Summary: Romans 12.1-2 exposition
Romans 12.1-2 is a natural bridge between the two major sections of Paul’s letter. In light of what he has just said in the first 11 chapters about the mercies of God, he now makes an appeal to the Roman believers to live their lives in accordance with the grace they have received through faith. This pattern is common for Paul. He frequently follows theological exposition with practical advice for godly living. Sometimes, as in the case of the Roman epistle or the Ephesian letter, the opening chapters lay the foundation for the application that concludes the epistle. Sometimes Paul will do this with just a couple sentences. The following examples illustrate this technique: the importance of the resurrection of Jesus found in 1 Corinthians 15.1-57 is followed by an instruction to stand firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 15.58); in 2 Corinthians 1.3-4a Paul writes, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, which is followed by the application of this truth in 1.4b, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (note too: Ephesians 2 and 3 the church’s heritage in Christ is mirrored with unity of the church body in Christ in Ephesians 4; also Colossians 2 which describes the believer’s life in Christ is coupled with the believer’s responsibility to die to his earthly nature). Paul’s theory of Christian theology is always balanced with in the practice of Christian ethics.
THE MERCIES OF GOD
Paul’s exhortation is something more than a “request” and something less than a “command.” The authority of his appeal stems from his role as the mediator of God’s truth and is based on the mercies of God that he made plain to them in the preceding chapters: Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For he has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all (Romans 11.30-32). It is because of these great mercies that Christians ought to present themselves to God and live lives commensurate with their faith (cp. Douglas Moo, Romans, pp. 749-50). The Christian is not constrained against his will to behave as a holy person, though the inward working of the Holy Spirit will urge him to live in a manner pleasing to God (Philippians 2.12-13). The ever present awareness of God’s abundance mercy presses itself upon the consciousness of the believer and theology motivates him to give himself to God. “Acts of severity are rather forced from God; he does not afflict willingly (Lamentations 3.33). The bee naturally gives honey, it stings only when it is provoked; so God does not punish till he can bear no longer. ‘So that the Lord could bear no longer, because of the evil of your doings’ (Jeremiah 44.22)” (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 93).