Romans, Part 2: The Imperatives
After assuring Paul’s recipients of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ, of God’s mercy and compassion that gives us the assurance of hope, of His promise of redemption and eternal life as His adopted children, he issues imperatives that, to him, are the marks of true followers of Christ.
Paul lays out the gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. He only begins to issue imperatives after he shows us the indicatives of the saving grace of Christ. Just last week, another blogger quoted Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, appropriate here to explain God’s unconditional love and ever-present grace: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Paul begins Chapter 12 with “therefore,” which refers back to all the indicatives he has laid out in the first eleven chapters: the mercy and grace of God.
Recall these are not about following laws or rules, but about what is in the follower’s heart.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (12:1)
- 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 good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (12:2)
- Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (12:9)
- Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (12:10-11)
- Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (12:12-13)
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (12:14-16)
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (12:17-18)
- Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge;I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (12:19-21; Deuteronomy 32:35; Proverbs 25:21-22)
Paul is letting us know categorically it is not ours to judge or punish. In addition, as we come to a place of leaving revenge behind, we are not to offer grace to our enemies out of a hope that they will be shamed. We offer grace out of the compassion and grace God has already given us which we did not first deserve.
- Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (13:1, 6-7)
- Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (13:8)
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (13:9)
- Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands of falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (14:3-4)
- Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God, for it is written, “As I live,” says the Lord, “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (14:10-11; Isaiah45:23)
- Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother or sister. (14:13)
Paul explains an important point within these paragraphs. Our feelings and opinions about someone don’t matter. Whether we disagree with the political party of our president or the “lifestyle” of a neighbor, we are not to judge or despise. Whether we think someone isn’t running his life the way he ought, or her church isn’t worshiping the “right” way, we must refrain from judgment because judgment places a huge stumbling block in the way of someone getting to Christ.
So let us then pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (14:19)