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ROMANS 12 Commentary

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Liberty University

Commentary on Romans 12:1-2

A paper submitted to Dr. Mitchell

In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for

the course PATH 510

Liberty Theological seminary


Christopher W. Myers


Lynchburg, Virginia

Sunday, September 14, 2007


Table of Contents

The Text 3

The Context 3

Connecting the Context with Verse One- 5

Spiritual Formation- 6

The Will of God- 7

Conclusion- 9












The Text

Romans 12 [1]

1I 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.

 2And 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.


 1παρακαλω ουν υμας αδελφοι δια των οικτιρμων του θεου παραστησαι τα σωματα υμων θυσιαν ζωσαν αγιαν ευαρεστον τω θεω την λογικην λατρειαν υμων

    2και μη συσχηματιζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω αλλα μεταμορφουσθε τη ανακαινωσει του νοος εις το δοκιμαζειν υμας τι το θελημα του θεου το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον

  The Context 

       A Bible-believing, fundamental teaching, God-centered preacher named Ernie Moore once said, "When you see the word Therefore in the New Testament, you must first find out what it is there for!"  The therefore in verse 1 of Romans 12 is referring back to what was said in Romans 11.  Therefore, we must search out the context before we proceed forward into the message of Romans 12:1-2.

            The New International Version of the Holy Bible translates the beginning of Romans 12:1 this way, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy." I believe this is one of the clearer translations because "by the mercies of God" or "in the view of God's mercy" is telling the reader to refer back to the context of what was said about God's mercy.

       In the latter part of Romans 11 God's mercy is referred to as that given to the Gentiles because of the disobedience of the Jews.  The Jews were disobedient so now they may also receive mercy because of God's mercy to the Gentiles.  Verse 32 of Romans 11 is perhaps the most interesting.

       28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as    

       election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts       

       and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God

       have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now   

       become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of

       God's mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he

       may have mercy on them all.[3]

   The NIV translation falters in the case of verse 32.  The King James Version is more correct with the translation of the Greek word συνεκλεισεν (sunekleisen) as "concluded."  Sunekleisen is used only in one other verse in the Bible in this manner and it is Galatians 3:22.

       But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus   

       Christ might be given to them that believe.[4]

There is not a sense here of being bound, but that perfection is defined by the character of God and the character of God is defined in the law and no man obeys the law fully, therefore all men are sinful rather than sinless.  So scripture has concluded all under sin, as the scripture says there is none righteous, not even one[5].  If there is a sense of being bound, then it is being bound by our own sinful desires and the fact of the inability of man not to sin.  So we can return to Romans 11:32 and see that God has not bound, but rather He has concluded all in unbelief because there is none that understands and there is none that seeks after God.  Only through the Spirit of God are we able to know His Son and have an interest in Him and close with Him in salvation.  We have everything in Him, through Him, by Him, and from Him as spoken by the Spirit of God through Paul in Romans 11:36. 

       So now we may arrive to the meaning of our text.  In view of God's mercy of how we have everything from God the Father because He has given us Christ as a propitiation for our sins, how Christ is everything good in us, for he is to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and our redemption[6], and how the Spirit of God draws us to Christ by guiding us to truth[7] and seals us in our salvation[8], all this from the grace and power of God; it is a function of His mercy to us-ward.  This we must keep in view in order to understand what Paul is urging us in verse 1 of Romans 12.

Connecting the Context with Verse One 

       Paul urges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.  Our bodies should be holy and acceptable to God.  All of this is our service to God or that is to say, our way of worshipping Him.  All of this is reasonable or rational in view of God's mercy because Christ was a living sacrifice for our soul[9]; he lived a holy life of righteousness with perfection.  His life is the only life acceptable to God.  Therefore, the righteousness of Christ is counted on our behalf and our old self and body is dead[10] so that we may have an eternal fellowship with God our Father.  The one requirement for people to fulfill Paul's urgent exhortation is the possession of Christ.  If you have not Christ, or the mercy of God on your soul to which grace must be imparted, then this conduct will be foreign to you.  So Paul is referring here to that process of spiritual formation.  He is assuming that spiritual transformation or the creation of a new spirit by the power of God is already complete.  This conduct that he is urging is Christ-likeness.  Imagine Paul saying, "since you have already been counted righteous in Christ Jesus, prove it to me by living the life of Christ."  In essence, Paul is counting on his readers to remember back to his words in Romans 8:

9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.[11]

       We can only strive for Christ-likeness in view of what God has done for us.  We must strive for spiritual growth and thus spiritual formation in order to engage God in a walk of life that is a walk that brings us closer and closer to the perfection of Christ.  This is the desire that is in the heart of every disciple of Jesus.  That desire is the very definition of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Formation

       We must put on the new man that is righteous and holy, defined by the life of Jesus[12].  This is accomplished by the renewing of our minds.  This renewing happens by saturating the mind in understanding of the Word of God in obedience and trust.  We should not be like the pagans who live according to the vanity of their minds.  Paul so speaks in chapter four of his epistle to the Ephesians:

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But ye have not so learned Christ;

Paul goes on to say in verse 23, "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind."  We see the same thing here in Romans 12:2.  Do not be like this world that follows every desire of their mind, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word translated transformed here is the Greek word metamorphousthe, which is where we get our English word metamorphosis[13].  The meaning is clearly seen.  We must, like a caterpillar, take our old evil mind and self[14] and wrap it up in a cocoon and dispose of it and come out with a renewed mind and spirit, a beautiful butterfly.  We must undergo metamorphosis of the mind because all sin and evil begins in the mind.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things[15] because to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.[16]

The Will of God

       The concluding statements in verse 2 of Romans 12 answer this question, "Why should I renew my mind and press onward towards spiritual formation?"  If you undergo this metamorphosis, you will be able to test what is the will of God, His will that is good, reasonable[17], and perfect[18].  This brings us to the question, "What is the significance of knowing God's will?"  This, of course, could take the space of an entire book, but for the sake of space we will visit a parallel scripture in I Thessalonians 4:

 1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3It is God's will that you should be sanctified:[19]

Here we are given God's will that we should be sanctified.  Sanctified literally means "to be cleansed" in the Greek language.  Hence Paul says in I Thessalonians 4:7, "God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."

        So now we can understand Paul when he talks of us "being saved."[20]  Sanctification is the aspect of our salvation that requires us to be constantly cleansed by the renewing of our minds, by the growth of our spirit, and by the putting off of our old self.  Sanctification is God giving us the power not to sin and to overcome sin in our lives.  By our sanctification we are able to live a life that is like Christ.  By living like Christ we are able to discern what is God's will and what is not[21]. 

       The significance of knowing God's will is that it is the key to prayer, spiritual growth (spiritual formation) and fruitfulness in our individual lives.  Being in God's will is where we all want to be.  Even in the most trivial situations of our lives, we must know that we are in God's will.  We can only have this certainty in our lives if we are growing closer and closer to Christ.  That is why Paul urged the Thessalonians in the Lord Jesus to be sanctified more and more.[22]


       All people are in unbelief, but by God's infinite mercy they are able to come to him through his grace.  Thinking on this, we see how we have come to have new life in God and on how everything good we have is in Him.  So it only makes sense to grow in the only good we have, namely Christ Jesus.  We can do this by following the examples of Christ.  He presented His body as a living sacrifice for all and in the same way we can present our bodies a living sacrifice for Christ.  We can give Him our entire soul and body, not just part of it.  This is only rational because God gave up all and humbled Himself by becoming flesh, lived a perfect life, and then died for every depraved sinner.  We must put away our pre-Christ person and strive to make this new person holy and acceptable to God by spiritual formation in Christ.  Let us not mold ourselves after the world, but after Christ.  The best way to do this is by renewing the mind, which is the birthplace of all sin.  Model our minds after Jesus and not the minds of the world.  If we model our minds after Jesus by becoming spiritually formed as disciples of Christ, then we will have all assurance in what is God's will in all aspects of our life.  We will know His good, acceptable, and perfect will for our life.  All of this is to bring glory to God in all things, we must acknowledge His absolute supremacy and that is our act of worship to God.


Goodrich, Richard and Lukaszewski, Albert.  A Reader's Greek New Testament. Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Strong, James.  Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance.  Chattanooga: AMG

Publishers, 2004.


[1] King James Version (The Authorized English Translation)

[2] A Reader's Greek New Testament, pg. 352

[3] New International Version

[4] KJV (emphasis mine)

[5] Romans 3:10, Psalm 14

[6] I Corinthians 1: 30

[7]  John 16:7-13

[8] Ephesians 4:30

[9] Hebrews 9

[10] Colossians 3:3 says, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."  See also Romans 8:10 below.

[11] KJV

[12] Ephesians 4:24

[13] Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance

[14] Remember Romans 8:8, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

[15] Colossians 3:2

[16] Romans 8:6

[17] or acceptable, ευαρεστον, same as that in verse 1

[18] or complete, τελειον usually denotes completion

[19] NIV

[20] I Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15, The NIV correctly renders this in the passive voice as the original Greek requires.

[21] It must be made clear that no one may attain the perfection of Jesus Christ, but that should always be our goal.  As long as we are pressing onwards toward that mark of Jesus, then we may be able to discern the will of God in all things.

[22] See I Thessalonians 4:1 above

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