Lesson 12

Love and Law

(Romans 12 & 13)
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Introduction: Do you feel out of breath? We have been going through some heavy mental lifting! We've worked our way through Paul's complex and wonderful discussion of a very simple matter - that we are saved by grace and not by works. So many Christians stop there. We need to get our second wind and press on because Paul has much more to say about how Christians saved by grace should live in a pagan world. Deep breath: let's plunge back into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Living Sacrifices


    1. Read Romans 12:1. Paul starts out with the word "therefore." How does "therefore" fit with his next statement that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices? (We have just learned how the life and death of Jesus on our behalf gave believers entry into heaven. "Therefore," since Jesus died for us, we should offer our bodies as sacrifices to God.)


      1. Does this mean that we have to die? ("Living," is the relevant word here. Unlike Jesus, we do not have to die for our sins. Indeed, He saved us from eternal death. Our response is to live for Him. The IVP Bible Background Commentary informs us that the word "sacrifice" was used in Judaism figuratively to mean "praise or a lifestyle of worship." Paul calls on us to live a life consistent with Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.)


    2. Read Romans 12:2. What is the "pattern of the world?" (Paul tells what God does not want is for us to mimic the world. We should not have the same actions and attitudes of the world.)


      1. When the text talks about "conform," "transform," and "mind," does that sound like offering our bodies or our minds?(Actions begin with our thinking. We are either conforming to the world or we are being changed into something better through the renewing of our mind.)


        1. Let's be specific. What do you think it means to renew our mind? (Paul is calling us to use our brains in our everyday living for Jesus. Since he previously called us to live a life led by the Spirit ( Romans 8:5), our brains are to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.)


      2. How can we "test" how we should live? (A mind led by the Holy Spirit will be able to figure out what is appropriate and what is not.)


        1. Does that seem to be true in your life?


        1. What kind of attitude(s) do you think form the basis for most sins? (I would say "selfishness" and to a lesser extent, "pride.")


          1. Can selfishness survive being a living sacrifice? (Paul gets into the problem areas for Christians next.)


  1. Sacrifice One: Humility


    1. Read Romans 12:3. Is this a topic on which your mind needs to be transformed? (It is common in the United States for a person to have a custom car license plate on which the person's initials are followed by the number 1. For example, "BNC 1." A common saying is to "look out for number one." I am number one is the philosophy of the world.)


      1. When our own importance is judged according to our "measure of faith," does that mean the more faith I have the more important I am? (Perhaps. More likely, Paul says humility increases with faith. The more faith we have, the better we are able to soberly gauge our importance.)


    2. Read Romans 12:4-8. What does this teach us about our own church work? (What are you (be honest and realistic now) good at doing? If so, offer to do that in the church.)


      1. Let's not miss the forest because of our focus on the trees. What is Paul teaching us is part of our post-salvation obligation to God? (To be active with the body of believers is an essential part of the Christian life. This also speaks to the problem of selfishness.)


  2. Sacrifice Two: Love


    1. Read Romans 12:9-13. Is everything which follows the instruction "love must be sincere," an explanation of what that means as a practical matter?


      1. I see the bumper sticker, "Hate is not a family value." This is a not-so-secret code for "Christians should not oppose homosexuality." What do you think Paul means when he tells Christians to "hate what is evil?" Is hate a family value?


        1. In case you think there might be some refuge in a translation problem, Strong's suggests that "detest utterly" or "abhor" are other ways to render the underlying Greek. When we find someone who is involved in sin, what is our "detest utterly" responsibility, if any?


        2. Or, would this refer only to evil in our own life, and not in the lives of others? (Barnes' Notes suggests that "hate" means that we should "turn from" evil - and not evil in general, but rather the evil of malice and unkindness. Instead of hating someone because they are involved in sin, we need to turn away from being malicious or unkind to others.)


        3. Can sincere love live in the same skin as selfishness? (This question bolsters the idea that Paul is talking about hating the evil in our own life.)


      2. How would you glue yourself to what is good? (By a mind transformed by the Holy Spirit!)


    2. Read Romans 12:14-18 and John 15:18-19. How can Jesus say that the world will only love us if we are part of it while Paul writes that we must be at peace with everyone? (The key is in Romans 18:18, where Paul teaches us that we cannot control the world, but we can (by the Holy Spirit) control ourselves. To the extent it turns on you, live in harmony with everyone - including the wicked.)


    3. Read Romans 12:19-21. What is God's formula for living in harmony? (The world's books and movies overcome evil by greater force. Christianity teaches us to overcome evil by greater good.)


      1. Is this a rule for governments as well as individuals? ( Romans 13:3-5 suggests not.)


  3. Sacrifice Three: Put Away Rebellion


    1. Read Romans 13:1-5. What kind of authority was Rome? (They had some of the most evil rulers.)


      1. What two reasons does Paul give for submitting to governmental authority? (Punishment and conscience.)


        1. The punishment part seems good, practical advice. But, why is God (conscience) in the business of promoting evil rulers? (I don't think that God is endorsing evil rulers - or any specific evil government. Instead, God endorses the idea of an ordered society. Christians are to be part of an ordered society.)


        2. If God puts His stamp of approval on the idea of an ordered society, what obligation do Christians have in the political realm?


          1. If Romans 13:1 teaches me that governmental authorities are "established by God," to what extent am I to be God's hands and feet in that task?


            1. Does it make a difference if you live in a democracy? (Yes. Otherwise you are a rebel.)


    2. Read Romans 13:6-7. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you consider, there has been a great deal of disrespect shown towards the former and current U.S. Presidents. Do Christians have an obligation to respect presidents we do not like? (Paul is talking about rulers. Therefore we need to show respect to the president - even if we plan to be God's hands and feet in shoving him out of office!)


    3. Read Romans 13:8-10. Are the Ten Commandments dead? (No! Paul starts out with the message to offer our life as a living sacrifice. Love we learn, is the opposite of selfishness. Now Paul shows that love lies at the bottom of the Ten Commandments "and whatever other commandment there may be.")


    4. Read Romans 13:11-14. When is the time to give up those "deeds of darkness" you do not want others to know about? (Now!)


    5. Paul, the great advocate of righteousness by faith, teaches us that our actions matter a great deal to God. Friend, will you determine today that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will offer your mind and body to obedience to God?


  4. Next week: All the Rest Is Commentary.

Discussion

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