The Thirty-Third in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
In the first eleven chapters of the Book of Romans, Paul made the case that a righteousness from God is revealed in the gospel and that all those who by faith alone trust in Jesus Christ receive that righteousness freely offered them. But Paul has also argued that all those justified by faith alone will put to death the deeds of the flesh and begin to live a new life of obedience to the commandments of God. In Romans 12-15, Paul exhorts these same justified sinners to be renewed in mind and to stop being conformed to the pattern of this age. This renewal of mind, the putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and the new life of obedience (“sanctification”) will manifest itself in the daily lives of the members of the church in Rome. Thus Paul concludes this letter by discussing the specific situations facing the Christians in Rome and how they should respond.
In the straight-forward and direct language of Paul, sanctification is not merely theoretical but practical. The righteous standing we have been given in Jesus Christ is worked out in daily life through the concrete actions Paul now describes. The renewal of our minds means that Christians are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. It means we must regard the church as the body of Jesus Christ with each member being equally important. Thus Christians should use the gifts and abilities God has given to us for the edification of the church as a whole. To be renewed in mind also produces the actions defined in the vivid language of Romans 12:9-14. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Having forbidden Christians from seeking revenge upon those who have wronged them–an important pastoral matter in a church facing increased persecution from the Roman government and hostile pagan culture–Paul discusses the Christian’s attitude toward civil government in the opening verses of Romans 13. But Paul now moves on to address the subject of the Christian’s attitude towards those outside the church. Christians are not only to be good citizens because government is ordained by God to promote the public well-being and punish evil doers, Christians are also to be characterized by their love for others, including love for those outside the church who may be persecuting them. Being good citizens and loving your neighbor will not only soften the anger non-Christians have for members of the Roman church, distinctly Christian behavior also eliminates a number of obstacles people have to believing the gospel. Christians will not only demonstrate before the watching world that God is creating a new society, but the presence of Christian virtues undercuts the false accusations that Christians are subversive and are somehow a danger to the state because they refuse to worship caesar.
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