Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ROMANS 12.1-2

Rom 12.1-2 might be two of the most pregnant verses in the Bible. They hinge on the previous eleven chapters of grueling and articulate theology. Paul’s plea with those in Rome is to do the impossible – to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. This is, of course, ridiculous. Sacrifices don’t live. Paul knows that. But apparently, doing this is the height of service and worship to God.

In 12.2, we finally have a direct command, two imperative verbs actually. What is strange though is that both of them are passive imperatives [“don’t be conformed” but “be transformed”]. I don’t want to over-theologize a verb tense, but how should we take these? Is their passive nature simply because of the essence of the command? Or is it due to their relation to God’s mercy in 12.1? Is it that these are heart and mind commands and they can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit? However these are taken, their end is to know God’s good and pleasing will. This is the goal of Paul’s exhortation.

I kind of like the NIV’s “in view of God’s mercy” in 12.1. But what “mercy” does Paul have in mind here? I think he is generally referring to all of chapters 1-11, more narrowly referring to chapters 9-11, and most specifically to the mentions of “mercy” in 9.15-16, 9.23, and 11.30-32.

There can be no thought of moving forward in sacrificial and unconforming transformation unless one’s grip is tightly on the mercy of God in Jesus.

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