NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER TWELVE
Paul had just completed discussing how being baptized into Christ makes us dead to sin. Once he makes that point, then he also shares some ideas for Christians who really want to live in harmony with each other and be close to God.
Christians should give their whole being over to God as instruments of righteous holy living so He can fill them up with everything that is good and wonderful and all around awesome in His eyes. They do not want to be doing what everyone else is doing (it’s too much like a fad), but they want to be transformed into new people who can intimately know God. In other words, now that they were saved by faith, God wasn’t through with them yet.
For the benefit of his Jewish readers in Rome, Paul now carries the concept of death and freedom one step further: the Jewish believers must become dead to the Law so that they might be joined to Christ. He illustrates his point by referring to the marital relationship. The result of being freed from the Law is that they might “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter of the Law.”
Lest his Jewish readers think he is implying that the Law was sinful, Paul is quick to dispel that notion. The Law, he says, is “holy and just and good.” The problem is that the Law only makes known that which is sinful but provides no remedy for it. That’s why sin took the opportunity to produce evil desires and deceived them into thinking they could still get free by doing good works but it only resulted in spiritual death.
To further illustrate his point, Paul pictures himself as man under the Law in a terrible dilemma. With his mind, he knows that which is good and wants to do it. He also knows that which is evil and wants to avoid that. But he finds a sinful tendency in his flesh which wins over the desire of the mind to do what is wrong instead of what is right. As a prisoner, he cries out for freedom. He wonders, is there no hope? Yes! There is hope. God provides the solution through His Son Jesus Christ.
Paul is also saying that Christians should see themselves as different parts of the body. Every body part – arm, leg, toe, gallbladder – has a different function, but they all play an important role in keeping the body functioning. Everyone has different gifts, too. Some people are good at predicting the future, some at ministering to others, some at teaching, some are generous, some are natural leaders, and some are just plain compassionate. All these gifts are important and God’s way of using us as parts of the body of Christ.
Overall, Christians should do what’s loving and give a swift kick to the face to everything that’s evil. Figuratively, of course. They should love each other a lot, serve God wholeheartedly, be patient when bad things happen, welcome strangers who need their help, be kind to people who are out to get them, and basically live in harmony with everyone and everything. As for people who upset you, don’t let it fill you with anger and vengeance. Give it to God and let Him handle it.
To prove his point Paul quotes, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” You should even be cool to your enemies. If they need food, give it to them. If they’re thirsty, share your water with them. In a sense smother them with kindness, Paul says. It’s the only way that you might make them feel ashamed of what they’re doing to you. Basically, Paul sums all this up with a final piece of advice: don’t let your good be taken over by evil but take over evil with your good. – Dr. Robert R Seyda