Introduction to Romans Chapter 12
The doctrines concerning predestination, justification, &c. being established, the duties of religion are built upon them, and enforced by them in this and the following chapters. The apostle first exhorts all the members of the church in common to a regard to the worship of God, in opposition to the things of the world; and then the officers of the church particularly, to the discharge of their duty; and next all of them, both officers and members, to the performance of various duties respecting God, themselves, one another, and the men of the world. The duty of attending public worship is first mentioned, signified by a presentation of their bodies to the Lord, Romans 12:1, to which they are moved, partly by the plenteous mercy and goodness of God to them; and partly by the acceptableness of it to God; as also by the reasonableness of the thing: then follows a dehortation from conformity to the world, the men and manners of it, in superstition and will worship, or in acts of immorality, Romans 12:2, and also an exhortation to a different course of life, in seeking to please God; which is proposed upon a principle of grace in them, being renewed in the Spirit of their mind; and with this end and view, that they might the better prove, try, and discern, and come at, a greater knowledge of the mind and will of God: and whereas gifts are apt to swell men with pride and vanity, such as qualify men to bear any office in the church, the apostle cautions against this spirit and conduct, and exhorts to sobriety and humility; by observing, that what gifts they have, are such that God has given them, and which they have not of themselves; and what they have is only in part and in measure, some one and some another; and none have all gifts, Romans 12:3, this he illustrates,
Romans 12:4, by an human body and the members of it, which being many, have not the same office, but some one and some another; which he accommodates to the body of Christ the church, Romans 12:5, which though but one in Christ, has many members; and these are members one of another, and are designed mutually to serve and help each other, for which the gifts among them were bestowed: and then the apostle proceeds to take notice of the particular officers in the church, and exhorts them to the function of their offices, according to their different gifts; as, first, the preacher to preach according to the rule of faith, and the measure of gifts bestowed,
Romans 12:6, and then the deacon, the other officer, to attend to his deaconship, Romans 12:7, and inasmuch as these officers, according to their different gifts, may be distinguished, some having a talent for stating, explaining, and defending doctrines, and may be called doctors, or teachers, let them attend to the doctrinal part of the word; and others having a talent in the practical way of preaching, whether by way of exhortation or comfort, and may be called exhorters or comforters, let them attend to that branch of the ministry, Romans 12:8, and as for the deacon, the performance of his office, whether it be by distributing to the poor, let him do it impartially and faithfully; or by assisting in the government of the church, let it be done with all diligence; or by showing mercy to the poor in distress, besides what they usually receive, let it be done with a cheerful countenance: next follow various duties which are mentioned, not in an exact order or method, but may be reduced to these heads; such as concern God, an unfeigned love of him, abhorrence of all evil, and a close attachment to whatsoever is good, Romans 12:9, and also the worship of him, which is to be performed with diligence and fervency, Romans 12:11, the exercise of the grace of hope with joy, patience in the midst of tribulations, and perseverance in prayer, Romans 12:12, then such duties as concern one another, as Christians and brethren in a church relation; as to exercise an affectionate brotherly love to each other, and to honour one another; and even to give each other the preference, who may be equal or superior, both in spiritual gifts, and in temporal things,
Romans 12:10, and with respect to poor saints, to communicate cheerfully to their necessities; and with respect to strangers, to entertain them hospitably, Romans 12:13, and as to every member, whether in prosperous or adverse circumstances, to bear a part with them, rejoicing with the one, weeping with the other, Romans 12:15, and to behave with humility, modesty, and sobriety, towards all,
Romans 12:16, and next such duties as concern the men of the world, particularly to bless, and not curse persecutors, Romans 12:14, not to retaliate evil for evil, but to do everything that is of good report in the sight of men, Romans 12:17, to study, if possible, to live peaceably with all men, Romans 12:18, to bridle passion and refrain from wrath, and not seek private revenge, but leave it with the Lord to take vengeance, Romans 12:19, on the other hand, to he kind and beneficent to enemies, by giving them food and drink when hungry and thirsty, expressed in the words of Solomon, Proverbs 25:21, the reasons for which are, because hereby an enemy may be wrought upon, and be brought either to shame or repentance, and become a friend,
Romans 12:20, and because by doing otherwise, resenting and returning the evil, a man is conquered by it; whereas, by the other method, the enemy is conquered by good, Romans 12:21, and it is much more commendable and honourable to be a conqueror, than to be conquered.