WE ARE CALLED TO SERVE GOD THROUGH SERVING IN HIS BODY
Frank Thielman: Paul exhorts his readers to make decisions about their day-to-day conduct on the basis of God’s transformation of their minds through the gospel (Rom 12:1–2). They should carry out their roles within the community of believers (12:3–8, 10, 13a, 16) and among their unbelieving neighbors (12:9, 11–12, 13b, 14–15, 17–21) with a humility and love that reflects God’s sincere and unconditional love for them. They should not respond to the marginalization they are experiencing within their society with an attitude of revenge seeking and rebellion. Rather, they should respond with love, recognizing that God is in control of events around them even when his ways are difficult to discern. One day his justice would obviously prevail. In the way they handle social tensions within their own believing community, they should work for peace and they should build up one another, accepting one another as Christ accepted them (14:1–15:13). . .
Main Idea: Through the gospel God has mercifully transformed believers from enemies in rebellion against him into sons and daughters at peace with him. In light of this transformation, the thinking and behavior of God’s people stands in stark contrast to the world in which they live their day-to-day lives. Each member of the believing community now pursues whatever role God has given him or her with humility and enthusiasm. This humble service to others is one of the primary ways in which believers stand apart from the larger unbelieving society in which they live.
John MacArthur: Most Christians never really come to that place fully. They flirt with the world, they flirt with the flesh. They flirt with their own personal indulgences and desires. They become victims of the philosophy and psychology of the world around them. They buy into the world’s bag. They entertain themselves with the world’s mode of entertainment. They think along the lines the world thinks. And so they never really come to the place of total commitment that is discussed in these two verses and therefore they forfeit the fullness of the blessing that God would have for them. . .
First of all, we offer ourselves in the single supreme act of worship that any believer can do as a living sacrifice, offering to the Lord our whole soul, body, mind and will, as we discussed in our look at verses 1 and 2. Now this is the basic requirement that God lays down for every believer. It’s no different for you than it is for me. We’re all in the same place when it comes to Romans 12:1 and 2. God wants our life, as they sung so beautifully a moment ago, offered as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him, which is the basic act of spiritual worship. That is the entrance into usefulness. That’s where we begin to be used by God. It is worship, the offering of ourselves, then it is service. That’s the divine order.
Now when it comes to this service, as we read in the text from verses 3 through 5, we want to recognize that though there is unity at the level of commitment, there is tremendous diversity at the level of service. And verse 4 and 5 emphasizes that. Like a body that has many members, so the body of Christ has many members, and verse 6, they have differing gifts. We all stand on the same common ground in the unity of commitment. But from there on out there is tremendous diversity, tremendous diversity. We are as diverse in terms of our service as we are diverse in terms of our own personal identity. There are no two Christians alike. There are no two of us who can serve the Lord alike. There’s tremendous distinction and distinctiveness in all of us.
I. (:1-2) SERVING GOD –
OFFERING OURSELVES AS LIVING SACRIFICES PLEASES GOD AND ENABLE US TO EXPERIENCE HIS PERFECT WILL
Paul Fink [Grace Seminary Notes]: Beginning with Romans 12:1-2, Paul begins a new division of his epistle, Application (12:1 – 15:13) in which he will show how the righteousness of God is to be worked out in the daily lives of those who possess the righteousness of God. At this point Paul moves from the doctrinal portion of the book (chapters 1-11) to the practical portion (chapters 12-16). In Romans 12:1-2 Paul sets forth the basic principle of God’s righteousness at work in the believer’s life; then he will turn (12:3 – 15:13) to show specific applications of God’s righteousness at work in the believer’s life. He will show how the righteousness of God should work in the believer’s life in relationship to:
- The local church, 12:3-21;
- The state, 13:1-14;
- and doubtful things (14:1 – 15:13).
Thus, Romans 12:1-2 can be understood as introducing each of these sections and rightfully should be read as an introduction to each of them.
Douglas Moo: Romans 12:1–2 is one of the best-known passages in the Bible—and deservedly so, for we find here a succinct description of the essence of the believer’s response to God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It functions as the heading for all the specifics Paul will unpack in the subsequent chapters. Our response is rooted in God’s grace. The NIV’s “God’s mercy” conceals the fact that the Greek word for “mercy” is in the plural (“mercies”). Paul is reminding us of the many displays of God’s mercy he has touched on in chapters 1–11. “In view of” probably modifies “urge”; Paul exhorts us in light of the manifold mercy of God. Our obedience is the product of what God has done in our lives, not something we can manufacture on our own.
R. Kent Hughes: Elements of Commitment
- The Basis of Commitment ( 1a)
- The Character of Commitment ( 1b)
- The Demands of Commitment ( 2a)
- The Effects of Commitment ( 2b)
A. (:1a) Our Motivation to Serve God
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,”
McClain: There are three therefores in Romans and they mark the three great divisions in the book.
Calvin: An inference from the entire didactic section preceding. . . Paul here lays down the principle from which all the parts of holiness flow – we are redeemed by the Lord which leads to our consecration.
Everett Harrison: Whereas the heathen are prone to sacrifice in order to obtain mercy, biblical faith teaches that the divine mercy provides the basis for sacrifice as the fitting response.
B. (:1b) Our Dedication to Serve God – Characterized by:
“to present your bodies”
Thomas Schreiner: The aorist form of the infinitive is occasionally adduced to support the idea that total commitment to God is a definitive once-for-all act that should never be repeated, or is the process by which one attains entire sanctification (see the helpful article by Maddox 1981; cf. D. C. Peterson 1993: 281). This is a misreading of the aorist tense, which does not inherently denote once-for-all action. Surprisingly, Jewett (2007: 728–29) continues to promote such a reading. Whether the aorist signifies an action that occurs only once is indicated by other contextual factors (see Stagg 1972). No such contextual factors are present here. In verse 2 the two imperatives, συσχηματίζεσθε (syschēmatizesthe, be conformed) and μεταμορφοῦσθε (metamorphousthe, be transformed), are both present tense, which cautions against undue emphasis on the aorist tense in verse 1. . .
the word “bodies” here refers to the whole person and stresses that consecration to God involves the whole person. One cannot consign dedication to God to the spirit and neglect the body. Genuine commitment to God embraces every area of life and includes the body in all of its particularity and concreteness.
Steven Cole: “Present” is in the aorist tense, which leads some to emphasize that this is a once and for all decision. But that is a simplistic understanding of the Greek aorist tense, which focuses on an action as a whole, not necessarily as a point in time. Besides, as some wag has pointed out, living sacrifices have a way of crawling off the altar. So you’ve got to keep renewing this commitment. You present all of yourself that you’re aware of to all of God that you know. But as you grow in the Christian life, you become aware of areas in your life that are not yielded to God. So you put those things on the altar. You become aware of more about the lordship of Christ than you knew. So you yield again and again to Him. So there is a first time when you present your entire life to the Lord to do whatever He wants you to do. But it’s also progressive as you grow to understand more about yourself and God.
“a living and holy sacrifice,”
R. Kent Hughes: The totality of the commitment comes dramatically to us through the language of sacriﬁce. The Greek translated “to present” is a technical term used for the ritual presentation of a sacriﬁce. “Your bodies,” referring to more than skin and bones, signiﬁes everything we are—our totality. “Sacriﬁce” refers to the holocaust in which the offering is totally consumed. Old Testament sacriﬁces pervade the picture—total sacriﬁce. Moreover, this sacriﬁce is described as “living . . . holy . . . acceptable.” The believer isn’t killed as the Old Testament sacriﬁces were, but remains alive. We are to be living sacriﬁces in the deep theological sense of “newness of life” (cf. 6:4). We are also to be “holy” in that we have renounced sin and are set apart to God. Finally, we are to be “acceptable” sacriﬁces not because we deserve to be accepted, but because the offerings are true to God’s speciﬁcations.
Douglas Moo: Paul probably wants us simply to contrast ourselves with the dead animal sacrifices of the Old Testament (see also John 6:51). But God demands sacrifices that are “holy,” that is, apart from profane matters and dedicated to his service.
Michael Bird: This sacrifice is described by three adjectives that should not be separated: “living,” “holy,” and “pleasing.” First, a “living sacrifice” is one that does not die by bloodletting, it is not burned up or consumed like regular sacrificial offerings, but its life continues to endure. So believers are living sacrifices in the specific sense that they have been crucified with Christ (6:6) and live as slaves of righteousness leading to holiness (6:19).
Second, “holy” denotes something set apart and dedicated to God as opposed to something common or profane. The Roman believers are “called holy” (1:7) because of the Holy Spirit “given” to them (5:5), who has “sanctified” them (15:16), and who empowers them for righteousness, joy, hope, peace (14:17; 15:13).
Third, “pleasing to God” expresses the result of sacrifices that are “living” and “holy,” in that they receive divine favor (see Phil 4:18). A good commentary on this language occurs in Romans 15:16, where Paul describes the goal of his apostolic ministry as to make the Gentiles “become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Put in that light, Sarah Whittle is correct that “this is more than a contextualising of Greco-Roman sacrifice or a ‘replacement’ for Israel’s cult. Rather, this is fulfilment language, and these cultic motifs from Israel’s Scripture help Paul to develop the role and status of the Gentiles in Israel’s salvation history.”
“acceptable to God,”
The Lord desires spiritual sacrifices that are valuable in His eyes.
Definition of Sacrifice = to suffer the loss of something; give something up; a surrender of something for the sake of something else; offering to God something precious
- Examples of Worthless Sacrifices = have no value in the eyes of the Lord; based on human initiative
- Cain failed in this area ( 4:3-8); contrast Heb. 11:4
- Adab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, offered strange fire and were judged ( 3:4)
- Empty ritual without heartfelt repentance and obedience (Psalm 51:16-17; Prov. 21:3);
- Annas and Sapphira (Acts 5)
- Characteristics of Worthy Sacrifices
- Must be associated with obedience and faith in God’s Word rather than rebellion and rejection of God’s Word
- 1 Sam. 15:22-23
- Attitude of reverence and fear of the Lord; not flippant or overly casual
- Must be sincere and from the heart; not hypocritical ( 29:13)
- Must be purposeful and voluntary and cheerful – not out of sense of grudging obligation (2 Cor. 9:7)
- Must be designed to please God rather than to impress men ( 6:1)
- Must be from a motivation of Thanks giving rather than trying to earn God’s favor (Psalm 50:14, 23; Heb. 13:15)
- Evaluating how Precious and Costly and Difficult and Heroic is the sacrifice
- John 3:16
- 1 Pet. 1:18-19
- Mark 12:41-44
- 2 Sam. 23:13-17
- Consistency with a Proper Understanding of How to Worship God
“which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Frank Thielman: This is “reasonable worship” because it makes sense—it matches God’s own merciful character as it is displayed in the good news that God has redeemed his people from slavery to sin.
Thomas Schreiner: All that needs to be said is that Paul used the term with the meaning “rational” or “reasonable,” as was common in the Greek language. His purpose in doing so was to emphasize that yielding one’s whole self to God is eminently reasonable. Since God has been so merciful, failure to dedicate one’s life to him is the height of folly and irrationality.
Douglas Moo: But when the background is considered, we think “informed” or “understanding” is the best single equivalent in English. We give ourselves to God as his sacrifices when we understand his grace and its place in our lives. We offer ourselves not ignorantly, like animals brought to slaughter, but intelligently and willingly. This is the worship that pleases God. . .
I am afraid that what passes for worship in some churches goes little beyond an emotional reaction to a certain form of music. Some writers of music and certain kinds of worship leaders know how to get people excited, but I am not always clear that they are getting people to worship. Emotions must, of course, play a role in worship. But it is both easy and tempting to focus too much on an emotional reaction to music, bypassing the mind entirely. Yet if I read Romans 12:1 rightly, this is not the kind of worship that truly pleases God. Worship that pleases him and that truly leaves its mark on a believer always engages the mind.
C. (:2a) Our Transformation to Serve God
- Avoid Conformation to This World
“And do not be conformed to this world,”
R. Kent Hughes: The painful truth is, such conformity is common to many of us to a greater extent than we like to acknowledge. Sometimes it is difﬁcult to know when we are conforming because there are many good things in the world. Moreover, we are not to write off our culture entirely. Yet we must think critically. As Harry Blamires says in The Christian Mind: “Because secularism is in the saddle, it follows that the Christian mind is suspicious of fashionable current conformities.”
We must be careful what we read and watch. We must not fear to challenge others’ presuppositions. Above all, we must not be afraid to be different.
- Pursue Mind Renewal Leading to Transformation
“but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”
Frank Thielman: The transformation Paul describes happens through a renewal of the way believers think about the world. This is the reverse of the process Paul had outlined in Romans 1:28 where human beings did not “deem it worthwhile” (ἐδοκίμασαν) to acknowledge God, and so God “handed them over to a worthless mind [ἀδόκιμον νοῦν].” A “worthless mind” is a mind unaffected by the transforming Spirit of God, a mind that may be able to acknowledge the goodness of God’s law (7:12, 16; cf. 1:32), but is unable to obey it because the flesh overpowers its will to do good (7:18–25). Now, however, the renewal of the mind results in believers “approving” (δοκιμάζειν) the will of God so that they are actually able to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God and couple the approval of God’s will with obedience. Paul does not mention the Spirit of God here, but he has already explained that this movement from acknowledging the good to actually doing it comes to believers through the transforming work of the Spirit (8:2–9, 12–13).
R. Kent Hughes: The language is graphic. “Transformed” sounds like “metamorphosed” in the original and is the word from which we get metamorphosis, the change from one form to another, as in the transformation of the tadpole to the frog or the caterpillar to the butterﬂy. But the full meaning is even richer, as the other three uses of the word in the New Testament indicate. In Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 it is used to describe the transﬁguration of Christ—when the Lord’s glorious inner essence was allowed to show through his body so that his face radiated like the sun and his clothing was white with light. We experience such transﬁguration in Christ. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 (using the very same word):
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
How does this happen? Again the language in Romans is most expressive, because our text says we are to “be transformed” (passive imperative). This must be done by someone or something else, which is of course the Holy Spirit. We are to submit to the Holy Spirit who brings about “the renewal of your mind.” We also understand from the present tense of the verb that this is a process, a gradual transformation. The Christian is to allow himself to be changed continually so that his life conforms more and more to that of Christ. Ultimately, as Romans 8:29 says, there will be the supreme metamorphosis when we will be transformed (summorphos) to the image of Christ in eternity.
Steven Cole: God does not change our basic personality type; rather He changes the sinful manifestations of our personality. Before he was converted, Paul was a hard-driving, everything-for-the-cause man. After he was saved, he was all out for the Lord. But he mellowed and became more gracious as he grew in the Lord. When Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, Paul wouldn’t consider giving him a second try. He and Barnabas had a fierce conflict and parted ways over the matter. But later in life, Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11), “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” God will use your personality, but He will sandpaper off your rough edges. Study the weaknesses that you are prone to, so that you can be on guard against them and work to overcome them.
D. (:2b) Our Goal to Serve God
- Ability to Discern God’s Will
“that you may prove what the will of God is,”
- Approval of What God Desires
“that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
John Toews: The reason for this active engagement in intellectual transformation is in order that you may test what is the will of God, the good, well-pleasing, and complete. The word for test means to determine what is valid or genuine, to distinguish the authentic from the sham. Non-transformed Christians cannot discern or test the direction God wishes. The capacity for Christians to test or discern appropriate mental and moral judgment and action depends on not conforming but being transformed through the renewal of the mind. The will of God is defined as that which is good (what is intellectually and morally consistent with the righteousness of God), the well-pleasing (what is acceptable to God), and complete (what moves toward wholeness).
Kenneth Wuest translation: And stop assuming an outward expression that does not come from within you and is not representative of what you are in your inner being, but is patterned after this age; but change your outward expression to one that comes from within and is representative of your inner being, by the renewing of your mind, resulting in your putting to the test what is the will of God, the good and well-pleasing, and complete will, and having found that it meets specification, placing your approval upon it.
II. (:3-8) THROUGH SERVING IN HIS BODY –
AS MEMBERS OF THE SAME BODY WE ARE CALLED TO SERVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN OUR GIFTED ROLE
Thomas Schreiner: The structure of verses 3–8 itself is not too difficult to delineate. Paul begins with an exhortation not to succumb to pride when estimating oneself, warning them to think soberly and in accord with the measure of faith that has been apportioned to each person (v. 3). Verses 4–5 function as the basis (γάρ) for the exhortation in verse 3. The differences evident in the people of God are part of God’s design and are analogous to the unity and diversity of the human body. A human body could not function unless it were marked by diversity. Similarly, the disparate functions in the body of Christ do not threaten its unity but are essential to its very nature as a body. The third section of the text, verses 6–8, itemizes seven different gifts. The number seven does not symbolically represent completeness, nor are the full complement of gifts listed (cf. 1 Cor. 12:8–10, 28–30). Seven representative and vital gifts are named, but the emphasis falls on the manner in which the gifts should be exercised or the necessity to devote oneself to the gift that God has granted to one. When we examine these verses as a whole, it seems that the exercise of gifts should not be separated from the unity of the body. By emphasizing unity, Paul anticipates chapters 14 and 15, particularly the closing exhortation to both Jews and Gentiles in 15:7–13 (so Smiga 1991: 268–69).
James Dunn: Significantly, the first example Paul gives of living by immediacy of divinely given discernment is the mutuality of charismatic ministry within the body of Christ, the eschatological equivalent to the cultic assembly of Israel.
A. (:3) Transformed Thinking about Ourselves –
To Properly Balance Humility and Faith
- Perspective of Humility
a. Stated Negatively
“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you
not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think;”
Thomas Schreiner: Paul’s unique apostolic role and authority are a constant theme in his letters (e.g., Rom. 15:15–16; 1 Cor. 3:10; 15:9–10; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 3:2, 7–8; 1 Tim. 1:12). Here this theme has twofold significance.
- First, he is not merely passing along good advice or his personal opinions. The following exhortations derive from an authoritative apostolic messenger.
- Second, in subsequent verses Paul warns the Romans against pride and exhorts them to use their gifts appropriately. If anyone would be liable to pride, those designated as apostles would be prime candidates. Yet Paul is keenly aware that his apostolic office is a gift of grace and cannot be attributed to his own accomplishments.
By this point in Paul’s career, his faithfulness in fulfilling his apostolic calling was well known. In both respects, therefore, Paul models the exhortations that follow.
Griffith Thomas: Humility is the direct effect of consecration, because pride is, and ever has been, the great enemy of true righteousness.
b. Stated Postively
“but to think so as to have sound judgment,”
- Perspective of Faith
“as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Frank Thielman: The transformed minds of believers should produce in them a humility based on the knowledge that faith, and all that goes with it, are gifts of God. The faith God has given to each believer is sufficient to sustain that believer’s role in the community, and believers need to think clearly and realistically about their particular role.
Thomas Schreiner: I conclude, then, that Paul is speaking of the quantity of faith or trust that each believer possesses. Elsewhere Paul acknowledges that believers have different levels of faith (Rom. 14:1), and thus one cannot dismiss this idea as anti-Pauline. Cranfield objects that this interpretation would lead to the very pride warned against, since believers with a greater quantity of faith would surely feel superior to those having a lesser amount. Contrary to Cranfield, Paul does not avoid this problem by appealing to the concept of equality. What prevents pride from cropping up is a sober estimation of one’s faith, and this sober estimation is based on the truth that God apportioned to each one a measure of faith.
B. (:4-5) Transformed Thinking about Others –
To Promote Unity via Diversity in the Body
- (:4) Lesson of Unity via Diversity from Physical Body
“For just as we have many members in one body
and all the members do not have the same function,”
- (:5) Application of Unity via Diversity from Body of Christ
“so we, who are many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.”
Thomas Schreiner: Paul wanted to emphasize that the unity of the body is by definition characterized by diversity (Dunn 1988b: 725). Any notion that the unity of the body would lead to a flat kind of equality in which all the members had the same gifts or even the same amount of faith is excluded.
C. (:6-8) Transformed Thinking about Our Gifts –
To Exercise Our Unique Giftedness to Build Up the Body
- Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts in Accordance with God’s Grace
“And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let each exercise them accordingly:”
Frank Thielman: God’s grace has equipped people to help the whole body of believers in different ways, and believers should fill the role God has assigned them in a humble way, recognizing that these roles originate with God, not with their own ability or cleverness.
Michael Gorman: The seven gifts Paul enumerates in 12:6–8—the number seven probably being intentional and symbolic—are not meant to be an exhaustive but a significant representative list of the gifts of grace, suggesting that God provides all that the body needs:
- prophecy: speaking a specific, Spirit-inspired word to the assembly;
- ministry/service (diakonia): possibly referring to serving people’s material and physical needs;
- teaching: general instruction in the faith, but also analysis and critique of the unchristian habitus of this age/world;
- exhortation, or possibly encouragement (paraklēsis): probably meaning general or specific moral instruction, but possibly spiritual support;
- giving: providing financial support to the assembly or its members, or both;
- leading, or having authority: providing oversight for the life of the community; and
- compassion (lit. “practicing mercy”): what the church would later call the works of mercy, including visiting the sick and imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, and so on.
Grant Osborne: When studying this list of gifts, one might imagine the characteristics of the people who would have them.
- Prophets are often bold and articulate.
- Servers (those in ministry) are faithful and loyal.
- Teachers are clear thinkers.
- Encouragers know how to motivate others.
- Givers are generous and trusting.
- Leaders are good organizers and managers.
- Those who show mercy are caring people who are happy to give their time to others.
2. Proper Understanding of Spiritual Gifts and What is Required of Each
“if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;”
Frank Thielman: The gift of prophecy enabled people to encourage, edify, and comfort the church (1 Cor 14:3–4) and to speak so incisively to outsiders who were present that they might “worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor 14:24–25; cf. Acts 15:32). Prophets commissioned people for certain tasks (Acts 13:1–3; 1 Tim 4:14), predicted future events (Acts 11:27–30), and directed the church’s mission on the basis of this knowledge (Acts 21:10–11).
Thomas Schreiner: The gift of prophecy should not be equated with preaching or teaching. First Corinthians 14:29–33 suggests that prophets received spontaneous revelations that they proceeded to share with the congregation. The congregation or the other prophets were then called on to judge the validity of the prophetic utterances (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29–33; 1 Thess. 5:19–22). Instances of such spontaneous revelations are recorded in the prophecies of Agabus, who predicted that a famine would occur during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28), and he also prophesied that the Jews would bind Paul and deliver him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:10–11). It seems that prophecy is not only spontaneous in nature but is also directed to concrete situations, giving practical guidance in particular circumstances. The gift can’t be described as charismatic exegesis, nor is it equivalent with preaching and teaching, though it doesn’t follow from this that preaching and teaching were absent from prophecy (rightly Schnabel 2016: 601). Schnabel (2016: 602) gives seven features of prophecy:
(1) Prophecy is inspired by the Spirit and reveals God’s will and his divine plan. It may be spontaneous or may also involve prior reflection.1
(2) In contrast to tongues, prophetic speech is instantly comprehensible.
(3) Prophetic speech isn’t ecstatic. In other words, prophetic speech can be controlled.
(4) All believers should seek the gift of prophecy.
(5) Prophecy edifies and encourages the community (1 Cor. 14:3, 31).
(6) Prophetic speech may involve divine insight into a particular situation, speak to unbelievers, or foretell the future.
(7) Prophecies must be weighed and judged by the church (1 Cor. 14:29).
“if service, in his serving;”
Thomas Schreiner: Paul’s main point is that those who have such gifts should devote themselves to the gift that they have received. . . Paul makes these statements because discipline and perseverance are needed to use one’s gifts to the maximum benefit.
“or he who teaches, in his teaching;”
“or he who exhorts, in his exhortation;”
Thomas Schreiner: The perennially needed appeal to action, sacrifice, and overcoming what is sinful is likely given priority in paraklēsis. Teaching concentrates more on the content of the tradition, while exhortation summons others to actions and stirs them from lethargy.
“he who gives, with liberality;”
“he who leads, with diligence;”
g. Showing Mercy
“he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Thomas Schreiner: The gift of mercy is present when one has a special ministry to the sick, to those who are suffering emotionally, or to those experiencing some distress, which could include the need for economic assistance. Those who exercise such a gift must do so with “cheerfulness” (ἱλαρότητι, hilarotēti). The same root word is found in 2 Cor. 9:7, which says that “God loves a cheerful [ἱλαρόν, hilaron] giver.” The one who shows mercy must not have a begrudging spirit that communicates to the person on the receiving end that the mercy given is a debt instead of a joy (cf. Prov. 22:8a LXX; Sir. 35:11 [35:8 LXX]; Philo, Spec. Laws 4.13 §74; T. Job 12.1). The kind of mercy that honors God and shows love to the recipient is filled with joy and finds it a greater blessing to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Frank Thielman: The final gift, showing “mercy” (ἐλεῶν), forms a bridge to the next paragraph, which describes genuine love (Rom 12:9–21). It also reaches back into the preceding argument that all believers have been the objects of God’s “mercy” (9:15, 18; 11:30–32; cf. 12:1). In the preceding section of the argument, “showing mercy” (ἐλεέω) and “showing compassion” (οἰκτερμέω) meant rescuing not merely those who did not deserve it but showing grace to the “disobedient” (11:30–31). It meant loving the sinner and reaching out to the enemy in reconciliation (5:6–11; cf. 12:17–21).