Romans - Lesson 48

Romans 12:1-2

You will gain a deep understanding of Romans 12:1-2, focusing on its significance within the broader context of Paul's letter to the Romans. This passage urges believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices, emphasizing that true worship extends beyond rituals to encompass everyday life. Through studying, you'll uncover the connection between God's mercy and Christian obligation, the importance of transformation through renewed thinking, and the role of worship as a rational response to God's grace. 

Lesson 48
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Romans 12:1-2

V. The Transforming Power of the Gospel: Christian Conduct (12:1-15:13)

A. The Heart of the Matter: Total Transformation (12:1-2)

B. Humility and Mutual Service (12:3-8)

C. Love and Its Manifestations (12:9-21)

D. The Christian and Secular Rulers (13:1-7)

E. Love and the Law (13:8-10)

F. Living in Light of the Day (13:11-14)

G. A Plea for Unity (14:1-15:13)

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 12:1-2  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.


A. Generalities of Romans 12: 

On to Romans 12. Romans 12 involves a lot of practical stuff, as we descend from the “rarified air” of the theology down to the nitty-gritty of life. A lot of commentators do completely run out of steam when they get to Romans 12, but this is a significant part of the letter of Paul. I would argue that this is part of the Gospel. The Gospel is not just preaching the Good News so that a person can be saved. The Good News is the proclamation of God working to bring the whole creation back under His lordship again in Christ. 

If that is true to the sense of the Gospel, then our living as servants of Christ, as people dedicated to Him, is part of the Gospel. It is in our lives and in our churches seeking to show the reality of God’s lordship in Christ over us. The way in which now in us and in the church and in Christians, there is in a sense a foretaste, a down payment on the work God is ultimately going to do to bring all His creation back under His lordship, to establish shalom, peace among all creation, once more. In that sense, Romans 12 isn’t a simple sort of add-on. It is an essential part of what the Gospel involves.

A couple of general points on these chapters. First, I think there is an interesting relationship back to chapter 6. We talked quite a lot about chapter 6 concerning death to sin and alive to Christ. Remember Paul talks about presenting ourselves as instruments in the cause of righteousness, being servants and slaves of God. But the point remains general there; it is almost as if now we can view in Romans 12 and following Paul coming back to that, saying now let me unpack that; let me begin looking at what that means in some specifics, looking at some details of what presenting ourselves as people who are alive in Christ really looks like. 

The other question that faces us when we come to Romans 12 and following is how much is what Paul is saying here tailored to the specifics of the Roman’s Christian context. In 14-15, as we are going to see, this is fairly clear that there are specific Roman Christian issues in mind. What about in 12-13? I think you can clearly divide these chapters into those two basic parts. In 14:1 through 15:13, all of that is directed to a specific situation in Rome, but 12-13 looks a lot more general. You don’t have Paul pointing out this as an application to you folks in Rome; he doesn’t bring the teaching home to them there. So, in 12-13 is Paul just summarizing his ethics in a general way or is even here Paul choosing topics that are particularly relevant to the Roman Christians?­­­ What are your observations about that? What do you think?

When I read this, I am still seeing the Jew and Gentile situation. You have the Jews kicked out of Rome; you have them coming back; you have this problem with now you have these Gentile churches that are bigger and seemingly more successful and these other house churches that are not so successful. Once you get out of verses 1 and 2 and the different gifts, I think he is trying to say, look, even if you are in a small house church, you have certain gifts. Your gifts are not inferior to those in other churches. I think he is still working with that. 

Still focusing on the situation?

Yes, it is really easy to see the Jews returning and feeling really bad, seeing all kinds of successes that they didn’t have, that they didn’t see before. In our circumstances, you have huge church ministers looking down their noses on small church ministers. And you have small church ministers berating the big ones and looking for ways to undercut them, as far as the pride they take in what they are doing. And Paul, I think is saying if you teach, teach your very best, your worth before God is the same, it’s just the sphere that He has called you to work in different. That is the only thing. So be a steward here. 

Dr. Moo:  
And all that you think is relevant to the Roman situation with the quarrels and fights going on. Okay. Anybody else?

A couple of observations of my own. I think that when we look at 12:1 to 15:13 as a whole, one of the things we have to recognize is that there are ethical issues that Paul talks quite a lot about elsewhere that don’t appear here. For example, sexual sin is something that Paul is repeatedly talking about in his letters elsewhere. It doesn’t really appear here at all, explicitly at least. So, you wonder whether indeed Paul is tailoring this to the Roman’s situation. 

(I don’t remember the tack I took in the commentary; I need to reread the commentary. One of things that I do when I teach Romans at Wheaton College, I give my students extra credit for everything they find me teaching something in class that is different than what I say in the commentary. Usually, two or three students at least get extra credit during the semester.)

I do think I am a little more inclined to emphasize the point (student) made, the more I have read Romans 12 -13 over the years, the more I see it ties into the Roman Christian situation. What Paul is saying here has general application obviously; but he is bringing in these topics to sort of prepare, to pave the way for the kind of focus we are going to have in 14:1 and following where he addresses the weak and the strong. We will look as we work through 12-13 to see how there are ways in which that might be the case. 

I don’t think that takes anything away from the general application of this but sometimes in our preaching, to know the context that Paul is giving to it, can put some flesh and application into a general teaching. So when we come to a text rather than vaguely saying, here is a text about how we should love each other, we can say Paul writes about this love for each other because here was the problem in that church. I’ll bet we have problems in our churches that are like that. Let us think about this love, not just vaguely and abstractly, but let’s think about it in how it might look in that context where we have some issues in our churches that aren’t that different than some of the issues that were in the churches of Paul’s day.

I find it interesting that he has just proclaimed God’s incredible mercy in chapter 11 then he says considering that God has been totally merciful towards your sin, how about if you leave sin behind and offer yourself as a living sacrifice? Not, live however you choose to live, but totally give your body over. 


B. God’s Mercy and the Christian Obligation: 

Exactly. The transition that Paul makes here, in view of God’s mercy; the Greek word here is actually plural and probably talks about the many aspects or applications of God’s mercy. Mercy has been a key word in Romans 9-11. Ultimately, this is picking up with a therefore in light of everything I have said in the letter up until this point, I have reminded you about the many ways in which God shows mercy to us, brothers and sisters, what do we now do in response? We have these famous verses in which Paul summarizes, in a sense, the Christian obligation. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. What we are to do. The idea that we do not offer (as Christians) animal sacrifices any longer, but of course there is the sacrifice that God still calls upon us to make that involves ourselves. 

The word bodies here deserves a little bit of comment. Sometimes with Paul in the New Testament, body can denote something indistinct from the soul and the spirit. The usually eschatological scenario is that when we die, while our bodies remain in the grave, the soul is with Christ and that when Christ returns in glory the body will be raised and joined with the soul or spirit again. 

But often in Scripture, these key terms that talk about human beings, these anthropological terms like soul, spirit, body, flesh, etc., are not so much focusing on the parts of the human but are looking at the human being from a certain perspective. And of course, academics like to coin terms of this sort, this is called the perspectival view of anthropology. 

The point then here would be when Paul says offer your body, he isn’t saying offer your physical parts indistinct from other parts, mental parts. He is saying to offer yourselves in as much as you are embodied. In other words, he is reminding us that we remain part of this world and that it is in this world we live in, we are to make this kind of a sacrifice. It isn’t some spiritual thing separate from the world; it is not a monastic experience where we withdraw to a mountain top. It involves a giving of ourselves as living sacrifices as we are in this world and part of this world. That is the difficult thing God calls us to do. 

It can be easy to retreat somewhere and have a wonderful spiritual time; a lot of us do that. We go on a vacation, we take a retreat and what a wonderful time with God it is, and then we come back to the daily grind of life. We face a miserable job or the temptations of the life around us.


C. The Act of Worship: 

The realities of the world we live in are a lot harder sometimes to have that kind of super spiritual approach to life in that context. Paul is making the point that it is in the concrete specifics of our life in the world where we demonstrate that we are living sacrifices and that is our worship. 

I hope you are as unhappy as I am with the tendency - my children are guilty of this, my daughter will come back from church saying the sermon was bad, but the worship was good. Ever hear that? Tell me, how do you define worship? Is worship only singing then? Isn’t preaching the Word and responding to it, isn’t that worship? Isn’t prayer worship? Isn’t indeed, the point Paul is making here, my daily life an act of worship? The way I conduct ourselves at work; the way I go about driving my car. Paul says that this is our worship; this is what it means to worship God. Let’s talk about a worship service but let’s not call that worship indistinct from the rest of our Christian existence. 

The word here being translated as proper worship as rational beings, spiritual act of worship, in our committee, we have gone around and around in how to translate the word worship. It is a very difficult word to translate. You will see English versions all over the place - spiritual, rational, and reasonable. As I look at the word, it seems to me that it has this note of a worship that is appropriate to us as reasoning beings. In other words, it goes back to where Paul began here. Worshiping God in this way, by offering ourselves as living sacrifices, is a reasonable decision for us to make in light of what God has done for us. It is something that we as rational creatures do that irrational creatures can’t do. 

I would like to think that there is an application there to some of the worship wars we are involved in. I personally don’t think that God cares whether we worship to an organ, an electric guitar, or none of the above. But I do think He wants our worship services to be characterized by rationality, that is to be stimulated by an engagement with the truth of God that motivates the worship. That is how God has made us; to be people who can understand, think about, and appreciate the truth of God as the motivation and context in which we worship.


D. You Must Be Transformed: 

We all know it is really easy to get a crowd on an emotional high by playing music a certain way, by pumping up the volume. But you have to ask is that is biblical worship if it isn’t being rightly informed by a vision of God, by truth about God to which people are responding. I think there are implications there.

Paul goes on in verse 2 then to specify as to how we do this. Here is the famous “do not conform but be transformed” which is a nice English word play that actually doesn’t exist in Greek. That’s okay, it works in English at least. The pattern of this world or this age, you could also translate the word Paul uses here. It is the old realm idea again we have been talking about. We have one foot in the old realm, it is still here; don’t conform to it but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. This is a continuing process; we talked about this the other day. I anticipated this point a little bit in what we were saying about the Law. 

I think this is absolutely a fundamental idea in terms of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to minister to Christians. Am I having my mind renewed? As a pastor or preacher or teacher, am I enabling people to renew their minds, to completely sort of reframe their thinking in Christian ways? 

I like to think of computer programming here for instance. We all start life programmed in some fundamental un-Christian ways. When we come to Christ, God begins to sort of reprogram our basic thinking; to renew our minds so we have the goal of becoming people who naturally, inevitably, and consistently think in Christian ways about everything. It is basic, it’s fundamental, and it will touch all aspects of life. But because it is such a big idea, it can sometimes be one that we don’t spend as much time on as we should because we are looking at the particulars of what we want people to do.

Along these lines, just to think a little about the issue of the Law from a slightly different standpoint. The central New Testament teaching is that God gives us his Spirit as a force within us to be renewing the way we think. That needs to be the central thrust. Now, I mentioned the commandments here; yes, God still gives us commandments. I talked about my view of the Law of Christ for example. These commandments, these specific dos and don’ts are still applicable to us as Christians as well. What we have to avoid doing is making the mistake of making the commandments the focus rather than this (renewing the mind by the Spirit.) This has to be the focus, commandments come along to sort of act as checks on that process. 

I think this is what is going on in 1 Corinthians to some extent. Here, you have a church that says, we have the Spirit and God is renewing our minds; this is the way we think. Paul says, no, you think you have the mind of Christ; I’m telling you that you are violating the commandment. You are mistaken about having the mind of Christ. 

That is the problem we face in this life. We can mistake the mind of Christ; we can try to pretend that our own selfish or sinful ideas are what God wants us to do. So, we still need the commandments to sort of guide the process, but again, those commandments must not be central; that is to lapse into moralism or legalism, and to fail to give the kind of attention and emphasis to this renewing of the mind by the Spirit that I think is central to what Paul is teaching here.