With this verse, we move into the practical section of this amazing letter. It was Paul’s custom when writing some of his letters to use the first section for explaining doctrine and then use the remaining section to highlight some matters of practical importance. It is said that some Christians prefer doctrine to practice and vice versa. The best and God-glorifying response is to value both.
We can imagine someone speaking to one of the recipients of Paul’s letter and asking him where he came from and what he believed. He would have replied, ‘I am a Roman Christian.’ We too can give that answer, although in a different sense, but only if we believe what Paul taught about doctrine and what he taught about Christian living in this letter.
It is important for us to remember that the quality of living that Paul describes in this section was revolutionary at the time, and still is. Rome had seen many teachers come along with various ideas about how life could be lived. None came close to the radical nature of the beliefs and expectations connected to the Christian message, and that is because it is the expression of the life of God in the soul of man, as Henry Scougal entitled his famous book. If we take on board what Paul says in this section we will have a personal and a community life that will make others sit up and take notice.
Not only is this way of life revolutionary in nature, it is also beautiful when displayed. Paul had seen this transformed way of life displayed in numerous communities of Christians. Of course, he had also seen some of those communities marred by individuals or by groups who refused to implement his teaching for one reason or another. Paul is going to describe a way of community life that transcends ethnic, educational, age, gender, social status and other barriers that disrupt togetherness.
The basic requirements for living this wonderful community life are detailed in Romans 12:1-2. We can see from what Paul writes that we should be able to discover the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. At the same time, we will discover a way of life that can be described as real worship. Therefore I want to take a couple of readings to look at those verses before we move on to consider the various features of community life that Paul will mention.