SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Romans 12:1 through 16:27
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“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.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Having concluded his discourses concerning the Gospel (chapters 1-8) and God’s dealings with the nation of Israel (chapters 9-11), at this point in his epistle Paul transitioned to practical application. As he instructed his readers regarding the basics of Christian behavior, his primary emphasis was how the transformed life was to be exemplified both in secular society and within the body of believers.
In chapter 12, the Apostle began this section by pointing to the necessity for entire consecration, admonishing the Roman believers to give themselves to Christ as living sacrifices. They were to resist conformity to the world and embrace the transformation that comes through Jesus Christ. He went on in this chapter to describe how Christian love should be demonstrated among believers (verses 3-13), and then toward one’s enemies (verses 14-21).
In chapter 13, Paul dealt with the Christians’ responsibilities as citizens and outlined principles related to submitting to authority. Since it is God who grants the power held by governmental rulers, he encouraged the Roman Christians to submit to “the powers that be.” Specifically, this submission was to manifest itself through the paying of taxes and demonstrating respect for those in authority.
Chapters 14 and 15 focus on the relationship between weak and strong believers. The words “weak” and “strong” found in this passage represent two tendencies of the spiritual mind: one that is exceedingly hyper-sensitive, and the other that is more liberal. While liberty in the Gospel was one of Paul’s themes, the limits of liberty and the importance of not causing a weak brother to violate his conscience is the emphasis of the last half of chapter 14, where Paul cautioned against putting a stumbling block in another brother’s way. Seemingly harmless behaviors could damage others whose consciences were particularly sensitive, so Paul stated that spiritually mature individuals should be willing to forego personal liberties in consideration of the potential impact on their weaker brethren. The liberty that Paul enjoined was not a disregard for distinctions between right and wrong, but referred solely to matters such as ceremonial observances and differences of opinion.
Near the end of chapter 15, Paul began to draw his epistle to a close. The remainder of the letter contains an outline of his plans, along with a series of personal greetings and final words of encouragement. The Apostle related his intention to stop in Rome on his way to Spain, after first taking a contribution from the brethren in Macedonia and Achaia to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Realizing that such a trip would entail danger, he asked to be remembered in prayer. The quantity and variety of individuals named in his salutations illustrate the unifying bond of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s companions at Corinth added their greetings, and then the Apostle concluded his epistle with a brief but characteristic benediction invoking the peace of God toward all the saints in Rome.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Paul’s words in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you . . .” indicate a fervent appeal. In essence, he was saying, “I strongly appeal to you; I implore you.” He went on to urge the believers to present (or consecrate) themselves completely to God. What three words did the Apostle use to describe the sacrifice he was encouraging them to make? What was the significance of each word?
The three words Paul used are “living,” “holy,” and “acceptable.”
In response to the second question, consider first that our sacrifice must be “living.” Point out that in the Old Testament, sacrifices were slain. In the New Testament, believers are called to be sacrifices. We are to live for God, being dead to self. God wants us to offer ourselves by daily laying aside our own desires, putting our energies and resources at His disposal, and looking to Him to guide us regarding how offering ourselves as living sacrifices is to be worked out. This will be personal for each individual.
Next, our sacrifice must be “holy.” Your group should understand that we cannot offer God something tainted by self or the world. We are to wholly set ourselves apart for God by a personal act of will, and dedicate ourselves to Him for His use.
Finally, our sacrifice is to be “acceptable.” Class discussion should bring out that this term builds on the Old and New Testament concept of a sacrifice that is pleasing to God because it meets the conditions He has established. When we willingly present ourselves as offerings that are both “living” and “holy,” thus meeting God’s conditions, that type of sacrifice is acceptable to Him.
Point out to your group that Paul did not instruct believers to present their abilities, money, time, recreational pursuits, families, or any other particular aspect of their lives. He simply instructed them to put their whole being at God’s disposal. When a person does that, God will guide regarding the specifics for that individual.
- Paul went on in Romans 12:2 to state that believers were not to be “conformed” to the world, but rather “transformed.” The Greek word translated conformed literally means “to be molded or stamped according to a pattern.” Withstanding pressure to conform will take effort. What are some ways we can actively resist being “molded” or “stamped” with the characteristics and philosophies of the world?
Your class will likely come up with a number of specific methods of resistance. These might include some of the following:
• Choosing friends from those of like faith rather than the ungodly.
• Refusing to follow the example of unbelievers in habits, attitudes, recreational pursuits, associations, and attire that are unbecoming to a follower of Christ.
• Guarding against anything that would dim our vision for Christ.
• Setting aside activities that distract us from earnestly seeking Him or cause us to be consumed with temporal concerns.
Lead your class to conclude that God wants a clear line of demarcation between His children and the world. The world’s philosophies and activities are usually selfish and often corrupt. For that reason, much of the world must be “off limits” to those who want to maintain purity and holiness before God.
Make sure your class understands that a refusal to conform to the world must go deeper than outward actions. We are to be transformed by the “renewing of our minds.” A person could meticulously avoid worldly behaviors and still be proud, covetous, selfish, stubborn, arrogant, or have a whole range of other characteristics or mindsets that are displeasing to God. Only when the power of God renews and redirects our minds can we be truly transformed.
- In verses 9-21 of chapter 12, Paul gave a series of brief injunctions that emphasized how an inward transformation was to be evidenced in love for the brethren. Review the list of instructions in these verses. Which directive stands out to you as being particularly applicable to the circumstances of your life, and how might you put the principle into action?
This question is designed to help the students apply these principles to their personal situations. Since they may initially be hesitant to share their responses, it may be helpful to begin the discussion by providing a handout or compiling a list of the injunctions in these verses. The Roman believers were exhorted to:
• Extend love without pretense; hate evil and uphold good (verse 9)
• Be loving toward their brethren in Christ (verse 10)
• Be productive in performance of duties (verse 11)
• Maintain a spirit of rejoicing, and be patient and prayerful even in trouble (verse 12)
• Give to saints in need and be hospitable (verse 13)
• Bless their enemies (verse 14)
• Share each other’s joys and sorrows (verse 15)
• Be humble toward all and not conceited (verse 16)
• Refrain from retaliating, and be honest (verse 17)
• Live in peace with others (verse 18)
• Leave retribution or punishment to God (verse 19)
• Overcome evil by responding with good (verse 20-21)
Once your list is complete, have your students offer their thoughts about how these principles could be put into action. If your group is reluctant to share personal experiences, you may need to encourage participation by sharing an example from your own life. Alternatively, the discussion could be set up on a hypothetical basis. For example, you might ask: How might verse 17 be helpful in diffusing a tense relationship with a co-worker?
Conclude your discussion of this question by emphasizing that following these guidelines will certainly give us a good framework for living peaceably with all, both inside and outside the church.
- In Romans 13:8, Paul stated that followers of Christ have an obligation of love to others, “for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” He repeated the same thought in verse 10. Why do you think the Apostle regarded love as a “fulfillment” of the Law?
Class discussion should bring out that when we discharge our duty of love properly, doing so encompasses all duties or responsibilities toward others. No other law is needed because genuine love includes all the obligations of the Law.
- In chapter 14, Paul addressed interactions between strong and weak (or spiritually immature) believers. He admonished strong Christians to be cautious and protective in their dealings with the weak, not to pass judgment on a weaker believer’s perspective, and to refrain from contending with him about insignificant details. In verses 2-3, what example did Paul use to make his point clear?
Paul used the example of contrasting opinions regarding the eating of certain meats. Some of the Roman believers (perhaps those who had been delivered from idolatry) apparently felt it was wrong to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Since idols were merely inanimate objects, Paul knew that there was no spiritual reason for believers to abstain from eating this meat. However, he instructed individuals who supported either position not to disparage those with an opposing perspective.
The principle Paul was presenting is still vital for believers in our day. While we enjoy liberty in the Gospel, we must always be mindful of how our actions will affect others. We should take care to avoid any actions that might cause someone to stumble in his walk with God by imitating a behavior that his own conscience would condemn.
- Romans 15:13 is a brief prayer that Paul prayed for the Roman believers, expressing his desire that they might “abound in hope.” Studies show that a common factor among those who are depressed and discouraged is that they lack hope. What does Paul identify as the source of hope and how do we obtain it?
By referencing “the God of hope,” Paul was pointing to God as the Source. The foundation for this hope is to be filled with joy and peace, and we obtain it by believing in the living God who acts and intervenes in human life, and who can be trusted to keep His promises.
To amplify this topic, ask your class how the hope of unbelievers differs from that of Christians. Class discussion should bring out that most people understand hope as being wishful thinking, as in, “I hope something will happen.” The dictionary definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The Christian’s hope is confident expectation concerning the future because it is based on God’s promises, character, and faithfulness.
- As Paul explained his future travel plans, he requested the prayers of the saints in Rome. What is implied by the fact that he requested they “strive” in their prayers to God for him? Romans 15:30-32
Paul felt that striving would be necessary because he expected resistance from the enemy. Point out to your class that fervent prayer takes effort. In fact, the Greek word translated “strive” denotes struggling, contending, and even agonizing. It alludes to the strong effort such as that expended by wrestlers in the Greek games or by soldiers in a military conflict. It is evident that Paul was not enjoining a merely cursory mention of him before God, but the intense travail of a person who is in desperate earnest.
As a visual illustration of the need to persevere in prayer, you could bring a package with many knots tied around it. Ask your group: If there were a $100 bill inside, would they expend the effort needed to untie the knots? What if the knots were tight? The point is, if we want something badly enough, we will persist.
It may be helpful to discuss hindrances that may arise when we attempt to devote time to pray, and strategies for overcoming the attempts of our spiritual enemy to derail our efforts.
- Paul closed his epistle in chapter 16 by sending greetings to a lengthy list of individuals (verses 1-16). His personal comments went to both men and women, Romans and Greeks, prisoners and prominent citizens, slaves and free. Some of these people are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; others are referred to only here. In verses 21-23, a number of fellow workers with Paul joined him in extending greetings to the saints in Rome. What does this wide-ranging exchange of greetings reveal about the nature of the fellowship of believers?
Your group should conclude that the variety of ethnic backgrounds and status in society are evidence of the uniting influence of the Gospel — a beautiful example of what Christianity is and does in crossing cultural, social, and economic lines.
Of the twenty-four names Paul mentioned, six were women, and thirteen occur in inscriptions or documents connected with the emperor’s palace in Rome. According to Philippians 4:22, there were Christians among Caesar’s household, so some of these individuals may have been among the servants who worked for Caesar.
Throughout this chapter, Paul frequently characterized individuals with a single comment. For example, in verse 23 he observed that Gaius was his host (a man of hospitality), and that Quartus was the man with a brotherly heart. It would be beneficial for all of us to consider: If people were to sum me up in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
Paul’s epistle presented the Gospel to Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome, but through the ages his words have encouraged Christians of all backgrounds to faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.