NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TWELVE (Lesson XXX)
Charles Hodge also has something interesting to say about serving the Lord. For him, our zeal in serving Him means having all our activities influenced by the fact that we are in effect serving Christ. Keeping this in mind should become a strong motive in helping us maintain our interest and enthusiasm for going ahead with our assignments from God. When we read what Paul told the Ephesians about doing their everyday work with the same enthusiasm they had in serving the Lord, it meant that no matter what their ministry or employment, they were being used by Lord for His glory.1 So for us, instead of dividing our time and concentration between what we do for a living and what we do for the Lord, we should see that as servants of God we can consider everything we do as a way of serving our Master.2 That way, we make the most of every opportunity, or as others understand it, “adapt our conduct to our circumstances,” as a way of honoring Him and all He’s done for us. But Hodge sees one more factor. Any zeal which the Apostle Paul recommends for what we do at all times is based on our love for Christ, not for our own advancement or interests.3
Preacher Charles Spurgeon agrees with doing everything to the glory of God as part of our everyday life. Spurgeon’s whole point seems to be that whatever our position in life may be, we are to conduct ourselves in such a way that whether what we do is for the church or for our employer, both are to be done conscientiously and meaningfully. What Spurgeon touches on is seen even in our world today. If when you walked into church a person greeted you enthusiastically with a smile, then during praise and worship you saw them raise their arms toward heaven and appeared thrilled by the preacher’s sermon, but the next day saw them at work with a frown on their face, and words not befitting a Christian coming out of their mouths while telling an off-colored joke, you’d say they are two different people. That’s what Solomon and Spurgeon were trying to say. A Christian is not to be an average employee just because they want to appear humble, they should be an enthusiastic worker! Nor should they pretend to be an expert in everything, but do their best with what they know. It certainly would have been disappointing if the tents that Paul made were the worst on the market in Tarsus,4 and Lydia’s purple cloth was made with the poorest dye on the cheapest material5.6
Frédéric Godet takes what Paul said in verse 10 about being devoted and showing respect to others and connects it what he says here about not being lazy. This was to warn against the tendency of becoming selfish, especially when it might require a certain amount of self-sacrifice. This was to be replaced with getting involved by responding enthusiastically to those Divine impulses of God’s Spirit that are intended to keep the inner fire burning that sets our spirit aflame. Godet agrees that the word “spirit” undoubtedly refers here to the spiritual element in the person themselves that is quickened by the Holy Spirit. Godet says that as we read these words we should envision a believer rushing ahead with their heart on fire, ready to do wherever they have been given to do so that it may be done for the glory of God Himself.7
John Stott makes the point that people who are enthusiastic about their religion are often thought of as “fanatics.” History tells us that this word was applied in a derogatory way to the early Methodists in the eighteenth century, and to Pentecostals in the early twentieth century, often referring to them as “Holy Rollers.” Such name-calling was often based on these enthusiastic saints portraying themselves as perfectionists. Unfortunately, it was because they were quick to criticize those who did not think, dress, act, or worship like them, and were very intolerant with those brothers and sisters who stumbled and fell. But Stott feels that Paul has something totally different in mind when he bids the Romans not to lose their enthusiasm and zeal as long as it is according to their spiritual knowledge.8 In encouraging the Romans to let their spirit glow with the Spirit, the picture is not so much of a glowing lamp as it is of a sparkling star. The additional clause “serving the Lord” may have been Paul’s way of saying that such zeal and glowing spirit must be kept under control. A believer’s practical commitment to do things the Lord’s way is much like a servant enthusiastically serving their master. And since Jesus is our Master, it should keep all of our zeal and enthusiasm rooted in reality.9
After watching a total lunar eclipse on television some time ago, I learned a spiritual lesson. As people looked up at the bright moon shining in the sky, they suddenly saw a shadow begin to creep across the face of the moon. As the shadow edged further and further, less and less of the moon’s glow was visible. Of course, that shadow was caused by the earth coming between the moon and the sun which is what illuminates the moon. Christ is our Sun and it is His light that makes us shine. But when the world comes between Him and us, our glow diminishes until it can no longer be seen. When we put our interests ahead of our zeal for Christ, we too will suffer such a spiritual eclipse.
One Jewish commentator notes that Paul follows “fervent in Spirit,” with “serving the Lord,” as a reminder that it is not outward visible excitement that shows the work of the Spirit, but rather a desire to serve God according to what He has laid out in His Torah.10 The point here is well made. How often have we seen someone who is, what is called, “on fire for the Lord.” whether it’s in their singing, preaching, witnessing or testimony. But when all the dust clears and the pieces are picked up, it is obvious that very little has been done that will last. On the other hand, there are those who draw little attention to themselves and almost seem as though they are not really involved. But when we examine their life and relationships we find that they have on occasions moved mountains with their faith.
Verse 12a: Be glad because of the hope you have.
Now Paul adds a comment that is worth noting. He doesn’t tell the Roman believers to be glad because they are doing such great things or performing a spectacular ministry. But be glad because of the hope that keeps them going. How many mountain climbers would keep going in spite of the harsh winds and freezing cold if they did not have any hope of reaching the top? How many astronauts would have remained calm and resolute while speeding toward the moon if there was no hope of them making it back to earth? So it is with believers who go through highs and lows, ups and downs, times of sorrow and times of rejoicing if they had no hope of one day seeing their Savior face to face?
The Psalmist surely had this hope when he wrote: “I will give honor and thanks to the Lord, Who has told me what to do. Yes, even at night my mind teaches me. I have placed the Lord always in front of me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be moved. And so my heart is glad. My soul is full of joy. My body also will rest without fear. For You will not give me over to the grave. And You will not allow Your Holy One to return to dust. You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever.”11
Solomon offers similar advice: “What the righteous hope for will end in joy; what the wicked expect will come to nothing.”12 Then later he wrote: “The sinful man is brought down by his wrong-doing, but the man who is right with God has a safe place to go when he dies.”13 Even the beleaguered prophet Jeremiah had this to say: “‘The Lord is all I have,’ says my soul, ‘so I’ve put all my hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to those who keep looking Him to act. It is good that one should be quiet and wait for the saving power of the Lord.”14 And the prophet Habakkuk said it so eloquently: “For even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, and no fruit is on the vines, even if the olive tree fails to produce, and the fields yield no food at all, even if the sheep vanish from the sheep pen, and there are no cows in the stalls; still, I will rejoice in Adonai, I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”15
Then when Jesus sat His disciples down and began to teach them about all the blessings that would be theirs if they had the right attitude about completing their mission. He ended it this way: “Be glad and full of joy because your reward will be much in heaven. They made it very hard for the early preachers who lived a long time before you.”16 And later, when He sent out seventy of his loyal followers on their first personal evangelism effort, He told them what to expect, both the good and the bad. But even if they returned with great victories behind them, Jesus told them: “You should not be overjoyed because the demons submitted to you but be happy because your names are recorded in heaven.”17
This powerful aspect of hope certainly pervades the writings of the Apostle Paul. He asked the Corinthians if they’d ever heard of a soldier who paid his way to go to war? Or a gardener who planted and cultivated a vineyard who did not taste the fruit of his labor? Or a dairy farmer who feed and took care of his cows who did not drink some of their milk? So Paul concludes by citing the Torah where it says: “When the cow is made to walk on the grain to break it open, do not stop it from eating some.”18 He then goes on to say: “Did not God speak about this because of us. For sure, this was written for us. The man who gets the fields ready and the man who gathers in the grain should hope to share some crop.”19
When Paul wrote the Ephesians from prison, he told them to work hard for the Lord but without pride. They were to be gentle and kind, not always putting others down. He told them that love would keep them from doing that. He then wrote: “Work hard to live together as one by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace. There is one body and one Spirit. There is one hope in which you were called.”20 Isn’t it amazing that although there are Christians all around the world from different races, ethnic groups, colors and cultures,.yet one day we will all wind up in the same place because we all have the same hope of being in heaven with our Father, Savior, and Comforter.
1 Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-23
2 Ephesians 5:16
3 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 616
4 Acts of the Apostles 18:1-4
5 Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15
6 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 See Romans 10:2
9 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 Messianic Bible: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Psalm 16:7-11; Cf. 71:20-23; 73:24-26
12 Proverbs 10:28 – Complete Jewish Bible
13 Proverbs 14:32
14 Lamentations 3:24-26
15 Habakkuk 3:17-18 – Complete Jewish Bible
16 Matthew 5:12
17 Luke 10:20
18 Deuteronomy 25:4
19 1 Corinthians 9:10
20 Ephesians 4:3-4