Romans 12 – Christian Conduct & Religion

After the reign of the Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. to A.D. 14), the emperor was also considered to be a god and he was worshipped on special occasions.
Each god had a special festival day which was usually a public holiday. This holiday gave people the opportunity to visit the temple for whichever god was being celebrated.

At this temple, priests would sacrifice animals and offer them to the god.

We’ll end this study tomorrow with…

Romans 12
Christian Conduct

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Scriptures like this is probably where lunatics came up with the great idea of sacrificing people, they were doing it for God.

12:1-16:27 – Paul now turns to the practical application of all he has said previously in the letter.  This does not mean that he has not said anything about Christian living up to this point.

Chapters 6-8 have touched on this already, but now Paul goes into detail to show that Jesus Christ is to be Lord of every area of life.  These chapters are not a postscript to the great theological discussions in chapters 1-11.

In a real sense the entire letter has been directed toward the goal of showing that God demands our action as well as our believing and thinking.  Faith expresses itself in obedience.

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was built for the goddess Athena in 447–432 B.C. and remained devoted to her cult for nearly a thousand years.
Later serving as a Christian church and then as an Islamic mosque under the Ottoman Empire.

“Reasonable Service” – not merely ritual activity but the involvement of heart, mind and will.  Not just a bunch of chatting and moaning like the Muslim’s do.

“Acceptable” – to God, not necessarily to us.

“Will of God” – what God wants from the believer here and now.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Jn 2:15-17 explains what Paul is saying very clearly.

3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

“Measure of faith” – the power given by God to each believer to fulfill various ministries in the church (see vv. 4-8).

Etching of G. Doré of the River Styx.
The Styx is a river in Greek mythology that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld (often called Hades which is also the name of this domain’s ruler).

The rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron, and Cocytus all converge at the center of the underworld on a great marsh, which is also sometimes called the Styx.

The important rivers of the underworld are Lethe, Eridanos, and Alpheus.

The gods were bound by the Styx and swore oaths on it. The reason for this is during the Titan war,

Styx, the goddess of the river Styx, sided with Zeus. After the war, Zeus promised every oath be sworn upon her.

4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

“Without dissimulation” – true love, not pretense.  In view of the preceding paragraph, with its emphasis on social concern, the love Paul speaks of here is not mere emotion, but is active love.  You show love expecting nothing in return.

10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;

11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

“Bless them which persecute you” – Paul is echoing Jesus’ teachings in Matt 5:44; Lk 6:28.

Charon as depicted by Michelangelo in his fresco The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

“If it be possible…live peaceably” – Jesus pronounced a blessing on peacemakers and believers are to cultivate peace with everyone to the extent that it depends on them.

The term “possible” does not mean if you can get along with someone you have the right to throw down with them.  It means that if you can’t get along them move along. 

As Paul says in 1 Cor 7:7-9, he thinks it would be best to stay single, but if you are unable to sustain from sex then get married.

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

“Heap coals of fire on his head” – doing good to one’s enemy, instead of trying to take revenge, may bring about his repentance.

21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Religion

What kind of gods did Romans worship?

At first, Romans believed in many different gods and goddesses. These gods were like people, but with magical powers. The Roman gods were part of a family.

Ancient Roman religion and beliefs implied rigorous processions such as the one shown aboverof a sacrificial ceremony in front of the Pantheon.
Notice the word “Suovetaurilia” at the top left – implying the sacrifice of a pig a sheep and a bull.

People told stories or myths about them. Each god or goddess looked after different people or things.

Why did the Romans borrow new gods?

The Romans often borrowed new gods from people they conquered. They hoped these new gods would make them stronger.

They borrowed gods from Egypt, for example, such as the goddess Isis.

Roman soldiers worshipped Mithras, a god from Iran. A soldier going on a journey might ask Mercury (god of travel) for help, as well as Mithras the soldiers’ god and he might also make a sacrifice to Neptune (the sea god) if he had to travel by ship!

What went on a Roman temple?

People worshipped the gods in special buildings called temples. Inside the temple was a statue of a god. Priests looked after the temple.

People went there to make sacrifices or offerings of food, flowers or money.

Sometimes the priest killed an animal, such as a bull, as part of the sacrifice ceremony. Some Emperors said they were gods too, so everyone had to make a sacrifice to the Emperor.

The apotheosis (transformation into gods) of Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina; sculpted relief, c. 161 A.D.
Another element in the Roman state religion was what is generally referred to as the imperial cult. This cult regarded emperors and members of their families as gods.

On his death, Julius Caesar was officially recognised as a god, the Divine (‘Divus’) Julius, by the Roman state.

And in 29 B.C. Caesar’s adopted son, the first Roman emperor Augustus, allowed the culturally Greek cities of Asia Minor to set up temples to him.

This was really the first manifestation of Roman emperor-worship.

Romans also had gods at home. They believed in household spirits that protected the family. They had miniature temples, or shrines, in their homes.

The family would make offerings of food and drink to the household gods, and pray for good luck and protection.

Did Romans believe in life after death?

The Romans believed that a person’s spirit went to the underworld after the person died. To get there, the dead needed to cross the River Styx.

The dead person’s family would leave a coin on the dead body, to pay the ferryman, whose name was Charon.

Some of these old beliefs changed when Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century A.D.

Before then, Christians got into trouble because they refused to worship the emperor as a god. Some Christians were arrested and put to death.

Fun Facts:

During the Saturnalia holiday, rich Romans were supposed to wait on their slaves.

Neptune, the sea god, had a son called Triton who was half-man, half-fish.

The Romans believed people called soothsayers or augurs could tell what the gods wanted and foretell the future by cutting open dead animals and looking at the insides.

…Romans in Scotland.