"Transformation: A Whole New World" Bible Study on Romans 12:1-8
August 20, 2020, 11:50 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Romans 12:1-8 (Common English Bible).

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

In our country's current social and political life, one sees much on social media and listens to opposing viewpoints in the news and live stream platforms.  Many people say that they are awoke to social and racial injustices.  In this week's Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul has awoken to a new reality.  Now Paul must rethink everything he thought he knew.  One of the things that must be rethought is sin, the old, dying world, and our relationship to it.

Paul speaks of being "enslaved to sin" (Romans 6:6).  In Romans 1, Paul mocks our sin, connecting sin with idolatry, false worship: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.  Therefore, God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator . . ." (Romans 1:22-25, New English Translation).

A slave has no agency, no control over her or his own body, no true freedom.  The master can do with the slave what the master wants.  In Romans, Paul announces that the sinful bondage of humanity has been broken in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6 opens with a summary of the new reality now that Christ has come.  Former slaves of sin are now buried with Christ in baptism.  Dead people can't be slaves.  Paul says, "A person who has died has been freed from sin's power" (Romans 6:7).  Though all are prone to sin and stand under God's judgment (Romans 2:1-2, 14-16; 3:9-20), God in Christ shows us mercy and not judgment.

Baptism is nothing less than a dramatic death of the old self, the old world, with the gift of a new self, a new world: "But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ has been raised from the dead, and he will never die again.  He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life.  In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:8-11).

Freedom, true freedom, is a gift of God in Christ: freedom from death (Romans 5:12-21), from sin (Romans 6:1-23), from the law that fosters sin (Romans 7:6-25).  Because God has given us this grand freedom, the least we can do is to offer ourselves as grateful gifts (sacrifices) back to God.

Paul bases his appeal to the Romans upon the new reality that in Christ God has come to humanity: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1, New Revised Standard Version).  Thus, ethics, human behavior, is grounded in a theological reality.  We present our lives to God as an offering because we are grateful for God's saving act in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Now gifts are offered to God that are not the dead bodies of animals but rather our dead-now-alive bodies.  This is true worship that is holy and acceptable to God.  Mind --  a consciousness of the new reality - is related to body -- human action on the basis of the nature of the world.  Imagination (vision of a new heaven and earth in Christ) is related to daily living (holiness or wholeness as God envisions human freedom to make the right choices).  Those who were once slaves to the ways of the world are now free in Christ.  How do we gratefully respond to the gift of freedom that is given us?  We are called to holiness (whole living that considers the needs of others - Romans 1:7), called to worship God rather than any human created thing (even credit cards, bank accounts, and sex - read Romans 1:18-25).  It's as if Paul is saying, "Since Christ has come, there's a whole new world -- now live into that new reality."

The Apostle Paul appeals to the Romans to be truly awakened to this new world in Christ.  Our baptsim was a dying alongside Christ (Romans 6:6), burying our old selves (Romans 6:4), and rising with Christ as exemplars of God's righteous justice in action (Romans 6:8-18)

Tell me, when someone obeys Christ and forgives an enemy or loves the poor, or speaks up for the voiceless of oppressed, is she or he going against what's real or showing the world what things look like when someone conforms to the new reality in Christ?

Now there's a real question for consideration.

In the name of our way, our truth, and our life, who is Jesus our Christ.  Amen.


Pastor Greg Rupright


08-20-2020 at 8:55 PM
Pat May
Love that you left us with a question to think about...
Will be looking forward to your sermon!
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