Most theologians comment about how “theological” the book of Romans is. This simply means that Paul speaks in terms that most closely resemble how modern theologians speak. Of course, Romans is far from a “systematic theology”. But Romans does include a good deal of theology – that is, Paul tells us what he things about God and people and salvation.
In fact, Chapters 1 through 11 are filled with theology. We learn that all people are sinful – all people are separated from God – all people deserve eternal separation from God. We also learn that the remedy is found in the person of Jesus Christ – his death, burial, and resurrection – and that the remedy is administered through the person and presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But, Paul doesn’t stop there.
In Chapter 12, Paul begins to show how his “theology” should work itself out in the lives of all followers of Jesus Christ. He begins by showing that a life sacrificed to God will lead to a life that is tranformed – changed – into a life that is acceptable to God. This life will demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit because it will be controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit will manifest himself differently in different people, but the manifestation of the Spirit’s gifts will always be for the same purpose. But, Paul doesn’t stop there.
In Romans 12:9-21, Paul lays down specific characteristics of the life that is led by the Spirit. This is what he says:
Let love be genuine (unhypocritical). Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 ESV)
Notice how the genuine (unhypocritical) love of Spirit-indwelled, Spirit-led believers is described:
- holding fast to good
- loving one another
- honoring one another
- serving the Lord fervently
- giving to needy believers
- being hospitable (loving strangers)
- living in harmony
- doing what is honorable
- living in peace with all
This is how the church of God should live. This is how the church of God should be described. In fact, the “theology” of the previous 11 chapters means little if the lives of believers are not being transformed by the indwelled Spirit.
So, where do you stop? Do you stop at discussing theology? Or, do you see the power of the Spirit at work in your life? How does a description of your life match up to Paul’s description of the Spirit-led, transformed life?