How should the Christian live be lived?
Now that Paul has finished his explanation of the gospel, he turns his attention more fully to the way life should be lived in light of it. Paul follows this basic pattern of gospel presentation followed by ethical exhortation in all his letters (Gal 5:13 – Gal 6:10; Thessalonians 4:1 – Thessalonians 5-22; Col 3:1 – Col 4:6; Eph 4:1 – Eph 6:20). This is Paul’s way of essentially saying, “Become what you already are in Christ.” The ethical life of the gospel is not to be a burden of things a believer has to do to become a part of God’s family. Believers are called to live godly lives because in Christ they are already part of God’s family.
Before Paul begins to list specific ways that the Christian life should be lived (Rom 12:9-21), he first describes the Christian life as a “sacrifice” offered in a temple. Sacrifices offered in ancient temples were considered to be both holy and the legal possession of the gods. Paul draws on this common understanding to emphasize that a believer’s entire life also belongs to God and should be dedicated for holy use. This fundamental fact should be the basic principle for determining how to live life as a follower of Jesus (Rom 12:2-3).
Questions for Discussion:
- Romans 12:1-2 includes a response from both the body and the mind. Why are both these aspects of the human life important in our relationship with God? Can you think of any groups in Christianity that focused too much on one of these aspects with disastrous results?
- If we are transformed by the renewal of our minds, how does that take place in a practical sense? Is this something we do, or that God does? And how often does it need to occur?
- Paul explicitly mentions love twice at the beginning of Romans 12:9-21. In what sense does love play a role in each of the traits mentioned?
- How can we learn to hate evil without hating the evildoer?
- All the qualities in Romans 12:9-21 fall into two categories—things we should do, and things we are specifically told not to do. Do we really need to be told what not do? Explain.
- Since God has ordained the local authorities, is it valid for Christians to assist local government by taking up arms as either a soldier or a law enforcement officer?
- Paul’s instruction to submit to the local authorities is easier to follow when law and justice rule the land. But how does it apply when corruption and cruelty are the reality instead? Does this passage rule out involvement in civil revolt? What about non-violent civil disobedience?
- Romans 12 and Romans 13 is packed with practical advice on how to live the Christian life. In your opinion, what is the most significant insight in these chapters?