ROMANS 12: 1-8
I entreat you brothers and sisters, through the yearning of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your reasonable worship. Do not be shaped in the pattern of this present age but be re-shaped by the renewal of your intelligence, that you may know by experience what God’s will is, what is good and well-pleasing and complete.Through the kindness of God given to me, I advise every person amongst you not to regard themselves more highly than they ought, but to think of themselves with a sober regard, in relation to the portion of trust God has alotted to each one.
For just as we have many organs in one body, and the organs do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are one body in Messiah.and individually organs of one another.Since we have gifts that differ in relation to the kindness given to us, let’s use them: if it is to prophesy, let’s use it in proportion to our trust; if it is to serve, let’s use it in serving; if it is to teach, let’s use it in teaching; if it is to entreat, let’s use it in entreaty; the one who gives, let her do so with generosity; the one who leads, let her do it with enthusiasm; the one who cares for others, let her do it with a cheerful spirit.
Paul has told his audience that because they belong to Messiah Jesus, they are free from the Jewish Law. But how then are they to live well?
Paul tells them that first of all they should respond to God’s goodness by offering their bodies, that is, their day by day relational selves, to God. I’ve kept the word bodies since he has spoken at times negatively of the body; here in contrast he sees the body as the instrument of goodness. He uses the lovely and precise Greek word “parastenai” which I have translated “offer” but maybe the KJV “present” is better.It has the sense of a formal offering, a gesture by which the sacrifice is offered.
Good action, then, begins with a responsive offering of the ordinary person to God, so that he or she takes on the character of a sacrifice, thinking of themselves as sacred and well-pleasing to God. This commitment means that the believer will not be “shaped in the pattern of this present age,” that is they will refuse allegiance to the worldly powers that dominate people, the political and cultural elites, the mass media, the religious establishments, the taken- for -granted prejudices of their time, but will rarher allow the God of Messiah Jesus to renovate their intelligence. That’s a wonderful expression, meaning to clear out all the popular rubbish, so that people can use their God-given intelligence to discover by experience the good way of life. They are not to live by a written code, but out of their joyful dedication to God along with their human intelligence!
But this freedom should not lead to an arrogant individualism. Just the opposite! Believers should be soberly aware of the limits of their capacity and therefore of their need for others. In Jesus Messiah they are one body. This metaphor is not original to Paul but has a history in Roman thinking about society. Paul uses it for God’s new society, in which there is no difference of rank or status, but only difference of function.Bodily organs have the same status but different functions for the health of the body. Here Paul envisages these “charismata”, as God-given gifts to be used within the body of Messiah. The true being of believers is “interbeing” or “shared life.”
This life in the body is exactly the renewal of the intelligence and the experience of what is well-pleasing to God. For Paul this community brought into being by Jesus Messiah and God’s Spirit, is the new people of God, which takes the place of the Jewish Law. It is where people can learn and live the good life, which Paul defines in the splendid and surprising phrase, “reasonable worship.”