ROMANS CHAPTER 12: THE CHRISTIAN AS A LIVING SACRIFICE

 

Heavenly Father,

Just as Your Son offered Himself as a willing sacrifice for the redemption of humanity so too do we, who live in Christ, offer ourselves as willing sacrifices to the glory of God, striving in every way to live lives of holiness as we obediently follow Christ's command to bear up our crosses daily and follow Him.  We follow Him in sacrifice just as we are promised we will follow Him in glory.  We ask, Lord, that You send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study as we address the Christian's call to living a sanctified life. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

+ + +

 

"It is by the apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves 'a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God'."

Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

 

 "I believe in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe." Saint Augustine

 

St. Paul has completed his teachings on basic Christian doctrine and the promised reunification of the Covenant family.   Now in the last part of his letter [chapters 12-15] he turns his attention to instruction on the moral considerations and consequences for living the Christian life.  In the New Covenant the body of the believer becomes a "living sacrifice" as opposed to the dead sacrifices offered in the Old Covenant.  Any sacrifice offered to God must be perfect; so too must the sacrifice of our lives be a perfect offering; therefore, the Christian life offered to God must be dedicated to the pursuit of holiness. 

 

Please read Romans 12:1-2: The Definition of Worship for the Christian

"1 I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.  2 Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God' what is is good and acceptable and mature." 

 

In Romans 6:11-13 Paul urged the Roman community to let holiness and not sin be the guide for their lives: "In the same way, you must see yourselves as being dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. That is why you must not allow sin to reign over your mortal bodies and make you obey their desires; or give any parts of your bodies over to sin to be used as instruments of evil.  Instead, give yourselves to God, as people brought to life from the dead, and give every part of your bodies to God to be instruments of uprightness..."

 

In this part of his letter Paul summons the Roman community to a pattern of Christian life that is responsive to the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Mercy/ compassion is the key word in this opening verse, for mercy is what defines God's universal plan of salvation.  It is in the faithful response to this call of "living in the spirit" that the Christian will fully experience God's mercy.  Now in Romans 12:1 Paul defines the necessity for that life of holiness in terms of each Christian offering his and her live as a sacrifice acceptable to God'a holy living sacrifice.

Question: Today as in the distant past private worship has always been defined as giving adoration and praise to God but how was public worship defined under the previous covenants from Adam to Abraham to Sinai?  See Genesis 8:20-21; 22:1-5; Leviticus 17:10-12; Hebrews 9:22.

Answer: Public worship in the Old Testament is most often defined in the terms of blood sacrifice for the purpose of reestablishing communion with God.  The animal was killed'its blood was separated from its body and both the body and blood of the sacrificial victim was offered, either as a whole burnt offering with the blood poured out on the Altar or as a sacrifice that was shared with God, the blood being poured out, the fat being burned and the flesh eaten either by the priests or by the offerer.

 

Question: How does Paul identify the principal difference between the animal sacrifice of the previous covenants and the New Covenant sacrifice?

Answer: In the previous covenants the animals offered in sacrifice were dead but the "living" sacrifices of the New Testament are uniquely alive because of Christ's resurrection.  Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary is represented on the altar as an on-going and ever present sacrifice of the gloried living Jesus Christ and we offer our lives in sacrifice with Christ living in us'offering a sacrifice that carries with it the gift of eternal life.

 

Question: Before the Sinai Covenant worship took place wherever God manifested Himself and an altar was built [Genesis 12:17; 28:12-19], but with the establishment of the Sinai Covenant where was worship confined?  See Exodus 25:8-9; 1 Kings 8:10

Answer: At first at God's Tabernacle and later at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Both the desert Tabernacle, which traveled with the Covenant people, and the Temple in Jerusalem were places where God's presence was with His people and the only place of legitimate worship of Yahweh. 

Question: The woman of Samaria in John chapter 4 had a discussion with Jesus concerning the place of legitimate worship of Yahweh. What did she suggest and what was Jesus' response to her?  See John 4:20-22.

Answer: She suggested that there was no difference whether her people worshipped Yahweh on Mt. Gerizim or the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem [verse 20], but Jesus corrected her when He said: "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  Your worship what you do not know, we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews."

Question:  After the Resurrection of Christ did this place of established worship change and why?  What did Jesus tell the woman of Samaria about this change in John 4:23-24 and what did He mean? 

Answer:  Jesus told the woman "But the hour is coming'indeed is already here'when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.  God is spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth."  We worship in the "spirit" because it is God the Holy Spirit who makes the baptized believer a new creature'reborn into the family of God [see John 3:5].  God dwelling in the believer makes the believer's body the new Temple of the God.  He [the Holy Spirit] is also the inspiring foundation and principle of the new worship of God in the New Covenant in Christ.  This new worship is in "truth" because it is now the only worship that conforms to the conditions of worship revealed by God the Father through God the Son.  The early Church Father Origen wrote, "Paul says that the sacrifice is living because it has eternal life in it, which is Christ.  Elsewhere he says, 'We always carry in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.'  He calls it holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, as he says elsewhere: 'Do you not know that you are God's temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?'"  Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Origen [quoting 2 Corinthians 4:10 and 1 Corinthians 3:16]

 

Question: Paul states in Romans 12:1 that to offer ourselves as living sacrifices is the only kind of worship for Christians as "sensible people."  How is it that believers are to be "sensible" in worshipping God?  Hint: read 1 Samuel 15:22-23; and Psalm 51:16-17; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21

Answer: Christ has defined for us in the Gospels what it means to worship [John 4:23-24] "in the spirit" and to live "life in the spirit."  To offer oneself totally to God is not a new concept.  In the Old Testament the prophet Samuel, King David and the prophets Hosea and Amos wrote of what was true "worship" for God:

 

Question: Under the Old Covenant submission and obedience of the believer had to be united with the offering of animal sacrifice.  But were Old Covenant believers equipped to provide their lives as perfect "living" sacrifices?

Answer: Neither animal sacrifice nor the sacrifice of the lives of individual believers could be perfect enough under the old order [see Psalms 14:1; Romans 3:9-10].  No animal could be perfect enough and no matter how hard one tried to live a life of perfect righteousness under the Law of Moses, perfection was incomplete because there was no filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Old Covenant believers'they were still under the dominion of sin [Romans 6:8-13].  Even so, God expected the best each individual could give from the heart and from love not from ritual or rote performance.  The same is of course true for New Covenant believers.  Even though we can, through the power of God the Holy Spirit, offer a living sacrifice that is acceptable because of a life transformed by grace, we must remember that the offering of that living sacrifice much be a perfect sacrifice sanctified by grace through the power of the sacraments in order for our living sacrifice to be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  This is why we cannot receive communion if we are not in a state of grace.  Simple following the rituals of our faith are not enough now as they were not enough under the Old Covenant. The result of true worship as defined for Christians under the New Covenant is through the acceptable sacrifice; both Christ's living sacrifice and our own living sacrifice, which has the power to reestablish communion with the Most Holy Trinity in a unity of spirit that comes from circumcised hearts infused with the living presence of the Christ. 

 

St. John Chrysostom identified the necessity of living in a state of grace to insure the perfection of our personal living sacrifice: "How is the body to become a sacrifice?  Let the eye look on no evil thing, and it has already become a sacrifice.  Let the tongue say nothing filthy, and it has become an offering.  Let you hand do nothing evil, and it has become a whole burnt offering.  But even this is not enough, for we must have good works also.  The hand must do alms, the mouth must bless those who curse it, and the ears must find time to listen to the reading of Scripture.  Sacrifice allows of no unclean thing.  It is the first fruits of all other actions." St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 20.  [Also see CCC# 571; 1076; 1362-72; 2031; definition of worship CCC page 904: "Worship: Adoration and honor given to God, which is the first act of the virtue of religion (2096).  Public worship is given to God in the Church by the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the liturgy (1067)."]

 

Therefore, we must be ever mindful that in the celebration of the Mass once the prayer over the gifts is spoken and the priest, with his hands extended greets us with the words, "The Lord be with you" and we respond in unison, "And also with you", that the moment to prepare for the gift of our personal living sacrifice is upon us.  The priest then invites us with uplifted hands to offer the holy and living sacrifice of our lives with the words "Life up your hearts" recalling the words of the Book of Lamentations 3:41, "Let us stretch out our hearts and hands to God in heaven"; and we respond with uplifted hands and a cry from the heart, "We lift them up to the Lord."  It is at this moment that each of us prepares to offer himself or herself in a state of grace to the Lord'in Scripture one's heart symbolizes all that one thinks, feels, and believes'the total sum of a person.  In the heavenly hymn of the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Sanctus we ready ourselves to stand as a living sacrifice before the throne of God when heavenly and earthly worship will soon be joined in the words of the Consecration.  As the Mass progresses we wait in joyous anticipation for the words of invitation when the priest speaks words that closely repeat the words used by John the Baptist in John 1:29 when he introduced Jesus to the crowds on the shore of the Jordan River: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" and recalling the Lord's Supper when He first offered the faithful His Body and Blood the priest adds, " Happy are those who are called to his supper"; followed by our response which closely echoes the words of the Roman centurion at Capernaum in Matthew 8:8: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."  Then, having fully examined our conscience, having repented our venial sins in the Penitential Rite, we process forward clothed in the bridal garment of grace as a perfect living sacrifice offered in love to the Savior as we receive Him in the most holy and intimate union of the Eucharist.  We would not dare to go forward to offer an imperfect sacrifice of ourselves'tainted with sin, for to do so would bring God's condemnation upon us [see 1 Corinthians 11:26-32].  The Eucharist is a sacrificial union of the Bride, who is the Church and the Bridegroom, Christ'each given in a perfect unity of love and sacrifice. 

 

Pope Pius XII's instruction to the faithful concerning this most personal offering of the Bride who is the Church to the Bridegroom who is Christ wrote, "If the oblation whereby the faithful in this Sacrifice offer the divine victim to the heavenly Father is to produce its full effect [...] they must also offer themselves as victim, desiring intensely to make themselves as like as possible to Jesus Christ who suffered so much, and offering themselves as a spiritual victim with and through the High Priest himself." Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 25 [see CCC# 2099; 2100].

 

Question: In Romans 12:2 Paul gives two commands; what are they?

Answer: Paul writes,

1.      Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but

2.      let the renewing of your minds transform you

Our rejection of the standards of the world and our submission to the principles of holiness laid out in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is what defines our living sacrifice'it is the way we model our behavior that is opposed to the behavioral norm of the "world of the flesh."  However, this refusal to conform to the world's norm may bring ridicule and persecution.   

 

Question: In Romans 8:29 how did Paul tell the Christians of Rome they must conform in order to live "life in the Spirit"?

Answer: The Romans and all Christians are called "to be molded to the pattern of his Son" or as the New American Bible translates this verse "to be conformed to the image of his Son"–in other words, we must all live "in imitation of Christ". 

 

Question: Does this mean to live only in the image of His resurrected life?  Hint: see Romans 8:17

Answer: No, it also means to live in imitation of His mercy, His forgiveness, and His suffering as Paul wrote in 8:17, "And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided that we share his suffering, so as to share his glory."

 

In verse 1 Paul advises the Romans that their worship should be "sensible" or rational and now in verse 2 he urges them to "let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God'what is good and acceptable and mature."  In living a life of sacrificial consecration believers must discern what it is God requires of them.  It is the obligation of all Christians to seek the will of God in their lives but how does one begin the process of discernment? Do we discern by "faith alone" or through both faith and reason?

Question: What is the importance of both faith and reason in the life of the Christian?  Hint: see CCC# 156-159.

Answer: Faith most certainly must come first but there is no opposition between faith and reason.  God has not only given man the gift of faith but also the gift of reason and intellect.  If intellect is not applied to faith one cannot mature in one's relationship with the Lord. However, what is perceived as reason cannot contradict the teachings of faith as laid down in Scripture and the teachings of the Magisterium.  When guided by the Church faith perfects intellect.  As Saint Augustine wrote: "I believe in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe."  If Christian faith remains "a blind impulse of the mind" [CCC # 156], Christian growth cannot mature.  It is necessary to have knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Christ in order to discern the will of God in the life of the believer.  This is why Jesus gave us mother Church'like all mothers it is her duty to teach and guide and to raise up children who will grow to maturity in righteousness and faith.

 

Question: What should be the process of discerning the will of God in our lives?  See 2 Corinthians 13:5-9; Galatians 6:15; Phil 1:9-11; Hebrews 5:11-14; Ephesians 5:8-20.

Answer: You cannot discern God's will for your life if sin has a hold on you.  The Christian must discern God's will clothed in the garment of grace, committed to prayer and seeking to determine the gifts the Holy Spirit has He has given them to the individual believer.  As in any gift, the genuine value of the gift is only realized in the useful application of what has been given.

 

Please read Romans 12:3-8: Instruction on Discerning and Using the Gifts of the Spirit Within the Community

"3 And through the grace that I have been given, I say this to every one of you: never pride yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately, recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of faith.  4 Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function: 5 in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all jointed to one another.  6 Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was given to each of us: 7 if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us; 8 if it is a gift of practical service, let us devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching; if it is encouraging, to encouraging.  When you give, you should give generously from the heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them.  9 Let love be without any pretence.  Avoid what is evil; stick to what is good.  10 In brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important then yourself.  11 In the service of the Lord, work not half-heartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit.  12 Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly; 13 share with any of God's holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable.  " 

 

St. Paul now begins a teaching on the practical application of spiritual gifts.  He wants the community to understand that the sharing of spiritual gifts within the Church ensures the community's life in fidelity and fruitfulness and that these gift should be shared without any envy or jealousy concerning what gifts certain individuals within the community have received.

 

"I say this to every one of you: never pride yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately, recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of faith." 

Question: Paul begins his instruction by warning the community to guard what spiritual virtue that is most threatened by pride?

Answer: Their humility.

Question: What warnings does the inspired author of Proverbs give concerning the sin of pride?  See Proverbs 16:5, 18, & 19.

Answer: The sin of pride incurs God's divine punishment.

Question: What did Paul have to say about the virtue of humility in Philippians 2:3-5 and in 1 Corinthians 10:24?

Answer:

 

Question: What is the key verse in Jesus' teaching on the virtue of humility in Luke 18:9-14?

Answer: "For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up." A heart that remains in a state of grace through the repentance of sins is a humble heart. The Lord resists the proud and boastful but gives His grace to one who possesses a contrite and humble heart: Both Sts. Peter and James quote Proverbs 3:34 concerning the special grace of God which is dispossessed to the humble:

Also see CCC# 2559 humility in prayer; #2546 on humility as poverty of spirit.

 

" but think of yourself dispassionately, recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of faith." Paul urges the Romans to discern their spiritual gifts.  In verses 6-8 Paul identifies "gifts" or "charisms" as divine graces which are granted by the Holy Spirit according to our spiritual maturity. Each Christian has different spiritual gifts which are meant to be exercised together with the gifts of other Christians so that these gifts work to strengthen and benefit the fruitfulness of the Church as a whole. The use of the Greek word "charis", meaning the grace or favor of God and the active use of that grace in the "charisma" or the way in which the gift [charis] of God is active in others, is a word introduced by Paul into Christian theology.  These "gifts" are given to the various "limbs" [Christians] within the One "Body of Christ" which is the Church.

 

Question: In Romans 12:6-8 Paul lists several gifts and the function of each gift.  How many gifts does he list and how do those gifts serve the Church?

Answer: Paul lists 7 gifts and 7 functions or effects of the gift:

 

GIFT

SERVICE

1. prophecy

Inspired preaching to build up faith within the community

2. practical service

In the exercise of necessary services/ ministries that promote the Church

3. teaching

To provide the faithful with right teaching to understand the faith

4. encouraging or exhortation

To promote ethical teaching and practice within the community

5. almsgiving

Generously given to support the Church and her ministries

6. position of authority

To conscientiously and humbly provide resources and leadership in serve to the faith community

 

7. acts of mercy

Bringing relief to the unfortunate with a cheerfulness of spirit that relieves the recipient of embarrassment through understanding that performing the service on their behalf is a privilege of love. 

 

Paul writes of some of these same gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 where he begins his list of spiritual gifts with the instruction: "There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord.  There are many different forms of activity, but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all.  The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one is to be used for the general good." Please turn to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and read the entire passage. 

 

Returning to Paul's list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-7:

  1. Prophecy: Paul lists "prophecy" as the first of the gifts.  He is probably not  referring to the gift of predicting the future but rather to the first mission of the prophet which is to speak the words of God to the people, inspiring them to live in fellowship with God [see 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 13:2; 14:1, 3-6, 24, 39; and 1 Timothy 4:14]. According to the literal translation this gift is to be used in "according to the analogy of faith".  The Greek word analogia means "right relationship, proportion".  In other words, all inspired preaching must agree with the teachings of Christ and His earthly representative, the Church.  If certain preaching does not agree, it is not inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Practical Service: Paul uses the Greek word diakonia, meaning "service".  It is the word from which comes our English word "deacon".  Paul may be referring to those who serve in a specific ministry, as our deacons serve today, or he may have in mind all ministries that serve to build up the faith community.  Paul applied this same term to his own ministry in Romans 11:13 and used the term in the same way in 1 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 11:8; Colossians 4:17; and Ephesians 4:12
  3. Teaching: In the Greek a  ho didaskon is "the one who gives instruction".  Paul uses this term for one who gives instruction in the interpretation of sacred Scripture or in catechesis [see 1 Corinthians 14:19 and Galatians 6:6].
  4. Exhortation:  Paul is using the Greek word paraklesis and is probably referring to one who guides the members of the Church in their communal life by encouraging or teaching ethical behavior or is living in the example of ethical behavior [see 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Philippians 2:1; and Hebrews 13:22]. 
  5. Almsgiving: The Greek word metadidonai describes one who contributes to charity, sharing from his private wealth [see Luke 3:11; Ephesians 4:28].  Such a person, when giving from the heart without hope of recognition or thanks, gives motivated by the Holy Spirit and contributes to the well being of individuals in need within the Church and to the Church as a whole.   Such a person judges genuine "wealth" in spiritual terms and not in monetary terms.

6.  Authority: The literal Greek word used in the 6th charism is ho proistamenos, meaning "the one standing at the head", or a leader who presides or directs.  This person would be one to whom the Spirit has given the gift of wisdom and leadership to guide the community in its various ministries and functions.

7.   Mercy: The seventh position is ho eleon, in the Greek, "the one who performs acts of mercy".  Paul probably intents this gift to include all acts of mercy including caring for the sick, burying the dead, etc.  However, he cautions that this gift should be accompanied by cheerfulness.  If this gift doesn't come from a heart of love which receives joy from serving God through serving brothers and sisters who are in need of God's mercy then the charism is not genuine.

In all these gifts, the spirit in which the gifts are carried out is as important as the acts themselves.

 

Question: Works of mercy are works of charity in which we extend the love and mercy of God to others.  What are the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy according to the teachings of Christ and His Church?  Hint: see Matthew 6:2-4; 25:31-46; Luke 3:11; 11:41 James 2:15-16; Catechism CCC# 2447.

Answer: Teaching, consoling, advising, forgiving, bearing wrongs without retaliation, and comforting the sorrowful are spiritual works of mercy.  The corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting those in prisons, and burying the dead.

Question: Is this extension of God's love and mercy to others only a New Covenant teaching?  What does the Old Testament say on this subject?  Hint: see Deuteronomy 14:29; Psalm 41:1; Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 7:32-36 [36-40 in some translations].

Answer: The teaching is exactly the same.  God is unchanged from all time and eternity.  The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New.  To deny this theological truth is to fall into the heresy of Marcion the 2nd century Gnostic who maintained that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of the New.

 

Paul completes his instruction on how Christians should respond to each other with this sound advice establishing love as the rule of life within the Church:

9 Let love be without any pretence.  Avoid what is evil; stick to what is good.  10 In brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important then yourself.  11 In the service of the Lord, work not half-heartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit.  12 Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly; 13 share with any of God's holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable. "

 

  In Romans 5:1-11 and in 8:31-39, Paul wrote of our love for God and God's love for us using the Greek word for spiritual love, agape.  You will remember this is one of the Greek words to which Christians gave a uniquely Christian character.  Agape to the Christian expresses the same kind of self-sacrificial love with which Christ loved each of us'a love expressed most deeply in His Passion and death on the Cross.  But now in this passage Paul is writing of "agape/love" expressed as agape anypokritos, which literally translates as "genuine love" or "sincere love"'and expressing the distinctive self-sacrificial character of Christian love as a rule of life within the faith community'a love that is not passive but vital and active! [Note: This same phrase, agape anypokritos, is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:6 and By St. Peter in 1 Peter 1:22].

 

Question: On the subject of love with the community what did St. John teach in 1 John 4:19-21 and how does it relate to Paul's teaching? 

Answer: "Let us love then, because he first loved us.  Anyone who says 'I love God' and hates his brother, is a liar, since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see can love God whom he has not seen.  Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother." The key to living in harmony in the faith community and to serve God in carrying the Gospel of salvation to the world is found in our ability to love.  Unless we love and offer service to our "brothers", both within and outside the Church, whose needs we can see, how can we serve God with humble hearts who we cannot see? 

Question: St Paul urges us to "look for opportunities to be hospitable".   What did Paul say about being hospitable in Hebrews 13:1-2 and what does Abraham's experience in Genesis 18:2ff suggest to us?

Answer:  You may have the opportunity to offer hospitality to angels.  What could seem like an inconvenience can be a blessing in disguise.

 

In Romans  12:3-13 Paul addressed the Christian's works and gifts operating within the faith community but now he will address the Christian's obligation of love and service which must extend to those within and outside of the Church.  As in the previous passage, Paul's advice is both practical and challenging.

Please read Romans 12:14-21: Instruction in Living the Christian Life Expressed in Love

"14 Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them.  15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow.  16 Give the same consideration to all others alike.  Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms.  Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom.  17 Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect.  18 As much as if possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone.  19 Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution.  As Scripture says: Vengeance is mine'I will pay them back, the Lord promises.  20 And more: If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head.  21 Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good."

 

Paul begins this section of his letter with what seems to be a near impossible command:"14 Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them." 

Question: How is it possible for us to fulfill this command?  What did Jesus teach on this subject?  Hint: see Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27, 35.

Answer: Jesus' teaching is clear: we are called to love our enemies for the sake of God's merciful love for us.

 

Question: What is the very practical advice Paul gives concerning those who rejoice and those who suffer in Romans 12:15?

Answer: His advice is an example of actions speaking louder than words.  Especially in the case of someone who is experiencing grief'what words can we offer if we haven't experienced the same form of suffering?  In those cases it is better to offer our tears and our prayers. Paul's advice reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi's instructions on preaching the Gospel: "Preach the Gospel always and when absolutely necessary, use words."

 

Question: What is the focus of Paul's instruction in verse 16?

Answer: To always be yourself, offering the same consideration and courtesy to each person regardless of his social standing or lack of standing.  In this regard Jesus stands as our model.  Even His family was concerned about the company He was keeping when He ate with tax collectors and sinners but He was taking the impure and transforming them by the force of His holiness.  This is the same example we must follow.  We are not to be conformed to those in sin with whom we come in contact but by treating them with the same respect and consideration we treat others we are to show them the light of Christ living in our lives.

 

In dealing with those of evil intent Paul's instructions are equally difficult!"17 Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect. 18 As much as if possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone.  19 Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution.  As Scripture says: Vengeance is mine'I will pay them back, the Lord promises.  20 And more: If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head."   

 

In the literal translation Paul begins this sentence with the address: "Beloved!"'possibly to strengthen the force of his appeal to Christians in a request that he knows is very difficult and even unnatural apart from Christian teaching.

Question: What is the day of "retribution" ?  The Day of Judgment.

Question: According to St. Paul how does a Christian take vengeance on an enemy?

Answer: By doing good. 

 

Paul is quoting from Proverbs 25:21-22 in his reference to giving your enemy something to eat and drink and pouring on his head "red hot coals", If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head, and Yahweh will reward you."  In other words, if you have behaved properly by extending your forgiveness to your enemy you will be rewarded by God, but if your enemy does not respond to your act of kindness he will face Yahweh's judgment.  The hot-coals imagery is also a symbol for repentance [see Isaiah 6:6-7].  One's kindness should have the desired result of bringing the one who has sinned against you to repentance, which is why we are commanded to pray for our enemies.  The desired result is always repentance working toward restoration of fellowship with God and ultimate salvation.

 

Question: If, however, the sinner does not come to repentance what will be his fate?

Answer: God's justice.  In every case God is the ultimate judge because only He can judge impartially.  We cannot see the human heart but God can and that is why judgment must rest with Him.

 

In some cases it may only be possible to offer love to one's enemy if one remembers that no matter how much that person has hurt you or those you love that Jesus loved this person enough to die for him/her on the Cross.  If Christ can love your enemy then for the sake of Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross for you'offer your enemy the love of Jesus Christ expressed in His Passion and suffering for the salvation of both of you.

 

Paul ends this section of instruction by reminding the Christian that God's goodness and mercy are more powerful than sin and evil  "21 Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good."  Christ has defeated sin and death on the Cross but the enemy still persists in his weakened condition to tempt man into sin and exposing man to evil.  This condition will continue as long as we are in the world.  But we must remember that Christians are a powerful force for good in the world to resist and contain evil as long as we are willing to engage in the battle.  It is when Christians loose their will to take a stand and fight that evil can grow'the sin of abortion is a good example.  The majority of the Christian community allowed the legalization of abortion with barely a whimper of protest.  If we are to living in "imitation of Christ" we must rise up'taking up our crosses united to His Cross and join the battle against evil in the world.

 

"'He that follows Me, walks not in darkness,' said the Lord.  These are the words of Christ, by which we are admonished, how we ought to imitate His life and manners, if we would truly be enlightened, and delivered from all blindness of heart.  Let therefore our chief endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ." The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis,  1380-1471

 

Question for group discussion:

Question: Are Christians required to forgive even when the offender does not want to be forgiven?  Why?  See CCC# 2840; 2845; Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; James 2:13.

 

Question: Compare Paul's list of charisms in this chapter with his list in Ephesians 4:11-13.  What are the similarities and what are the differences?

Answer:  In the Ephesians passage Paul limits his list to charisms that relate to teaching Scripture and doctrine while in the Romans list he includes charisms that relate to leadership ministries and charisms that provide a good example by ethical behavior and alms giving.

Question: What is your particular charism?  Each believer has receive a charism as a gift of the Holy Spirit and each of us is obliged to seek out and to actively bear fruit from the charism we have received.

 

Romans chapter 12 Catechism references [*denotes Scripture quoted in citation]

 

12:4-6

249*

12:26-27

953

12:6

308*

12:26

1469*

12:7

801; 951

12:27

1265*

12:9

1508*

12:28

1508*

12:13

694; 790*; 798*; 1227*; 1267; 1396*

12:30

1508*

 

Resources used in Romans chapter 12:

The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV

The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: The Council of Trent; Vatican Council I; etc.

The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

Jerome's Commentary on Romans

Chrysostom's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans

Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer

Romans, Brendan Byrne

Navarre Commentary'Romans

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans

Strong's Concordance

Modern Catholic Dictionary

Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 1999

Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson

The Imitation of Christ, Thomas  a Kempis, [Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1978].

Understanding the Mass, Charles Belmonte, [Scepter Publications, Princeton New Jersey, 1989].

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.