Summary: New Testament worship either leads to action or it isn’t really worship.
People hire acting coaches, career coaches, executive coaches, financial coaches, job search coaches, and life coaches in addition to athletic coaches. What are all of these coaches supposed to do? I mean, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper didn’t want to take anything away from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game the other day, but when he said he could take NO credit for a pitching performance, I had to ask myself why the position existed. It seems to me like a coach is there to offer counsel from the position of broader experience; to provide sound fundamentals from both experience, knowledge, and observation; to provide encouragement when things aren’t going well; and to offer direction for improvement and accomplishment. So, you’re wondering what all this has to do with worship?
Well, if everything else we want to accomplish requires a “coach,” maybe we need a “worship coach.” And fortunately, as with everything else we need, we find that God has already provided a “worship coach” in the Bible. So turn with me, if you will to the first two verses in Romans 12.
Before we get to today’s text, though, I think it’s important to get the overall thrust of the Book of Romans. Here’s a quick chapter by chapter outline.
In the first two chapters, Paul removes any philosophical excuse for avoiding the issue of God’s will. He takes the socio-religious-cultural divides of the ancient civilization, Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Barbarians, and places them all on the same level.
Chapter 3 introduces the SIN problem and together, Chapters 4-5 introduce FAITH as the solution.
Chapter 6 reminds believers not to take GRACE and the life of FAITH for granted.
Chapter 7 confesses that the life of FAITH is still a struggle, but Chapter 8 guarantees the VICTORY in Christ Jesus.
To many of us, Romans 8 is the high watermark of Romans, but Paul (guided by the Holy Spirit) isn’t finished yet. He wants to pull all believers together, regardless of their socio-religious-cultural differences.
Chapter 9 speaks against the early church’s tendency to devalue the heritage it inherited from Israel and God’s future plans for Israel.
Chapter 10 ensures that no one gets the idea that there is any substitute for the saving work of Jesus. Both the Old Israel of the Jews and the New Israel of the church would be united in Jesus.
Chapter 11 demonstrates that God wants to save Israel. God’s purpose is the same for the Jews as it is for those of us who call ourselves “completed Jews,” people who have responded to God through the New Covenant.
Chapter 12 teaches that the life of a believer is intended to be a life of service, but everyone’s service isn’t the same. We serve God according to our different gifts. God intends for there to be diversity within the church.
Chapter 13 emphasizes the fact that the life of FAITH is a practical life, FAITH lived out in daily life.
Chapter 14 affirms our individual freedom as believers, but Chapter 15 challenges us to self-denial.
Chapter 16 wraps things up with Paul’s personal concerns and instructions. That’s probably a good model for us because it means that theology and worship are never completed till we get personal.
Please follow along in your Bibles as I read my translation from the Greek text. Pay attention, I’m going to be a little less literal than usual, building off the root ideas of certain Greek words.
1) I’m coaching you up, Family [of God—literally, “Brothers”), by means of the merciful provisions of God. Offer your physical lives [bodies] as a living sacrifice—set aside [holy] as special [pleasing] for God—[this is] your logical service.
2) And don’t be squeezed into the schematic [root idea of “conformed”] of the present trends [or “fads,”--literally “this age”], but undergo an organic metamorphosis [root idea of “transformed”] in having your minds made new again [“renewing of your minds”] in assaying [root idea of “prove” or “discern”] the Will of God: the good, the pleasing, and the lasting [often translated “perfect” with regard to being “final”].
Now, those of you who aren’t into sports may not like my free-wheeling translation, but I assure you that it’s ingrained in the text. The Greek verb used here is composed of the prefix “para” [idea of standing beside] combined with the verb for “calling out” [pronounced “pah-rah-kah-LOH”]. It was actually used in the ancient world for cheering people on. In Aeschuylus’ play about “The Persians,” the verb is used by the captains of the ships and the masters of the oarsmen to encourage them before a battle (Line 380). In Euripides’ “The Phoenician Maidens,” it was used by the leaders to prepare the young men for war—“cheering them to the fray.” (Line 1254)
The verb was sometimes used for inviting people to do something and sometimes, virtually demanding that they do something, but the root idea is closer to our idea of a basketball coach running alongside his players shouting out the number of a play or a baseball pitching coach coming to the mound to settle down a pitcher after giving up a home run or walking a batter on four pitches. It’s like calling out the strokes for a sculling team. It reminds me of a phrase often used when they talk about getting a college football team ready for “Game Day” when they haven’t quite shown that they can execute and win, yet. They say, “Coach So-and-So” is gonna’ have to coach ‘em up!” It is the consistent word that pulls a team together, corrects the flaws in what they’re doing, and directs them toward success. In fact, since Paul is going to speak about spiritual gifts later in this chapter, it makes sense that Paul would claim to be calling out the strokes or “coaching ‘em up” at this point.