26 February 2014

Romans 12:1-8

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (v. 2)


Today's passage begins a larger section of the letter that focuses explicitly on the ethical implications of Paul's message. Such implications flow from Paul's description of God's work in Christ, as the little word "therefore" indicates (v. 1). We are called to a new kind of life because we know who - and whose - we are. Knowing the "mercies of God" (v. 1) can shape our lives.

The well-known opening two verses apply the language of liturgy and worship to everyday life. Believers are to present themselves as 'holy sacrifices', set apart for God (verse 1). They are also to avoid conformity to the ways of this world, and instead seek renewal for their minds (verse 2). In a culture in which personal autonomy is sometimes raised to the status of an idol, the call to give ourselves to God as a sacrifice can be difficult. We do so, however, knowing that that the God who calls us is the one who came to us in Jesus. This God can be trusted to show us the 'good', the 'acceptable', and the 'perfect'.

Paul also instructs believers to avoid self-promotion within the Church, and - instead - to modestly take their place within a community in which God has spread grace widely (verses 3-8). Just like "members" (v. 4) of the body, the members of the Church all have different functions and gifts. We are one in Christ, but bring differences to the table. The list of gifts that Paul includes are illustrative of the range of graces God grants, and include those that are more widely known - such as ministry and teaching - and those that often go on in the background - such as giving and compassion. All are gifts, and all are important.

To Ponder

  • Are you attracted or alienated by the idea of being a 'sacrifice'? Why or why not?
  • In what ways do you seek to 'renew your minds'?
  • What gifts do you bring to the Church? 

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.