Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 12
1. I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you.
Therefore (see 8:1N), because of everything God has done and is doing in Chapters 1-11,1 exhort you to do everything in Chapters 12-15, all of which is epitomized in the instruction to offer yourselves as a sacrifice. Compare Ep 4:1 &N.

God's mercies were spoken of throughout Chapters 1-11, especially in Chapters 9-11, and explicitly at 11:30-32&N. God's mercies form the pivot of the book of Romans, on which Sha'ul turns from doctrine to the practical advice introduced by the Greek word "parakald" ("I exhort" or: "I advise, counsel, encourage, request, comfort").

Offer yourselves (literally, "your bodies") as a sacrifice — a striking metaphor when animal sacrifices were still being made twice daily in the Jerusalem Temple worship. At 6:1-14 and 8:13 Sha'ul explained what kind of death is required: the believer is not to live by his old nature but by the Spirit: then he will be living with the Messiah's life (8:10-11) and thereby be set apart for God.

It is the logical "Temple worship" for you. KJV has".. .which is your reasonable service." Greek latreia corresponds to Hebrew 'avodah, which can mean "work, service," in the everyday sense (the cognate 'eved means "slave"); and this is what today's reader mistakenly picks up from the archaic expression in KJV. But '"avodah" is also the technical term for the religious "service" performed in the Temple; and the context demands this meaning here. 

2. In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.
Presenting God your body for right action commences with your mind. Turn from the standards of the 'olam hazeh ("this world"), rooted, as they are. in everything but God and his word; and learn what God wants. After consideration you will agree that what he wants is morally good, psychologically satisfying and in practice able to succeed (or: "able to reach the goal," Greek teleion, sometimes rendered "perfect" but here strongly connoting the goal-orientation and accomplishment inherent in the related word "telos," as explained in 10:4N). 

3. For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust.
The warning to Gentiles against boasting and conceit (11:18, 25) is extended lo every single one of you, because a person committed to doing God's will (v. 2) is easy prey to delusions of grandeur.

The standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust. Or: "the standard of trust" (or: "faithfulness"), namely, that of Yeshua, "that God has given to each." Or: "the amount and particular pattern of trust that God has given to each." 

4. For just as there are many parts that compose one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function;
12:4-13:10 This passage carries on the thought introduced in v. 3. Compare I Corinthians 12-14, which covers much the same subject matter. God's people are an organic unity, a body (vv. 4—5). Each member of the body is given gifts (w. 6-8) meant to be used properly and not abused (vv. 6-21), within an overall framework of love (vv. 9-13. 13:8-10) in which evil is to be overcome with good (12:14-13:7).

Or, looking at it from a different perspective, Sha'ul is setting up general guidelines for Messianic communal life. The Jewish people already had such guidelines in the Torah; here transcultural elements (see Ga 1:I7N) are extracted and applied. Even today the Church can learn much about communal consciousness, caring and belonging from the Jewish community's way of functioning. 

5. so there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others.
People often think of membership in a synagogue or church as a matter of personal choice. But biblically, membership is organic, comparable with the relationship,which members (parts) of the natural body have with each other, each with its own function but needing for its well-being the services of parts having other functions, and all contributing to the good of the entire body, whose life-energy is supplied by God. Compare 1С 7:4, 12:12; Ep 4:11-16. 

6. But we have gifts that differ and which are meant to be used according to the grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, use it to the extent of your trust;
7. if it is serving, use it to serve; if you are a teacher, use your gift in teaching;
8. if you are a counselor, use your gift to comfort and exhort; if you are someone who gives, do it simply and generously; if you are in a position of leadership, lead with diligence and zeal; if you are one who does acts of mercy, do them cheerfully.
God gives gifts (Greek charismata; see 1 Corinthians 12:8—10&N) to all believers and grace (charis) suited to each gift. For example, ihe grace accompanying leadership is diligence and zeal. In the context of v. 3, it is clear that boasting about one's gifts is altogether out of place (compare 3:27; 1С 1:29-31, 4:7). Boasting kills unity.

Prophecy, literally, "speaking on behalf of," in this case on behalf of God: the Ruach HaKodesh either gives supernatural insight or makes use of one's own natural talents. Prophecy may be, but need not be, predictive.
Counselor... comfort and exhort. See on "parakalo," v. 1N. 

9. Don’t let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good.
10. Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love; and set examples for each other in showing respect.
11. Don’t be lazy when hard work is needed, but serve the Lord with spiritual fervor.
12. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in your troubles, and continue steadfastly in prayer.
13. Share what you have with God’s people, and practice hospitality.
14. Bless those who persecute you — bless them, don’t curse them!
15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16. Be sensitive to each other’s needs — don’t think yourselves better than others, but make humble people your friends. Don’t be conceited.
17. Repay no one evil for evil, but try to do what everyone regards as good.
18. If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people.
19. Never seek revenge, my friends; instead, leave that to God’s anger; for in the Tanakh it is written, "Adonai says, ‘Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay'" (Deuteronomy 32:41),
20. On the contrary, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For by doing this, you will heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head" (Proverbs 25:21–22).
21. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
21 It is easy to find Jewish parallels to Sha'ul's ethical teachings (but on what they signify, see the cautions in Mt 6:7N). Compare the end of v. 8 with this passage from the Mishna:

"The world is upheld by three things — Torah, temple worship and acts of mercy." (Avot 1:2)

Compare v. 15 with this citation from the Gemara:
"A person should share in the distress of the community." (Ta'anit 1 la) Compare v. 17 with this mishna:
"One should be guiltless before other people as well as before God, for it says, 'You shall be guiltless before God and before Israel' (Numbers 32:22)." (Sh'kalim 3:2)

Verses 19-20 quote from the Tanakh itself. Furthermore, the very grammar of vv. 9-13, which contains only participles and no finite verbs, is what is found in Hebrew codes, not Greek; this suggests a very early Hebrew source.

In connection with Yeshua's Sermon on the Mount I pointed out that there is no reason to expect New Testament ethics to differ from Tanakh ethics, since God does not change. All the advice found in these verses is implicit in the Torah and the Prophets, and frequently explicit as well. Because Gentiles are not bound by Torah in the same way as Jews, and because the Holy Spirit does his work from within, Sinful draws out for believers the core principles of right action, confident that persons with transformed minds (v. 1) will, by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, be able to apply those principles in particular situations.

Most of the teaching is self-explanatory and yields its implications to anyone who will think. Example: v. 21, Do not be conquered by evil — retaliation means you have been conquered both by your enemy, whom you have allowed to take the initiative and provoke you to give tit for tat, and by your own old nature's evil impulses, which you ought to be suppressing (8:1-13). 

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