The Unexpected Strategy of God

Notes for Oct. 1, 2017
Romans 12:3-21

Biblical Background

  • Paranesis: A Greek writing technique, the “paranesis is a string of moral exhortations strung together. They don’t need to follow one particular theme yet they all follow the same core principles. Paul uses this ancient stylistic technique to make his points.

  • Honor: In Roman culture, your personal honor was paramount and so you did all that you could to protect and defend it. In this case, Paul is saying that rather than be concerned about your personal honor, instead seek to honor others. Thus the eyes are taken off of self and put on others.

  • Contribute to the needs of the saints: The idea of caring for the poor and needy is a Judeo-Christian concept – coming out of the Old Testament and one that Christ taught. The pagan religions were not concerned about the poor or needy as they had brought it upon themselves or the gods had cursed them. Thus, true humanitarianism actually comes out of the Christian worldview – it was Christians who opened the first orphanages, hospitals, schools, etc… and is one of the reasons the West which was influenced by this worldview developed so many humanitarian organizations.

  • Verse 14 and the Sermon on the Mount: Paul is repeating some of the teaching of Jesus as found in the Sermon in the Mount in this passage. This shows where Paul received his instruction.

  • Weeping: In Jewish culture, when someone died there was public weeping in sorrow. Thus, it was important to express one’s sorrow through tears in public. Jesus called us to come alongside people who are suffering and share in their sorrow – a sign that you truly care.

  • Humility: Humility was not a Greek virtue, but was emphasized in Judaism. Christian writers, including Paul in Philippians 2 use this attribute to summarize the character of Jesus Christ.

  • Not repaying evil with evil: Again we have Paul quoting from Jesus. This approach was and is still counter-culture in confronting evil behavior.

  • Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord: Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35. Some stoic philosophers opposed vengeance since they believed “fate” would take care of things.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Paul in these verses describe his main point in Romans 12:1-2?

  2. What does sincere love look like? Describe

  3. How do we “hate” evil?

  4. Does God hate evil? If so, how does He hate evil?

  5. What does it mean to “cling” to what is good? How can we practice clinging on to good? What causes us to lose our grip on good things?

  6. How can we have godly relationships with one another?

  7. What relational disciplines can we try this week to better love one another?

  8. How can we show others honor? Describe

  9. How can we share with others in new ways?

  10. How can we be hospitable to others? Even if we don’t have a place to invite people to?

  11. How can we live by the principles of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount and repeated here by Paul?

  12. How do we let go and trust God to take care of vengeance – giving evil people their just desserts?

  13. How are we to treat our enemies? Give some practical examples from the realm of politics? Sports? War? Relationships?

  14. How can you more effectively love your family, friends, colleagues and strangers this week?

  15. Do you have any grudges against anyone? If so, how are you going to begin treating them like a friend rather than an enemy?

  16. Which of these commands are the most difficult for you? The easiest?