Romans 12

Roy Osborne
January 2013


The more I read and think about Paul’s words in Romans 12, the more things come to mind that we need to think about.  As a consequence, there may be a few more essays devoted to this  magnificent chapter.

Before dealing with some of the things Paul says in this chapter, I think we need to understand some of his basic thinking.  Especially we must recognize that when he speaks of the “church”, he means something different from what the average Christian means when
he speaks of the church he belongs to, and going to church to worship.  Paul never sees the church as an organization but always
as the “family of God”.  When he speaks of the church in any location,
such as the church at Corinth or the church at Phillipi, he always
means the part of the family that assembles at that place.

Because of this concept of the church, Paul feels that wherever you are, you are the church, and that your primary responsibility is to that family.  It is also evident that Paul considers any talent or power he has, to be a gift of God.  He urges everyone not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to realize that God has given
to every man the “measure of faith”.  He seems to mean by this that God has supplied you with whatever level of faith you have attained, which may allow you to understand God’s will and purposes and, therefore, have the ability to serve.  You did not achieve it yourself.  Then he proceeds to list various activities which one may be able to engage in for the benefit of the family.  Paul’s only concern is our behavior as a part of the family of God and our service to that family.  Everything else in your life is secondary and incidental to your responsibility to God’s family of which you are a part.

He starts by referring to those who have the gift of prophecy.  In the New Testament the word “prophecy” does not mean foretelling the future, but forth telling the Gospel of Christ.   So Paul is saying here that if God has given you the gift of proclaiming His Word, you
should use it for that, and not let it lie unused.  With each “gift” that Paul mentions, he emphasizes that your primary responsibility is to use that gift for the edification and spiritual growth of the body of Christ.  To Paul one does not fulfill his responsibility to God by “going to church” and participating in the ritual activities every Sunday.

The remainder of the 12th chapter contains the real “law of Christ”.
I have often heard legal-minded preachers and teachers say that the old law is no longer in effect, but now we must obey the law of Christ.  However, the law to them is found in the rules of the Church and the legal processes they interpret as required.  In doing so, many of them
ignore completely the spirit and personality which were characteristic of the Lord.  The real law of Christ is a law of love, and Paul has listed here, in the latter part of the 12th chapter, some of the ways love should motivate and direct one who is a follower of Christ.

In our next essay we will examine in detail the many facets of the “Law of Love”, which is really what Paul is talking about here.