c) Rom 12:2: After Paul called believers in Rome to offer themselves to God as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), he commanded them not to be “formed according to the pattern” of this present age.[1]

This requires an act of the will,[2] allowing the Spirit to transform us (Rom 8:1–11).[3] We cannot merely follow the influences of our pre-Christian experiences.[4]

Although we live in this current age, as citizens of “the age to come” we must act accordingly, intentionally developing moral sensitivity (Phil 3:17–21; Eph 4:21–24).[5]

The verb tenses in this verse indicate that we must continually practice both the “not being conformed” (syschēmatizō) and the “being transformed” (metamorphoō).[6]

By undergoing the process of changing the way we think, we alter the way we live. We need patience, as this typically requires sustained effort over time.[7] However, the way we view the world does shift profoundly (1 Cor 2:11–16).[8]

Many Greco-Roman philosophers viewed matter as inherently corrupt.[9]

For example, Plotinus (ca. 204–270 AD) contended, “Cut off as we are by the nature of the body, God has yet given us, in the midst of all this evil, virtue the unconquerable.”[10]

Paul did not adhere to the mind/body dualism common in Greco-Roman thought. He asserted that the presenting of our bodies results in the renewal of our minds.[11]

Once this transformation occurs, we are “able to determine what [is] the will of God.” In other words, we learn how to behave in a manner pleasing to him.[12]

This by no means takes place automatically.[13] To accomplish this change, we must reprogram how we think by feeding upon Scripture and other materials whose values align with those of the kingdom of God.[14]

The adage “garbage in; garbage out” certainly holds true. Once we know the will of God, we face the task of actually performing it (Phil 4:8–9).[15]

This verse in Romans espouses the necessity of inner transformation as opposed to external conformity.[16]

Paul did not command us to grit our teeth and attempt to keep the Mosaic law (Rom 2:28–29). Instead, we must “walk in the Spirit,” which yields a “good and acceptable and complete” ethical life pleasing to God (Gal 5:16–25; Mark 12:28–34).[17]

Not that this is always easy. In our fallen world, few clear-cut issues emerge in terms of right and wrong.[18]

Therefore, we must continually develop moral discernment and hear both sides of an argument before prayerfully reaching a conclusion.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Rom 12:2. How did Paul’s command repudiate the prevailing Greek philosophy of his era? What practical things can you do to enhance the renewal of your mind?

 

 

 

Go to Sin Lies Stretched Out

 

[Related posts include Oh, the Depth of the Riches of God! (Rom 11:33‒36); A Living Sacrifice (Rom 12:1); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Delivered from this Body of Death (Rom 7:14–25); Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); Minds on Earthly Things (Phil 3:17–19); Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:20); Glorified Bodies (Phil 3:21); and By Faith (Heb 11:4)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]

 

[1]Frederick W. Danker, et al., “συσχηματιζω” (syschēmatizō), BDAG, 979.

[2] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 712.

[3] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:607.

[4] Moo, Romans, 395.

[5] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:608–9.

[6]William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 310. The present tense connotes either continuous or repetitive action.

[7] Moo, Romans, 398.

[8]Witherington and  Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 286.

[9]Harry Alan Hahne, “The Whole Creation Has Been Groaning,” in Apocalyptic Vision (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 19–26, 19, http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/106707.pdf.

[10]Plotinus, The Six Enneads, 2nd Ed. (trans. Stephen Mackenna, revised by B. S. Page; London: Faber and Faber, 2007), 2.3.9,97, https://archive.org/stream/plotinustheennea033190mbp#page/n155/mode/2up.

[11] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 714.

[12] Moo, Romans, 395.

[13] Schreiner, Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 253.

[14] Moo, Romans, 399.

[15] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 718.

[16] Schreiner, Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 253.

[17] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 714.

[18] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 287.