Romans 12:1-8- The Mercies of God
Explanation- ‘I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…’ When Paul says ‘therefore,’ he is drawing our attention back to all that he has just written. These ‘mercies of God’ that have been put on display through his epistle are the foundation and motivation for what Paul is about to say next. It is as if he is saying, ‘in light of all that I have just told you, now you are to respond in such and such a way.’ What is the way in which we should respond? By presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices. It is interesting that Paul would use the term ‘bodies’ here, rather than the heart, soul, or spirit. I believe the reason is that if Christ truly has your heart, then your body will naturally follow. A man may say that Jesus has his heart, but the evidence of Christ possessing one’s heart is that their body will follow in the natural inclination of the heart. This does not imply perfection, for that would be impossible in our mortal state. What is being implied in the command to offer up our bodies is that having now been redeemed from a life of death and sin, we are now to present our earthly members to God as instruments of righteousness. This is the natural reaction of the body in light of the action that has taken place in our hearts. For this to take place, our minds must be set on heavenly things. Paul calls us not to be conformed to this world, that is to fashion ourselves after the same pattern of those still in sin, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Much has been said about this transformative process that takes place in the life of the believer. The word ‘transform’ in the Greek language is ‘metamorphoo,’ and from it, we derive our English word ‘metamorphosis.’ Briefly stated, this word expresses a breaking down of a former state of being in order to give way to a new. Often used to exemplify this process is the caterpillar who ‘transforms’ into a butterfly. This caterpillar, who in his current state, is in every way opposite of a butterfly, enters his cocoon. While inside, the caterpillar enters a liquid state. His body is completely destroyed and turned to goo. It is then, from this goo, that the caterpillar arises as a butterfly. A biblical example of this is found in Matthew 17 when Christ is ‘transfigured’ before the eyes of the disciples. The same word ‘metamorphoo’ used in Romans 12 is used in Matthew 17 as well. Christ’s figure was entirely transformed as His material body gave way to His glorified body. What a sight that must have been! In a very practical sense, this is the kind of transformation that is to take place in our minds. Our minds, which were once filled with death and corruption, are now to be washed by the water of God’s word. As our minds feast on the word of God, His thoughts begin to become our thoughts. Thus, day-by-day, we are conformed to His image. The Bible is the most amazingly unique book in this respect, namely that it transforms the reader so that they begin to look more like the Author.
As we progress in this process of conformity to God’s word, Paul exhorts us to remain humble, compassionate, and willing to use our individual gifts to edify and equip the body of Christ. He provides very practical advice in light of the truth he has just presented. It could be said that much of what Paul has written in chapters 1-11are indicatives. That is, they indicate certain objective realities that are present in those who are heirs of the life of faith. Now he moves into the imperatives, which are the practical steps we are to take as we live in light of these objective realities. Paul will continue with these practical applications throughout the rest of this chapter.
Application- The great aim of the Christian life is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we will possess the same physical characteristics as He does, but that we will be conformed to His character and conduct. We are to become like Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, God is transforming in this very way. We, who were once dead and defiled, have now been brought into new life. With this new life comes new desires, thoughts, speech, and behavior. These things themselves are not what cause our salvation, but are a result of having been saved. Throughout the rest of our lives, this process of sanctification will be at work in our lives. God is not content to simply save us and then leave us but tarries with us along the way. This is His work and not ours. Surely it is our physical bodies and minds that this change is coming through, but it is ultimately the Spirit of God at work within us, providing strength, wisdom, and perseverance along the way. This should give us a great reason to rejoice! We know that God will not leave us or forsake us, and His work in us is not complete until He sees us safely to our heavenly homeland.