A Study of the Book of Romans: Romans 12 Being Transformed

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


Have you ever noticed that much of the New Testament commandments deal with the mundane? They deal with the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, the importance of hard work, keeping guard over your tongue, etc. Joy, bliss, terror, and pain take up about 10% while we spend the other 90 living life, washing dishes, doing work, paying bills, pulling weeds, grocery shopping, and relating to family and friends. The reason for this is most of life is mundane. Christ’s disciples do not live perpetually on a spiritual high, just as Jesus did not when he walked on the earth. Much of his life was routine. If you wish to glorify God in your life you must do it in the mundane. It requires your dedication.



Verse 1: This takes awhile. Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God. The importance of his subject is made plain to us with ‘I urge you’—not a command to us but an appeal as strong as possible without commanding. The basis of this appeal is by the mercies of God. It is that mercy which delivered us from our sin and its consequences. It is that mercy which released us from the condemnation we deserved. This is to become the basis of our own dedication to God.

--The character of my dedication is to present your bodies a holy sacrifice acceptable to God. The nature of the sacrifice is to be holy—separating ourselves from unholy. Presetting ourselves to God is decisively separating ourselves from unholy. It is not offering parts of our lives from time to time—but our lives completely in dedication to God. Every time we decide to commit ourselves we should do it completely.

Our physical body is to become the agent through which our new life in Christ is to express itself. Though our bodies once were a vehicle for sin, they, too, will be redeemed, and as such, must be yielded to God—every member of it (Romans 6:14)—to God’s control essential to authentic Christian living.

PT—Notice the emphasis is on living as a sacrifice, not necessarily as someone headed for martyrdom. Nothing against martyrdom, but Paul is talking about living a life of sacrifice. The three attributes of the sacrifice specified here are found in the terms living, holy, and pleasing to God. Such then is the sacrifice Paul enjoins his Christian brothers to present. Thus to call upon his brothers to present their bodies as a sacrifice, which in turn was a service to God, was to urge them to live in the atmosphere of priestly activity.

--which is your spiritual reasonable service of worship. Interestingly, living as a sacrifice is a word which is used of service to God. And he emphasizes the fact that it is logical or reasonable. So the text reads: which is your logical service. Our dedication must be thoughtful and deliberate. We are priests—each one of us—offering all of ourselves to God in service for Him. What follows this appeal based on God’s mercies is a call to a conscious religious orientation to life.

Verse 2: If Christian living can be described as the presentation of a “living sacrifice,” the process involved in such living can be characterized as a process of transformation. Neither in Romans, nor elsewhere in his epistles, did Paul regard Christian experience as a simple, automatic transition from defeat to victory. Instead he regarded Christian living as a process of spiritual change accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit.


The first point is a negative one. If his brothers are to make a living sacrifice of their bodies, they must not be conformed to this world. The word for world is the normal word for world, but usually translated age or eternity. The call to make this commitment is followed by the need to maintain it throughout life. The world is the spirit of this age wanting to exclude God from life. Don’t be squeezed into that mold. The world’s thinking will never teach you dedication to God. The struggle will always be learning how to think on earth like they think in heaven. Worldliness can happen subconsciously through regular exposure. So minimize the exposure.


The second point is positive: But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Returning mentally to the decision to dedicate yourself to God—reaffirm that decision. Our responsibility is to act decisively in this matter, but to do so constantly will result in our transformation. The mind seems to be the battleground for my affections, ambitions, and desires. That transformation is from within—it is Christlikeness—godliness (Discipleship is…) George Slavina once for all act that is renewed everyday. BR Laken—I plan like I’m going to live for the next 50 yrs and then live as if each day is last I will ever have. The HS is the unidentified transformer who is set in contrast to world (8:9-11; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 6:17-18).


The realization of the divine will is the intended result of this transformation. So that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. The point is: we are not to think like this present age, but transform our minds into thinking in the direction of that which is good (has an intrinsic excellence) and acceptable (a favorable effect on God) and perfect (possesses an inherent superiority and completeness) according to the will of God. Paul is saying that when we actually perform the will of God in our lives, we will discover for ourselves that His will is good and pleasing and perfect.

PT—Sometimes the will of God becomes fuzzy and blurred especially when our commitment wavers. So we clarify what God’s will is by dedicating ourselves fully and wholeheartedly to God often. The temptation is often to believe that I have my own interests at heart and God does not. So we subvert the will of God in our lives. To circumvent this means that I must believe that God always has my greater good at heart and dedicate myself to His will revealed in His Word to me in all my life. The maintenance of our dedication to God impacts three major arenas in life…



Verse 3: To avoid the way of the world remember it is for through the grace given to me. Paul’s admonition to dedicate ourselves to the will of God, he states, comes via (through) his own experience of the grace that has been given to him. I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. Our tendency is self-centered aspirations that could exist when spiritual gifts were taken as badges of status within the Christian community. A man with a lesser gift might easily aspire to one that was more prestigious.

Instead, but to think so as to have sound judgment. Aim for service in Gods household that conformed to your actual ability and gift. This sensible approach meant that each person should take account of the manner in which God had distributed to him faith’s portion as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. God does not give every gift to every person, but instead the Spirit sovereignly determines the role each person will have in the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13-31). Paul’s readers are being urged to sensibly assess their giftedness and not to aspire beyond the spiritual status that God has assigned to them in the Christian Church.

Verse 4: To “to think so as to have sound judgment” (Rom 12:3) involves the realization that the Christian Church is analogous to a physical body which has many members. For just as we have many members in one body. The result is that there is a variety in the functions performed by these members. And all the members do not have the same function. Since there is some difference in the gifts specified between Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4, these are probably meant to be examples of some possible spiritual gifts or some basic categories for gifts, not an exhaustive list of all the gifts.

Verse 5: The result is so we, who are many, are one body in Christ. Just as many parts form one body so each person’s contribution profits every other person all throughout the city and world of believers. This is a supernatural bond we have together. And individually members one of another. We should recognize the basic fact that we who are many in number are all a part of a single whole (one body in Christ) and therefore we are individually members who actually are part of one another.

If a believer “aspires” to some gift that God has in fact bestowed on another believer rather than on himself, such an attitude fails to recognize the diversity in function which is inherent in the one body. Thus, each member should perform the function that he or she was intended to perform in the one body.

Verse 6: Inasmuch as the functions of the members of the body are not identical, it follows that each person should apply himself to the exercise of his own particular gift. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. In that way, the grace that had been given to each one can be used for the profit of the whole body. Implicit is the fact that the Body of Christ benefits when every gift is actually exercised each of us is to exercise them accordingly. So, what are these gifts? Paul was stressing here the need to recognize that the members of the body contribute to the common welfare. In each case he spoke of the way we use these gifts. Here are seven selected examples.

(1) If prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith. The possibility was all too real that individuals claiming prophetic inspiration might express ideas that ran counter to true Christian doctrine. The true prophet prophesies in agreement with the faith. Prophecy is communicating God’s message like prophets did in Bible for encouragement or comfort or warning. This was done ‘according to proportion of his faith’ meaning that which had been given to Him to say by God agreed with what already has been said. Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not power to control.

Verse 7: (2) if service, in his serving. Service contributing to peoples needs generously.

--Or he who (3) teaches, in his teaching. Teaching is explaining God’s Word and will. Whereas prophecy is a speaking gift, service is an activity. A teacher, then, should be occupied in teaching. It is noteworthy that although a teacher stood third in the hierarchy of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28), it is here placed after the humbler gift of service.

Verse 8: or he who (4) exhorts, in his exhortation. The same principle is true of an exhorter: he should utilize this gift in the activity or skill at stirring the proper response to truth, whereas the teacher (v 7) would be particularly gifted in expounding and explaining truth.

--he who (5) gives, with liberality. The fact that the giver should give with generosity is therefore best understood as applicable to all who give. Giving is a general Christian responsibility (Ephesians 4:28; cf. Luke 3:11) and is never elsewhere called a gift. Remove the profit motive from giving.

--he who (6) leads, with diligence. But irrespective of their individual gifts, the various leaders should vigorously apply themselves to their ruling responsibilities. These responsibilities should be carried out with diligence, forethought, and earnestness.

--he who (7) shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Mercy, alleviating what is deserved, extends to those whose circumstances are difficult or distressing. In the latter case, the mercy should not be given grudgingly or under duress, but with graciousness.



This section has 18 commandments for believers. The focus is on serving fellow believers as a means of serving the Lord. Ultimately, we are to serve God, not people. But God has a lot to say about how we are to serve Him, and a big part of that is being a servant to one another, best illustrated by Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Notice, we must pursue these.

Verse 9: (1) Let love be without hypocrisy (tolerating another is not love—love is action). The essential attribute of love is sincerity. It should be without hypocrisy. This is God’s love and its very nature is sincere. Our love must be like that. No pretense. No Hypocrisy. Not skin deep. Genuine. Real. Sincere. True. It takes initiative. It is proactive.

(2) Abhor what is evil cling to what is good. While hating evil we are also to love good by nature, as God defines that. Literally, to be glued to it. We should not just hate the obvious evil we would all agree exists, but to be horrified by, utterly detest evil in every form in which it appears. Evil exists because good exists. Good is the tangible character of what is truth. Truth is the way things actually are. Evil will overwhelm good until it snuffs it out. Then all self destructs since evil no longer has a host.

Verse 10: (3) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Genuine brotherly love should not be reduced to a mere superficial cordiality, but involves a real feeling for the worth and welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The idea of devoted and brotherly love is that natural affection we have in family relationships. All believers are in Christ and have a special bond described as the natural affection of family.

(4) Give preference to one another in honor. The believer should be in the forefront of bestowing honor on others. When it comes to giving honor, the believer should lead the way; that is, he should be a model of bestowing honor on others in Gods household, rather than grasping for honor himself. Giving recognition and appreciation to one another in Christ. Outdo one another in showing honor to each other.

Verse 11: (5) Not lagging behind in diligence. The believer should possess an obviously strong dedication to all his genuine responsibilities. Thus the Christian should be a person who takes his responsibilities very seriously, and who discharges them with commendable energy and effort. An enthusiastic person in every worthwhile pursuit. If he had responsibilities in any area of his life, he was to manifest diligence and be zealous about them.

(6) [Be] fervent in spirit serving the Lord. But specifically in regard to the Lord, this diligence and zeal should translate into genuine slave-service. Paul always taught the Christian slave not to do his service as if his human owner were his true master. Rather he was to serve as a slave to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:22-23; Col 3:22-23). The idea here is to not be lacking in speed. Urgent and in a hurry. Time is short. If you have been a believer for a long time don’t pass the baton, but speed up your service for the Lord. Now is not the time to slow down. Don’t stagger.

Verse 12: (7) Rejoicing in hope. Thus the basic attitude of believers in all their endeavors should be characterized by the joyous expectation of future glory and reward. No one has more to look forward to than Christians do. They should always be able to rejoice.

(8) Persevering in tribulation. However, rejoicing may often seem impossible in the face of earthly affliction. But the proper attitude toward any such experience is not despair or depression. Instead, the Christian is called to endure, to bear up under hardship and suffering.

(9) Devoted to prayer. Enduring cannot be done without prayer, and the habit of persisting in prayer is valuable at all times, and especially in times of stress. The Christian should habitually persevere in prayer as a fundamental practice of his spiritual life.

Verse 13: (10) Contributing to the needs of the saints. The final member of the series (that began with “in regard to brotherly love,” v 10) focuses on the obligation to be charitable to fellow Christians (the saints) who have material needs. The verb share is used several times in the NT of the process of alleviating the material needs of other Christians (e.g., Rom 15:26, 27; 2 Cor 9:13; Phil 1:5; 4:15; Heb 13:16).

(11) Practicing hospitality. Concluding with the virtue of hospitality as a final manifestation of Christian love. Here, as elsewhere in Paul’s letters, hospitality is regarded as an appropriate Christian virtue (cf. 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; cf. also Heb 13:2; 1 Pet 4:9). In particular, Christians who traveled benefited from the hospitality of their Fellow-Christians since accommodations for travelers in the Empire were poor and often disreputable. An open heart—an open hand—an open door. Whatever resources God has given you, use them—keep it available.

Verse 14: (12) Bless those who persecute you. We should not assume that the command to bless those who persecute you is exclusively applicable to our non-Christian relationships. Obviously it is usually the case that those who persecute us are the unregenerate, but this is far from being the only source of persecution. As is abundantly illustrated in the history of Christian churches, even within the Christian fellowship vendettas easily arise. These may be motivated by personal or doctrinal matters, or by both.

(13) Bless and do not curse. Whenever we feel anyone is against us and seeking to harm us in some way (not necessarily physically), it is then we are tempted to use harsh and disparaging language either about them or to their face. It is this type of verbal assault that Paul is forbidding. Instead, we should wish such people well or express the hope that God’s goodness will be theirs. In that way we bless rather than curse, and in doing so we manifest the love of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 4:21-25). The temptation is to respond tit for tat. But we should never retaliate and that goes against every grain of our humanity.

Verse 15: (14) Rejoice with those who rejoice. Be joyful and genuinely happy when a fortunate outcome brings joy to another. We are reminded of the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ who wept for the bereaved even as He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:35). The appeal by Paul challenges Christians to desire that their emotions should be appropriate to the circumstances of others.

(15) And weep with those who weep. Become so other-centered that you have no concern for your personal profit. Be moved by the joys and sorrows of others in body of Christ. We can secretly wish the worst on others or refuse to join in on others victories because we think of ourselves first. Jealousies take over.

Verse 16: (16) Be of the same mind toward one another. To have the same aspirations for each other instructs us to desire that others should experience what we ourselves would like to experience. This contrasts sharply with what often actually happens in a church, where one’s own ambition is to “get ahead” of others.

(17) Do not be haughty in mind. The command just stated is achievable if we do not aspire to high things. This is basic to being able to empathize with one another. Negatively, don’t feel superior thinking of yourself more highly. But associate with the lowly. Instead of unrealistically aiming for high things (status, reputation, etc.), we should instead associate with humble people.

(18) Do not be wise in your own estimation. Work out being a family. Pride sets you against another. Paul is here especially concerned with the “social climbers” who might be in the various Roman congregations. The effort of aiming after high things could lead easily to a self-presentation that stressed one’s own knowledge, skill, and insight. In other words, it was easy to pose as, and actually believe that one was, a person possessing special wisdom that should impress other people.



Verse 17: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. There should be no exception to the principle he is stating (such as, “but he really deserves it!”). The impulse to get even is intrinsic to our sinful nature, and rationalizations for retributive actions are easy to come by. Paul knows this, of course, so he emphasizes that such actions are not justified toward anyone at all.

--Respect what is right in the sight of all men. [Not every single person, of course, but we should respect what is generally right in the sight of reasonable people (Romans 2:1).] Instead of seeking retribution, Christians should make provision for things that are good in the sight of all men. The verb here for make provision implies forethought and perhaps even careful forethought. Whatever actions one takes, in or out of the church, they should stand up under scrutiny. We should aim for our actions to look truly good to whoever observes them, that is, in the sight of all men.

Verse 18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. [If you are in a conflict, make sure you are not the one causing the conflict. The gospel message and the truth of God’s Word will cause conflict with the world. But our desires and preferences (personal, social, or political) should not cause conflict. Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). If we are not to return evil for evil received, and if we are to be careful how our actions are perceived by others, it follows that our real aim is, or should be, peace with all men to the extent to which we are able to achieve this.

The qualifying phrase if possible, so far as it depends on you on your part is an obvious recognition that this may not always be possible. But if it is not possible in any given case (Paul himself often faced this impossibility), at least we should seek that the cause for the conflict does not lie within ourselves.

Verse 19: Never take your own revenge, [A theme repeated throughout Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalms 94:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Hebrews 10:30).] Despite his best efforts, the believer will in all probability face injustice and undeserved mistreatment in one form or another (cf. 2 Tim 3:12). When this occurs, however, he must be careful not to pursue revenge. Revenge, however, goes further and aims for a balancing of accounts. With such a mentality we are seeking to settle the score.

--beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” says the Lord. Remarkably, when we decline to avenge ourselves we leave room for the expression of God’s wrath toward the offending party. The idea is that we should not preempt God’s action through our own vengeful behavior. Our own ill-considered or inappropriate revenge can short-circuit what God would otherwise do Himself. Vengeance, therefore, is a divine prerogative.

Verse 20: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink. How then should a Christian respond to a person who is hostile to him? Paul gives the answer in words drawn from Proverbs 25:21-22. He should show him kindness by meeting his needs when the occasion presents itself.

--for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [The first part of this sentence is a clear example of Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). The meaning of the last part of the sentence is unclear.] From the perspective of divine wisdom, acts of kindness to one’s enemy place that enemy in a more precarious position than would a refusal to assist him. In the light of v 19, and especially of the command to “leave room for wrath,” to perform such kindness to one’s foe is to augment divine wrath against him. As mentioned above, the first part of this sentence is a clear example of Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). I have no idea what the second part of the sentence means. I have heard many interpretations (burning coals are conviction, motivation, shame, guilt, judgment, ???), but none are convincing. Paul’s point in Rom 12:19-20 is not that we should pretend that nothing wrong has been done. His point instead is that vengeance is not our business but God’s.

Verse 21: Do not be overcome by evil. In short, kindness to our enemies is a significant spiritual triumph. Each of these seem to say same thing in different ways. The idea is that there is no revenge or retaliation for us. So do we just allow evil to triumph then? Not according to the context. 3 positives counter balance these. Do not respond evilly to evil. Responding evilly will only double it—add to its tally. Now we have double-trouble.

--but overcome evil with good. In fact, behaving in this way is in reality a victory over evil. To behave in a vengeful and ungracious way toward an enemy is to be conquered (overcome) by the very evil that animates and controls that enemy. But to rise above such evil and to behave in a truly Christian way is to conquer (overcome) that evil by means of the good we do. Good reduces evil’s tally and diminishes it. Do good, bring peace, serve humbly, win over enemies—this is the kind of transformation that God brings into our lives.


So What?

·         Dedication to God and His will is a once for all act renewed every day

·         My dedication to God is maintained by separation from the sprit of this age

·         Maintaining your dedication to God allows for an effective God honoring Christlike life in the church and in the world