Pauls Footsteps #373

 “And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)

Footsteps # 373  “And so” is the signal that Paul is not only changing topics but that the new topic is directly related to his previous discussion in the first 11 chapters of Romans. Paul has set forth his theology. Now he is ready for its practical implications. The “therefore” (NASB)  means how we live is dependent upon what we believe. First comes salvation, then the response to salvation. This means the apostle is still concerned with justification by faith because it is fundamental with him that it is impossible for a justified person to live in the same way as an unrepentant sinner. Paul raised that issue in chapters 6 through 8, but now he is ready to devote three chapters almost exclusively to the topic. 

He is ready to talk about the great subtheme with which he brackets the entire letter: “the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26, NASB, NIV, etc). The legalist exclaims, “Do these things and you will live,” but Paul tells us, “Live a life of faith and you will do these things.” For Paul theology precedes ethics, salvation goes before behaviour. People walk with Christ in God’s law because they have been saved. To the apostle, the order is fundamental. All too many people seek to obey without being saved first. The end result is legalism, meanness, spiritual pride, and lostness. 

However much Paul is seeking to enlighten the Romans of their false notions of the law, he also calls all Christians to a high standard of obedience. This obedience comes from an inward change in our heart and mind, a change that comes only through the power of God working in a person surrendered to Him. 

Romans contains no hint that this obedience comes automatically. The Christian needs to be enlightened as to what the requirements are; he or she must desire to obey those requirements; and, finally, the Christian should seek the power without which that obedience is impossible. 

What this means is that works are part of the Christian faith. Paul never meant to depreciate works; in chapters 13 to 15, he gives them strong emphasis. This is no denial of what he has said earlier about righteousness by faith. On the contrary, works are the true expression of what it means to live by faith. New Testament believers have been given an example of proper moral behaviour in Jesus Christ. He and no one else shows the pattern we are to follow. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in” [not Moses, not Daniel, not David, not Solomon, not Enoch, not Deborah, not Elijah] “Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5)

The standard doesn’t – can’t! – get higher than that.

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