Commentators are nearly unanimously agree that Chapter 12 is a turning point in the Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.
In the first 11 chapters, Paul lays down foundational teaching regarding the nature of what it means to believe and trust in Jesus Christ for one’s salvation. There is so much there that one could spend a lifetime studying the book and never get to the place where there is nothing more to be gained by studying it.
The point of this post is to look at how Paul begins turning the discussion toward application of the first 11 chapters of the letter.
He begins, “Therefore . . . I urge you” (CSB, NASB, NIV). The NASB uses the same translation but the ESV and RSV use the phrase, “I appeal to you.” The King James has a similar but older word, and translates it “I beseech you.” But the meaning is similar in all translations. It is a request that Paul’s readers act upon what he has written.
The point I want to draw out in this is that he does not command them. He does not stand on his authority and bash them with what they need to do. Instead, he lovingly comes alongside his readers to encourage them to right behavior.
The word translated urge/exhort/beseech is from the same root as one of the names of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. It carries the idea of coming beside, and in a different context, it means to encourage or build up.
Many who have been around churches for a long time have run into leaders who attempt to pressure their members into certain behaviors by calling people out from the pulpit and using other tactics that are heavy-handed and short-sighted.
While Paul was not afraid to confront sin and rebellion in the congregation, he was careful only to do so when there was a clear and public violation of the commands of Scripture. For example, in I Corinthians 5:1-2, Paul felt the need to address that church’s willingness to allow open sin in their congregation. He could be tough when it was needed.
Perhaps we can be encouraged by Paul’s example in Romans 12. I can think of two reasons to be encouraged:
- Paul understands that the application of these principles to our lives is difficult and requires wisdom and that wisdom is often gained through failure. He is encouraging us while knowing that we won’t always get it right.
- We don’t have to tolerate Pastors or other church leaders who overstep their authority and seek to make us conform to some arbitrary standard that they have set up. Paul didn’t use his authority that way. If an Apostle, directly commissioned by Jesus did not use his authority that way, certainly any church leader today should not.
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