Paul now speaks to brethren. God gave them mercies (kindness). The mercies are salvation. The brethren are the ones who are saved by God. In Romans 11:32 Paul wrote: “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all”. God wants all people to be saved. Paul is speaking to brethren who received the mercy of God. These are the ones who believe and obey.
Paul begs the brethren to do something with their bodies. My body must do what my spirit tells it to do. Brethren must present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice. This sacrifice is a life of service to God. To sacrifice is to give or offer up. Christ gave His body for others; He died on the cross. Here Christians are urged (begged, pushed in the direction of) to give their bodies in life to the service of God. This is a living sacrifice. It is not the sacrifice of a dead animal. This is a daily sacrifice, a holy sacrifice, a sacrifice which is acceptable to God. It is the spiritual service of worship.
This tells us that we must give our whole selves to God. We must serve Him with our bodies. We must not hold anything back. When the animal was sacrificed, the entire animal including its life was given. We who are Christians are like that animal, only we offer a living sacrifice. We do this by giving our bodies, not just our minds, in complete obedience to Christ.
This verse tells how to be living sacrifices. We Christians must no longer serve Satan. No one can serve two masters, for he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). When we become Christians, we must change our minds. To be a friend of the world is to be the enemy of the Lord (James 4:4). “This world” means the people who are not Christians. The world hated Christ, and it hates those who belong to Christ. If we are conformed to this world we will be like the world. We will think like the world thinks, and we will do what the world does. When Christians become like the world, they are not the salt of the earth or the light of the world.
The word “transformed” is a very strong word. A caterpillar (worm) makes a little house (cocoon). It stays in the cocoon until it is transformed into a butterfly or moth. When it comes out of the cocoon, it is entirely different. So the Christian must be transformed into the image of Christ. He must become entirely different from the world.
God gave the gospel to change us. It changes our minds and our loves. We think differently and we love different things. When we obey the gospel, we are changed from being citizens of Satan’s kingdom into being citizens of the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13). All of this changes our lives so that we live in a different way.
The church should never follow the example of the world. Christians must let Christ tell them what is right and what is wrong. This will cause the renewing of the mind, which is what transforms us. We must let the Holy Spirit teach us through His word.
When we do this, we will prove what the will of God is. Our lives will show what God really wants. People will see Christ in us. They will be won to Christ even when we do not preach (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Unfortunately many “Christians” are not living sacrifices. When people see these “Christians” they do not see the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. They see a religion which is not pure. This is not the religion Jesus died to establish.
The perfect will of God changes the people who listen to it. When people see these changes, they see what God wants them to see. They see that the will of God does great things. We who are changed see God’s good and acceptable and perfect will working in us. We understand that we have complete salvation because of it. We see that God’s word works to make us exactly what God wants us to be.
Man always wants to add to God’s word. Man thinks that the word of God is not enough. So men add religious organisations which are not in God’s word. They add special duties to what God has given (see Colossians 2:20-23). They try to get people to come to church by adding things to entertain people. When men do this they show that they do not believe God’s word alone will do the job. And when they add to His word, they take away from the saving power of that word. There is only one gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), and when we add something to it we make a new gospel which cannot save.
We need to be satisfied with what God has given! If we will put His word to work in our lives, we will prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul is here saying something which is very important. It is so important that Paul says it through the grace given to me. Paul was chosen to be an apostle of Christ. He was chosen by God’s grace. Paul is now speaking as an apostle of Christ. This means that what Paul is writing is from Jesus, Himself. Of course, all that Paul writes is from Jesus. But Paul shows that what he says here is very important. He says that it comes from Paul, the apostle.
It is hard for men to obey what Paul here commands. He says to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. We are full of pride. It is easy for us to think we are something when we are nothing. When men praise us, we get puffed up.
How should we think of ourselves? We are to think so as to have sound judgment. If we think too highly of ourselves, we are like a drunk person. We are not sober. We must look at ourselves as God sees us, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
What is the measure of faith which God has given to each person? The word “measure” can mean a measuring instrument, that by which we can see whether something is right or wrong. The word of God is this measuring instrument. When we measure everything by the Word of God, we will not think too highly of ourselves. We will be like Christ.
But Paul does not seem to be talking about this. He is talking about what God allots to each man. God gives to each man a measure of faith. What does God give to us? Paul is not talking about spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-10) because God did not give these to each. Only some Christians had spiritual gifts. Yet God allots to each man a measure of faith. One man has the ability to speak well. Another is a good singer. Another can show mercy. A mother has the ability to nurse her children. Each person is given what we call “abilities” and “opportunities”.
When I understand that every ability I have comes from God, that every opportunity to do good comes from Him, then I can have sound judgment about myself. If I am more intelligent than others, I understand that my intelligence was given to me by God. I cannot boast about that. If I am richer than others, I can only thank God. I cannot boast. And I will use my riches to bless others.
If I do not have the abilities which make me a leader, I will look to see what God has given to me so that I can serve Him. I will understand that when I do whatever I can for Him, I am precious in His sight and am accepted.
No man can enter the kingdom of heaven if he is full of pride. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
How can I have this sober judgment about myself? I can have sound judgment when I measure everything by the faith which God has given. I do what God wants me to do. I do not get puffed up by doing things He has not commanded, and I see that everything He says for me to do is precious in His sight.
Here is how we have sound judgment. Every member of a physical body is important, and every member of the church (the spiritual body) has an important job. The members of the physical body work together. They are joined together in one body and are members one of another. If I hurt my toe, my whole body feels the pain and works to help the toe. This is the picture of the church. Every member has a job to do which is important, and we are individually members one of another. We need each other. We rejoice with one another and sorrow with one another. But we do not have the same function. Each has been allotted a measure of faith to use in building up the body.
All talents which anyone has are gifts from God. They are gifts according to the grace given to us. We must rejoice in what we have. And we must exercise them accordingly. God wants us to use them for the good of the whole body.
The gift of prophecy is the only one of these gifts which required more than natural ability. A prophet was a person who spoke what God told him to speak. The gift of prophecy was given by the Holy Spirit. In the days when God was still revealing the New Testament, God gave this gift to some men and women in the church. Paul says the prophet must use his gift according to the proportion of his faith. The prophet had to speak exactly what God gave him to speak. He had to speak it all, and he was not to add to it.
The rest of the gifts which Paul names are things which we do with our natural talents. These are given by God, therefore they are “gifts”. One person can do something better than another person can. This is his gift. He is to use this gift in the body.
Service means doing things to help others. Can you do this? Then work hard at this service. He who teaches is the one who knows the will of God and has the ability to teach it to others. He is one of those described in 2 Timothy 2:2. If you teach, give yourself to the job.
The ability to exhort is not often found today. “Exhort” means “to encourage, to build up, to cause people to want to do things, to get them excited about their duties”. Notice that it follows teaching. It does not come before teaching. First the truth must be taught. People must understand the truth and see that it should be followed. Then it is time for exhortation. Teaching gives the light, and exhortation moves us to walk in the light. Many years ago it was common for one man to preach and another man to exhort. This is a good pattern to follow.
The one who gives must give with liberality. This word is translated “simplicity” in the King James version. The idea is that when a person gives, he must be sincere in his giving. He wants to do good with his money. He is happy that he can give. He gives “liberally”, which means he gives freely without being stingy. He does not give to get the praise of men (Matthew 6:1).
The one who leads is to do this with diligence. The Greek word which is here translated “leads” is found in 1 Timothy 5:17; 3:4,12. There it is translated “rule” and “manage”. The leader must give careful attention to his work. Sometimes a leader thinks of himself too highly. He thinks about his high position. But Paul says that he is to be a worker. He has a job to perform, and must do it.
He who shows mercy is to do that with cheerfulness. We must be happy that we can forgive someone.
Here are a number of orders. They are short commands, yet they give us very clear and sometimes difficult instructions.
We are to love without hypocrisy. You can say that you love another person when you do not. Judas greeted Jesus with a brotherly kiss, but Judas was betraying the Saviour. We must be careful what we do. We must look into our hearts and be sure that our love is real. There must be no pretending.
We must abhor (hate strongly) what is evil. If you cling to what is good you will hate what is evil. You cannot love both. We have to work hard to hate what is evil because the world is telling us that evil is good. Let us keep studying the word of God. Then we will hate fornication, lying, homosexuality, abortion, divorce, and every other form of sin. Let us cling to what is good, praising those who do good and trying always to do good ourselves. We know what is good only by reading the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must not call something “good” when it is not what the New Testament tells us to do.
Brothers and sisters in Christ must be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Our love for one another must be strong and continuing. Because we love one another, we give preference to one another in honor. This means we put our brothers first over ourselves. We are unselfish. We give our brothers honour.
“Not lagging behind in diligence” means not to be lazy. “Diligence” means giving careful attention to our work. We first must find what we can do in the Lord’s service. Then we must give our attention to that work. We must not be lazy.
The opposite of lagging behind in diligence is fervent in spirit. “Fervent” means “eager” or “enthusiastic”. This is not the excitement which comes when our emotions are stirred by music, dancing, or other outside things. The Christian is fervent in spirit because he understands his relationship to Christ. He stands on the foundation of the word of God. This gives him confidence and comfort and eagerness to do the will of God. It is not something that he has for a little while and then loses. Because his faith is rooted firmly in God’s word, he continues fervent his whole life through.
We are fervent in serving the Lord. The servants of the devil serve the devil enthusiastically. They give themselves to sinful things. The servants of God serve God with their whole hearts. They do not have a divided heart, thinking they can serve God while also serving Satan.
The Christian’s life is a life of rejoicing. Our rejoicing is because of our hope. Hope is confident expectation; we are sure that we will receive heaven as our reward. Hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Keep your eyes on heaven, Christian.
When we rejoice in hope we are able to persevere in tribulation. “Tribulation” is trouble, and all Christians are going to have trouble (2 Timothy 3:12). When we have a bright hope, we can keep on living for Jesus (persevering) even when we have trouble.
In serving the Lord we must be devoted to prayer. When the Christian has clothed himself with the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:13-17), Paul tells him: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer is a blessing which God gives to the Christian. We must use prayer all of the time.
From the beginning of the church the disciples of Christ helped the poor saints (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; 11:27-30). We love one another. Therefore we contribute to the needs of the saints. Although we are to do good to all men, we are especially to look after the saints (Galatians 6:10). The New Testament tells us that churches cared for saints and sent money to needy churches for their poor. There is no authority for churches to give money to anyone except poor saints. Individual Christians help those who are not saints as they are able to do so. But the church is given the task of helping poor saints—only. (The difference between what the individual Christian is to do and what the church is to do is seen in 1 Timothy 5:16).
Hospitality means “love of strangers”. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it”. Examples of this are Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3).
Jesus told His disciples how to treat those who do bad things to us (Matthew 5:38-48). Paul says the same things here. The Christian must not take revenge when people do bad things to him. God will punish the wicked man, and the government will sometimes punish him. The Christian must leave the punishment to God and the government. When someone does something wicked to us, we want to fight back. But the wrath (strong anger) of man does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Therefore bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
It is harder to rejoice with those who rejoice than it is to weep with those who weep. When good things happen to people we often have envy. We do not rejoice because we wish the good thing happened to us instead of to them. We must lay envy aside and desire the spiritual milk of the word. If we love our brother, we are happy when he is happy.
It is very comforting when someone is sad because I am sad. When he sits with me and weeps with me I know I am not alone. There is someone who loves me and is touched by my sorrow. We should be touched by the sorrows of our brethren. We should weep with those who weep.
We weep and rejoice with one another when we are of the same mind toward one another. We have the same faith. We love the same things. We follow the same Lord. Therefore we love one another and are always wanting the best to happen to one another.
If we are of the same mind toward one another we will not be haughty in mind. “Haughty” means “proud, thinking one is very important”. The rich person may think he is better than the poor man. The person of one race may think that those of another race are not as good as he is. The intelligent man may think that the man of poor intelligence is not important. Men sometimes think that women are not as important as men. This kind of thinking must stop. We are all servants of God. What we have comes from God. Every person is important to our Saviour. The rich man will be sad when he sees the trouble the poor man has. We will rejoice together and weep together.
If we are not haughty we will associate with the lowly. There are no class distinctions in Christ. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God. We are fellow-labourers in the vineyard, fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God. The poor man is of as much value as the rich man, and the rich man is of as much value as the poor man.
The one who is wise in his own estimation is wrong. This person wants everyone to listen to him. He thinks he is important. We must listen to God. If I want someone to listen to my judgment, I must be sure that I show what the word of God says. My wisdom is not important. God’s wisdom is all that matters.
Why did Paul have to warn us? Why did he say “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone”? It is because it is natural to want to hurt the one who hurts us.
This is a very strong statement. Paul said NEVER! If someone lies about me, I must NEVER lie about him. If he cheats me, I must NEVER cheat him. I must NEVER pay back evil to evil—TO ANYONE—even to a government which is corrupt and evil.
Men are looking at us, therefore we must respect what is right in the sight of all men. It is important that we always do right. It is important for people to see that we do right. Christians are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Only by respecting what is right can they be these things.
It is not always possible to be at peace with men. But the Christian must try to be at peace— with all men. However, he must always teach and practice the truth, even when this causes men to persecute him. And he has the right to defend himself when his life is in danger.
We must never be silent about the truth. Sometimes we know that if we speak what the Bible speaks on a subject some of our brethren will be unhappy. In order to keep peace, we keep silent. This must not be. We must preach and teach the whole truth (Acts 20:20,26-27) even when it causes brethren to become angry with us.
The one who works for peace does not want his own way. He is willing to listen to what others want and is willing to cooperate with them. He is careful in what he says and is humble in his attitude.
The Lord is the one who will punish the wicked. We can be sure because God’s word tells us. In Deuteronomy 32:35 God says, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution”. If we believe God we know that every wicked person will be punished. This is why we do not have to take our own revenge. In
Matthew 25 Jesus says that all the nations will be gathered to Him in the judgment day. The wicked will go away into eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). No one will escape.
Those who do wicked things against the disciples of Christ will be punished. Jesus said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). When a person sins against a disciple of Christ, he sins against Christ. (See Acts 9:5.)
Christian, you should be afraid to sin against a fellow Christian. If you do, you sin against Christ! Christ will punish!
The Christian must do the opposite of evil. When his enemy is hungry, the Christian must feed him! It is not enough when we do not seek revenge. We must do more than that. We must do good to our enemy.
Paul here quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22 which says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”
When we do good to our enemy, we heap burning coals on his head. The idea is that our good deeds make our enemy ashamed. He has painful sorrow for what he has done.
If we do evil to our enemy, we are overcome by evil. Do not let your wrath cause you to do evil! But when we do good to our enemy, we overcome evil with good. Satan does not have us. We do good. We overcome the temptation to do evil. We even overcome the evil in the other person.
How can we do this? John says: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). We can do good when people do evil to us—if we have faith. We do the good by the strength which God supplies because of our faith in Him.