Monday April 28 Chapter 12
First, the literal translation of the Greek text:
Therefore I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present the bodies of you a sacrifice living holy well-pleasing to God the spiritual service of you and do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of the mind for you to prove what the will of God the good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Second, 21st Century KJV
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. 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.
Third, The Complete Jewish Bible
I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you. In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.
Fourth, J. B. Phillips
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
Fifth, Living Bible
And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.
Sixth, The Message
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Each of these translations, and there are dozens of others on http://www.biblegateway.com/, gives us a different way of seeing the one message. The simple version is: do not become like the world, become like Christ.
Paul reminds us that we are all tiny cells in the body of Christ, yet every cell is critical to the body, especially the body of Christ.
Good News Translation has perhaps best captured verse 16. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his sermon, Loving Our Enemies, January 23, 1938, with Do not think of yourselves as wise, but focus on God’s path to humankind, how God meets enemies, that path that Scripture itself calls foolish [1 Corinthians 1:18], the path of God’s love toward all enemies, the love that Christ extends to them all the way to the cross. It is wisdom at its best to recognize the cross of Christ as the invincible love of God for all humankind, for us as well as for our enemies.
Or do we think that God would love us more than our enemies? If we thought that way, then we would be deeply rooted in Pharisaism, then we would have ceased being Christians. Does God love our enemies less, having come for them, suffered for them, died for them as well as for us? The cross is not the private property of any human being, but it belongs to all human beings; it is valid for all human beings. God loves our enemies–this is what the cross tells us. God suffers for their sake, experiences misery and pain for their sake; the Father has given his dear Son for them. Everything depends on this: that when we meet an enemy, we immediately think: this is someone whom God loves; God has given everything for this person. Therefore, do not consider yourselves to be wise. Concerning our attitude toward our enemies, this means first and foremost: Remember that you as well were God’s enemy and mercy has happened to you without your merit or deserving. Second, that means: Remember that God also went to the cross for your enemy and loves your enemy as dearly as you….
Now you are at the goal: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is what Christ did for us. He did not become confused by our evil; he did not let himself be overcome by it. He overcame our evil with good. Let’s repeat how that happens: not by feeding the other person’s evil with our evil, the hatred of the other person with our hatred. Rather, it happens when the evil hits emptiness and finds nothing on which it can ignite.
Tuesday, April 29 Chapter 13
The first 7 verses are inconvenient words some times, especially around April 15. We know that Paul was warning the Romans and all other Christians not to anger the Roman government because of the possibilities of persecutions. Nero was the new emperor and had not yet shown his dark side, thought two years after this letter was written he had his own mother killed. That was in the year 59 AD and he began a gradual slide into self-destruction. In 64 AD a fire burned through Rome for ten days, destroying 75% of the city of one million. He decided to blame the Christians and that is when the worst persecutions began. Nero committed suicide 4 years later. Later Emperors had Christians attacked when they needed public support.
The question is, do his words apply today? The key to the answer is to consider the context of the whole letter. In fact, chapter 12 is a clear indication of Paul’s thinking. We must consider others first. We support the government because it benefits all of us.
What then of those occasions when the government turns against its people? Were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington right to start a war because they did not like what the king was doing? The increased taxes they complained about had been imposed to pay for a war with France fought mostly in the colonies and for the benefit of the colonies. We could debate the question for a long time, but it is important to consider it in light of Paul’s words, not to mention the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus stood up for the poor and under-represented, even as it angered the leadership. His motivation was always love and compassion. Jesus did not ask, what will it do for me? He also largely ignored the government. He did not expect it to do his work for him.
Verse 10 is the key to chapter 13: Love does no harm to its neighbor.
The present time is coming to an end, the hour is at hand. Paul is near the end of his ministry. May Apostles, disciples, and Saints have already died and Paul is looking forward to Christ’s return. As we look back over 2,000 years of Christian history, we might wonder if Paul had a clue about the end times. Paul is saying we need to live our lives as though Jesus is coming today, but also with the expectation that we will die of old age. We have to find that balance; plan for the future, but live for today.
Wednesday, April 30 Chapter 14
All of chapter 14 deals with the tensions between groups of Christians. I want Sunday service with the organ playing old hymns; you want a rock band. I want to spend time with my old friends; you want to meet new people every week. I want a pot luck dinner; you want McDonald’s in the building. I will not attend church that allows for homosexuals; you will.
Paul teaches us to respect each other’s positions. We will interpret the Bible differently, or more accurately, we will emphasize different parts of the Bible. There is a reason Jesus gave us the two commands to love God and love one another. If we think only of love, we will not hate. How can I hate you for doing rap in church if I love you? I cannot both love and hate a homosexual person. Jesus says love.
Verse 12 is key: I will have to stand before God and give an account of myself. Yes, Jesus will be there to help me, but I still have to face judgement.
Romans 14:13-14 from The Message. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
We Christians have a habit of fighting over trivial issues, even as we believe them worth the fight. When we stand before God, we may not be able to explain why it seemed so important at the time.
We Christians are often criticized for not allowing or encouraging people of different backgrounds into our congregations. I believe we should never reject anyone who wants to join us, but the reality of being human is that we will seek people who are like-minded. If I belong to a wealthy church, I should work to get the church to sponsor a mission for the poor, either using the same facility or using another one. Some church buildings are used by a dozen congregations in as many languages.
Thursday, May 1 Chapter 15
Paul addresses the strong here and includes himself in the group. The strong are those Christians who concentrate on loving one another; who do not get upset with others who do not live as they do. Jesus approached the very people others most avoided. Can we do less?
Jews and Gentiles were to get along as Christians, but also Gentiles coming from different backgrounds. Paul traveled enough to have seen many different fellowships, so he knew that the method of worship was not what was important. Love and respect for one another together with praise and love for God is always the key to Christian living.
Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove the place of Gentiles in God’s Plan.
He moves on to explain his own mission work, how he tried to find new fields ready for the harvest. He did not want to compete with or interfere with any other Apostle. After his years of service to the Greeks, he believes it is time to visit Rome and perhaps Spain after that.
First, though, he needs to visit Jerusalem to take his collection for their support and to receive the blessings of that all important congregation. The congregation in the Holy City served as the center hub of all missionary activities, so they had added responsibilities and expenses.
He ends the chapter asking for prayers of support.
Friday May 2 Chapter 16
Paul closes the letter with numerous greetings of people he knows who are now in the city. He is sending the letter with Phoebe who is a deaconess in the fellowship at Cenchrea, one of the ports of Corinth. This is the only time Paul uses the feminine form for deacon; he usually uses the masculine for both men and women. He does use the feminine again in 1 Timothy 3:8, but only in a general way.
Most of the names Paul lists, like that of Phoebe, are unknown to us from any other sources. There are both men and women. Several are the known names of freed slaves. The Mary of verse 6 is most likely Roman, not one of the many Marys of the Gospels.
In verse 10, the name Aristobulus may refer to the servants of the former king, or may be another family.
Greetings are included from those working with Paul, including Tertius who actually wrote the letter from Paul’s dictation, Paul’s usual method of writing.
Verse 24 does not appear in older manuscripts and is left out of many translations.
Paul ends with a wonderful benediction. It is also a summation of much of the letter.
Be righteous and do good.