Summary: Grace does not command obedience to a new law but beseeches us by the mercies of God to present our lives to God as living sacrifices by faith.
Passage: Romans 12:1—I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (NKJV)
Grace Beseeches Us Rather Than Commanding Us.
Grace Beseeches Us By The Mercies Of God.
Grace Beseeches Us To Present Our Lives As Living Sacrifices To God.
Grace Beseeches Us Because We Are Already Holy And Acceptable To God.
Grace Beseeches Us To Our Only Reasonable Response of Service—To Place Our Lives At God’s Disposal By Faith.
(Introduction) This morning we begin a new section of Romans. Chapter 12 begins the practical or applicational section of Paul’s epistle. Chapters 1-11 are an explanation of doctrinal truth and theology that we as believers need to know and believe. But, up to this point, Paul has not really told us to do much of anything. In fact, it is not until chapter 6 that he uses any imperatives (that he tells us to do anything), and even there, and in the following through chapter 11, Paul is still emphasizing what believers need to know and believe, not what believers ought to do. But all of that changes here in chapter 12. Chapters 12-16 are full of imperatives. Paul tells us to do a lot of things in these chapters.
Let me give you a preview of just some of what’s in chapter 12:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (12:2)
Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (12:9)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love... (12:10)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (12:14)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (12:15)
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (12:16)
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (12:17)
Do not avenge yourselves... (12:19)
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink... (12:20)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (12:21)
And that’s just the beginning! Chapters 13-16 are full of imperatives as well.
But, this presents us with a problem, if we are to take what Paul has said up to this point seriously. One of the foundational doctrinal truths that Paul has stressed up to this point in Romans is the difference between law and grace. And Paul boldly declared in Romans 6:14: For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. And in Romans 10:4 he says: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Paul has told us that we need to know that we are not under law but under grace. But, Romans 12 looks a lot like law. Doesn’t it? In fact, a lot of the New Testament looks a lot like law for the believer. Nine out of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are repeated in the New. So, which is it, are we under the law or not? Does grace just put us under a different law? How do we explain this?
Many, believers, pastors and Christian leaders explain it this way: they explain that grace has freed us from the Old Testament law, but that under grace, we are still under the law of the New Testament or what is often called, “the law of Christ.” So, in other words, we are really not free from law, we’re just under another law. Instead of being under the Mosaic Law, we are now under Christ’s law. Many believe that Christ as our Lord has commanded us to do certain things and that if we do not do those things, or at least do them pretty well, either we were never really Christians in the first place (because according to them true Christians will, for the most part, obey Jesus as Lord). Or, some others would say, if we don’t obey the law of Christ, we might lose our salvation, our eternal life.
I have wrestled with how to explain this myself. I know from Paul that we are not under the law, but grace. And I know from Romans 1-11 that grace and law are opposites. I’ve taught and preached that we are not under the law and therefore ought not to attempt to live our lives as believers according to the Mosaic law or any other law or any list of rules, do A, B and C. But if you had asked me, “What then do we do with all of the imperatives of the New Testament that certainly seem to be law or commands for the believer?” I really would not have had a good answer. It’s a question that I have prayed about, “Lord, You proclaim that we are not under the law, but under grace, so how am I to view all of the imperatives of the New Testament? Is there a new law for the believer, the law of the New Testament, the law of Christ?”