(1)  Spiritual Worship and the Body of Christ: (A) Discuss how Romans 12:1–2 is a transition from the argument in Romans 1–11 and what follows in the ethical exhortations of 12–15. How is the “spiritual worship” a culminating image that portrays the ‘embodiment’ of the powerful gospel message? How is the rest of the paraenesis in. 12:3–21 an outworking of this “be[ing] transformed by the renewal of your mind”? How do these acts of being a “living sacrifice” reverse the rebellious humanity portrayed in Romans 1–3? How does Paul use liturgical imagery to present his exhortation for the sanctification of the community?

1A.  Paul writes about the radical transformation that has occurred [in believer’s lives] “in view of God’s mercy” (12:1).[1]  Paul implies this by starting out the passage with “therefore,” signaling that the exhortations are his response to God’s action of mercy – which the whole argument in Romans 1-11 has been about.  It’s as if the first 11 chapters were Paul’s long intro of “here’s how NOT to live,” and now Chapter 12 is calling the readers to an approach towards life that is the absolute antithesis of that.  This “new way” of living is founded on a new way of thinking, a “renewing of your mind” (12:2).[2]  No longer are believers to act upon their emotional impetuousness, but rather they are to act deliberately (i.e. with emotional intelligence) according to this new way of thinking that encompasses an entirely different way of treating others.  The inward change is to invoke even greater outward action-based changes.

The “spiritual worship” is a culminating image portraying the ‘embodiment’ of the gospel message in a parallel way to that which is the ‘embodiment’ of the believing community.  The spiritual worship of the entire community is now to be a rational worship (12:1) which stems from renewed minds thus leading to proper discernment of God’s will (12:2).  The best part about this embodiment among the believing community found in these passages is the sense of absolute teamwork/camaraderie/oneness.  There is a unity.  And as such, all who are part of the collective body are to function independently with their own gifts, but are not to think too arrogantly or highly of themselves because of their God-given giftedness and instead think with self-control (12:3). 

This renewal results in an outworking outside oneself.  The puffed up mind of the Gentile believer was to be humbled by both the grace and the infinitely wise mind of God in chapter 11.  The Christian’s transformation (12:2) is the result of the renewing of the mind, while thinkingis the primary activity in verse 3.  Chapter 12 in its entirety has to do with this new mindset of the Christian as a result of God’s grace.  The Christian doctrine which Paul taught in Chapters 1-11 addressed the mind, but now Paul is calling upon the Christian to exercise their minds so they can conclude that the worship of sacrificial service is the only proper response.  This reverses the incorrigible humanity which Chapters 1-3 portrayed by shifting from inner selfish behaviors to [new mindsets] of external selfless behaviors.  It is clear that the individual is no longer the focus but rather the greater good of the whole community, expressing corporately a right response to God’s grace and mercy.

According to Simmons, Paul utilized priestly and sacrificial imagery to precipitate his law-free gospel to the Gentiles.  The phrase “the sacrifice of the Gentiles” in 15:6 balances the accrued weight of Paul’s liturgical language which picked back up in 12:1-2 as he instructs the hearers of his message to “present themselves as living and holy sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.”  Paul did this with ONE end goal in mind – in fact, his entire ministry was hinging on this one truth: “he served as a ministering priest of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest for the gospel of God, so that the sacrifice of the Gentiles might be well received, they being made holy by the Holy Spirit.”[3] 

Paul used the classic imagery of priest and sacrifice to argue for the full inclusion of Gentiles in the church community as well as to substantiate/legitimize his calling among them, for he was aware that if his sans-law gospel was to have success, the Gentiles could no longer live like “sinners of the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:15); they had to be holy, sanctified, and separated unto God.[4]
 

 

[1] Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 139. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2015.
[2] Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 139. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2015. 
[3] Simmons, William A.  Priest – Sacrifice – Life as Worship:  A Pauline Matrix for Understanding Romans.   Page 86.  Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan-Mar 2015.
[4] Simmons, William A.  Priest – Sacrifice – Life as Worship:  A Pauline Matrix for Understanding Romans.   Page 86.  Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan-Mar 2015.