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Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
WORK OUT WHAT GOD WORKS IN
Harold J. Brokke
A LIVING SACRIFICE
Paul strongly urges the brethren to consecrate their redeemed personalities to God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (12:1, 2).
BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD - AN APPEAL TO THE CLEANSED MEN AND WOMEN
The body is the earthen vessel containing Christ, the treasure. This body should reasonably and logically be given to God as a living sacrifice - that is, it should be committed to the doing of God's will no matter what the cost may be. Paul's phrase "a living sacrifice" is equivalent to Christ's word, "Take up thy cross, and follow me."
Paul is not speaking here about the original commitment to Christ which every sinner transacts when he is converted. This is an appeal to the cleansed man to be committed to Christ; this sacrifice is to be holy and acceptable. Never in any stage of our conformity to Christ does God force us. He makes us free so that out of our love for Him we may choose Him.
NOT HIGH-MINDED, BUT HUMBLE
Paul goes on to say:
For I say, through the grace that was given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another (12:3-5).
At this point Paul is warning believers that they should not be high-minded but humble. The reason God had to reject the Jews was Jewish pride.
By their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not high minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee (11:20).
FIND REST IN HIM THROUGH HUMILITY
In Matthew 11:28, when Jesus called men to find rest in Him, He declared that the main lesson they would learn from Him was to be meek and lowly in heart.
Humility is the humus, the soil, for the garden of divine grace. This attitude of soul, this lowliness and humbleness of heart and mind, welds fellow believers into the body of Christ and makes them one spirit with Him. "The fruit of the Spirit is…meekness" (Gal. 5:22). We are the body of Christ, dependent on Him, receiving guidance and direction from our Head, Jesus Christ. As members of a body, we are also interdependent, receiving nourishment and encouragement from one another.
WE ALL HAVE A GOD-GIVEN POSITION TO FILL
In Romans 12:3-8 the illustration of the human body is used to show that each person in the body of Christ has a God-given position to fill. We are members of the body of Christ, with differing gifts "according to the grace that is given unto us." Paul then lists several expressions of Christ in the persons making up the church: prophecy, ministry, exhortation, giving, ruling, mercy. (He explains these more fully in his letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12-14.)
Paul goes on to say,
Having gift differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting; he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness (12:6-8).
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OPERATE WHEN LOVE AND HUMILITY ARE PRESENT IN US
When love and humility are present in the body of Christ, the gifts of the Holy Spirit operate. These nine gifts are listed in I Corinthians 12:7-11:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another working of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another diverse kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.
By these gracious endowments of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ can be built up and bear an effective testimony to the world.
Romans 12:9-16 is a highly condensed guide for those who have chosen to live this life of love. (These verses would be a good portion of Scripture to memorize.) This passage reveals the apostolic response to the teachings of Christ and how the Christian experiences them.
WHAT LOVE MEANS AND WHAT LOVE DOES
Love, says Paul, reveals itself by its reaction
- To good and evil (vs. 9)
- To the brethren (vs. 10)
- To work of all kinds (vs. 11)
- To diverse circumstances (vs. 12)
- To its possessions (vs. 13)
- To its opponents (vs. 14)
- To the circumstances of others (vs. 15)
- To rank and position (vs. 16)
- Of love toward enemies (vs. 17)
- To all men (vs. 18)
Let us go back over these particular verses in Romans 12 and enter in detail into the blessing hidden in this portion of Scripture.
- Love is "without hyprocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" (vs. 9). Love reveals its reality by its reaction toward good and evil. Love expresses itself in a holy abhorrence of evil and a holy involvement in good. The very heart of divine love is holiness. By its own personal relationship toward good and evil, love cannot be neutral. Love abhors or else it cleaves. Love is committed to express itself in one way or the other.
- Love is "tenderly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another" (vs. 10). Two of the attributes of love are kindness and tenderness. When these virtues are in the heart, a Christian seeks the brother's advancement and advantage rather than his own. The attributes of kindness and tenderness must be cultivated by letting the life of Christ express itself in us. Each one of us is to "let this mind be in [us], which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).
- Love is, "not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord" (vs. 11). The signs of divine love are diligence, efficiency, and fervency. A Spirit-filled man is industrious in all his pursuits. He does his job with enthusiasm and joy as unto the Lord.
- Love is "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer" (vs. 12). Trying circumstances of all kinds may confront the Christian. Because he knows God has a bright future for him, he meets circumstances with a buoyancy that the world knows nothing about. He does not waver. Instead of being anxious, he exercises faith in God and turns his cares into prayers (Phil. 4:6).
- Love communicates to the "necessities of the saints; given to hospitality" (vs. 13). The believer's attitude toward possessions is similar to the early Christians after the day of Pentecost when "not one of them said that ought of the things which he possessed was his own" (Acts 4:32). Generosity and glad hospitality are features of genuine love.
- Love will "bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not" (vs. 14). Love can make the Christian meet his opponents with tolerance and positive concern. Like the Father in heaven, the Christian desires to make the sunshine of love bless the unjust as well as the just (Matt. 5:45).
- Love does "rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep" (vs. 15). Not only are we to respond patiently to our own circumstances, but also we are to respond with understanding and sympathy to the circumstances of others. Our personal circumstances can give us personal joy or tears, but it is a sign of divine love in the heart when the circumstances of others give us joy or tears.
- Love is "of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits" (vs. 16). When love controls us, we are not ambitious for personal rank or position. We will not obey the temptation to turn from men who are common "down-and-outers." Neither will we be stubborn or cocky concerning our point of view or our own accomplishments.
- Love will "render to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (vs. 17a). Love does not retaliate. The heart filled with love will not choose to retaliate by committing an offense against an opponent or by omitting a good toward him. The story of the good Samaritan teaches two kinds of violation of divine love. The robbers injured the man by striking him. The priest, on the other hand, simply neglected him. We can retaliate by neglect as well as by violence.
And love will "take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men" (vs. 17b). Love will not permit us to leave false impressions. No matter what people think about us, we will do God's will. Yet we will not disregard what people think about us. Love makes every provision to give the best impressions concerning our Christian testimony. The man who walks in love seeks to leave a testimony with all people in order that he might adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Love is meek. "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men" (vs. 18). Love lives in harmony with others. Love can fit into situations that would normally cause one to "fly off the handle" or else sink into self-pity. Love can cooperate with other believers without compromising the truth. Love possesses a wisdom that produces peace and good will. If it does become impossible to maintain peace, it is not the fault of the disciple of love.
Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord (12:19).
LOVE OF GOD AND PERFECT JUSTICE OF GOD
The person who walks in love believes in the perfect justice of God. The final result of all things will make everything equal. All affronts and all attacks against the disciple are essentially against Christ within the disciple, and it can be repaid only by the divine Judge himself. The true disciple leaves room for God to act, as only He can act.
But 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. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (12:20, 21).
Again the Apostle Paul does not present a mere abstinence from evil, but a dynamic adventure in doing good, even to enemies. The kingdom of God does not operate on the same basis as the governments of men. Love is our watchword and the sign of our discipleship. We are to permit no moral or spiritual lapses. We are not to be overcome, but rather we are to be overcomers by faith and love. These are the principles and practices of the true citizen of the kingdom of God.
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