The Thirty-First in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
We have come to the so-called “practical” section of Romans (chapters 12-15) in which Paul discusses the application of those doctrines set forth in Romans 1-11 to specific situations in everyday life. Paul has spoken of the Christian life as “life in the Spirit.” Now he will show us what life in the Spirit looks like. Paul has told us as justified sinners to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God. Now we will find out how this process of reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God manifests itself in the life of the church.
As we saw last time, in Romans 12:1-2 Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome to renew their minds while at the same time to avoid conformity to the pattern of this present evil age. According to Paul, Christians are to put on the mind of Christ (a fruit of regeneration), while at the same time they must stop thinking and acting like the pagans they once were. This means that there is an intellectual priority in the Christian life. The renewed mind (intellect) leads the way while the heart (emotions) must necessarily follow. But in order to obey the will of God, we must know the will of God. And to know the will of God, we must know God’s word– wherein his perfect will is revealed. And knowing God’s will, we cannot help but offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the God who created us and redeemed us. This, Paul says, is our spiritual act of worship, the response of a renewed mind and a heart filled with gratitude, to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This our duty and the sign that sanctification is taking place.
As we work our way through this final section of this epistle, we come to Romans 12:3-16, where Paul discusses the Christian’s attitude toward other Christians, an issue especially important to the church in Rome, where very likely Jewish and Gentile Christians experienced some degree of strife within the church.
The presence of such strife is why Paul lists Christian humility as the first characteristic of the Christian mind which is being transformed by the word of God and which is no longer being conformed to the pattern of this age. In verse 3, Paul writes, “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 given you.” While some argue that Paul’s words are aimed at those who hold office in the church–they are not to lord their authority over those they serve–there is no reason to think this is the case. Paul intends this exhortation to be heeded by all Christians, since humility should be the attitude of all those who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. People who understand that they are justified only because God has been merciful to them in Jesus Christ are hardly in a position to boast about their own righteousness. If the righteousness which justifies is Christ’s, and if our own righteousness only renders us guilty before God, then how can we boast and think of ourselves as better than others? We cannot.
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