apostle Paul also encouraged the Ephesian elders to relinquish their right to get paid, and opt rather to contribute. "You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions." Acts 20:34 


Yet More Gifts

Rom 12:8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

"Encouraging" is more literally "exhortation", which encompasses both encouraging, warning, beseeching. We see for example Peter exercising this in Acts 2:40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Likewise Paul used this word in verse 1 of this chapter.

"Contributing" refers to practicing generosity. Some have greater faith and resources in this matter than others. For example of the rich Paul instructs Timothy, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." 1Tim 6:17,18. If you're well off, God may have given you the gift of generosity. So practice it!

Leadership may be referring to the gift of administration spoken of in 1Cor 12:28. This is an organizer. A CEO type of person who can both identify the giftedness and resources of others and desires to organize them efficiently. Nice gift for a church administrator. But let them not be lazy but govern diligently. For delegation can be an excuse for laziness.

The one with the gift of mercy is focused on the person's emotional state, which is why it speaks of doing so cheerfully. The merciful primarily deal with emotionally hurt people, which can be depressing, and consequently the merciful must take heed not to become so wrapped up in that person's emotional state as to bring oneself down, else it's an unending spiral downwards. (That's the downside of empathy). But rather to cheer the person up.


Godly Love, Godly Hatred

Rom 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Love must be genuine. In contrast are those who love for what they can get out of it, not for other people's benefit. More often than not the expression "I love you" does not express the love Paul is referring to. Rather "I love you" often means being with you makes me feel good, and so when I stop feeling good around you I won't love you anymore. Or the expression is used as a sort of magical incantation to get what you want.

While the world relies upon such vain expressions, John writes, "let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1John 3:18 Christian love is expressed in deed, even as "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 So also love for Jesus is expressed in deed. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." John 14:21 And to Peter he said "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." John 21:17
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart." 1Peter 1:22 
Another misconception people often have is the idea that hatred is incompatible with love. In fact God both hates and loves. These are not incompatible. One cannot have a godly love unless they also have a godly hatred of what is evil. For note that in God's primary demonstration of love he did not compromise his hatred of sin, "who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:14 And despite his love for people, he will nonetheless condemn the majority to satisfy his judicial nature and holiness. "You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors." Ps 5:4-6 

"To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." Pr 8:13 So "let those who love the LORD hate evil" Ps 97:10a


Be Devoted to One Another

Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Heb 10:24,25 For how can one be said to be devoted to another unless there is some contact and interaction between the two. So if you're not involved in some sort of Christian fellowship, get to it. Don't look for perfect Christians, but for a place in which you may be allowed to edify other Christians. And may it be said of you, as it was the household of Stephanas, "they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it." 1Cor 16:15

Concerning honor, "it is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor." Pr 25:27 So "let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." Pr 27:2 Consider giving recognition to others.


Be Enthusiastic

Rom 12:11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord

Paul has already spoken of the dangers of having zeal without knowledge. This was not to discourage zealousness, but to apply it properly. For zeal is a good thing as he writes in Galatians, "It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you." Gal 4:18 But such zeal should be based upon proper information with a perspective of serving the Lord. As Paul warns in the book of Galatians, religious zealousness can often be self-serving, simply trying to gain popularity. "Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them." Gal 4:17 In contrast "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15

"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure." Heb 6:11


Persevere in Hope

Rom 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Jam 1:2,3 And besides that "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Jam 1:12 "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1Peter 5:10

For these reason, and because of the hope that we have, we can be joyful despite afflictions and opposing circumstances, for whatever bad things may happen to us, there is good, there is benefit. And "devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Col 4:2 For "we do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." Heb 6:12 "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Eph 6:18


Practice Hospitality

Rom 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? Jam 2:15,16 Note that hospitality is not really about entertaining people's fancy. It's primarily about meeting essential needs. Therefore, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed" Luke 14:13,14 Also hospitality is not so much about how you treat your friends, but how you treat strangers. Though the rich man who ended up in hell in Luke 16 was hospitable to his own, yet he neglected the poor man. The word "hospitality" used here in Rom 12:13 is "philoxenia" - "philo" meaning "to like", and "xenia" meaning strangers. Thus hospitality is particularly a challenge for Christians who grew up in xenophobic cultures. Such Christians may also find it challenging to practice generosity.

Hospitality was also recommended in the case of itinerant evangelists. "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." 3John 1:5-8 This is the particular case Jesus was alluding to in Matt 25:35 "I was a stranger and you invited me in"


Bless Those who Curse You

Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

This goes beyond the sermon on the mount where Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Mt 5:11 The Christian is not simply to tolerate insult and abuse, but to bless one's persecutor. Paul writes, "We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it" 1Cor 4:12

The challenge is to look with favor upon those who hate you. Jesus set the example in his blessing Saul who had been zealously persecuting Christians in an official capacity. But he blessed Saul, not only bringing him to saving faith, but establishing him as an apostle, giving him a worldwide ministry.

Likewise Christians need to beware of getting angry at those who persecute our friends.  Jesus was rejected from one village, and when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them." Luke 9:54-56 Beware of taking up arms in the name of defending fellow Christians.  Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" John 18:11


Sympathize

Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Jesus' friend Lazarus got sick and died, and yet Jesus did not mourn - not until he was among those who were mourning. Then "Jesus wept." John 11:35 And "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" Heb 4:15a Empathy is a virtue, but beware of conforming to the world. For "the heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked." Jer 17:9 And thus sympathizing with others could lead to a condoning of their sin. But nonetheless, "all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1Pet 3:8 And "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1Cor 12:26 Thus Paul says, "Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" 2Cor 11:29 And Hebrews instructs us to "remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Heb 13:3 


Don't be Conceited

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

One way to measure one's pride is through one's associations. What restrictions do you place on your associations? Yes indeed one should have restrictions. For example the Bible instructs us, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared." Pr 22:24 and "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray." Pr 12:26 But if the restrictions you place on your associations are based upon wealth or social status, you are conceited. Jesus primarily associated with the lowly. And God "chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." 1Cor 1:27

"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here’s a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" Jam 2:1-4

But actually the most significant issue concerning association that came into play in the early church concerned the prejudice the Jews held against the Gentiles, a prejudice of which most of the apostles were guiltly. God even had to give Peter a special vision to get him to go to the house of a Gentile so he could share the gospel with him, despite the fact that the Lord had already commanded them to preach to all the nations. What prejudices do you have which restrict your ministering?


Do What is Right

Rom 12:17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Concerning revenge it is said, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Rom 12:19  And Do not say, "I’ll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you." Pr 20:22 "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." I Peter 3:9  And again "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." 1Th 5:15  Notice how much this instruction is repeated.

A righteous person is one who is governed by the principle of doing what is right because it's the right thing to do. And beyond this we must be careful to avoid an appearance of evil, even if we have no intention of doing evil. Thus for example Paul was careful when it came to managing contributions to others. "We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men." 2Cor 8:20,21 "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." Pr 10:9


Live Peaceably

Rom 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Granted that it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone. Even the Lord himself was crucified by his enemies. We should try to live at peace with everyone, but without compromising our convictions. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Heb 12:14 Thus in living in peace with others we must take care not to sin. Sometimes that even involves separating from that person. "If the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.... God has called us to live in peace." 1Cor 7:15 

But in regards to matters of scruples, like with regards to eating and drinking, "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Rom 14:19 Thus for example the Jewish Christians were instructed not to break fellowship with Gentile Christians over such matters. When the spirit of the law conflicts with its regulations, one must follow the spirit.


Repay Good for Evil

Rom 12:19-21 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Deut 32:35) On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." (Prov 25:21,22) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That is you bring shame to your enemies by returning good for evil. The burn coals are the convictions of sin which burn the heart, leading to humiliation but which may bring a person to Christ. Peter writes, "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." 1Peter 3:13-16

Likewise Jesus said, "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Mt 5:39-45


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Apr 19,2011