The freedom God has purchased for us through his Son is a precious gift, but it is a freedom to live as God wants, not as we want. Our freedom is wonderful, but love is even greater. In our exercise of the freedom we have in Christ, it must be expressed in such a way that does not bring spiritual harm to another believer.
Paul supplies a lengthy example of what it means in practice to walk according to love as he deals with a specific situation in the Christian community in Rome. His concern is not who is right or wrong, but rather how they are treating each other. Even though the issue they are fighting over has no impact on the gospel, Paul brings the gospel into play as he points to the truth of the cross, the resurrection and the return of Christ.
Our obligation to love one another is a debt that can never be repaid. It always remains outstanding. We can never love enough. For loving one another fulfills the law, but does not replace the law. Love and law need each other. As Love needs law for its direction, so law needs love for its inspiration. We as Christians must understand the times that we are in and live our lives according as we walk in the light and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
While God calls us to live out His kingdom values in the midst of the world, we must also recognize that God has not abandoned this world. He continues to work in it by His common grace. To turn our backs on everything associated with this world might be turn our backs on some things that God intents to use for our good. Paul is going to teach us that government is one means that God is using to right wrongs and punish evil. Christians need to recognize government as one part of this world that we should uphold.
When we are moved by the mercies of God, and when our minds have been renewed to grasp God’s will, all our relationships become transformed. Not only do we offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices, and develop a sensible self-image in Christ, we love one another in the Christian community, and serve our enemies.
As a renewed mind starts with God and how we think about God. Paul continues to show us, as our thinking of God starts to change. We need to change our thinking in regards to ourselves. We can only view ourselves accurately in light of who we are in Christ. This process of a transformed life by the renewing of our minds should always be in the context of community with one another.
The Gospel not only saves us from sin and God’s wrath, but also transform us into the image of Christ. There is no greater incentive to holy living than contemplation of the mercies of God. Our response to God’s grace is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We can carry out the sweeping demand to offer ourselves as living sacrifice through the renewing of our mind that leads to a transformed life.
For eleven chapters Paul has given us a comprehensive account of the gospel. In chapter 12, Paul is finally going to turn his attention to the practical implications of the gospel. Yet before Paul wraps up chapter 11 and moves on to chapter 12, he stops and breaks out in a hymn of praise. We learn that good theology (belief about God) and doxology (worship of God) should never be separated.
Paul has gone to great lengths to argue that there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in sin or in salvation. As both Jew and Gentile have been together in the prison of their disobedience, so they will be together in the freedom of God’s mercy. Paul anticipates a future for Israel, not as a nation but as a restored people of God in Christ through faith.
The preaching of the gospel has divide Israel into two groups: a minority (the “remnant”), who have obtained salvation, and the majority, who have been hardened. Paul now asks whether this situation is permanent. God’s rejection of Israel is not his last word. He has brought about that rejection in order to further his plan for salvation history. This plan initially is bringing salvation to the Gentiles, but it ultimately is intended to “bounce back” and benefit Israel as well.
God has not rejected Israel. For in his election of Israel, God has chosen individuals within Israel. He has reserved a remnant for Himself. Paul makes a beautiful connection between God’s election and God’s grace. Both from a human perspective is unfair but from a God perspective, it is undeserving. It is God freely acting and choosing.
God has sent a constant stream of prophets and apostles proclaiming God’s purpose and inviting Israel to respond. Yet, Israel failed to believe, as they heard and understood the message. In God’s grace, He has made himself known to people who were not looking or asking for Him.
Israel in their false pursuit was so busy to obtain a righteousness that was based on works in upholding the demands of the law that they failed to see a righteousness that was freely offered to them by faith in the person and work of Christ. Yet God has made this righteousness readily available to all. One does not have to ascend into heaven to obtain it, not does one have to go down into the abyss to obtain it. It is near us, it is in our mouths and hearts.
God is at work in history to create a people for himself, by calling Jews and Gentiles to himself. We never will fully understand the ways of God in moving history along to its intended goal, but we can trust that God is just because He acts for His glory and God is free to use His creatures as He wills.
From the beginning of the letter to the Church in Rome, Paul wanted to prove that the gospel of God is good news sent by the God of the Old Testament, and thus good news that was promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, for Paul there can be no good news in Christ unless what God has done in Christ is part of one master plan that the Old Testament reveals to us. It is for this reason that Paul talks about Israel’s role in light of the good news of Christ.
Christians are not guaranteed immunity to temptation, tragedy, difficulty or even suffering, we are promised victory over them. God’s pledge is not that suffering will never afflict us, but that it will never separate us from His love. We can celebrate the security we have in Christ, because God has worked for us in Christ and God’s love for us in Christ.
In our present time of waiting and expecting suffering, hoping for future glory, God provides for all that we need in our time of waiting. God has acted and it assures us that God has a plan that He is unfolding, a plan that will provide fully for our future glory. Our assurance of the gospel is that God is sovereign in saving sinners.
The future glory is the climax in God’s plan both for his people and for his creation. Since we have not reached that climax, we must eagerly and patiently wait for it. We learn that the gospel is both personal and cosmic. It is important that our understanding of the gospel take the shape of the Scriptures epic vision of God’s redemptive plan.
God has made us His children through the work of His Spirit. As a result, we rejoice now in being able to call God “Father.” However, we also rejoice in knowing that God, having adopted us, has also made us His heirs. We can therefore look forward to the future with confidence.
We are encouraged by being reminded of all that God has done for us, and all that God will do for us. We are secure in Him and have a certain hope for the future. Yet our security must not breed complacency. We must not sit back and rest, thinking that God has taken care of it all. While we can proclaim the “life” that the Spirit has won for us, we will never experience that life unless we are growing in holiness.