The Ethical Implication of Salvation
It is only for convenience that we describe this as as the second main division of the Epistle. It forms an integral part of Paul’s purpose in writing. He had no use for religion or theology which did not translate itself in terms of character and conduct. So the Word therefore has great significance here. In the three chapters immediately preceding Paul has dealt with a subject in which his own personal interest is keener even than that of those to whom he writes.
Now that he passes on to expound the ethical implications of salvation, = the principles of Christian motive, and Christian conduct. He recalls the chapters of 1—8 in which he has analysed and exhibited the mercies of God.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
It is in view of these that he now appeals to his readers to present their bodies a living sacrifice. “Therefore” forges the link between the doctrinal and the ethical teaching of the Epistle. By “bodies” Paul suggests all the activities of the earthly life; and the consecration of these he describes as a living sacrifice, and “your spiritual or immaterial worship.” Henceforth, God neither seeks nor requires material sacrifice of any kind. That has been completely replaced by the joyful surrender to Him of human hearts and wills. Christians, therefore, are not to pattern themselves on the present order of things, but to accept such a change in themselves, a change in mental outlook, that they will be able to discern the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and ideal.
The Natural Attitude to Christians in Their Relations to One Another.
Paul is about to describe the kind of temper and the forms of conduct which are natural and becoming in a Christian. He throws his teaching into the form of precepts, and the precepts become useful guides to the individual; but they are addressed to the community as a whole, and to the individual in his relation to the fellowship or sacred society of which he is a member. It is seldom indeed that Paul contemplates the individual as an isolated unit. Nearly always he thinks of him as a member of the Christian Community. For the faith-union by which he is united to Christ is also a love-union by which he is united to his fellow believers, and it is in this fellowship he is to find the full opportunity for the realisation of his new personality. That is why in Vv 4—5 after laying down the first requirement of modesty, Pau emphasise as a motive for that modesty the common life of the body of Christ, a common life shared by many members, each of whom has his own function, each of whom is related to every part as well as to the whole.
On every such member he urges, in the first place, modesty in his estimate of himself, taking for his standard no human qualifications he may possess but the degree of faith that God has granted to him. There is something individual in the quality of each man’s faith; and corresponding to that is the particular grace gift which is assigned to him. To that also is to correspond the use he makes of it, whether it be public speech (prophecy) or personal service (ministry) or teaching, or comforting, or giving.
Romans 12: 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
He that ruleth (v 8) should probably be rendered “he that hath a concern for the church”; let one who attends to the general interests do so with diligence (steadfast application). And in general let the love upon which the whole structure is rooted and grounded be free form insincerity.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
1 Timothy 3:2—16
02 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
03 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
04 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
05 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
06 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
07 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
08 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
09 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
In Vv 9—21 Paul passes from the spiritual grace-gifts and the proper use of them to recount the general characteristics of the Christians attitude, especially toward those “of those of the household of faith.” And here we have to observe not only the specific echoes of our Lord’s own teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Vv 14,19), but how closely Paul reproduces the spirit of that teaching, while throwing it into many various forms.
Romans 12: 9—21
09 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12: 14,19
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
We have to register this phenomenon, explain it how we may, that although Paul was not himself a disciple of Jesus, and although the record of Christ’s teaching was not yet available in the Gospels, the Christian man as Paul describes him is not distinguishable from the portrait of the ideal man as we should construct it from what we know of our Lord’s teaching. The ultimate basis of this harmony is the common recognition that “love is the fulfilling of the Law”; but even then there is something very striking in the harmonious application of the principle. There is little in these verses that calls for interpretation.
Christians and the State.
The question of the relation of God’s people or the church to the state was an important one, though not so difficult in Paul’s time as it afterward became. It had already been laid before Jesus by the Pharisee’s, who framed what seemed to them a dilemma by which He could not fail to be caught. “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Cćsar or not?” Paul’s handling of the subject is in close correspondence with the purport (implied) of our Lord’s reply, “Render unto Cćsar the things that are Cćsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The claims of the state are to be recognised within its proper sphere. However; Paul proceeds to assign reasons for this which are not included in our Lord’s reply. “The existing authorities have been ordained of God.”
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
The principle is a true one, and yet not absolute in its application. Paul’s experience of the state, and the experience of the church, had been up to this time only favourable. Nominally a republic, the Roman state was now governed under republican forms by an emperor. So far as subject peoples were concerned, the Roman administration was marked by wisdom and tolerance. The Jews in particular enjoyed great internal freedom and certain special privileges. Paul’s natural instinct, therefore, was to credit the state with good intentions, and also with a wise administration of justice. The state had not hitherto displayed hostility to the Christians; still less had it indulged in any organised persecutions. On the contrary, it had on more than one occasion interfered to protect the Christians from the Jews by whom they were frequently attacked and rabbled (a mob). It was in full confidence in Roman justice that Paul appealed to Cćsar, and in 2Thess2:5—7 he acknowledges the function fulfilled by the Roman state in restraining for the time being the activities of Antichrist.
In these circumstances it was not difficult for Paul to acknowledge the civil authorities of his time as ordained of God. Only a few years had passed, however; before the situation was entirely changed. The cruel persecution under Nero marked the beginning of an alteration of the attitude of the state to the church. That strange amalgam (a combination of two or more characteristics) of religion and politics, the cult of the Roman emperor, suddenly acquired great importance; and Christians who refused to worship a man as god were branded enemies of the state. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/episteofpeter.htm
Rome was already “drunken with the blood of the saints” Antipas had perished at Pergamum
Revelation 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
Every considerable town in Asia Minor was a place where Satan had his throne, the Temple of Rome, and the Emperor who was hailed as “our lord and our god”
John 20 : 24—29
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace be unto you”.
27 Then saith He to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, “My Lord and my God.”
29 Jesus saith unto him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
“My Lord and my God.” This was the First testament to the Deity of the risen Lord. Possibly Thomas was using the words of Psalm 86:15, which in the Septuagint read Kurie ho Theos, and claiming forgiveness for his unbelief on the ground of Ex34:6, to which this verse of the Psalm belongs.
Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
In this changed situation the Christians were compelled to revise their judgement of the state, and Paul leaves room for such revision. His words are to be understood of the civil authorities as he knew them. And the functions of justice which he saw them to be discharging. His teaching here is wrongly applied when it is taken to mean that all existing authorities of any kind and character are divinely appointed. Paul himself suggests this test.
· When they are a terror not to the worker of good, but to the evildoer,
· When they administer even-handed justice, they are ministers of God within civil life, and Christians are bound to show them all due respect and provide them with all reasonable support.
Love: The fulfilling of the Law.
Leave no debt unpaid, saving, of course, the debt of love, which is one that can never be fully paid. Christian love has been defined as “the identification of self with God’s interest in others”; and where it is present, it puts it beyond possibility that we should inflict injury on our neighbours of any form or any kind. (Question: "Why did God command the extermination / genocide of the Canaanites, women and children included?")
The second table of the Law is summed up in “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self.” This was one of the two commandments of which Jesus had said that on them hang the Law and the prophets (Matt22:40); and once more the apostle reproduces his Master’s teaching.
Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
He proceeds to (V11) to enforce it by calling attention to the brevity of the opportunity in view of the expected early return of Jesus Christ. “Remember the character of the time. The day which is to see the completion of our Salvation is nearer than when we believed. The light of that great day is even now dawning. It behoves us, therefore, to comport (To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner) ourselves with dignity, not in reckless or riotous living, not in factious or envious bickering’s. On the contrary, see that you enrobe yourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ, and pay no attention to the demands of the lower nature.”
Again, it is seen to be part of the Christian standard of conduct to behave with dignity and self-respect. Many things which cannot be classed as sins, things which are not forbidden by any law, are nevertheless to be shunned by the Christian as inconsistent with this ideal.
The Duty of Toleration for Those of a too Scrupulous Conscience.
Paul now proceeds to examine the application of the universal law of love to certain special problems which arose in the intercourse of Christians with one another. It was not difficult when the fellowship was met together for worship to realise the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to feel the brotherhood of mutual affection between the brethren. But when the worship came to an end, when the brethren when the brethren separated to meet again in ordinary social intercourse, personal idiosyncrasies made their appearance on one side or both, which tended to destroy the fellowship, producing discussion, discomfort, and even disunion. It is with this in view That Paul in (1 Cor 13:13) prays that the love which is characteristic of God may continue with the members of the community.
1 Cor 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Here the special case which he singles out is that of those who are weak in the faith (v1). The “faith” to which Paul now refers is not religious faith, the faith in God through Christ whereby men are saved, but the fruit of such faith in clear vision and firm conviction as to the mind and will of God. By those who are “weak” in the faith he means those who do not have a sufficiently strong grasp upon spiritual realities to claim their complete freedom in Christ and to cease, because of their assurance on other grounds, the practice of asceticism (self-denial) or the observance of lucky or unlucky days.
Paul takes his first illustration from food and the distinction between foods which were ritually clean and unclean. In the Law of Moses much attention had been given to this subject; and much of the religious observance of a pious Jew consisted in punctilious (attention to detail) avoidance of such kinds of food as Moses had forbidden. The Essenes, it would appear, had gone s step further, and regarded it as a religious duty to abstain from all kinds of flesh food. In this they followed the Pythagoreans in the Greek world. Indeed, religious vegetarianism was, as it still is, quite common in the East. The watchword of these schools of thought was, “Touch not, taste not, handle not.”
Colossians 2:21 Touch not; taste not; handle not;
Now, our Lord in His teaching as to the true character of sin had started from a destructive criticism of this whole point of view. “Nothing”, He said, “absolutely nothing that reaches a man from without can “defile” him”, that is to say render him unfit for public worship, or disqualify him for communion with God. With this teaching He “cleansed all meats.” i.e., abrogated (annul) the distinction between what was clean and unclean.
Mark 7:19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
Matthew 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
This teaching had been confirmed to Peter in a vision which he had on the roof of the house at Joppa (Acts 10:9 forward). Nevertheless, there were evidently those in the primitive church who could not shake off the idea that it was wrong to eat certain kinds of food, or, at any rate, that there was merit in abstaining. There is always a type of mind to which asceticism makes a strong appeal. But this raised a very practical question in connection with the daily social life of the Christians. How were those whose grasp on spiritual realities was strong enough to enable them to treat all such matters as unimportant, and to behave to those scruplers whose “faith” was not so strong?
The answer, in the first place, is that the strong are to welcome the weak, but not to contentious discussions (v 1); The one who feels free to eat anything is not to despise the one who abstains; neither is he who abstains criticise the one who claims freedom in such matters. The important fact is that both alike have received the welcome of God.
Moreover, the weak or unscrupulous man that it is the servant of another that he is criticising (Rom 14:v 4). He is Christ’s servant, and it is to the judgement of his Master alone that he is amenable. Paul’s own opinion is clear enough from; he ranges himself along with those who are strong in the faith.
Romans 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Compare 1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
The second illustration of such unnecessary scruples is taken from the superstitious observance of special days (v 5). The reference may be to Jewish festivals, or Paul may have in mind Gentile forms of superstition according to which days or dates were connected with certain of the planets, or the elemental forces which ruled the world, and men shaped their conduct on these days accordingly. In this case the same rule applied.
09 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
Each man was to be held responsible for his own conviction and acting upon it. These were not matters on which it was necessary that the community should think or act alike.
From this Paul passes back, as he so often does, to general considerations (Rom 14: 7), his conviction being that if men could but realise clearly and continuously their relation to Christ, these problems of conduct would solve themselves. The TRUTH is that no one of us Christians is an isolated individual (Rom 14: 8). In life and in death alike each one of us belongs to the Lord. It was, indeed, to this end He both died and came to life again, that He might be the Lord of the dead and the living. For Christians to criticise one another in matters such as these is to take up an attitude of independence toward each other which is incompatible with their common life in and for Christ. And, further, it is inconsistent with the humility which becomes those who must all alike appear the judgement seat of God ((Rom 14:10).
Elsewhere 2 Cor 5:10 Paul speaks of “the judgement seat of Christ,” Even as in (Phil 2:10—11) he applies to Christ the language of Isaiah (49: 18, 45:23) which the latter here uses of God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Isaiah 49:18 Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.
Isaiah 45:23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
It is in this way that Paul gives the clearest indication of the place which he assigns to Christ, and also shows that the soil in which his thought is rooted is not any Hellenistic mystery or the Oriental mystery-cults, but the O.T.
The sum of the matter is that those whose faith makes them independent of ritual prohibitions and superstitious precautions should not give the cold shoulder to the weak, but welcome them to the fellowship, showing patience and toleration. To the weak and scrupulous Paul appeals with much more elaboration of argument that they should refrain from criticising those who claim to exercise freedom in matters of external observance.