And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
The book of Romans is believed to have been written around 58 AD before Paul actually made his visit to this city. There is some debate about who Paul was actually writing to; was it to the Jews or Gentiles? For some perspective, Emperor Claudius had kicked all of the Jews out of Rome around 49 AD. At the time of this writing however, Claudius had died and many had returned. It had been over 30 years since the day of Pentecost. Paul spent the first 10 chapters of Romans making the case for uniting the Jews and Gentiles into one family of God. One body of believers, unified in Christ, but individual in our service. We still should be made aware and cautious about keeping our liberties and the needs of those we minister to in proper perspective. As we dive into this section of scripture, notice the verbs present, renew, and think.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Though these verses are not in the lesson, they are such an important part of our Christian education. In our church, we have a dear saint of God that comes to mind immediately upon hearing these words. He not only teaches us all, he lives these words he holds so dear. Paul begs, beseeches us, to not only give our hearts but our body and mind to the Lord. We must be all in! The people of this day are more familiar with the offering of sacrifices than we are today. However, the sacrifice that Christ demands is not a dead offering separate from ourselves. It is living, acceptable to God, and reasonable when we consider that Christ gave himself for us. When one considers all the mercies of God, the sacrifice for our sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Grace, Mercy, and love, it is reasonable to commit our lives to him and to the daily transformation of our mind toward the perspective of God and away from the perspective of the world. We must choose to renew our thoughts to God's good, acceptable, and perfect will.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Paul says this a lot because human beings need to hear it a lot. We have an amazing penchant for pride. I am sure that Paul, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, has had to live what he is writing. By Grace (God’s unmerited favor), He has already provided everything we need. Our salvation is not by our own doing. When you realize we owe it all to God, pride easily slips away.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
We have renewed our mind, dedicated our bodies to reasonable service, and are all part of one body. Lots of different members and multitudes of talents, different abilities, all forming just one body. There should be no desire to keep anyone out - in fact, we are commanded to bring them in. The condition of being in this body of believers is accepting Christ as our savior. We are united around the flag of Jesus Christ. We are the Bride, the one Church, one.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Reasonable service with the gifts and talents God has given each of us. We didn’t even decide these for ourselves!
Prophesy: Speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit God’s instructions, warnings, and message. Giving out God’s word to His people. Think about Jeremiah, whose own heart broke with godly sorrow as He told God’s people about the coming Judgement.
Ministry: A minister is a spirit-filled servant, able to step in and care for the people of God in whatever capacity is needed. Think of Stephen serving tables but also preaching before the Sanhedrin.
Teaching: This gift is when a person is helped by the Holy Spirit to understand and make clear the word of God so that others can hear and grow in their knowledge and application of the Bible. Think of how Aquila and Priscilla instructed Apollos and helped prepare him to spread the gospel.
Exhorting: The Holy Spirit enables this person to encourage others, to inspire with God’s word, to see and strengthen the gifts in other believers. Think about how Paul poured into Timothy when others criticized him for his youth and for having a father who was not a Jew. Paul lifted him up and inspired him to be the man God called him to be and to stand faithfully on the word.
Ruling: it’s easy to misunderstand this gift of the Spirit, because it is human nature to view the ruler as the “boss.” Christ set a different example. This gift is the ability to put the needs of others ahead of your own agenda. To lead, by example, and by submission to God’s authority. This person sees trouble and deals with it meekly, directly, wisely, and most importantly, in the authority of the Holy Spirit. Think about Moses as he served and interceded for the Hebrews.
Shewing Mercy: Showing mercy is a gift. Mob thinking requires retribution, it is an act of the Holy Spirit to find a way to show mercy without being unjust. This gift is the ability to see things from another point of view, to express deep gratitude for what Christ has forgiven us for, and to persuade others to see things from a different perspective. This person is the “peacemaker,” and Christ said in Matthew 5 that they will be called the “children of God.” The person who shows mercy will need divine power to do so when they, or those they love, have been hurt unfairly, but their actions are a powerful witness to the world about Jesus Christ. Think about Christ healing the servant of the high priest’s ear when he was arrested outside of the garden. Remember that He cried “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as He was in agony on the cross. Then remember Stephen following that same example when he was attacked and stoned, praying for the forgiveness of his attackers, just like his Master had done.
Be assured that God has not saved you to do nothing. You have the Holy Spirit of God living within you, enabling you to do things you do not have the strength, wisdom, or ability to do on your own. How do you know what gift you have been given? A daily walk with the Lord, leaning on His Word and not your own understanding, is the only answer. When it is your heart’s desire for God to get the glory and your full intent to follow his direction, opportunities to serve will appear. God is not creating a movie, casting perfect saints in theatrical roles. He is working through His children in the day-to-day, moment-to-moment realities of life to draw as many to Himself in a saving relationship as are willing. Many times, the New Testament will mention the “conversation” of the believer. Much more than words we say, conversation is everything about the way we really live. The closer we draw to God, the more we are changed, the more we are changed, the better we love those around us, and the better we love those around us, the more drawn they are to Christ. And the more drawn they are to Christ, the more they find Him to be altogether lovely. It all starts with putting our fellowship with Him at the top of our priorities.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!