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Your Day in Romans - 12:1-21

Started by Al Moak, December 20, 2004, 02:26:50 PM

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Al Moak

December 20, 2004, 02:26:50 PM Last Edit: September 27, 2008, 02:23:58 PM by Al Moak
The Sixteenth Sermon
Romans 12
The Functioning Church

You and I need a change.  No, I don't mean that we should take a vacation!  It's our character that needs changing.  It needs to be more like God's Word says it should be.  Paul wrote about that kind of change in the latter half of the 12th and following chapters of his letter to the Roman church.  We should be thankful as we read these chapters that he didn't just tell us to change without also telling us how it can be done! Let's see what he says about it here.

The first thing he tells us is the reason we need the change.  He says it's because of "the mercies of God."  He says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God . . ." The reason that we need changes in our lives - the reason, in fact, for everything we do in life – should lie in the absolutely wonderful mercies of God.

The "mercies" he's writing about here are ones he wrote about in all the previous chapters.  Summarizing those, we should remember that in the first two chapters Paul described the total depravity of man and the resulting judgement of God - followed by the good news about a rescue from that depravity through Jesus Christ.  We saw that it's a rescue that results in complete justification - absolute innocence in the sight of God.  That's mercy indeed! 

Next in his letter, Paul discusses the changes we still need to make, changes that have actually become possible because of the indwelling Spirit of God.  That indwelling is also a wonderfully great mercy of God! 

Finally, in chapters nine through eleven, Paul identifies the rescued people.  They're the chosen people of God, whether Jew or Gentile.  We should certainly be convinced that if any of this fallen, rebellious race are chosen, then that is indeed a wonderful mercy of God!

We've also learned that if we receive these mercies of His, it's because we're chosen by God to receive them, because we're actually rescued, because we're completely justified, and because we're freed from slavery to sin.  So God's mercies are indeed MARVELOUS!  He selects entirely undeserving sinners, opens their hearts and minds to believe His Gospel, declares them completely innocent through faith in His Son, and gives them grace and freedom to become holy and pure! 

So then, it's because of these unspeakable mercies that gratitude should well up in our hearts and should move us to present ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to be changed by Him.  We should gladly "present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God."  As he says here, it's our "reasonable service."

In fact, with all those wonderful mercies in view, we should literally jump at the opportunity to become all that He wants us to be!  We should be very eager to respond in obedience when he says, "Do not be conformed to this world," and we ought to be equally eager when He says, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove (come to really know) what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  In fact it should be out of very great gratitude that we should joyfully seek the changes that are needed so that, as Paul put it in chapter 8, we might "be conformed to the image of His Son."

Following all this motivation Paul next becomes intensely practical about it.  He tells us about the means God wants us to use to make the changes.  That's what the rest of chapter 12 is about.

Paul needs first to make one fact very clear.  In verse 5 He says, " . . . so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."  What he's saying here is that we are - every one of us - dependent upon one another.  He has in view the people of local churches such as yours and mine, and what he means is that for the purpose of the changes we need, every member is dependent upon every other member.  As he goes on to show, growth for each member occurs as others in the body minister according to the gifts and abilities each one is given by God.

The gifts listed here - prophecy, physical ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and mercy - are, in other words, specifically for the purpose of bringing about our growth and change.  That just means that Paul's exhortation to dedication and consecration in the first two verses just amounts to an exhortation both to minister and to be ministered to - to help and be helped by one another to grow in our Christian walk.  God is telling us through His apostle, then, that the church is His means of changing us to be conformed to the image of His Son.

We probably haven't often viewed the Church in that light.  Most of us are used to attending church meetings once or twice on Sundays and, possibly some other evening of the week.  We're used to singing, prayer, hearing a sermon, conversing with our friends, and going home again - all without any real consideration of the purpose of it all.  But that results in very little progress toward fulfilling the real purpose God has for us in the church!  That purpose is change, and we need to seriously consider how we may minister to one another to bring it about.

Corporate worship and learning the Word through the preaching are also purposes of each local church.  But these too should be focused on building us up to make us able ministers.  The end result should be loving ministry by every member of the body one to another.  One practical result, for instance, should be conversations between God's people about how the Word should impact their lives.  Do we talk to one another after the service – about these things?  When was the last time you engaged in conversation about how the sermon might impact your life?

Paul lists here seven "gifts (abilities) that are used for ministry one to another in the church.  The first, prophecy, has ceased since the Word of God became completely written in the first century.  It needs to be understood that, Following prophecy, the rest of the list is not intended to cover the entire spectrum of abilities given by the Holy Spirit, but is general and representative.  There are many more gifts that are not covered here. Also, when we read this list, we should notice that all the gifts are related in some way to the Word of God.  The gift of "ministry," for instance, is just the ability to help one another to apply the Word to the practical affairs of life.  "Teaching" is just the ability to make the Word clear, understandable, and applicable to our lives.  "Exhortation" is just that special ability to encourage others in living according to the Word. "Giving" has as one of its purposes the support of the ministry of the Word.  "Leading" is the ability to help others to live according to the Word, and "mercy" is a character gift that results directly from acquaintance with the Christ of the Word.

Obviously, then, as we hear the Word taught and applied each week, we come to see more and more how it should impact every facet of our lives. Then, as we gain experience, we become more and more able to help others as well through mutual discussion and encouragement.  Even the worship aspect of each week's meeting is instructive, teaching us and inspiring us to render our entire lives to our Lord as worship and enabling us to help one another to do so as well.

The conclusion to all of this is that the Church is the important instrument of God for producing maturity in each of His people by means of mutual ministry.  There are some very important parameters for the exercise of ministry.  When we do it, as Paul points out here, it should be in "love without hypocrisy," with an abhorrence of evil and a clinging to good, with kindly affection to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another . . . etc.  This just means that the things he tells us in vss. 9-21 are just the characteristics of our ministry one to another.  May we carefully observe his exhortation!

I'd like to make at least one practical suggestion.  I'd like to suggest that we can pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to supply us more of the gifts described here and to help us to grow in the ones we have.  And, since you and I are God's means in the Church for one another's growth, He will therefore answer such a prayer.  Are you willing to be used by God?  Do you respond willingly because of His mercies?