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.
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.