To the Romans 12:1-21
brothers: In some contexts, a male Christian believer is called “a brother” and a female, “a sister.” (1Co 7:14, 15) In this and other contexts, however, the Bible uses the term “brothers” to refer to both males and females. The term “brothers” was an accepted way of greeting groups that included both genders. (Ac 1:15; 1Th 1:4) The term “brothers” is used in this sense in most of the inspired Christian letters. In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the term “brothers” several times when addressing fellow Christians in general.—Ro 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 15:14, 30; 16:17.
Therefore: Paul apparently uses this expression to link what he discussed in the preceding part of his letter with what he is about to say. In effect, he is saying: “In view of what I just explained to you, I appeal to you to do what I will tell you next.” Paul had discussed the opportunity open to both Jews and Gentiles to be declared righteous before God by faith, not by works, and to be corulers with Christ. (Ro 1:16; 3:20-24; 11:13-36) Beginning in chapter 12, Paul urges Christians to be thankful and to demonstrate their faith and gratitude by obeying God and by living a life of self-sacrifice.
brothers: See study note on Ro 1:13.
present your bodies: Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites slaughtered animals and presented these dead animals as sacrifices. Such sacrifices could be offered only once. In contrast, a Christian continually presents his body, his whole being, as a living sacrifice. This “sacrifice” includes the person’s mind, heart, and strength—all his faculties. It is an act of total dedication involving every aspect of his life. Paul adds that a Christian’s sacrifice of himself must be holy and acceptable to God. This may allude to the fact that Israelites were never to offer unacceptable animal sacrifices, such as lame or deformed animals. (Le 22:19, 20; De 15:21; Mal 1:8, 13) Likewise, Christians must live a clean life in harmony with what God approves in order for their sacrifices to be acceptable.
a sacred service: Or “a worship.” The Greek word used here is la·treiʹa and refers to acts of worship. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this noun is sometimes used in connection with the Jewish system of worship based on the Mosaic Law. (Ro 9:4; Heb 9:1, 6) However, here Paul uses it in connection with Christian worship. The related Greek verb la·treuʹo (“to render sacred service”) is used both with regard to worship according to the Mosaic Law (Lu 2:37; Heb 8:5; 9:9) and Christian worship (Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; Re 7:15). At Ro 1:9, Paul showed that an important feature of his sacred service was “in connection with the good news about [God’s] Son,” that is, the preaching of this good news.
with your power of reason: The expression “power of reason” is translated from the Greek word lo·gi·kosʹ. In this context, it conveys the idea of sacred service rendered in a “logical,” “rational,” or “intelligent,” manner. One lexicon defines it as “pert[aining] to being carefully thought through, thoughtful.” Christians are often called on to weigh Bible principles carefully. They need to understand how Bible principles relate to one another and to decisions under consideration. They can use their God-given power of reason, or thinking abilities, to make balanced decisions that will have Jehovah’s approval and blessing. This way of worship was a change for many Jews who had become Christians. They had previously lived their life following the many rules dictated by tradition.
stop being molded: The Greek word used here denotes “to form or shape according to a pattern or mold.” Paul addresses his fellow anointed Christians using a Greek verb tense that suggests stopping an action already in progress. The wording implies that some in the Rome congregation were still being influenced by that system of things. (Ro 1:7) For the Christians in Rome at that time, about 56 C.E., the system of things involved the standards, customs, manners, and styles that characterized the Roman world.—See study note on this system of things in this verse.
this system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. In this context, it refers to the standards, practices, manners, customs, ways, outlook, styles, and other features characterizing any given time period.—See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”
be transformed by making your mind over: The Greek verb for “be transformed” is me·ta·mor·phoʹo. (Many languages have the term “metamorphosis,” which is derived from this Greek word.) The Greek word for “mind” used here basically denotes the capacity to think, but it can also refer to a person’s way of thinking or his attitude. The expression “making [the] mind over” indicates that a person changes his mental inclinations, innermost attitudes, and feelings. The extent of this change is illustrated by the use of the verb here rendered “be transformed.” The same verb is used at Mt 17:2 and Mr 9:2, where it says that Jesus “was transfigured.” (See study note on Mt 17:2.) This transfiguration was not a superficial change. Rather, it was a complete change in Jesus to the extent that he, the then future King of “the Kingdom of God,” could be described as “already having come in power.” (Mr 9:1, 2) This Greek word is also used at 2Co 3:18 regarding the spiritual transformation of anointed Christians. So when urging Christians to make their minds over, Paul was highlighting a continual inner transformation that would result in a completely new way of thinking that would be in harmony with God’s thoughts.
prove to yourselves: The Greek term used here, do·ki·maʹzo, carries the sense of “proving by testing,” often with a positive outcome. In fact, the term is rendered “approve” in some contexts. (Ro 2:18; 1Co 11:28) Some translations render it “verify; discern.” So Paul was not advising blind faith or skepticism. Rather, he was encouraging Christians to test, in a positive way, God’s requirements in order to understand them, to apply them, and to experience their goodness. The Christian thus proves to himself that doing the “will of God” is the good and perfect way.
he was transfigured: Or “he was transformed; his appearance was changed.” The same Greek verb (me·ta·mor·phoʹo) occurs at Ro 12:2.
encourages: Or “exhorts.” The Greek word pa·ra·ka·leʹo literally means “to call to one’s side.” It is broad in meaning and may convey the idea “to encourage” (Ac 11:23; 14:22; 15:32; 1Th 5:11; Heb 10:25); “to comfort” (2Co 1:4; 2:7; 7:6; 2Th 2:17); and in some contexts “to urge strongly; to exhort” (Ac 2:40; Ro 15:30; 1Co 1:10; Php 4:2; 1Th 5:14; 2Ti 4:2; Tit 1:9, ftn.). The close relationship between exhortation, comfort, and encouragement would indicate that a Christian should never exhort someone in a harsh or unkind way.
encouragement: Or “exhortation.” The Greek noun pa·raʹkle·sis, literally “a calling to one’s side,” often conveys the meaning “encouragement” (Ac 13:15; Php 2:1) or “comfort” (Ro 15:4; 2Co 1:3, 4; 2Th 2:16). As the alternative rendering indicates, this term and the related verb pa·ra·ka·leʹo, used in this verse, can also convey the idea of “exhortation,” and it is in some contexts rendered that way in the main text. (1Th 2:3; 1Ti 4:13; Heb 12:5) The fact that these Greek terms can convey all three meanings—exhortation, comfort, and encouragement—would indicate that a Christian should never exhort someone in a harsh or unkind way.
distributes: Or “contributes.” The Greek verb used here has also been rendered “impart” (Ro 1:11; 1Th 2:8) and “share” (Lu 3:11; Eph 4:28).
the one who presides: Or “the one who takes the lead.” The Greek word pro·iʹste·mi literally means “to stand before (in front of)” in the sense of leading, conducting, directing, showing an interest in, and caring for others.
Abhor: The Greek term a·po·sty·geʹo occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It is the intensive form of a Greek verb meaning “to hate” and thus means “to hate intensely (strongly).” This term expresses a strong feeling of horror and repulsion.
cling to: The Greek verb literally meaning “to glue” is here used figuratively. A Christian who has genuine love is so firmly glued, or attached, to what is good that it becomes an inseparable part of his personality. The same Greek word is used to describe the strong bond that is to unite a husband and wife.—See study note on Mt 19:5.
stick to: The Greek verb used here literally means “to glue; to join (bind) closely together; to cling to.” Here it is used figuratively to describe the bond that is to unite man and wife as if with glue.
brotherly love: The Greek term phi·la·del·phiʹa literally means “affection for a brother.” Paul uses it three times—at Ro 12:10, at 1Th 4:9, and at Heb 13:1. Peter uses this term three times in his letters (once at 1Pe 1:22 and twice at 2Pe 1:7), where it is rendered “brotherly affection.” The use of this term by Paul and Peter indicates that relationships among Christians should be as close, strong, and warm as in a natural family.
have tender affection: The Greek word used here, phi·loʹstor·gos, is a compound word composed of two terms that denote love and affection. The root word sterʹgo denotes a natural affection, as between family members. The second term is related to phiʹlos, a close friend. (Joh 15:13-15) The combination of these terms denotes a strong affection as shown in a family. In fact, both words used in this context (phi·la·del·phiʹa, rendered “brotherly love,” and phi·loʹstor·gos, rendered “tender affection”) refer to affection that should naturally be shown among family members. Such is the level of love and affection that Paul is urging fellow Christians to show toward one another.—See study note on brotherly love in this verse.
take the lead: Or “take the initiative.” The Greek word pro·e·geʹo·mai appears only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It literally means “to go before,” and in this context, it denotes an eagerness to show honor to others. In first-century Greek, Jewish, and Roman society, people made every effort to gain honor for themselves. (Lu 20:46) Here Paul expresses a contrary view, namely, that Christians should make every effort to show honor and respect for others. In fact, some suggest that this expression implies trying to outdo one another in showing honor to others.
the spirit impelled him to go: Or “the active force moved him to go.” The Greek word pneuʹma here refers to God’s spirit, which can act as a driving force, moving and impelling a person to do things in accord with God’s will.—Lu 4:1; see Glossary, “Spirit.”
slave: The Greek verb refers to working as a slave, that is, someone owned by only one master. Jesus was here stating that a Christian cannot give God the exclusive devotion that He deserves and at the same time be devoted to gathering material possessions.
Be industrious: Or “Be diligent.” The Greek spou·deʹ used here literally means “swiftness of movement or action; haste; speed.” (Lu 1:39) However, in many contexts, it denotes an “earnest commitment in discharging an obligation; eagerness; earnestness; willingness; zeal.” This Greek word appears at Ro 12:8 in the expression “let him do it diligently.” It is rendered “industriousness” at Heb 6:11 and “earnest effort” at 2Pe 1:5. The related verb spou·daʹzo has been rendered “be . . . diligent” (2Pe 1:10) and “do your utmost” (2Ti 2:15; 4:9, 21; 2Pe 3:14).
Be aglow with the spirit: The Greek word rendered “aglow” literally means “to boil.” Here it is used metaphorically to convey the idea of one overflowing with or radiating zeal and enthusiasm as a result of the influence of God’s “spirit” (Greek, pneuʹma), or active force. This spirit can motivate and energize a person to do things in accord with Jehovah’s will. (See study note on Mr 1:12.) Being “aglow” with God’s holy spirit would also affect the impelling force that issues from a person’s figurative heart, filling him with zeal and enthusiasm for what is right. While some feel that this Greek expression is simply an idiom for great eagerness and enthusiasm, the rendering in the main text favors the idea that “the spirit” here is God’s holy spirit.—For a discussion of some principles of Bible translation exemplified by the rendering of the Greek phrase discussed here, see App. A1.
Slave for: Or “Serve.” The Greek verb (dou·leuʹo) used here refers to working as a slave, that is, someone owned by and taking orders from a master. The same Greek verb appears at Mt 6:24 (see study note), where Jesus explains that a Christian cannot slave for both God and Riches. In the Septuagint, this verb is sometimes used to render similar Hebrew exhortations to “serve Jehovah,” where the Tetragrammaton appears in the original Hebrew text.—1Sa 12:20; Ps 2:11; 100:2 (99:2, LXX); 102:22 (101:23, LXX).
Jehovah: Available Greek manuscripts read “for the Lord” (toi Ky·riʹoi) here, but as explained in App. C, there are good reasons to believe that the divine name was originally used in this verse and later replaced by the title Lord. Therefore, the name Jehovah is used in the main text.—See App. C3 introduction; Ro 12:11.
Follow the course of hospitality: The Greek term for “to follow the course of” could literally be rendered “to hasten; to run.” Paul here uses the term to encourage Christians to do more than show hospitality when called on to do so. Rather, he urges them to pursue hospitality, to take the initiative to show this quality regularly. The Greek word for “hospitality,” phi·lo·xe·niʹa, literally means “love of (fondness for) strangers.” This would indicate that hospitality should be extended beyond one’s circle of close friends. Paul also uses this term at Heb 13:2, apparently alluding to accounts in Genesis chapters 18 and 19 about Abraham and Lot. When these men showed hospitality toward strangers, it resulted in their unknowingly entertaining angels. At Ge 18:1-8, Abraham is described as running and hurrying to take care of his guests. The related adjective phi·loʹxe·nos occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures in other contexts where showing hospitality is encouraged.—1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:8; 1Pe 4:9.
from the viewpoint of all men: Or “in the sight (eyes) of all people.” Here the Greek word anʹthro·pos (man; human) refers to both men and women.
yield place to the wrath: That is, to God’s wrath, according to the context. Paul goes on to quote God’s words in Deuteronomy: “Vengeance is mine, and retribution.” (De 32:19-35) Although the Greek text at Ro 12:19 does not include the expression “of God,” many Bible translators insert it in order to convey the correct idea. So the sense of the verse seems to be: ‘Leave wrath to God. Let him determine when and on whom vengeance is to be brought.’ This admonition agrees with Scriptural warnings to avoid giving vent to anger. (Ps 37:8; Ec 7:9; Mt 5:22; Ga 5:19, 20; Eph 4:31; Jas 1:19) The need to control one’s anger is repeatedly emphasized in the book of Proverbs.—Pr 12:16; 14:17, 29; 15:1; 16:32; 17:14; 19:11, 19; 22:24; 25:28; 29:22.
says Jehovah: Paul is quoting from De 32:35, and the context makes it clear that the words Paul quotes were spoken by Jehovah.—De 31:16, 19, 22, 30; 32:19-34; compare study note on Mt 1:22; see App. C1 and C3 introduction; Ro 12:19.
Jehovah: The quotation that immediately follows in verse 23 is taken from Isa 7:14, where Jehovah is said to be the one giving the sign. (See App. C3 introduction; Mt 1:22.) This is Matthew’s first quote from the Hebrew Scriptures.
if your enemy is hungry: Paul here continues his discussion by quoting from Pr 25:21, 22.
heap fiery coals on his head: This expression is part of wording that Paul draws from Pr 25:21, 22. The proverb that Paul points to as well as his application of it apparently refers to an ancient method used for smelting metal ores. Ore was heated on a bed of coals, and some coals were also heaped on top of the ore. This process melted the ore and caused the pure metal to separate from any impurities. Likewise, showing kindness even toward hostile individuals will tend to soften their attitude and bring out the good in them. This counsel to do good to one’s enemies finds many parallels in the Scriptures. (Ex 23:4, 5; Mt 5:44, 45; Lu 6:27; Ro 12:14) This understanding is further supported by the context of the proverb Paul quoted from, which adds that “Jehovah will reward” the one acting in this way. (Pr 25:22; ftn.) Scholars have different views on the meaning of this metaphor. However, considering the context of Romans, Paul clearly did not mean that the illustrative coals were to inflict punishment on or shame an opposer.