Posts Tagged ‘Arlin Sorensen’

Romans 12:6b-8

In Romans 12:6b-8 Paul goes into detail on a list of spiritual gifts that are given to those in the body of Christ. He’s been clear that they come to us through the Holy Spirit’s gift of grace, not because of anything we do or earn. Knowing this should be an insurmountable barrier to pride in the exercise of spiritual gifts. However man, in the depravity of our heart, finds a way to be proud about spiritual gifts and insists on exalting men for how God has gifted them. That’s not God’s intent, and certainly defeats the purpose of the gifts being instrumental in driving unity and growth in the body of Christ as each exercises the grace they have been given manifest through these gifts.

So what are they?  Paul gives us a list of seven in this passage:  if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Let’s look at them in a list:

  1. Prophecy
  2. Service
  3. Teaching
  4. Exhortation
  5. Generosity
  6. Leadership
  7. Mercy

Paul gives some guidance around each of these individual gifts. Prophecy must be practiced in proportion to our faith. God may give us something to say to an individual or church body that stretches our faith. If we can’t prophecy in faith and trust that God has really spoken to us, we shouldn’t do it at all. Serving is how we do ministry. It has in view the broader picture of simply serving in practical ways. Teaching has in mind instruction. It is sharing truth so that others may learn it. Exhortation encourages people to practice what they have been taught; both are necessary for a healthy Christian life. Those who are taught but not exhorted become “fat sheep” that only take in and never live the Christian life. They are like the Dead Sea which has only an input with no output. It becomes a dead place. Those who are exhorted but not taught become excited and active, but have no depth or understanding to what they do and will burn out quickly or will work in wrong ways.

Generosity or giving refers to someone who is a channel through whom God provides resources for His body. This is an important spiritual gift that must be exercised with liberality. When someone who is called and gifted to be a giver stops giving liberally, they will often see their resources dry up – having forgotten why God has blessed them. The gift of Leadership must show diligence. It is easy for leaders to become discouraged and feel like giving up, but they must persevere if they will please God by their leadership. And finally, one with the gift of Mercy needs cheerfulness. It can be hard enough to show mercy, but even harder to be cheerful about it. Remember that these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as God desires, not based on our wants or works.


Romans 12:4-6a

In Romans 12:4-6a Paul begins to discuss the differences between us as part of the body of Christ. As a believer, we are meant to do life with other believers. That is the design of the church, and how Jesus modeled His ministry with the twelve disciples. Christianity is not a solo adventure. It is intended that we live together with one another. Paul makes it clear that although we are all members of the same body, we are different by God’s design. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

We are also different by the function we are gifted to perform. God puts His body together with intention and planning. It’s not a mistake. The church is a unified whole (one body), yet we are distinct within that one body (individually members). In the body of Christ there is unity but not uniformity. That requires that we are aware and give grace to one another. We won’t all think and act alike. We shouldn’t – that is not God’s plan or design. But we are all part of the same body and the purpose for each of us is the same – to live together in harmony and fellowship so that we are matured and grown in our walk with Jesus.

Part of God’s plan for us according to Paul’s instruction here is that we have been given gifts, specific to each of us as individual members of the body. Unity should never be promoted at the expense of individuality, and individuality should never diminish the church’s essential unity in Christ; He is our common ground, we are one body in Christ. And from Him we have unique giftings. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: Gifts are given to us for the good of the body, not our own individual edification. They are provided to impact each other as members of the body of Christ.

The difference and distribution of gifts is all due to the grace that is given to us. Spiritual gifts are not given on the basis of merit, but because God chooses to give them. Spiritual gifts are given at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. We don’t lobby for them, earn them, request them, or chase after them. The Holy Spirit, in His wisdom, gives them through grace that we may play our part in building up the body of Christ. They are not about us, but always need to be focused on Him. When we try and use them for our own benefit, or focus on self, we’ll quickly destroy the impact the Spirit planned when we were given the gifts by His choosing.

Romans 12:2-3

In Romans 12:2-3 Paul continues to exhort us about what it means to truly live for God. It means we are going to have to be and live different than the world around us. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We shouldn’t have the goal of just ‘fitting in’ with the crowd. That may seem like the thing to do – to stay under the radar and not stick out. But Paul tells us not to be a conformer. We shouldn’t just do what everyone else around us is doing.

Rather we are told to be transformed. We need to allow God to take us and change us from being ‘normal’ or the ‘same’ as the rest of the world. How can we be transformed you ask? Paul makes it sound pretty simple. He tells us to be transformed through the renewal of our mind. We don’t just sit back and will transformation. We have to put something different, something new, into our mind so it can change. And the secret input is God’s Word. We are transformed when we consume God’s Word and allow that to fill our mind. It is the secret sauce of transformation. It isn’t willpower on our part. It’s putting the Word in us so the Holy Spirit can use it to transform us.

What benefit comes from transforming our mind? We’ll have the ability to discern God’s will. How cool is that. Too often we seem stymied about how to find God’s will. Sometimes we think God is playing hide and seek with it. But He isn’t. He tells us over and over that He’ll reveal it to us. We need to seek it. We need to fill our skull full of mush with His Word. And when we do, we move way beyond our own ability to discern and ignite the Holy Spirit’s discernment in us. We’ll know fully what is good and acceptable and perfect – the things that make up God’s plan and will for our life as Christ Followers.

Paul exposes a danger that we need to be aware of though related to getting connected with God this way. In a word – that danger is PRIDE. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” He isn’t saying we should have low self esteem and not believe in ourselves. But he is saying that we need to realize that God is in charge and if anything good happens in us or through us, it is His doing, not ours. At best we are a vessel He uses to accomplish His will. He knows how we should fit into that plan, but when we do, it’s all Him, not us!

Romans 12:1

In Romans 12:1 Paul appeals to us to live fully for God. It requires an act of the will. God calls us to make a choice about the way that we live for Him. He is talking to all the believers and begs Christians to live a certain way in light of what God did for them. He reminds us that we do this because of the mercy shown to us by God. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Those who don’t know Christ try to achieve mercy through sacrifice. But for the believer, sacrifice is the response to mercy.  Because of God’s mercy we respond with obedience.

Paul has already explained a number of God’s mercies to us as shared by Guzik:

  • Justification from the guilt and penalty of sin
  • Adoption in Jesus and identification with Christ
  • Placed under grace, not law
  • Giving the Holy Spirit to live within
  • Promise of help in all affliction
  • Assurance of a standing in God’s election
  • Confidence of coming glory
  • Confidence of no separation from the love of God
  • Confidence in God’s continued faithfulness

In light of all this mercy – past, present, and future – Paul begs us to present your bodies a living sacrifice.

It is best to see the body here as a reference to our entire being. Whatever we say about our spirit, soul, flesh, and mind, we know that they each live in our bodies. When we give the body to God, the soul and spirit go with it. Present your bodies means that God wants you, not just your work. You may do all kinds of work for God, but never give Him your self. That won’t get us into heaven. Salvation is not earned by good works or doing good deeds. Salvation comes through faith in Christ, which in turn creates the desire within us to become obedient to His will and Word. And that obedience means that we need to present our bodies to God – we are no longer in the driver seat but are His vessel to use in His plan for His world!

But it is more than just presenting our bodies as a sacrifice.  Paul says we need to be a living sacrifice. People in Paul’s time knew all about sacrifice. But his request is different – to be a living sacrifice for a couple reasons:

  • The sacrifice is living because it is brought alive to the altar
  • The sacrifice is living because it stays alive at the altar; it is ongoing

Not just living, but holy and acceptable to God too. The holiness we bring to the altar is a decision for holiness, and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in building holiness into our life. As we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, God makes our life holy by burning away impurities. And all this is how we truly worship God.  He’s paid for us so we’re already His. We need to realize the mercy and grace and live for Him as a way to worship!

Romans 11:32-36

In Romans 11:32-36 Paul give us the idea that God has shut up both Jew and Gentile and locked them up as lawbreakers. God offers mercy to these prisoners, based on the person and work of Jesus. Everyone is guilty of disobedience. Or if we call it what it truly is, and Paul told us earlier in Romans, we’re all guilty of sin. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” Sin carries a consequence for all of us. Paul told us that earlier in the chapter – the wages of sin is death. So God came up with a plan to have mercy for all of us – the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.

What God has done doesn’t make sense. We choose to sin. It isn’t His fault. He doesn’t have to fix our bad choices and failure to live up to His standards. But He has a plan and put it into motion on the cross. As Paul considers God’s great plan of the ages, he breaks into spontaneous praise. Paul realizes that God’s ways are past finding out, and God’s wisdom and knowledge is beyond him. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” There is great wisdom and compassion in His plan for us.

Paul quotes some words from Job that emphasize both God’s wisdom and sovereign conduct. God doesn’t owe us anything. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” We’ll never truly understand why God loves us like He does. And you can try all you want – but you will never make God a debtor to you. You can’t out-give God. He will never need to repay a debt to anyone. “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” We’d be in debt for eternity, but God chose to fix our sin problem with a free gift available to all through faith – we just need to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Paul summarizes God’s plan in a simple yet profound verse. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

  1. From Him – This plan came from God. It wasn’t man’s idea. We didn’t say, “I’ve offended God and have to find a way back to Him. Let’s work on a plan to come back to God.” In our spiritual indifference and death we didn’t care about a plan, and even if we did care we aren’t smart enough or wise enough to make one. It is all of Him.
  2. Through Him – Even if we had the plan, we couldn’t make it happen. We couldn’t free ourselves from this prison of sin and self. It could only happen through Him, and the great work of Jesus on our behalf is the through Him that brings salvation.
  3. To Him – It’s not for me, it’s not for you, it’s all to Him. It is to the praise of the glory of His grace

The fact that Paul can’t figure out God makes him glorify God all the more. When we understand some of the greatness of God, we worship Him all the more passionately.

Romans 11:26-31

In Romans 11:26-31 Paul continues his discussion about what lies ahead for the people of Israel. God is not finished with Israel as a nation or a distinct ethnic group. Though God has turned the focus of His saving mercies away from Israel specifically and onto the Gentiles generally, He will turn it back again. “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” This does not mean there will be a time when every last person of Jewish descent will be saved. Instead, this is a time when Israel as a whole will be a saved people, and when the nation as a whole embraces Jesus Christ as Messiah.

Even though it seemed that in Paul’s day the Jews were enemies of God and were against Jesus, they are still beloved – if for no other reason, then for the sake of the fathers. God loved them more than that. Paul reminds the Gentile Christians to remember where they came from and where God has promised to take the Jewish people. “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” God will never turn completely away from His people. He has been silent. He has allowed them to stumble and fall. But His love is never ending.

Paul reminds us of one major quality of God that completely defines His faithfulness to His people. His love never changes. His promises never stop. It is true for Israel, and equally as true for Christ Followers today. God loves us and holds us in His hand once we are His. He declared the people of Israel as His centuries before Paul writes Romans. That is never changing. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” It means that God will not give up on us and He leaves the path open to restoration. We can never do anything too bad or stray too far or be beyond His ability to love us back unto Himself.

Paul reminds us that the Gentile Christians came from disobedience; yet God showed them mercy, in part through the disobedience of Israel. That’s the same place you and I will come from. We’re sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Just like God used disobedience for His glory with the Gentiles of Paul’s day, He will do the same for you and me today. “For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.” God offers mercy to all who have fallen short. We merely need to receive it!

Romans 11:22-25

In Romans 11:22-25 Paul makes clear the black and white of God’s design for the world we live in. There isn’t any middle ground – no sort of, kind of walking with God and His plan. The idea that “God is love and surely wouldn’t keep me from eternity with Him” just isn’t true. God has a standard. As humans, we fall short. “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” God is love, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t holy and requires us to be righteous.

So the only option is the plan B He provided through grace where we can overcome our shortcomings and missing His mark through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Plan A would be complete obedience to His will and living up to His requirements. But we can’t do it, so Jesus is our answer. The great news is that we always have access to God’s tree of life through Christ. No matter our age, situation, or any other factor – if we come to faith in Christ God will make us His child and give us the promise of eternal life. “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.”

Paul reminds us that if Israel was “cut off” because of their unbelief, they can be grafted in again if they do not continue in unbelief. God never shuts the door to restoring us to righteousness and holiness. We can’t get there on our own, but through Christ we can go from whatever state we may be in and be grafted into God’s family.  “For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” It’s never over until we have stood before God without excuse or solution.

Paul issues a warning to take this soberly. Christians must not be ignorant of this mystery. We won’t get this on our own. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” God’s purpose in allowing blindness in part to come upon Israel is so that the fullness of the Gentiles can come in. And one day, God will once again turn the attention of His plan specifically on Israel again, so that all Israel will be saved. God wants all mankind to be saved. He opened the door to the Gentiles but hasn’t given up on His people. He’s not done with them yet.

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