Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 13
Scripture Notes for Romans 12:1-8
- Paul appeals to Christians to present their entire selves as living sacrifices, a response of gratitude for receiving God's mercies.
- Resist conformity to worldliness by transforming your mind to discern God's will.
- A transformed mind thinks with sober judgment that is devoid of self-inflated ego.
- The Body of Christ has many members with various functions to perform.
- Although there are many members, the body of Christ is one.
- God grants gifts to the body of Christ to build up the church.
This week's reading focuses on the transformation of character. Paul operates from the perspective of Jewish Second Temple thinking that divides history into two ages, "the present age" and "the age to come." The resulting understanding is that time now overlaps both ages. A new day has dawned. Christ has come. The Reign of God has begun. Christians function as citizens of God's kingdom. The responses to this reality are Christlike behaviors, ethics, and actions that stand in contrast to the practices of this present age.
Key Preaching/Teaching Points:
Real Worship as Living Sacrifices. Paul appeals to Christians to present themselves as living sacrifices. The reference to one's body implies that we give our entire selves in obedience to God. Why comply with this appeal? Because God has already bestowed gracious mercies upon us.
The concept of being a living sacrifice stands in contrast to the Jewish sacrificial system that offered dead; that is, slaughtered sacrifices. The term, living sacrifice, invokes the realization that Christianity is a process of daily transformation. How do Christians sacrifice? Christians sacrifice as they contend with the conditions and temptations of this "present age" and comply with the work of the Holy Spirit. Sacrifice involves transforming one's mind, putting to death the sinful ways of the flesh, doing what is pleasing and acceptable to God. Real worship is offering God our bodies and all that we do with them daily. Real worship is the offering of our total selves to God daily. This type of worship is what Bible translators rendered as: reasonable (KJV) or spiritual (NRSV) in verse 1.
Living in Two Worlds. Paul understands that the new age has arrived to stand concurrently with the present age. Belief in Jesus Christ carries with it the expectation of living as members of the age to come. New behaviors must be learned and new sacrifices undertaken in order to please God. The key to engaging in these new behaviors is the renewing of the mind, which yields spiritual transformation. In essence, the Christian must become part of a resistance movement against the temptations of the present age. J. B. Phillips' translation of verse 2 says it succinctly, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold."
Unity Through Humility. The body of Christ, composed of many members with varying gifts, can achieve unity only through genuine humility. God chooses who is to receive a specific gift; there is no reason for personal boasting. Instead, Paul urges Christians to function according to "the measure of faith" given to them. Bible commentators suggest two interpretations of what is meant by "measure of faith": It may mean that people receive different levels of faith. Or everyone may receive the same measure of faith. In either case, there is a responsibility to act in faith as fully as possible.
Key Terms: Does your audience know the following term found or alluded to in Romans 12:1-8?
Transformation —Paul speaks of radical inward change. The mind is key in the renewal process. The renewed mind is able to think, discern, and test what will please God instead of being deceived by sin.
1. What does it mean to present your body as a living sacrifice on a daily basis?
2. How does what we do everyday have an impact on our worship of God?
3. Unity in the body of Christ — What does that mean?
Evangelistic Preaching Tips
This week's reading affords the opportunity to underscore the "daily" aspect of Christian living. Being a daily, living sacrifice is an undeniable litmus test of Christian character development. Seize the opportunity to pierce the bubble of "casual Christianity" that grumbles before, during, and after attending its one-hour Sunday obligation.
Reading: Romans 12:1-8 [An Evangelistic Approach — To lead people to Christ]
Gifts for All. There are very few places where everyone receives a gift. The one exception is the body of Christ. God provides gifts to everyone in the body of Christ for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. The notion of an environment in which helping others is the norm is unheard of today. That is what makes Christianity so special. God's greatest gift is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. That great gift transforms us and creates us in God's own image. Come and receive all that God has for you.
Aim: Encourage pre-Christians to receive God's greatest gift — salvation.
Reading: Romans 12:1-8 [A Renewal Approach — To strengthen the faith of Christians]
What Can One Person Do? Paul notes that we all have different gifts from God. To those who have the gift of prophecy, Paul says, prophecy "in proportion to faith." The message is a challenge to Christians to share their spiritual gifts to the fullest extent. The purpose of sharing our spiritual gifts is to expand the Reign of God in the world. The only thing that prevents us from sharing our gifts to their fullest potential is doubt and excuse. Confront excuses with current positive examples. One person can make a difference.
Aim: Inspire Christians to exercise their spiritual gifts to make a positive difference in the world.
Reading: Romans 12:1-8 [A Reclamation Approach — To restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
A Daily Dose of Wonder. "You've gotta sacrifice everyday!" Words that a coach might say to inspire greatness. Words that a music teacher might say to a promising student. Words that Paul said to Christians. Following Jesus Christ is a journey full of wonder and awe — if we choose to practice our faith. The transformation into the image of God is wonderful. When practicing Christians come together to worship God, the experience is indescribable. Bored by "occasional Christianity"? Try a daily dose of wonder.
Aim: Encourage de-churched persons to practice Christianity daily.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response
Gifts for All. Make a general appeal for salvation.
What Can One Person Do? Invite people to brainstorm about one thing that they could do to make a difference in another person's life. Encourage them to write down their ideas, share them with someone, and set a timeframe in which to begin.
A Daily Dose of Wonder. Provide a blank monthly calendar page. Invite people to keep a month-long spiritual checklist. People should write down one thing that they would begin doing as a daily "sacrifice" before God. Consider the following:
1. Monitor personal behavior. Celebrate Christian conduct. Repent from unseemly behavior.
2. Look for opportunities to "love your neighbor."
3. Increase your daily prayer life.
4. Sacrifice time or money normally spent on yourself to aid someone in need.
Provide Opportunities for Follow Up
Encourage those who participate in making a difference or keeping a month-long spiritual checklist to share the results of their efforts with others.
Resources for Romans
- The New Interpreter's Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes: Volume X — Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. Abingdon Press.
- The Message of Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott
- Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by F. F. Bruce
- Romans: A Shorter Commentary [ABRIDGED] by C. E. B. Cranfield
Follow Up Resource Available in pdf
Small Groups & Accountability: The Wesleyan Way of Christian Formation, by Steven W. Manskar, Director of Accountable Discipleship, Discipleship Ministries
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith