Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
We know that God will restore the Jews, who were made blind to Christ in order that the Word might spread among the Gentiles, and so that we might also be saved. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. However, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, and this gift is given to all peoples.
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour 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.
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.
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.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Worship in Christ
How is it we are to worship? Is it attending a special service in a church every week for an hour, or hosting church groups every month, or going out and doing good deeds? These are all good things, but what we are to do is offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. We are no longer our own, but His, and so we are to do as he bids as though we are simply His servants. This is our reasonable service to God, for He has done so much for us and made us new.
What does this mean, to be holy and acceptable to God? We are to be in this world, but not of it. Once we were as all the rest of the world, immersed in sin and destined only for damnation, but we are no longer as we once were. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds, so that we can see what God’s will truly is. If we know God’s will and are His servants, we must do that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect.
The Body of Christ
However, we are not special of ourselves. We must always bear in mind exactly what we are – sinful creatures redeemed and made new by our Creator through the death and resurrection of our Lord. God has given to every man a measure of faith, and this measure may be greater or lesser for some than others – we must acknowledge this. For as a body has many members (eyes, tongue, toes, intestines, fingers, etc.), so too does the body of Christ have many members, with their own purposes and tasks.
We are one body in Christ. It is not necessary for a preacher to also be a healer, or a prophet to be gifted with discernment, for together we form the body of Christ. Let every man bear in mind his gifts and live accordingly, leaning on our brethren in their own offices and gifts.
And what are these gifts? Paul says there are prophets with the gift of prophecy, ministers with the gift of ministry, teachers with the gift of teaching, exhorters with the gift of giving calls to action (exhortation), givers with the gift of simple and humble giving, rulers with a gift of diligence and clear vision, and mercy givers who give mercy cheerfully and fully. Now, many would seek to rule without a gift for ruling, or givers without the gift of giving, and these are not inherently wrong hopes and ambitions, but it is better for the eye to see than to try to hear, or the feet to walk than to type. In the same way, let us all be clear about our particular gifts and serve our Lord in the ways he has elected for us to serve.
Let us also love one another without precondition or holding back. We are brothers and members of the same body of Christ, and so we must always act in accordance with this. If the left hand fails to act as we wish, does the right hand punish it? If the left eye grows dim, do we pluck it from our heads? In the same way, we must love one another as we love ourselves.
We must abhor all evils and cleave to what is good. If we continue to revel in evils, in what way are we different from our sinful selves? If we look on that which is good (an innocent unborn child, for example) as something evil and despise it, we make a mockery of our Lord who makes all good things.
Furthermore, concerning the brethren, we must prefer one another to ourselves. This is an act of sacrifice for our brethren, for greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. The brethren are our brethren in truth, and so we must care for them as we would care for our own brothers (or better, for those who have poor relations with their brothers by blood).
Orthopraxy – Right Action
How must we live, along with what we have already learned? When we work, we work earnestly and without sloth, fervent and energetic in spirit, as joyful and thankful servants of our Lord. We rejoice in the hope we have in our Lord Jesus Christ, patient when trials come our way, praying without ceasing to the Lord who hears us and loves us. We give as we can to the saints to preserve their bodies and show hospitality cheerfully as our Lord has been hospitable and giving to us.
When we are persecuted, we bless those who are our enemies. We do not curse them, and so we confound the wisdom of the world (this is especially significant with our brethren). When those around us are mourning, we also mourn with them. When they celebrate and rejoice, we also celebrate with them. We are as one mind with our brethren, as the members of the body are subject to one mind.
We do not obsess over riches and worldly possessions, nor high estate and esteem among men, but we go equally to the poor and the wicked. For Christ our Lord had among his disciples tax collectors and fishermen, and among his followers were found both rich men like Lazarus and people of lesser repute like Mary (who was possessed by seven demons). We speak to the wise and the fool in kind, for our Lord is wiser than all and has made his wisdom available to all and has confounded the wisdom of the world.
We do not lie, but speak truly. For if we are known as liars, how will they believe us when we speak of our Lord?
As far as it depends on us, we live peacefully with all men. We do not seek out conflict nor desire it in our lives, but rather we strive to maintain civility at all times.
Repaying Evil with Good
We do not seek vengeance, for vengeance belongs to our Lord. If we should be cruel to a man who becomes a brother, we have harmed our brethren. If we should seek vengeance against our brothers, it is as cutting off your own nose to punish it for clogging. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and so we are assured that our Lord will repay all men in His time. Therefore, if our enemies hunger we feed them; if they thirst we give them drink; if they need a home we offer our hospitality – in doing all this, we heap coals of fire on their heads (meaning their consciences will ache within them, or if not they will only earn for themselves wrath).
Therefore, we do not submit ourselves to evil, but overcome evil with good. If it doesn’t make sense, that’s because it makes no sense to the wisdom of men. But in God all things are possible, and if God is for us who can be against us?
Let us Pray
Great is thy faithfulness, o God our Father! There is no shadow of turning with thee! Thou changest not; thy compassions fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Lord, give to us not only greater spiritual gifts, but also an appreciation for the gifts we have already received. We know that you give all good things in accordance with your will, and you are the giver of all good gifts, so we ask that you give us appreciation and understanding for these gifts you give us. Let us always recognize what you have given, and never be ungrateful.
We also ask, Lord, that you grant us understanding not only of orthodoxy – that is, right teaching – but also orthopraxy – that is, right action. We seek always to know thy will so that we might do it, and we ask that you always give to us the strength and guidance to do that will.
Take our lives as we live them, Lord, and make us always your servants.
We ask all these things knowing that you always hear us, as your Son has promised. In His name, we pray all these things,
Go in the peace and power of almighty God, sharing all things in common with your brethren, showing love to all men as our Lord directs. Amen.