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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Ninety-First (Romans Part 20)

We’re moving on to chapter 12 of Romans this week, and through just the plain reading of it you can see a lot of important qualities we should have in life.  As we have found time and time again though, there are some very interesting things you find when you look a bit deeper.  We’re going to go over those things this week, and I hope you find them just as interesting as I do!

This chapter starts with another “therefore,” but in this case, Paul helps us out by restating what it’s there for.  He tells the reader they should offer their bodies as living sacrifices to YHWH because of His mercy (Romans 12:1).  In this and the next verse, he gives hints on how to do that, and in this first verse, there are some details that we can find based on the Greek words he used (Romans 12:2).  

After reading that verse, you may wonder what “spiritual service of worship,” or “reasonable service” in some translations, actually means.  What you’ll find in the Greek is that the word translated to reasonable is only used in one other verse (1 Peter 2:2).  The word is logikos, and while Strong’s Concordance gives the definition as reasonable or rational, HELPS Word-Studies gives a little more color to it.  


The word comes from the Greek logos, and if you recall, that means the spoken word.  It’s the Greek word used to describe Yeshua in the book of John (John 1:1), and it’s where the word "logic" came from.  Generally, it means reasoning expressed by words.  The word logikos is the adjective form of that noun, and in this context it’s referring to something reasonable, or logical, to YHWH.  By the way, in the other verse that uses this word, Peter is talking about new believers and telling them to “crave pure logikos milk.”  He’s referring to things new believers should look for in scripture during their studies, and he’s saying those logical things you find are not only easy to see and grasp, but they’re also the foundation on which your salvation rests.

So, we find that Paul is referring to some sort of logical service, but what sort of service is he talking about?  Some translations include the word worship, so is he talking about standing in church singing hymns and listening to a pastor?  You’ll be surprised to find that the particular conjugation of this Greek word, latreian, is also only found in one other verse.  The context?  Murdering of believers (John 16:2).  

When talking to the disciples, Yeshua told them they would be persecuted for their beliefs and for following Him.  In this case, He told them the people that would murder them will believe that they were doing it as a latreian to YHWH.  The definition of this word is service, but it comes from a Greek word that means to render sacred service.  In Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, we find that this word in the Greek Bible was used for the Hebrew word abodah, which also means labor or service.    

What are some places that Hebrew word is used in scripture?  It’s used when referring to observing the feast of Passover (Exodus 12:25), the service Jacob performed in order to marry Rachel (Genesis 29:27), and the labor the Israelites did while under the subjugation of the Egyptians (Exodus 1:14).  The Greek word started out in the secular as meaning service rendered for hire and then transitioned to mean any service, but the general idea is that it’s something someone does because either the person/people over them tells them to or they believe that the person/people wants them to.

So, what Paul’s saying here is that giving our bodies as a living sacrifice means doing the things YHWH wants us to, and to help figure out what those things are, Paul goes on to give an example.  He wrote that the believers are not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of their mind.  Then, he says, that will enable them to determine what YHWH wants (Romans 12:2).  Now, what does all that mean?

Well, when we look a little deeper, we see that the Greek word for conform means to follow the same pattern, assuming a similar outward form or expression to something.  It occurs in one other verse, where Peter was talking about not following the same patterns you had before you came to Yeshua (1 Peter 1:14).  We also find that the word translated to “world” is actually aion, which means a space of time or an age.  Whether you use world or age, Paul’s point is that we are not to follow the patterns of non-believers.  If you recall, there is a god of this world/age (2 Corinthians 4:4).  He is what non-believers follow, whether they acknowledge it or not, and he is not YHWH.

To put it all together, our living sacrifice, which is our service to YHWH, is not to have even a hint of things related to the god of this world.  Rituals, ceremonies, and holidays associated with, related to, or stemming from what pagans did to worship their gods (which ultimately pointed to the god of this world, Satan), are not to have any place in our service, or worship, to YHWH.  Paul tells us the way to figure out what those things are is by being transformed, and this is the same Greek word translated to transfigured when Yeshua transfigured on the mountain (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2).  It means changing to a form that aligns with your inner essence, which in this context is our born again spirit.

We do this transformation by renewing our mind, or moving our thoughts to the new, higher thoughts Yeshua taught.  By this, we are able to prove, or discern, what YHWH wants and what He is pleased by.  One of the big things Yeshua taught, which is one of these higher thoughts, is being humble, and Paul mentions this next in his letter to the believers of Rome (Romans 12:3-5).  We all have a different purpose in the body of Yeshua, and therefore in our service to YHWH.  We should not consider ourselves better than others just because we are better at certain things than someone else.

These things that we may be better at are the gifts that YHWH gives us to do His will, and Paul lists some of them (Romans 12:6-8).  He lists others in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12), but here he’s trying to not only instill some confidence in those that are good at these things, but also squash any potential jealousy or dissention that may develop when people use these gifts.  Thinking of ourselves highly leads to things like speaking bad about others when they’re better at something.  The root of this is jealousy because the person speaking bad ultimately wishes they were just as good at it.  So, Paul doesn't want people to judge, or make comments of others based on how generous they are, or how they don't hesitate to step up and take the lead, for example.

Some interesting things to note about this list are the words Paul uses for some of the gifts and their associated adjectives.  For generosity in giving, the Greek word actually means simplicity.  So, it’s not saying that a giving person should excessively give, it’s saying that their giving should be uncomplicated.  For example, if you’re giving money, don’t go line by line on what the person you’re giving to is asking for to see if you can micromanage it, just simply give.  For leading, the Greek word means having the character to positively impact others.  In other words, it doesn’t necessarily mean those in some position of authority, it just means someone people look to follow and emulate.  And as for diligence in leading, the Greek word means without hesitation, so they should not hesitate to step up and lead.  In terms of mercy, Paul says to give it cheerfully, and when you look at this Greek word it means without reluctance.  In other words, you shouldn't have to be convinced to give mercy because you already had decided to give it in your heart.  

At this point in the chapter, it seems like Paul takes a break and jumps topics, but when he goes on to talk about love and honoring one another it all points back to verse 3 where he talked about not thinking of yourself too highly.  We can’t love sincerely if we think of ourselves as better than the person that we’re loving.  Being sincere means to be without hypocrisy, and if we’re thinking of ourselves as better, we are being hypocritical in that we are being proud.  And we know that love is not proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).

In this last section of the chapter, Paul seems to be elaborating on some of the things YHWH finds pleasing, in reference to helping the believers to do what he said in verse 2 (Romans 12:9-21).  He emphasizes hating evil and clinging to the good, and the word he uses for cling is actually the same word Yeshua used when quoting scripture regarding man and woman becoming one (Matthew 19:5).  Paul also talks about devotion to other believers, and when he says “outdo” in honoring others, that Greek word means to go out first so others can follow.  In other words, don’t wait for someone else to honor you before you honor someone else.

Much of the rest of the chapter is consistent with Yeshua’s teachings as well as other scripture.  Blessing those that persecute, being humble, and not taking revenge, for example, can be found in other places (Matthew 5:44, 1 Peter 3:9, James 3:9-10, Proverbs 3:7, Isaiah 5:21, Deuteronomy 32:35) and Paul consolidates those things here.  A couple interesting things to note about Paul’s word usage has to do with the word “practice,” or “given to” in some translations, and the word “overcome” (Romans 12:13, 21).

The Greek word used for practice is dioko, and interestingly enough it’s also in verse 14 when Paul talks about those that “persecute” you.  It means to aggressively pursue, and HELPS Word-Studies describes it like a hunter pursuing a catch.  So, in verse 13, Paul is saying we should aggressively pursue hospitality.  As a side note, the Greek word used for hospitality means love of strangers, so Paul is not talking about hosting your friends for dinner.

For the word “overcome,” Paul uses nikao.  This word means to conquer, and implies a battle, which means Paul is saying we are not to be passive participants.  It takes action for us to overcome, and all the things Paul lists in this chapter are actions that we can take to overcome evil.  If you look at the opposites of all the things he says to do in this chapter, and what other parts of scripture say we should do, those opposites are what those of the world do, and as we noted earlier, they ultimately originate from Satan.

This chapter, as you can see, is a great one to revisit often in our spiritual walk.  It doesn’t take long for the influence of the world to have us forget these important things to live by, so regular reminders are needed.  Paul provided a pretty well-encompassing description here of how believers should live, so we should use it!

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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