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The New Mind (Romans 12)

Introduction

While he was president of Princeton Seminary, Dr. John Mackay was heard to say, “Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action. But reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action.”76

These two extremes have always threatened the ongoing ministry of the church of Jesus Christ. There are those who are content to learn doctrine but sense no urgency to put what they know into practice. On the other hand, there are the pragmatists who want to know only what seems to work. They are too busy to reflect upon the principles which underlie their activity. They are something like the young undergraduate from Melbourne, Australia, who was attending a conference in Sweden. When this student learned that a student protest had begun at his own university, he wrung his hands in dismay. “I wish I were back home,” he cried. “I’d have been in it. What’s it all about?”77

There are many Christians today who are up to their necks in activity and ministry, but who unfortunately have little idea what it’s all about. There are some brethren who would encourage us to get away from cold and sterile doctrine and saturate ourselves with experience. There are those Christians who are sincerely and rightly concerned with the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden of the world, but they have given little or no thought to some basic issues such as the biblical principles relative to cooperation and affiliation with apostolic denominations and organizations in meeting their needs.

As we approach Romans 12, we see that Paul avoids both these extremes. He avoids the extreme of reflection without commitment by challenging every Christian to a life of service. He avoids the danger of activity without reflection by instructing us that the Christian experience is the outgrowth of a transformed mind, a thought-process molded not by the world, but by the Word of God.

Romans 12 begins the last major section of this great epistle. In chapters 1-3a, Paul began by demonstrating every man’s need of a righteousness greater than he can establish by his own works. In chapters 3b-5, Paul proclaims that a God-kind of righteousness has been provided in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness acceptable to God and available to all men on the basis of faith, and not works. Chapters 6-8 instruct us concerning the necessity of sanctification. Although sanctification is positionally necessary (chapter 6), it is humanly impossible (chapter 7). The solution is to be found in the provision of the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit (chapter 8).

In chapters 9-11, Paul has turned his attention to a haunting question, the explanation of Israel’s failure in the light of God’s Old Testament covenant with Abraham and all of the promises of blessing upon Israel. In chapter 9, Paul reminds us that God never promised blessings for every physical descendant of Abraham and that God’s blessings were not based upon national origin or upon works, but on the sovereign choice of God in election. In chapter 10, Israel’s failure is related to her unbelief. She rejected the salvation offered to her by her Messiah, Jesus Christ. In chapter 11 we are comforted by the fact that Israel’s present rejection is neither total (there is a faithful remnant) nor permanent (her restoration follows the ‘times of the Gentiles’). God has used Israel’s rejection to bring Gentiles to salvation, and He will use Gentile belief to bring Jews to faith. So God’s purposes in history are being accomplished in a way totally unexpected and beyond our highest expectations.

The Christian Response to God’s Grace
(12:1-2)

Chapter 11 ends with a paean of praise to the wisdom and mercy of our God. But words alone are inadequate for the worship of such a God. Our response to the grace of God must extend to the worship of God by our works as well as our words. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 12, Paul summarizes the acts of worship which the grace of God should inspire in the life of the Christian, the presentation of our physical bodies to God as instruments of righteousness and the transformation of our minds from a mind-set dictated by the world, to that declared by the Word.

Verses 3-8 focus our attention to the use of this renewed mind with respect to our spiritual gifts. The grace of God bestowed to us is also a grace to be bestowed through us by the use of God’s gifts. Verses 9-21 broaden the focus to the renewed mind as it relates to our response to people and life’s circumstances. Here the grace of God is to be reflected in our human relationships.

To return to the big picture for a moment, chapters 1-3a inform us that a God-kind of righteousness is required for salvation. Chapters 3b-5 instruct us that a God-kind of righteousness has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Chapters 6-8 tell us that a God-kind of righteousness can be realized in the Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s righteousness is vindicated in chapters 9-11, and in chapters 12-15 the righteousness of God is to be practically reflected in the life of the Christian.

Primary Features of Paul’s Call to Commitment in Romans 12:1-2. Familiarity often breeds contempt and since we have heard the words of Romans 12:1 and 2 so often, we might think we will learn nothing new from them. Because we have time to merely survey the major features of chapter 12 let me draw your attention to several dimensions of Paul’s call to dedication and service.

(1) This call is for dedication and service in response to divine grace. Paul has consistently taught that the distinguishing features of Christianity are grace and faith. The dedication of the Christian is urged ‘because of’ the mercies of God described in previous chapters. It is not ‘in order to’ win God’s favor, but to express our deep gratitude for this grace and submission to His sovereignty. The terms ‘urge,’ ‘therefore’ and ‘mercies’ suggest that here is no demand of the Law, but a beseeching of grace.

(2) Paul’s exhortation encompasses both an initial commitment and subsequent follow-up. Generally speaking, we hear these verses used as an appeal to re-dedicate our lives to Christ. Often, because the appeal is emotional and without a proper doctrinal foundation, the individual is urged to periodically re-dedicate his life to Christ again. The tense of the infinitive ‘to present’ is such that it should be a final and decisive decision, something like the marriage commitment.

While verse one lays stress upon an initial and life-long commitment, verse two emphasizes the continuing obligation of the Christian in the service of worship which we owe God. Just as the marriage commitment needs to be consistently carried out, so our consecration to God must be manifested moment by moment.

(3) The presentation of our minds and bodies to God is preliminary to specific divine guidance. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). All too often we desire God to submit His plan for our life as a proposal to us, and then we determine whether or not to ratify it. Such cannot be the case, for we see in these verses the principle of dedication before direction. Divine guidance comes as a result of dedication. God does not ‘cast His pearls before swine,’ nor does He reveal His directive will to the uncommitted.

(4) Dedication and service to God are an act of worship.78 Our Lord told the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Paul concluded his defense of the righteousness of God in His dealings with both Jews and Gentiles with a paean of praise and worship. But worship extends beyond praise and adoration to service. I heard of a husband who told his wife that he loved her so much he would die for her. “That won’t be necessary,” she replied, “just pick up that dish towel and help me dry these dishes.” So, also, the service of the Christian is viewed as an act of worship: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

(5) The presentation of ourselves to God is a sacrificial act. In the Old Testament dispensation, men expressed worship and devotion to God by means of sacrifice. So the presentation of our bodies is couched in sacrificial terminology.79 The nature of our sacrifice is different from that in the past in that it is a ‘living sacrifice’ (verse 1). Although the commitment of our lives to God can be identified with a point in time, our sacrifice is continual. And service to God is truly sacrificial. That is, saying no to our own desires, preferences, and tendencies is a sacrifice. Serving others in preference to ourselves is a sacrifice. The dedication and service Paul pleads for is that which subordinates our own interests to God’s and to other’s. As someone has put it: God first, others second; and self last.

(6) Our dedication involves both mind and body. In the Greek world as in our own, there was a very real need for emphasis upon the need to present our bodies as living and holy instruments to God.80 There was a prevalent view that the body was evil and that the mind was good. Consequently, there was little concern given to the deeds performed in the flesh. But it is not our physical bodies that are totally depraved; it is all our old nature. The new life of the Christian should be manifested through the body.

Thomas Manton, the Puritan minister, who at one time was Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, likened a disobedient Christian to a child suffering from rickets: “Rickets cause great heads and weak feet. We are not only to dispute of the word, and talk of it, but to keep it. We must neither be all ear, nor all head, nor all tongue, but the feet must be exercised!81

There was in Paul’s day (and is in ours as well) the opposite extreme of mere externalism and ritual where the body was employed without the mind. Paul calls for the dedication of both mind and body to divine service. Our dedication to God is based upon doctrine,82 rationally comprehended and responded to.83 As the NASV marginal note to verse 1 indicates, our dedication is a rational act of worship.

The late Dr. Rufus M. Jones used to tell the story of the man who protested, “Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and placing it under the seat, because in a religious meeting I never have any use for anything above my collar button!”84

As we can see from this text, Christian dedication is not only based upon a mental apprehension of doctrine (eleven chapters of it!), but it is a life-long process of reshaping our entire outlook on life. We are to stop being squeezed into the mold of the world (to use J. B. Phillip’s terminology), and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Salvation commences the dawn of a new age to come. We have our citizenship changed from an earthly kingdom to a heavenly one. We are now strangers and pilgrims (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11; cf. Hebrews 11:13).

This calls for a change of allegiance, a new system of values. As we shall learn from chapter 13, it is no license to cast off the restrictions and regulations of civil government, but it does subject us to a higher law, the law of love.

The dedicated Christian is not one whose actions are shaped by his personal whims and desires, nor does he conform to the values and goals of the world about him. The Christian is one whose life is conformed to the Word of God and whose whole thought process is being re-shaped. Just as at the fall, man’s intellectual facilities were corrupted, so the Christian experience should be a life-long process of restructuring our thinking in conformity to God’s Word and God’s will.

The Christian’s Responsibility
to Minister the Grace of God to the Body
(12:3-8)

Some commentators have found the connection between verses 1 and 2 and the rest of this chapter rather obscure. I understand the first two verses to be both an introduction and a summary of the final section of the epistle. Verses 1 and 2 are a call to dedication and service, while the remaining verses are a description of that service. These two verses are a general exhortation to the saint, while the remaining verses are pointedly and painfully specific.

But the connection between verses 1 and 2 and 3-8 is even more evident. We are exhorted to stop allowing the world to ‘squeeze us into it’s mold’ and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Verses 3-8 give us the first exercise of this new mind. It is no accident that the Greek root for ‘think’ is found four times in verse 3: “For I say to everyone among you by means of the grace given me not to overthink beyond what is proper to think, but to think so as to think soberly and sanely, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given to each of you” (Romans 12:3, my translation).

How does one find his life reshaped by a renewed mind? By using that mind and obeying its dictates. The first thing we are to do with our new mind is to think about the gifts God has given us for serving the body of Christ, the church. Let me make several observations about verses 3-8.

(1) The doctrine of spiritual gifts is both basic and crucial to our Christian experience. It cannot be without significance that the first topic Paul brings up for the Christian to apply in his life is that of spiritual gifts. The emphasis on spiritual gifts in the epistle of First Corinthians also informs us that it is a basic, foundational truth for immature Christians to grasp and apply.

(2) Spiritual gifts must be approached with a new mind. In approaching spiritual gifts, there are two extremes to avoid, one is wishful thinking and the other is false humility or unbelief. Some think of this matter of spiritual gifts in terms of what they would like to be—a Billy Graham or the like. That is not realistic thinking. Others are falsely humble or just plain unbelieving. “I don’t think I have any gift,” they would say. We must take an honest, biblical look at ourselves, keeping several things in mind.

(a) We must think in terms of reality. If we have no ability to communicate verbally, it is doubtful that we are gifted to preach. If we are completely repulsed by suffering and tragedy, it is unrealistic to think we have the gift of mercy.

(b) We must think in terms of grace. Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of God’s grace poured through us. Paul speaks through the grace (of apostleship) given to him (verse 3). He says in verse 6 that we “have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Even the word ‘charismata’ (verse 6) is a derivative of the word charis, grace. This means it does not come from us, but from God, not deserved, but freely bestowed. As we have freely received our gifts, so we should freely give of them to others.

(c) We must think in terms of service. It is obvious that gifts imply service to others. They are not given for our individual benefit primarily, but for the good of the body (verses 4-5). Our area of service is that sphere of activity for which our gifts equip us. We should not pattern our ministry after that of others, for each has his unique contribution to the body (verse 4).

(d) We must think in terms of faith. The Christian life is a life of faith. Grace is never appropriated by feverish activity, but by faith. So the grace of God manifested in terms of spiritual gifts is appropriated by faith. Although we dare not ‘over-think’ ourselves concerning gifts, neither should we underestimate what God can accomplish through us. Surely we would all agree that it takes much faith for us to conclude that God will use us to achieve His purposes.85

I understand the expression ‘as God has allotted to each a measure of faith’ (verse 3) to refer to the serving faith which God bestows on every Christian. Just as God gives the unbeliever saving faith to believe (Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29), so He gives each Christian a measure of serving faith to trust Him to work through his life to bless others.86 Divinely speaking, our effectiveness is determined by God the Father (1 Corinthians 12:6), but humanly speaking, it depends on our faith (a faith which comes ultimately from God, verse 4).

(3) The list of spiritual gifts Paul gives is a partial one. Paul does not claim that the gifts enumerated in verses 6-8 are the only gifts available. A comparison with 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4 informs us that this listing is not complete. Indeed, all the gifts mentioned in the New Testament may not be a complete listing either. It is significant that the so-called charismatic gifts are not mentioned.

Before we press on, let us briefly define the gifts which are listed here.

Prophecy

The God-given ability to speak directly and infallibly for God, concerning present or future realities.87, 88

Service

The God-given ability to minister to the spiritual needs of the saints through ministering to their physical and material needs.

Teaching

The God-given ability to communicate the truths of the Word of God.

Exhortation

The God-given ability to encourage and comfort.

Giving

The God-given ability to minister to others by meeting their material (or monetary) needs.

Leading

The God-given ability to motivate and mobilize the people of God.

Mercy

The God-given ability to minister to the miserable.

(4) Spiritual gifts should determine our priorities. Look with me at verses 7 and 8a: “if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation” (Romans 12:7, 8a). The emphasis in these verses is that we are to devote ourselves to doing what we are gifted to do. If your gift is teaching, then teach. When there are too many things to do and too little time to do them, devote yourself to do what God has especially equipped you to do.

(5) Each spiritual gift has its own peculiar pitfalls. In these verses concerning spiritual gifts, we are instructed by inference that each gift has its own peculiar pitfalls. I would gather that the danger of the prophet was to abuse his prophetic gift by going beyond that which God had revealed and passing off his own ideas as God-inspired,89 a danger not entirely foreign to the preacher.

The one who gives is to do so with simplicity.90 Simplicity in the New Testament refers to both sincerity of motive and generosity. The giver is in danger of being miserly with his gifts or in giving for ulterior purposes, such as the recognition and praise he might gain.

The one who leads is to lead with diligence (verse 8). Especially in the Lord’s work there is the mentality that since it is the Lord’s work, any feeble effort is sufficient. It appears to be volunteer work, and whatever is voluntary need not be first-class. I have often heard the expression, “It’s good enough for a government job.” Such seems to be the danger for the Christian leader, especially when those who are to follow lack commitment.

Finally, the one who is gifted with mercy is in danger of developing a vinegar personality. Nothing is more neglected and more unnoticed than work among the unlovely. Often the work is unrewarding in terms of dramatic successes or grateful words of thanks. It is at times like this that we can do a work for God but with a begrudging attitude. Such work will not achieve its desired end.91

With respect to spiritual gifts we should understand that they are a manifestation of divine grace, appropriated by faith, given to every saint for the growth and maintenance of the body of Christ. We are to discover our gifts through the exercise of our renewed minds and to put our gifts to use, noting the dangers which attend each gift. In this way, the grace of God is ministered through the Christian to the body and the world.

The Grace of God Reflected in Relationships
(12:9-21)

Nowhere does the contrast between the world’s way of thinking and the transformed mind become more apparent than in verses 9-21. Here we see the new mind illustrated in Paul’s pointed guidelines for human relationships.

True Love (vv. 9-10). The love of the world seems to be amoral, often immoral. The love we see reflected in the television screen is a love of infidelity. This is not true love at all. True love is not divorced from morality. True love clings to what is good and hates evil. Situation ethics informs us that pre-marital sex is good if practiced in love. The biblical kind of thinking tells us that it cannot be love if it is outside the bonds of marriage.

Love expresses itself in the church by devotion to one another. It holds the other in honor, and gives to the other the place of preference. True love seeks the good of our brother, even at our own expense. The world’s love seeks personal gratification, even at the expense of others.

Endurance and Diligence (vv. 11-12). Christian character is contrasted with that of the world in that it endures hardship and difficulties. “… not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” (Romans 12:11,12). There should be a diligence and zeal in our lives not typical of others. While Christians serve God with zeal, the world-at-large views them as fanatics. The Christian is characterized by hope; the world by despair. The Christian holds up in trials and tribulation; the unsaved folds up. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” is the motto of the world. The Christian is diligent in his prayer life, while the unbeliever thinks it is a waste of time.

Sensitivity to People and Their Needs (vv. 13-16). The way of the world is to look out for old number one. As in the story of the Good Samaritan, the world walks on by the person in need, for he only represents a liability, a demand on our time and money. The world suggests we spend our time and money with those who can further our own interests. But notice the way of the Christian:

… contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation (Romans 12:13-16).

The Christian observes a material need and meets it (verse 13). The Christian opens his home to those who need hospitality. The way of the world is expressed by this ancient proverb: “A guest is like a fish. After three days he stinks.”

The Christian responds to ridicule and rejection by speaking a word of blessing, rather than a curse. The Christian is at ease with those of humble means and does not cater to the affluent.92 The Christian knows himself, his sinfulness and the waywardness of his heart. He is not proud, but humble.

Absence of Vengeance (vv. 17-21). The way of the world is all too evident in terms of our response to those who caused us hurt. Sock ’em!

“We communists have many things in common with the teachings of Jesus Christ,” Nikita Krushchev, ex-premier of Russia, once stated to American pressmen. He continued, “My sole difference with Christ is that when someone hits me on the right cheek, I hit him on the left so hard that his head falls off.”93

As Dr. MacIver, professor of political science at Columbia University, put it, “In war the principle must be, do to the enemy as he would to you, but do it first.”94

As Augsburger rightly comments, “That’s merely the savage law of retaliation. ‘Do back to others as they have done to you.’ Or even worse, ‘Do to others as you expect them to do to you.’”95

There is no place for this kind of thinking in the Christian’s life. We are to strive for peace to the extent that it depends upon us (verse 18). We are to recognize that vengeance is the Lord’s prerogative, not ours (verse 19).96 Our response should be to repay good for evil, not in order to cause our enemy torment, but to bring him to repentance and restoration.97

Application

Several truths should be impressed upon our minds from this great chapter.

(1) The grace of God as evidenced in Romans 1-11 should motivate and compel us to a dedication of heart and mind. Have you ever decisively dedicated all you are and have to God? After conversion, that is the starting point of the Christian life. The guidance of God and the experience of the abundant life are dependent upon it. If you have never submitted all you are and have to God in gratitude for His eternal salvation and His infinite wisdom and grace, why not do it now?

(2) The doctrine of spiritual gifts is one which is too important and too fundamental to pass over lightly. Do you know your spiritual gift? Are your priorities determined by your gift? Are you an instrument of grace and blessing as you exercise your gift?

(3) The Christian experience is one that involves both body and mind. Our emotions do play a vital part in our worship, but if our worship and service is to be pleasing before God, it must be intelligent. In Christianity, we should never have to take our heads off and put them on the proverbial shelf. We should have our thinking transformed by the Word of God, and we should use our minds in a way never before experienced.

(4) The renewing of our minds takes place as we absorb the Scriptures. Paul wrote from chapter 12, verse 3 on, to tell us how our minds should think in terms of Christian living. You will never renew your minds by reading the daily newspaper or watching the ‘tube.’

May God enable us to live our lives in a way pleasing to Him.


76 John R.W. Stott, Your Mind Matters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 7.

77 Ibid., p. 8.

78 It is noteworthy that the Greek word rendered ‘service of worship’ in verse 1 is a technical term for priestly service in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

79 “The language throughout this clause is sacrificial; not only the word ‘sacrifice’ itself, but also ‘offer,’ ‘holy,’ and ‘well-pleasing’ are technical terms. By ‘body’ Paul means the whole person, including its means of expressing itself in common life (cf. vi. 6, 12). The ‘mercies of God’ on the one hand move men to offer him what is essentially a sacrifice of thanksgiving; on the other, it is through these mercies, and not through any merit of their own, that men are able to bring a sacrifice to God.” C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 231.

80 “It is not without necessity that he should have placed in the forefront of practical exhortation this emphasis upon consecration of the body. The ethical ideal was to be freed from the body and its degrading influences. This view of the body runs counter to the whole witness of Scripture. Body was an integral element in man’s person from the outset (cf. Gen. 2:7, 21-23). The dissolution of the body is the wages of sin and therefore abnormal (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 5:12). The consummation of redemption waits for the resurrection of the body (cf. Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 15:54-56; Phil. 3:21). Hence sanctification must bring the body within its scope. There was not only a necessity for this kind of exhortation arising from depreciation of the body but also because indulgence of vice closely associated with the body was so prevalent and liable to be discounted in the assessment of ethical demands.” John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdnans, 1968), Vol. II, p. 111.

81 Stott, Your Mind Matters, pp. 58-59.

82 “If there is a religion in the world which exalts the office of teaching, it is safe to say that it is the religion of Jesus Christ. It has been frequently remarked that in pagan religions the doctrinal element is at a minimum—the chief thing there is the performance of a ritual. But this is precisely where Christianity distinguishes itself from other religions—it does contain doctrine. It comes to men with definite, positive teaching; it claims to be the truth; it bases religion on knowledge, though a knowledge which is only attainable under moral conditions. … A religion divorced from earnest and lofty thought has always, down the whole history of the Church, tended to become weak, jejune and unwholesome; while the intellect, deprived of its rights within religion, has sought its satisfaction without, and developed into godless rationalism.” James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, pp. 20-21, as quoted by Stott, p. 20.

83 “The service here in view is worshipful service and the apostle characterizes it as ‘rational’ because it is worship that derives its character as acceptable to God from the fact that it enlists our mind, our reason, our intellect. It is rational in contrast with what is mechanical and automatic. A great many of our bodily functions do not enlist volition on our part. But the worshipful service here enjoined must constrain intelligent volition. The lesson to be derived from the term ‘rational’ is that we are not ‘spiritual’ in the biblical sense except as the use of our bodies is characterized by conscious, intelligent, consecrated devotion to the service of God. Furthermore, this expression is very likely directed against mechanical externalism and so the worship is contrasted, as H. P. Liddon says, ‘with the external ceremonial of the Jewish and heathen cults.’” Murray, p. 112.

84 Stott, pp. 29-30.

85 When we look back at the life of Gideon in Judges 6:36, 37, it was not a problem of divine guidance with which Gideon struggled, but a problem of faith. Gideon knew that God had purposed to liberate His people from the hand of the Midianites; what he could not believe was that God was going to do it through him.

86 “‘Faith’ here has a rather different sense from that which it has in the earlier part of the Epistle; here it denotes the spiritual power given to each Christian for the discharge of his special responsibility; cf. ‘according to the proportion of faith’ in verse 6 (NEB ‘in proportion to a man’s faith’).” F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1963), pp. 227-228.

87 “For New Testament prophecy, see especially I Cor. xii and xiv, where it is distinguished from glossalalia, not mentioned here. It was expressed in inspired but intelligible speech, and sometimes though not always included prediction of future events (e.g. Acts xi. 27f.). Like Old Testament prophecy it was primarily an immediate communication of God’s word to his people, through human lips.” Barrett, pp. 237-238.

88 “Prophecy refers to the function of communicating revelations of truth from God. The prophet was an organ of revelation; he was God’s spokesman. His office was not restricted to prediction of the future although this was likewise his prerogative when God was pleased to unveil future events to him (cf. Acts 21:10, 11). The gift of prophecy of which Paul here speaks is obviously one exercised in the apostolic church as distinct from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the prophets occupied a position of priority that is not accorded to those of the New Testament (cf. Numb. 12:6-8; Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:21-24; Heb. 1:1; I Pet. 1:10-12). But the important place occupied by the gift of prophecy in the apostolic church is indicated by the prophecy of Joel fulfilled at Pentecost (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16, 17), by the fact that prophets are next in rank to apostles, and that the church is built upon ‘the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Eph. 2:20). The apostles possessed the prophetic gift; they also were organs of revelation.” Murray, II, p. 122.

89 “The term in question occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is used elsewhere of mathematical proportion and progression, also in the sense of ratio and relation. The phrase ‘out of proportion’ also occurs. The idea of proportion appears to be the preponderant one. This meaning, if applied here, is relevant. The prophet when he speaks God’s word is not to go beyond that which God has given him to speak. As noted above, every gift must be exercised within the limits of faith and restricted to its own sphere and purpose. There is prime need that a prophet should give heed to this regulative principle because no peril could be greater than that an organ or revelation should presume to speak on his own authority.” Ibid., p. 123.

90 “The next gift mentioned is that of giving and the exhortation is that he do it with simplicity. The term sometimes means liberality (cf. II Cor. 8:2; 9:11,13). But elsewhere it means simplicity, in the sense of singlemindedness of heart, of motive, and of purpose (cf. II Cor. 11:3; Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22). It is not certain which of these meanings is here intended but there is much to be said in favour of simplicity … Giving must not be with the ulterior motives of securing influence and advantage for oneself, a vice too frequently indulged by the affluent in their donations to the treasury of the church and to which those responsible for the direction of the affairs of the church are too liable to succumb.” Ibid., pp. 125-126.

91 “Oftentimes the work of mercy is disagreeable and so it is liable to be done grudgingly and in a perfunctory way. This attitude defeats the main purpose of mercy. In Calvin’s words. ‘For as nothing gives more solace to the sick or to any one otherwise distressed, than to see men cheerful and prompt in assisting them; so to observe sadness in the countenance of those by whom assistance is given makes them to feel themselves despised.’” Ibid., p. 127.

92 “The vice against which the exhortations are directed is a common one and gnaws at the root of that community in the church of Christ on which the apostle lays so much emphasis. There is to be no aristocracy in the church, no cliques of the wealthy as over against the poor, no pedestals of unapproachable dignity for those on the higher social and economic strata or for those who are in office in the church (cf. I Pet. 5:3).” Ibid., pp. 137.

93 Nikita Krushchev, as cited by Steward Meachem in address given to Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship, Bluffton College, Bluffton, Ohio, March 31, 1960. Quoted by David W. Augsburger, Seventy Times Seven, The Freedom of Forgiveness (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1970), p. 118.

94 Earnest Trice Thompson, Sermon on the Mount and Its Meaning for Today (Richmond, Va.: John Knox, 1946), pp. 117-118, as quoted by Augsburger, p. 111.

95 Ibid., p. 111.

96 “Here we have what belongs to the essence of piety. The essence of ungodliness is that we presume to take the place of God, to take everything into our own hands. It is faith to commit ourselves to God, to cast all our care upon him and to vest all our interests in him. In reference to the matter in hand, the wrongdoing of which we are the victims, the way of faith is to recognize that God is judge and to leave the execution of vengeance and retribution to him. Never may we in our private personal relations execute the vengeance which wrongdoing merits.” Murray, II, pp. 141-142.

97 “Rather, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by doing this you will heap up burning coals upon his head.’ Again Paul turns to the LXX (cf. Prov. xxv. 21f.). In view of v. 21, it can scarcely be doubted that the ‘burning coals’ are the fire of remorse. If an enemy is treated in this way he may well be overcome in the best possible fashion—he may become a friend.” Barrett, pp. 242-243.

Related Topics: Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification