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Paul is giving believers a picture of how pursuing God’s righteousness through faith should look. Righteousness means harmonious living or right living; the first ingredient for this harmony is sacrificial living.
Romans 12:2 shows that we live out God’s will when we change our thoughts to God’s thoughts, rather than living like the world dictates. The world will always pressure us to live sinfully and selfishly, but to live the good life God wants from us requires changing how we behave—by changing our thoughts.
Paul is telling believers how pursuing righteousness (harmonious living) through faith ought to look. One major feature is humility, recognizing who God is and what He has given you. We should realize we are each one part of a living body.
The body of believers can only work in full harmony if each member is using their gift to serve one another. These gifts are given to us by the grace of God for His purpose.
Paul has moved from specific gifting to overarching principles that apply to all believers as we pursue righteousness, this harmonious living, through faith.
Living harmoniously by faith in God looks like blessing our enemies. It looks like sympathizing with other people, in good times and bad times. It looks like unity, not elevating ourselves. Living only for ourselves is contrary to God’s design for our lives, we were made to live in harmony with others.
We aren’t God. Our role is not to right all wrongs, especially personal wrongs. If we seek to pay people back for how they’ve treated us, we’re in God’s way. God is the Judge.
Agape love seeks the best even for our enemies. This is how to beat evil, not by battling it with vengeance. Evil is defeated by good.
The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.
In Chapter 12, Paul shows that a life of righteousness or justice (living in harmony with God’s design) looks like a life that has been transformed spiritually. It looks like team harmony, like a human body, where every body part is doing what it does best as directed by the head (and a believer’s Head is Jesus.) In order to function like a body, it requires an active decision to love and honor others, while honoring Jesus as the One in charge. As the One in charge, it’s Jesus’ job to judge the world (not ours.)
Paul turns from defending against the slanderous attacks of competing Jewish “authorities” and begins an admonition to the world famous believers in Rome (1:8) concerning their pursuit of righteousness. Paul has comprehensively demonstrated that righteousness, which is harmony with God’s design, comes only through walking by faith in the resurrection power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He has also proven that his gospel message is “good news” about three deliverances: 1) being delivered from the penalty of sin, irrevocably placing us into the family of God when we first believe 2) being delivered from the presence of sin when we are taken to heaven to be with Jesus, and 3) being delivered from the power of sin in our daily walk, when we choose to walk by faith in the power of the indwelling Spirit.
Since most of our lives are spent between the time we first believed and the time we leave this earth, Paul has and will continue to emphasize the practical impact of the gospel on how we live daily. Paul has made it crystal clear why we ought to choose to walk in faith by the Spirit and enjoy the newness of life in the resurrection power of Jesus, rather than going back into the death and slavery of sin by following our sin nature. We want to walk in obedience because of the immense positive consequence from walking by faith (believing God’s way is true and best), versus the terrible consequences we get when we walk in sin (believing we know best). Paul has also clearly shown us how to walk in the resurrection power of Jesus, through the exercise of a heart of faith. Now Paul will give us some tangible illustrations of what righteousness looks like in everyday life.