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Definitions of Doctrine
by C. D. Cole
Volume II- SIN, SALVATION, SERVICE
PART 3-THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF SERVICE
CHAPTER 2-Manuel for Godly Living
If one should select a portion of Scripture as a manual or guide to Christian living, surely he could do no better than to turn to the closing chapters of Romans. Here we have the Christian’s duty in various relations of life. In this chapter we shall attempt an exposition of Romans 12.
We now enter what is called the practical part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. If the doctrinal portion of Romans is distasteful, the practical portion will be even more so. He who despises the mercies of God will rebel at the commands of God. Practical Christianity must rest upon doctrinal Christianity. You cannot divorce doctrine from life. As G. Campbell Morgan puts it: “You cannot grow the tulips of the kingdom of God unless you get the bulbs from heaven.” A man’s conduct is the fruit of what he believes. The flower of a godly life has its roots deep in the soil of experienced grace.
Paul, after giving us the greatest of all expositions of the grace and mercy of God; gives vent to his feeling of adoring wonder at the ways of God: and follows with an exhortation to becoming conduct on the part of those who can follow him in the gracious experiences of the mercies of God.
1. PAUL’S GREAT APPEAL (1, 2). Observe,
1a) HE BESEECHES. He does not command like Moses who gave the law. The Christian minister cannot give orders nor compel; he can only get things done by beseeching. A Christian hierarchy, whether in the form of a Baptist Board, or a Methodist Bishop, or a Roman Catholic Pope is contrary to the very norm of New Testament Christianity.
1b) HE BESEECHES BY THE MERCIES OF GOD. This is the greatest argument for a consecrated life. Paul wants the mercies of God to be realized and bear fruit to the glory of God. The highest and purest of all human motives is to act out of appreciation for the mercies of God.
1c) PAUL BESEECHES THE BRETHREN. Exhortation is ministry to the saints. He is not appealing to the sinner, but to those who have an experience of grace and mercy.
1d) HE BESEECHES THEM TO PRESENT THEIR BODIES TO GOD. The believer’s body is to be a living sacrifice in contrast to dead animals offered under the law. It is not to obtain but to acknowledge the blessing of salvation. It is a sacrifice of praise. The body is to be a holy sacrifice. Under the law the animals offered in sacrifice had to be ceremonially clean and physically sound; under grace the human body must be morally clean. A whiskey-soaked body is a filthy sacrifice. The sacrifice must be pleasing to God. It is not man nor even the church that we must please but God. Consecration is primarily to God and not to a cause or a work. One may be consecrated to a good work and yet scarcely ever think of God. Everything is to be done as unto the Lord. The sacrifice of the believer constitutes his “reasonable service.” The Greek word for reasonable is logikos, and is variously translated reasonable, intelligent, rational, spiritual, etc. The word is found in one other place in the Greek New Testament. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby,” (1 Pet. 2:2) and is translated by the phrase “of the word.” It comes from the same root as logos, which means word. The believer’s service to God must be regulated by the word of God. This is most important, for one may be busy in doing what God has not commanded, and in the way God has not commanded; yea, one may be doing what God has forbidden.
1e) HE BESEECHES BELIEVERS TO BE DIFFERENT. “And be not conformed to this world.” World here means the inhabitants of the world morally considered. The world is bad; it lies in the lap of the Wicked One. “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness,” (1 John 5:19). The devil is its god. He has dominion over it. The world is self-centered and Satan-controlled. The believer is not to agree with it, or be like it. He must not fall in with the world in its thinking and doing. He must think and do according to the Word of God.
1f) “BUT BE YE TRANSFORMED.” The Greek is “metamorphoo, “and means a change in appearance. It is the word used for the transfiguration of Christ. In our text it denotes a moral change, to be effected by the renewal of the mind. A change of mind—new thoughts and new ideals—is wrought in regeneration, and this change must be renewed and deepened. Outward transformation must begin in the mind and heart. If a man’s conduct is to be right his thinking must be right. In this way the believer will know “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” and be able to demonstrate it in his everyday life. Believers are God’s demonstrators; we are to demonstrate the fact and worth of God in human life. The commercial world uses this method in making sales. The car salesman will put you into his car and behind the wheel to demonstrate its speed and riding comfort. The refrigerator man will put a refrigerator in your home on trial to let you see its freezing qualities. In this day of keen competition many things are sold in trial. It is a solemn and pertinent question the believer should put to himself; what kind of a demonstrator am I for Jesus Christ Whom I profess to trust and love and obey? What impression does my life make on others?
2. SPECIAL DUTIES BASED ON SPECIFIC GIFTS (3-8).
2a) Have a just estimate of your gift. There are different measures of faith—do not think you know it all—do not act as if you are the “whole cheese.” Think soberly about yourself and your abilities. Do not be intoxicated with conceit. Recognize the gifts of others. Be humble.
2b) We are many members in one body. Every church (local assembly) is a body of Christ likened to the human body. Each member has his own gift and place in the body, and what he does affects the whole body. Each member of the church ought to be dear to every other member.
2c) Each member must exercise his own gift. It is not a natural talent, but a gift sovereignly bestowed by the Holy Spirit. There are seven of these gifts here enumerated:
2c1) PROPHECY. The Spirit given ability to utter Divine truth. It strictly signifies the foretelling of future events, but seems to have a wider sense in the New Testament, including the gift of explaining the Scriptures. It is forthtelling as well as foretelling. There are no foretellers since the New Testament was completed. We have in the Bible all the truth we need for our spiritual good.
2c2) MINISTRY. The Greek word means service, and is used in a wide sense. It is used of Christ in Romans 15:8; “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” of Phoebe in Romans 16:1; “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:” of the office of deacon in “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,” (Phil. 1:1): “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre,” (1 Tim. 3:8). In our text it does not seem to refer to an office, but to practical service in the church without naming the particular service. Every member is to render some service.
2c3) TEACHING. The ability to teach God’s word is a gift of the Spirit. It is a gift the pastor or bishop must have; “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach,” (1 Tim. 3:2). A mere exhorter should never be made a bishop, that is, a pastor.
2c4) EXHORTATION. This means to excite to duty and dissuade from sin and requires a peculiar talent—a gift of the Spirit. It is not an office. We need laymen in our churches with the gift of exhortation—men who can arouse the brethren to greater activity; to be more than seat warmers. The exhortation of a godly layman seems to have more effect than that of the pastor.
2c5) GIVING. Giving is both a duty and a grace; “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia,” (2 Cor. 8:1). Giving is the duty of all and a gift of grace bestowed upon some. Where this grace is exercised there will be large gifts for the work of the church. Let large givers give without fanfare or ostentation.
2c6) RULING. The Greek word means “to go before,” or “to take the lead”. It is used of the bishop (pastor) in “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;” (1 Tim. 3:4): “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine,” (1 Tim. 5:17). As a leader the pastor must be zealous and diligent. The pastorate is no place for a lazy man.
2c7) SHOWING MERCY. The gift of aiding the needy and of forgiving an enemy. And this must be done cheerfully and eagerly and sincerely. Gill thinks the last three gifts: giving, ruling, and showing mercy, relate to different branches of the deacon’s office. Perhaps so.
3. GENERAL DUTIES BASED UPON SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS (9-16).
Romans 12:9. Love is to be sincere—without hypocrisy. Feigned love is disguised hate. “Abhorring evil.” It is not enough to cease from doing wrong; sin must be hated. “Cleaving to the good.” The Christian is not a mere negation; there is a positive side to his character. While hating evil he must love and hold fast to that which is good.
Romans 12:10. We are to love one another as members of the same family. And where honor or preference is involved we should want another brother to have it. While the worldly vie with one another in receiving honor; the saints should compete with one another in giving honor.
Romans 12:11. “Not slothful in business.” This has no reference to secular work, but to service for the Lord. We are to be on fire for the Lord. Stifler renders the verse this way: “In zeal (the outward) not slothful; in spirit (the inward human spirit) fervent; serving the Lord.”
Romans 12:12. “Hope...tribulation...prayer:” the bulk of many a life. We may not be able to rejoice in present conditions but we can rejoice in hope of a better day. And this hope will give patience and steadfastness in the day of affliction, for hope sees an end to them. And while hoping and suffering we can keep on praying.
Romans 12:13. We are to relieve the necessities of the saints, and practice hospitality. This implies private ownership of goods and is far removed from Socialism and Communism. Some will be better off than others. Let those who have, voluntarily share with those who have not. But indolence must not be encouraged or even tolerated. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies,” (2 Thess. 3:10-11) for a balancing truth. Every Christian home should be an inn where strangers of the household of faith might find entertainment: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” (Heb. 13:2).
Romans 12:14. Bless your persecutors. The saint must never answer in kind, must not fight the devil with fire; he knows more about that weapon than we do. We are to render blessing for cursing; not railing for railing.
Romans 12:15. Share the experiences of others. Rejoice with the rejoicing ones and weep with the weeping. Here is Christian wisdom. Christ did not weep at Cana, nor laugh at the grave of Lazarus.
Romans 12:16. “Be of the same mind one toward another.” Be easy to live with. Regard one another mutually, and let this attitude reach the lowly. Don’t be snobbish and exclusive. The world neglects and rejects the lowly, but Christ died for such people, and we should have fellowship with them in the body of Christ. And do not have a too high estimate of yourself.
4. CHRISTIAN GRACES TOWARD THE WORLD (17-21).
Romans 12:17. Do not return evil for evil, but meet evil with good. And be honest. Watch your step for the eyes of the world are upon you. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (Matt. 5:16).
Romans 12:18. Do your best to live at peace with all men. Be sure you are not at fault when peace is destroyed. If men hate you let them hate you for the truth’s sake and not for the evil you do.
Romans 12:19. Do not seek revenge. Vengeance belongs to God. A Christian seeks revenge when he tries to get even with an enemy—he takes himself out of the hands of his Heavenly Father. It is a way of saying that you can handle your enemy better than He can. Do not usurp His place in judgment; wait for Him to act. He will set things right in His own time.
Romans 12:20. Befriend your enemy. Help him in time of need. In this way you are heaping coals of fire on his head. This is the only punishment you may inflict—and take care you do not do it literally. A woman who complained of the ill treatment of her husband was asked if she had ever tried heaping coals of fire on his head replied by saying, “No, but I did dash a bucket of scalding water on him.”
Romans 12:21. Be a conqueror. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Fight your foe with the weapon of good deeds. You conquer when you befriend an enemy, and leave vengeance with God to Whom it belongs. May grace be given to both writer and reader to heed these flesh-rebuking admonitions!
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