Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. — Romans 12:6-8
Some time ago, my wife and I decided to arrange some plantings to cover the old retaining wall at our home. We chose to use a shrub called rosemary, which has blue flowers and would droop over the edge of the wall. We began with two plants, but that was not enough, so we went to various sources to get more. We ordered from a catalog and purchased some from local nurseries, thinking that all Rosmarinus officinalis would be the same. However, we found that was not the case.
Searching the internet for information about this plant, I learned there are 13,150 varieties within the species, bearing names such as Lockwood de Forest, Collingwood Ingram, and Gorizia. There is now a hedge of Rosmarinus officinalis covering the top of our retaining wall, all of the same “species,” but several different “varieties.” They all look a little different.
We did not know nor really care about the history of rosemary or its many uses, but my internet search revealed that it is a kind of mint, and the leaves can be used for seasoning lamb, chicken, or stew. The oil is used in tonics, liniments, and toiletry products. When dried, the leaves are used in sachets, as a moth repellent, and also may be brewed as tea to soothe stomachaches and headaches.
Our hedge provides a spiritual object lesson. Born-again Christians are all of the same “species,” but there is a huge variety in callings and abilities. Paul began to list them in today’s focus verses, noting that believers have “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.” One Christian alone cannot fill all the jobs the Lord has for His people to do, and our roles in His service will differ. Some are called to preach, others to teach, some to lead, and so forth.
The important point is not what our calling is, but rather whether or not we are fulfilling that call. We want to be diligent and cheerful as we serve God. When we each do our parts, God can make the end result beautiful — just like the hedge that covers our home’s retaining wall.
Paul’s use of the word “therefore” at the beginning of chapter 12 — in essence meaning, “in view of all I have stated previously” — is pivotal in his epistle to the Romans. Having concluded his discourses concerning the ruin of fallen man due to sin and the remedy provided through Jesus’ death on the Cross (chapters 1-8), and God’s dealings with the nation of Israel (chapters 9-11), in chapter 12 the Apostle transitioned to a focus on practical application, instructing his readers regarding the basics of Christian behavior.
The Apostle began by expressing in verse 1 the need for justified individuals to completely consecrate themselves to God. The word present is translated elsewhere as “yield” and expresses the concept of placing the whole person (the instrument by which man offers service) at the disposal of God. The aorist tense of the Greek verb translated as “present” indicates a specific action occurring at a distinct point in time. In contrast to Old Testament sacrifices which were slain, the sacrifice Paul described was to be “living.” The sacrifice was to be “holy,” or set apart for God’s use, and as such, would be “acceptable” (well-pleasing) to God.
In verse 2, Paul related how a consecration of this nature would affect behavior, using one negative and two positives to make his point. He stated that believers were not to be “conformed” to the world, but rather were to be “transformed.” The Greek word translated “transformed” (metamorphoo, from which the English word metamorphosis is derived) implies a radical, organic change. At the same time, consecration was to be an ongoing activity and manner of living; the verb form of the phrase “be ye transformed” has the sense of continuing on. This was to be accomplished through the ongoing process of “renewing” the mind.
In verses 3-8, the Apostle pointed to humility as the immediate effect of surrender to God. Self was not to be exalted, and any “gifts” (abilities) God had given were not to be viewed as a reason for personal pride. He stressed the necessity for corporate fellowship and unity, asserting that “we, being many, are one body in Christ.” The word prophecy in verse 6 means “inspired speech” rather than prediction of future events. The word ministry in verse 7 means “service” and can refer either to all Christian service in general, or to the specific act of providing for material needs.
Paul went on to emphasize that inward transformation was to be evidenced in love of the brethren. In the remainder of this chapter (and through chapter 13), his primary emphasis was how the transformed life would be exemplified outside the body of believers. In a series of brief injunctions, the Roman Christians were exhorted to: be genuine in extending love to others (verse 9), love and honor their brethren in Christ (verse 10), be energetic in performance of duties (verse 11), maintain a spirit of rejoicing, and be patient and prayerful even in times of trouble (verse 12). They were to care for the saints (verse 13), bless their enemies (verse 14), share joys and sorrows (verse 15), and be humble in their relations with others (verse 16). They were instructed not to repay evil with evil but to focus on what is good (verse 17), as much as possible to be at peace with others (verse 18), to leave retribution or punishment to God (verse 19), and to overcome evil by responding with good (verses 20-21).
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The results of salvation
A. Live holy toward brethren (12:1-21)
1. Be a living sacrifice (12:1-2)
2. Members of Body of Christ (12:3-8)
3. Practical precepts (12:9-21)
God has called each of us. Are you thriving in your place in God’s “hedge”?