Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 12:2; The Apostle’s Instruction for Living Out God’s Will

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 7, 2013

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Last week, we looked at the fact that reading, learning, and doing in the Christian life has nothing to do with reading, learning, and doing for salvation. Our position is a settled issue, and we are not only declared righteous positionally, we ARE righteous. Therefore, we are able to learn Paul’s instruction and apply it to our lives. In fact, being a Christian is about change. And a changing person effects the environment he or she abides in; change is powerful.

In verse 1 of Chapter 12, Paul makes his appeal as set against what we have learned in the first eleven chapters. I also strongly suspect that the old covenant is rich in sanctification instruction and Paul is alluding to it accordingly. We will not pause to delve into that in this series, but I would encourage you to put that subject on your schedule of personal study. All in all, what we draw from the first eleven chapters is that our salvation is a settled issue, and now our focus should be aggressive change for the glory of God. Paul makes his appeal by the “mercies” of God which are vast, but it can be boiled down to our freedom and empowerment to please God. Let us begin in verse 2:

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is first; do not be like the world. But furthermore, we may ask if there is always some sort of transformation going on in our life for better or worse. The concept of staying the same or being in neutral is conspicuously absent in the Scriptures. This seems illogical, but nevertheless, that is the case.

If you look-up the word for “world,” the following is stated,

g0165. αἰών aiōn; from the same as 104; properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):

So, the idea is not to be conformed to the present age and all of its coming and going fads. It could also refer to the “last age” in general which is marked by the first coming of Christ in its beginning and will end with his imminent return. This is an age, the “last age” that is marked by certain characteristics. Paul is instructing us to not be conformed to those general characteristics and variances of such that come and go as repackaged philosophies and fads. Biblical principles do not change and we should “renew” our minds by learning God’s truth and applying it to our lives.

The idea here is “age” as better exemplified in the Young’s Literal Translation:

and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what [is] the will of God — the good, and acceptable, and perfect.

It all starts with the renewing of the mind. How we think, and what we think. The biblical process is very specific. We learn truth from God’s word, and we apply it to our lives. God’s truth will identify the old us that is still present, and needs to be put off, and new ways that need to be put on. This leads to a renewing of the mind and a changed life:

Ephesians 4:20 – But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [Underscore added].

How do the first eleven chapters of Romans prepare us for chapter 12 following? We know exactly what Paul means by the “old self.” We know that the old self no longer controls us and that we are free to put on the new way of Christ. Though this process starts with learning, the transformation comes in applying it, or doing it. When you stop doing A, and do B instead, that’s change, but this in fact is what transforms the mind as well because part of the application is changing the way we think. Thinking differently about life, changing our attitudes, etc., transforms our mind; this would seem fairly evident. Applying this new thinking to life also lends deeper understanding in regard to what the Lord’s will is:

that by testing you may discern what is the will of God

“Test” in verse 2 comes from the idea of the word “discern” in the same verse. “Test” is not a word that is in the actual Greek manuscript, but is derived from “discern”:

g1381. δοκιμάζω dokimazō; from 1384; to test (literally or figuratively); by implication, to approve:— allow, discern, examine, x like, (ap-) prove, try.

Again, I don’t make a lot of friends on this wise, but I think the vast number of versions in our day is wonderful because it represents a vast number of opinions from Greek scholars. I don’t think it confuses interpretation, I think it clarifies it. We can look up the meaning of the Greek word, form an opinion about how we think that word should be interpreted in context, and then see if any of the Greek scholars agree with us. I think a combination of the King James and the Amplified Bible gives us the best sense of the idea that Paul was conveying:

KJV: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Certainly, as the ESV implies, we don’t put God’s word to the test in order to confirm it. I think the idea is that as we apply God’s word to our lives, it proves to the world what God’s will is, and also reinforces our commitment to it as well:

Amplified version: so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

In summation, I think the best thing to take away from this is the following: as we learn God’s truth and apply it to our lives by putting off and putting on, God’s “will” is shown to the world and to us. And what is that “will”? Remember last week? God’s “will” is our sanctification (1THESS 4:3). Listen, when we prove the will of God, when we show forth His sanctification in our lives, that’s the gospel. This once again gets back to the many-faceted “mercies” that give us understanding here from the first eleven chapters of Romans. We learned early on that all people born into the world have the works of God’s law written on their hearts, right? Therefore, when we walk in the world, there is a sense in which God’s will is being tested in us. Intuitively, the world knows to expect something different in us, we are under a test, and if we put off, and put on, the will of God will be proven accordingly. Let’s say you were a slave in the first century, Paul would put it this way:

Titus 2:7 – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works [put on], and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech [put on] that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything [put on]; they are to be well-pleasing [put on], not argumentative [put off], 10 not pilfering [put off], but showing all good faith [put on], so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Paul’s point to Titus is that the world has expectations of Christians because of what they know about the gospel intuitively; ie., the grace of God has appeared to ALL people. Come now, when a major Christian figure falls into sin, why is it such big news? Have you ever thought about that? Why would they even care? When you drop the ball at work or among lost family members, how long does it take to hear, “And you call yourself a Christian!”

In addition, the practice of truth gives more understanding. I think this needs to be added to the mix:

John 7:17 – If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (KJV).

Hebrews 5:11 – About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Learning and doing by putting off and putting on compounds into an unleashing of the Holy Spirit’s power in evangelism, discernment, and personal wellbeing. Those who obey will be blessed, (JS 1:25), and those who obey will have peace (PHIL 4:9). That’s why commandments can often be seen as “precious promises” rather than commands. Underscore added for emphasis:

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort….[long list of put on(s) follow].

Yet another thing that we must add to the long list of blessings for obedience is assurance of salvation:

….10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter said that there are precious promises, of which some are commandments, and “great promises” which I think could refer to future resurrection, etc. And here in Romans 12:2, we have one of the precious promises:

“Do not be conformed to this world [put off], but be transformed [put on] by the renewal of your mind .

While it is a command, what is more precious than the promise of a renewed mind? I can tell you that there is no precious promise more robbed from God’s people than this. What we would put off in the renewing of our mind is often labeled a sickness by the church. What the Bible calls returning to unnecessary enslavement is labeled an “addiction.” Sanctification’s vast repertoire for dealing with these issues is often replaced with a bottle of pills, while on the other hand, the putting on is replaced with gospel contemplationism. I have talked before about the hope test. Throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to hold on to our hope, rejoice in hope, and dwell in hope. Any idea that strips us of hope is always suspect, and sin as sickness is at the top of the suspect list. I am well aware of all the arguments here, but let us remember that even if we concede that some sickness causes sin, even the sickness itself might be due to sin in the first place:

1Corinthians 11:28 – Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Note that in this commandment and warning there is a precious promise: if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged. That is a wonderful promise and a great incentive to put off and put on. Do you see the commandments as promises?

This all begins with an intellectual endeavor. Let’s go back to verse one for a moment. Probably due to the fact that the ESV and the KJV were taken from different manuscripts, we have the following differences between the two:

ESV: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

KJV : I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

In the ESV, “spiritual” is not in the manuscript, and was added in. The word “reasonable” in the KJV is,

g3050. λογικός logikos; from 3056; rational (“logical”):— reasonable, of the word.

That is why the Amplified version has it this way:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

This goes hand in hand with the renewing of the mind. This renewing is to be logical and reasonable. Though many Christians speak of ambiguous “heart” issues, even that word is an idiom for the mind in most places throughout Scripture:

Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Our understanding of the Scripture is to be logical. We must obey intellectually and reasonably. Christ’s mandate to the church is to “make disciples”:

g3100. μαθητεύω mathēteuō; from 3101; intransitively, to become a pupil; transitively, to disciple, i. e. enrol as scholar:— be disciple, instruct, teach.

You can see the word “math” in this Greek word, and the etymology (origin) of the word is Greek (máthēma). It has always meant “to learn” or “learner.” It is also associated with the idea of science and empirical study in general. Point being: discipleship is not a mystical endeavor; it is a “reasonable service.” It is a thinking endeavor for a Lord who says, “Come, let us reason together.”


Scripture              Put Off                Put On

Ephesians 4:25

Ephesians 4:28

Ephesians 4:29

Ephesians 4:31-32

Psalm 1

Galatians 5:19-23

3 John 11

Hebrews 10:25

1 Peter 3:9

Matthew 16:24

1 Thessalonians 1:9

1Peter 1:14-15

1Peter 2:11-12

1Peter 4:2

1Peter 5:2

1Peter 5:3-6

Romans 12:16

Romans 12:21

Romans 13:12

Romans 14:17

Romans 15:1-2

Galatians 6:3-4

Galatians 6:8

Ephesians 5:4

Ephesians 5:11

Ephesians 5:18

Ephesians 6:4

Philippians 2:3

Philippians 2:21

Philippians 3:3

Philippians 4:6

Colossians 3:2

Colossians 3:5-10

1Thessalonians 5:6

1Thessalonians 5:15

1Timothy 4:7

1Timothy 6:11

1Timothy 6:17

2Timothy 1:7

Titus 2:11-12

James 1:22

1Peter 2:1-2

1John 3:18

1John 4:18

Acts 18:9

Source: Jay E. Adams; The Institute for Nouthetic  Counseling.

This Study:

Titus 2:7-10

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2 Responses

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  1. alexguggenheim said, on October 8, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    This is absolutely edifying, supremely filling. Thanks. Someone might even called it doctrinal crack, that is if they were either trying to be funny or serious like a fool who would think such phrasing would be cool and relevant. But of course I was being funny. Excellent piece Paul. I will be using parts of it for a private Bible class.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 8, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      Thanks Alex, glad it is helpful.


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