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Deepen Discipleship

Romans 12-16


Heavenly Father, having believed the gospel, I pray I would not live after the patterns and values of this world. Help me to know what it looks like to live in light of Your mercy. By your Spirit, transform my mind so I no longer think as I once did; give me the strength to live for you and be about your mission in the world. Amen.

Read & Learn

Read Romans 12-16

In the first eleven chapters, Paul has described the gospel in detail. From now until the end of the book, he explains the ways in which the power of the gospel should transform followers of Jesus. Other New Testament letters also follow this pattern: first the theological, then the practical. Scholars often put it like this: the indicative (statement) always comes before and grounds the imperative (command). Finally, just before greeting a host of his gospel partners, Paul returns to the indicative, once again showing how Christ fulfills God’s Old Testament promises.

Romans 12 This section begins with a very important “therefore.” Therefore, in light of the mercy we’ve received, we live entirely for God. This is the only appropriate response of worship, and it can happen only as we are transformed by the Spirit who dwells in us.

In Romans 12, Paul considers the way these truths should transform how Christians love one another in the church. If the church is indeed the body of Christ, then it should function according to the various gifts God has given to each of us. However, even more important than our various gifts is our mutual task to love one another. But love is more than an ethereal idea; Paul describes it practically and specifically, such that our love is demonstrated in the ways we forgive one another and pray for one another and honor one another and practice hospitality and share with those in need and so on.

Romans 13 The transforming work of the Spirit also affects how we live in the world. Paul highlights three areas in particular. First, Christians should live in recognition and submission to the authorities God has instituted in the world. Though human governments are never perfect, Christians are nonetheless called to submit to them insofar as that submission doesn’t contradict God’s commands.

Second, Christians should love their neighbors. Paul sums up all the Mosaic Law in one command: we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Finally, Christians ought to live holy and distinct lives because the day of the Lord is drawing near. No longer do we give ourselves to the immorality and selfishness of this world; instead, we live as soldiers of light, putting aside deeds of darkness, clothing ourselves with the faith of the gospel and living in a manner worthy of the calling we’ve received.

Romans 14:1—15:7 Paul now turns to a particular challenge the Roman church is facing, namely, Jewish and Gentile Christians learning to love one another. Paul commands believers to accept one another, whether a fellow Christian has a weak or strong faith.

At the same time, Paul exhorts, Christians must be careful to place no stumbling block in front of their brothers or sisters. Instead, every Christian should be willing to sacrifice his or her preferences for the sake of others. Those who are strong should use their strength to care for the weak rather than to serve themselves. In all this, Paul highlights the perspective of the gospel, reminding his readers Christ laid down His rights in order that the nations might glorify God for His mercy.

Romans 15:7–16:27 Paul concludes his letter by focusing again on how God’s mission through Christ confirms God’s Old Testament promises to create a multi-ethnic people of faith who worship Him. The promise given to Abraham—that through him God would bless the nations—was the gospel announced in advance, and through Paul’s proclamation of Christ to the Gentiles, it’s already being fulfilled.

This is how Paul explains his mission to the Gentiles elsewhere in Romans (1:1–6, 9:24–29), as well as in Ephesians 3:1–6. Paul isn’t satisfied with preaching the gospel where he’s already been. In fact, the gospel compels him to go where it had never been preached, so he plans to press on into Spain, hoping the Roman church would join and support him.

Toward the very end of Romans, Paul greets 27 people by name. Most of these are “ordinary” followers of Jesus who have evangelized non-Christans and helped start a number of churches in Rome.

Finally, observe how the letter ends—with Paul praising God for all He has done and is now doing “to advance the obedience of faith among all nations” (16:27b).

In summary, the book of Romans reminds us God’s mission to save sinners from every tribe and nation is the climax of the Bible. When you or your church see people among the nations come to Christ, you’re witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Moses, David, and all the prophets. The Holy Spirit is bringing the story to its appropriate end as we participate in God’s mission.

So far, in Luke, Acts, and Romans, we’ve seen the unfolding of God’s plan to reach the nations. Today, nearly 2000 years later, Jesus is at work through His followers as they cross cultures to share the gospel, train new believers, gather them into churches, and send out others to repeat the process. In prayer, ask God to clarify the role you and your church are to play in this plan and process.

Daily Verse for Meditation

Romans 14:7-8

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Reflect & Change
  1. According to Paul, worship includes all of life, not just the time spent singing songs. If worship is all of life, then we should offer all of ourselves to God in thankful worship. Does this change the way you work, play, rest, and think? If so, how?
  2. The world doesn’t always have the best impression of Christians. What if Christians were more faithful in living out what Paul describes in Romans 13?
  3. Followers of Jesus are transformed as they work together in gospel unity, loving one another. How can you make this a priority in your Christian life?
  4. Most of the people Paul greets in Romans 16 are not “rock stars” like Paul, Peter, or Timothy. In fact, few are mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Paul knows, loves, and commends these gospel partners—his brothers, sisters, and coworkers—as well as those who have suffered with him as the gospel has advanced. God’s mission is accomplished through pioneer church planters like Paul working together with many different people doing many different things. Does your understanding of the local church and God’s mission include different kinds of people partnering together? What role might you play in this work?
Go & Do

Choose one of the following:

  • Paul’s driving concern was for the spread of the gospel among those who have never heard. Pray for yourself and your church to share Paul’s concern and then act upon it.
  • Look for opportunities to build relationships with people from other nations. Ask God to help you be alert to people with a different ethnicity or culture than your own.
  • Meet with your church leaders to discuss how you can promote the unity and witness of your local church.
Discipleship Activities
  • Rework your five-minute gospel presentation based on the feedback you got from your group. Share it this week with a friend outside of your group and get their feedback. [Making Disciples]