We have now finished that which might be called the argumentative portion of the Epistle to the Romans. The five chapters which follow are devoted to exhortations to the church. Those in the chapter before us are very simple, but will be much better understood if read in connection with that which immediately precedes. Accordingly, we preface our reading of the twelfth chapter with the last four verses of the eleventh:
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? 35 or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.
1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; 11 not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord 13 distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
A Logical Conclusion. The closing verses of the eleventh chapter set forth the infinite, unsearchable power and wisdom of God. Nobody can add anything to him. No one can put God under obligations to him. No one can give him something for which he should receive something in return. "For of him, and through him, and to him are all things." "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." "In him we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17:25, 28.
This being so, it is but reasonable that all should yield their bodies to him, for him to control. He alone has the wisdom and the power to do it properly. The word "reasonable" is, literally, "logical." The logical result of acknowledging God's power and wisdom and love, is to submit to him. He who does not yield to God, virtually denies his existence.
Exhorting and Comforting. It is interesting to know that the Greek word rendered "beseech" is from the same root as "the Comforter," applied to the Holy Spirit. It is the word used in Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." It occurs also in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Comfort one another with these words."
The following passage contains the word several times, as indicated: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." 2 Cor. 1:3-5. The fact that the Greek word for "exhort," or "beseech," is identical with that for "comfort," may give a new force to the exhortations of the Spirit of God.
There is comfort in the thought that God is all-powerful. Therefore there is comfort in all his exhortations and commandments, since he does not expect us to act in our own strength, but in his. When he utters a command, it is but the statement of what he will do in and for us, if we yield to his power.1 When he reproves, he is simply showing to us our need, which he can abundantly supply. The Spirit convicts of sin, but is always the Comforter.
Power and Mercy. "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy." Ps. 62:11, 12. "God is love." Therefore his power is love, so that when the apostle cites the power and wisdom of God as the reason why we should yield to him, he exhorts us by the mercies of God. Never forget that all the manifestation of God's power is but the manifestation of his love, and that love is the power by which he works. Jesus Christ, in whom God's love is revealed (1 John 4:10), is "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24).
True Nonconformity. In England, religious people have often been divided into two classes: Churchmen and Nonconformists. Now every true Christian is a non-conformist, but not in the sense that the word is ordinarily used. "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds." When those who call themselves Nonconformists adopt worldly methods, and engage in worldly schemes, then they dishonor the name. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God."
How to Think of Self. The exhortation to every man is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. How highly ought one to think of himself? "Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men." Ps. 9:20. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." Ps. 146:3. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" Isa. 2:22. "Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Ps. 39:5. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." 1 Cor. 3:19, 20. "What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14. "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isa. 64:6. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Phil. 2:3.
Faith and Humility. Pride is the enemy of faith. The two can not live together. A man can think soberly and humbly only as the result of the faith that God gives. "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:4. The man who has confidence in his own strength and wisdom, will not depend upon another. Trust in the wisdom and power of God comes only when we recognize and acknowledge our own weakness and ignorance.
Faith a Gift of God. That faith which God deals to man is indicated in Revelation 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." God does not give faith to the saints only, any more than he gives the commandments to them alone; but the saints keep the faith, and others do not. The faith which they keep is the faith of Jesus; therefore it is the faith of Jesus that is given to men.
Faith Given to Every Man. Every man is exhorted to think soberly, because God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Many people have a notion that they are so constituted that it is impossible for them to believe. That is a grave error. Faith is just as easy, and just as natural, as breathing. It is the common inheritance of all men, and the one thing wherein all are equal. It is as natural for the child of the infidel to believe as it is for the child of the saint. It is only when men build up a barrier of pride about themselves (Ps. 73:6) that they find it difficult to believe. And even then they will believe; for when men disbelieve God, they believe Satan; when they disbelieve the truth, they greedily swallow the most egregious falsehoods.
In What Measure? We have seen that faith is given to every man. This may be known also by the fact that salvation is offered to every man, and placed within his grasp, and salvation is only by faith. If God had not given faith to every man, he could not have brought salvation within the reach of all.
The question is, In what measure has God given every man faith? This is really answered in the fact already learned, that the faith which he gives is the faith of Jesus. The faith of Jesus is given in the gift of Jesus himself, and Christ is given in his fulness to every man. He tasted death for every man. Heb. 2:9. "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." Eph. 4:7. Christ is not divided; therefore to every man is given all of Christ and all of his faith. There is but one measure.
The Body and Its Members. "There is one body" (Eph. 4:4), and that is the church, of which Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18). "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Eph. 5:30. There are many members in the body, "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
As in the human body, so in the body of Christ, "all members have not the same office;" yet they are so joined together, and so mutually dependent, that none can boast over the others. "The eye can not say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." 1 Cor. 12:21. So it is in the true church of Christ; there are no divisions and no boastings, and no member seeks to occupy the place or perform the work of another. No member thinks himself independent of the others, and all have an equal care for one another.
Various Gifts. All members have not the same office, and all have not the same gifts. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of Spirits; to another divers kind of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." 1 Cor. 12:4-11.
"The Proportion of Faith." "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith." As we have seen, there is but "one faith" (Eph. 4:5), and that is "the faith of Jesus." Although there are various gifts, there is but one power behind them all. "All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit." Therefore, to prophesy or to exercise any other of the gifts "according to the proportion" or measure of faith, is to do it "as of the ability which God giveth." 1 Peter 4:11. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
"In Honor Preferring One Another." This can be done only when one is able "in lowliness of mind" to esteem others better than himself. Phil. 2:3. And this can be done only when one knows his own worthlessness. The man who "knows the plague of his own heart" can not think that others are as bad as himself. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant."
How to Treat Persecutors. "Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." To curse does not necessarily always mean to use profane language, to swear. To curse means to speak ill. It is the opposite of bless, which means to speak well of. Sometimes men persecute according to law, and sometimes they persecute without any legal warrant; but whether it is "due process of law" or mob violence, no hard words are to be used against those who do it. On the contrary, they are to be spoken well of.
One can not do this without the Spirit of Christ, who prayed for his betrayers and murderers, and who did not venture to bring railing accusation even against the devil. Jude 9. To hold persecutors up to contempt is not according to God's instruction.
Rejoicing and Weeping. To rejoice with them that rejoice and to weep with them that weep, is not an easy thing for the natural man. Only the grace of God can work such sympathy in men. It is not so difficult to weep with those who are afflicted, but it is often very difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice. For instance, suppose another has received something which we very much desired, and is rejoicing over his gain; it requires much grace to rejoice with him.
Keeping the Peace. We are to live peaceably with all men if it be possible. But what is the limit of possibility? Some will say that they tried to keep peace until "forbearance ceased to be a virtue," and then they paid the troublesome one in his own coin. Many think that this verse exhorts them to hold out as long as they can, and not to take part in any disturbance until they have had great provocation. But this verse says, "as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
That is, there is to be no trouble so far as we are concerned. We can
not always keep other people from warring, but we can be at peace
ourselves. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
thee; because he trusteth in thee." Isa. 26:3. "Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1.
"Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." Col. 3:15. "And the peace of
God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:7. He who has this abiding peace of God
will never have any trouble with people.