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Romans 12

Jerry Zhang
Jerry Zhang

5 min read

Without a doubt, this is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. Each verse is filled with such richness that it's overwhelming. I've actually memorized this entire chapter before. Today I'd like to break down Romans 12 verse-by-verse. Thus, this post will be far longer than usual.

A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

In the ancient days of the old testament, the Israelites presented the best of their livestock (the fattest juiciest animals) to God as a sacrifice to prove their loyalty. God comes first, even though I would love to eat the juiciest steak. Another once-per-year ritual was done by the priests to sacrifice a lamb so God can forgive the sins of his people. I have sinned, but because God loves me so much, he is willing to shift the judgment reserved for me to this innocent animal. By the way, Jesus is just a permanent version of the innocent animal.

Paul doesn't mean literally to sacrifice our bodies and burn ourselves at the stake. He's using imagery to convey how we should worship God. This is our spiritual worship, which is holy and acceptable to God. Every act that we use our body for should be in worship of God, from eating, sleeping, working, studying, socializing, etc.

Spiritual Innovation

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

The way to live out our bodies as a living sacrifice is to figure out God's will. Paul gives us instructions on how to do this. Firstly, don't be like the world. Secondly, experiment. Thirdly, repeat. It's almost like science, except it's not necessarily repeatable (the ultimate weakness of science is that if repeatability cannot be confirmed, science rejects it as false).

Breakthroughs in science are also made by thinking differently. Similarly, spiritual breakthroughs also require innovation of the mind.

Gifts of Grace

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. – Romans 12:3

Be humble. Recognize that we don't own anything, and even our talents were given to us by God. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members on of another. – Romans 12:4-5

We are all a team together, and each team member has different roles. This even includes what the world considers "low performers". God's economy is very different from the world's economy. Even a handicapped person has a very specific purpose (Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 and Jesus healing the leper in Matthew 8).

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8

Most of these are very specific spiritual gifts. It may seem outdated during modern times, but if we examine the text closely, we see that service and contributions are the most vague of them all. I would say everything that doesn't fall into the other gifts fall under serving and contributing. For example, if you have a specific useful skill (like sewing or computer programming), you can use them to contribute and serve.

Marks of the True Christian

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. – Romans 12:9

This is the definition of what it means to truly be Godly. God is love, and he abhors evil. Therefore, when we love, we should be honest. 1 Corinthians 13 is the manual on how to love.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. – Romans 12:10

Not to compare with one another, but always strive to be on your best honorable behavior.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. – Romans 12:11

Don't be lazy; serve God with energy! Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Christians recognize that they live in a fallen world. The only way to sanely cope with that fact is to rely completely on hope. With the tribulation they face on a daily basis, the strength of one's hope allows one to be patient. And without constant prayer, we will quickly fall apart.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12:13

Hospitality has great significance in the ancient days, even for non-Christians. Before resources were plentiful and abundant, when people traveled great distances, they relied on hospitality to safely get to their destinations alive. Otherwise, they would die of thirst, starvation, or just being outside in the cold without shelter.

Although modern life has solved these physical problems, hospitality still serves as a great way to encourage someone on a long journey (like missionaries). The spiritual benefits are still there. In fact, the world hospital is derived from hospitality, and it means to nourish. Hospitality is the act of nourishing.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. – Romans 12:14

Facing persecution is hard, but if we curse those who persecute us, we are no better than them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Enjoy fellowship with other believers and encourage those who need it as well.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. – Romans 12:16

Never lose touch. Our mission as Christians is to preach the word of God, and our audience includes everyone. Don't conform to cultural Christianity and forget what it was like to be on the outside. Have empathy.

This is a problem many churches have–they simply get comfortable within their own Christian circles and forget what it's like before they became a Christian themselves. Unfortunately, this is also what drives many people away from Christianity.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. – Romans 12:17

Again, if we use evil to fight evil, we will have lost to evil. Instead, be honorable.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:18

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him seomthing to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." – Romans 12:19-20

Do not judge. Only God has the right to judge. Plus, God can judge far more accurately than we can since he has complete information. Even atheists recognize that it's impossible to have 100% correctness without 100% information.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21

A final reminder to not fall into the temptations of the dark side.

Concluding Thoughts

This is one of my longest devotional posts, but I believe it was worth it. This is one of the signature chapters in the Bible that just has so much power. If you have the time, I would highly recommend you take some time to memorize this chapter as well. You will definitely reap the benefits!


Jerry Zhang

Programmer, YouTuber, and amateur musician. I like to write too!