Romans 12:13-16

Thursday Evening Bible Study

March 5, 2009


The chapter began with the transition from doctrine into practice.  The doctrine Paul ended the previous section was God’s mercy – how does that translate practically into our lives?

What does the real Christian look like?

(Rom 12:2 NKJV)  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Take it one step further, what does it look like to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind?

That’s what Paul has been talking about – what a real Christian looks like.

 :13 distributing to the needs of the saints,

the saints – not the guys in the stained glass windows with gold glowing things over their heads.  The “saints” are Christians.  You are all “saints” in God’s sight, holy ones, people set apart for God’s use.

distributingkoinoneo – to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer

This is the word that the word “communion” comes from – where we all “share” in the body and blood of Jesus.

This is the word that “fellowship” comes from – we have something in common, we all share a relationship with Jesus.

needschreia – necessity, need; duty, business

Jesus had people who helped take care of His needs:

(Luke 8:1-3 NKJV)  Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, {2} and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, {3} and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.
Sometimes the “distribution” involves helping the work of Jesus here on earth, where God is leading.

In the early church,

(Acts 4:33-35 NKJV)  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. {34} Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, {35} and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Sometimes the “distribution” involves meeting the needs of folks in the church.

Just a word of experience – we have learned that not every concern is a “need” we need to be taking care of.  Some folks approach church with the “entitlement” mentality, that they are “entitled” to the church helping them out.  There will be folks who come into the church and start taking advantage of good natured folks – quietly asking for money from lots of people. 

Sometimes the correct thing is to say “no” and gently encourage the person to get a job:

(2 Th 3:10 NKJV)  For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he was in the process of taking up a collection among the various churches to help out with the poor in Jerusalem who were in the middle of a famine.

He also wrote to the Corinthian church about this time, encouraging them to get their act together and raise funds for the struggling church in Jerusalem:
(2 Cor 9:13 NKJV)  while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing (koinonia) with them and all men,

Sometimes the “distribution” involves the needs of the church around the world.

:13 given to hospitality.

given todioko – to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to pursue; to seek after eagerly

hospitalityphiloxenia (“love” + “strangers”) – love to strangers, hospitality

In the ancient world, things worked differently than they do today.  If you went on a trip across country, there generally weren’t a lot of places like Motel 6 to spend the night at.  Typically what you’d do is hang out at the town square and then people from town would run into you and invite you to their house to spend the evening.  This was called “hospitality”, the “love of strangers”.

While the first phrase is aimed at how we treat those from the family of God, this phrase is how we are to treat strangers.

(Heb 13:2 NKJV)  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

We think that the writer may have had in mind the story of Abraham being visited by three strangers:
(Gen 18:1-8 NKJV)  Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. {2} So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, {3} and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. {4} "Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. {5} "And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant." They said, "Do as you have said." {6} So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes." {7} And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. {8} So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
The afternoon started off with three visitors showing up.  It turned out that the visitors were some pretty important people.


Pursue hospitality

Hospitality isn’t really about throwing a good party.
It’s about welcoming strangers.  It’s about reaching out to new people at church.
Sometimes we can get kind of comfortable with our own particular set of “friends” at church.  We have the same group of people we hang out with, go out to eat with, etc.
But God’s desire is that we’re always open to reaching out and inviting someone new along for the ride. That’s hospitality.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Susan Roman writes, “One afternoon, I was in the back yard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.  This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: “Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.”  The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: “He lives in a home with ten children - he’s trying to catch up on his sleep.””

By Susan F. Roman, from Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul , Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Marty Becker and Carol Kline

Are there any old “tired dogs” around you that need a place to hang out?

:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

blesseulogeo (“good” + “word”) – to praise, celebrate with praises; to invoke blessings

persecutedioko – to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after  to pursue (in a hostile manner)  in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one

cursekataraomai – to curse, doom, to invoke evil upon

This is exactly what Jesus taught His disciples.

(Mat 5:38-48 NKJV)  "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' {39} "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. {40} "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. {41} "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. {43} "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
This is what God does towards His enemies.  He still loves them.  He gives them mercy and grace.
God wants us to represent Him well.  He doesn’t want us treating other people the way non-believers treat people.
We are to be different in the way we love people.

Jesus not only taught it, He lived it.  He gave the greatest example when He was on the cross:

(Luke 23:34 NKJV)  Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots.
Mark records
(Mark 15:39 NKJV)  So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!"
The way Jesus handled His own persecution spoke to this pagan centurion.

The first martyr, Stephen, did what Jesus said to do:

(Acts 7:54-60 NKJV)  When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. {55} But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" {57} Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; {58} and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." {60} Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
This young man named Saul watched as Stephen was different from other men.  Did Stephen’s actions and words have an effect?

We think this was one of the contributing factors that led Saul to Christ, and his name was changed to Paul, the author of Romans.

Who are your “enemies”?  Who gives you a hard time?

How do you treat them?  Do you yell back at them?  Do you curse them?  Do you just try to ignore them?
Jesus said we ought to pray for them, do good to them, even “bless” them.

:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

rejoicechairo – to rejoice, be glad

weepklaio – to mourn, weep, lament

Any time you come to church there will be people who are rejoicing and people who are weeping.

And then there’s you.  You might be rejoicing.  You might be weeping.

How do you respond to the person who is “weeping” when you are “rejoicing”? 
How do you respond to the person who is “rejoicing” when you are the one who is “weeping”?

Too often our eyes are on our own selves.  All we think about is what we’re going through or what’s happening to us.


Sympathize with others

Are you aware of what others around you are going through?  Are you learning to be happy when they’re happy?  Are you learning to be compassionate and weep when they weep?
Or do you take their happy story and unload on them about how miserable you are?
We need to be sensitive to those around us and respond accordingly.
David and the death of Absalom.
Toward the end of David’s reign as king, one of his sons, Absalom, tried to overthrow his father. Absalom had sweet talked the people of Israel into thinking that he was a great guy and that David didn’t care about them.  As a result, David had to flee from Jerusalem for his life.  As he regrouped, a battle followed pitting David’s army against Absalom’s army.  David gave strict instructions that no one was to kill Absalom because he was David’s son.  The battle wore on, and when Absalom was killed, the war was over and David’s men had won.  We pick up the story at the point where David had found out of his victory, and the news of Absalom’s death:

(2 Sam 18:33 – 2Sam. 19:7 NKJV)  Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: "O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom; if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!"

{1} And Joab was told, "Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom." {2} So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, "The king is grieved for his son." {3} And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle. {4} But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, "O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!" {5} Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, "Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, {6} "in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. {7} "Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now."

David was greatly grieved, but he also was ignoring the fact that his people had fought for him and had won.  His weeping was making the people wonder why they had even bothered fighting for David.

Sometimes we can be so caught up with our own problems that we become useless to God.  We’ll even tell ourselves things like, “I have so many problems that God could never use me”.  But the truth is that God uses people with tons of problems ALL THE TIME!
Note:  The exhortation isn’t “Get people to weep with you when you’re sad”.  It is that we are to go out and look at the needs around us and minister to them.

:16 Be of the same mind toward one another.

sameautos – himself, herself, themselves, itself; he, she, it; the same

be of … mindphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for; to seek one’s interest or advantage; to be of one’s party, side with him (in public affairs)

(Rom 12:16 NIV)  Live in harmony with one another.

:16 Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.

high thingshupselos – high, lofty; (as honors and riches)

set your mind onphroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for; to seek one’s interest or advantage; to be of one’s party, side with him (in public affairs)

humbletapeinos – not rising far from the ground; of low degree; brought low with grief, depressed; lowly in spirit, humble

associatesunapago (“with” + “away” + “to lead”) – to lead away with or together; metaph. to be carried away with; of a thing, i.e. by a thing, so as to experience with others the force of that which carries away; to yield or submit one’s self to lowly things, conditions, employments: not to evade their power


Hang with the “uncool”.

I’m sure there are lots of ways this verse could be applied, but it seems to me that in our culture, ever since high school, there have always been the “in crowd” and those on the outside.  The “in crowd” is where all the action is happening.
There are some people who just make it their way of life to be constantly seeking to be “in” or “cool”.  They’ll walk into a room and immediately determine where the “happening” spot is, and that’s where they’ll head.  They’ll look for the leaders in the room and immediately try to get close to the “inner circle”.
This is not the way Jesus lived.

(Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)  Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. {37} And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, {38} and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. {39} Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." {40} And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." {41} "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. {42} "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" {43} Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." {44} Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. {45} "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. {46} "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. {47} "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." {48} Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." {49} And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" {50} Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

Simon had a problem that Jesus felt comfortable around people who were not going to be good for His reputation.  He was concerned that Jesus seemed to be a bad judge of character as far as choosing who He hung out with.

The problem is that Jesus knew exactly who He was hanging out with.  And He chose to still hang out with them.  Jesus wasn’t concerned about His image before others, He was concerned about loving those who needed His love.

Joe Paskewich pastors a Calvary Chapel in Connecticut.  He writes,
We have several “retarded people” that come to the church and often sit in the front couple of rows and really enjoy the worship experience.  I was walking one day and I told God, “I think it is so cool that those retarded people come to church to worship.”
I’m not one that says, “God spoke to me” and have a few friends that say it way too much, but I swear God spoke to me in that moment. As sure as I am about anything.  I felt overwhelming love and compassion when he spoke to me that day.  God spoke to me clear as a bell and said, “From where I sit you are all a little retarded.”  It became one of the defining moments of my ministry.  After that I found it so much easier to love everybody and to not take myself too seriously. I love being loved by God!
When the service is over, who will you head for?  Who will you make a point to go talk to?  I’m not suggesting that you ignore all your friends, but could it be possible that you might spend a few minutes talking and getting to know someone else?  Perhaps someone who is hanging out in the back, by themselves?

:16 Do not be wise in your own opinion.

wisephronimos – intelligent, wise; prudent, i.e. mindful of one’s interests

in your own opinion – literally, “with yourself”

Do not have the habit of becoming wise in your own conceits” (Robertson)

Don’t be so quick to think that you’re such hot stuff or that you have all the answers.  There are times when I think I have all the answers for the world, and then God graciously lets my advice fall flat on its face.   I remember talking with someone who was working at buying a house that they had better lock in their mortgage rate because it looked as if rates were going to start climbing.  And the next day the rates went down.  I don’t know everything.


You aren’t God.

You don’t know everything.
(Prov 3:7-8 KJV)  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. {8} It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
It’s actually healthy for you to realize that you don’t know everything.
Benjamin Franklin vividly remembered a visit he made as a young man to see the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather and the life lesson learned. Franklin recalled:
He was showing me out of the house, and there was a very low beam near the doorway. I was still talking when Mather began shouting, “Stoop! Stoop!” I didn’t understand what he meant and banged my head on the beam. “You’re young,” he said, “and have the world before you. Stoop as you go through it, and you will avoid many hard thumps.” That advice has been very useful to me. I avoided many misfortunes by not carrying my head too high in pride.
"Benjamin Franklin," PBS (November 2002); submitted by Terry Horvath, Winter Springs, Florida