1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Therefore in light of the mercy of God shown to us in calling us to be His own, we need to give Him the glory that He desires in presenting our bodies, which are temples of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), as living and holy sacrifices of God. God doesn’t want mere lip service and external ritual; He wants our hearts. This alone is our spiritual service as priests of God in worship. We don’t sacrifice lambs and goats, but we rather give God our hearts which are to be holy and obedient to Him.
2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Though we were once of the world, we are no longer to be conformed to its ways. We are rather to be transformed by the work of Christ in us so that our mind is renewed to think as He thinks and to desire what He desires. There is to be an ongoing sanctification process in the life of the believer. We must yield to His merciful work in our lives. This is why the verb form is passive, saying that we are to let God do this work. It is something accomplished as we rest in His faithfulness and believe His Word. Then, and only then, will we demonstrate by our lives what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect. Never ought there to be a doubt that the will of God is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Since any holiness that is manifested in our lives is a work of God’s grace in our lives through faith, there is no reason to boast in any righteousness that we have as if it is from ourselves. Rather, we ought to let God be the judge of our hearts and think with sound judgment. God has allotted to each believer a measure of faith. Ranking individual gifts is foolish because all gifts are different. God has made us individually for individual purposes. Thus God will judge us each on the basis of how we use the gifts He has allotted for us. (see also 1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Just as there are many members in our human bodies (eyes, ears, noses, arms, legs, etc.) and just as each has its own special and particularly important function, so too does the body of Christ. Each person has gifts that God has allotted to them individually. We, since we are all part of Christ’s body, are one. Though we all are particular parts of the body, we, like our natural body, are still one whole body.
6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
Each Christian has at least one spiritual gift. We must note that too often Christians get into the ranking of gifts, saying that one is better than another. In our culture, leading and teaching are the gifts to desire (or envy) because we are prone to think that position and leadership are better than other things like hospitality and serving. God doesn’t see it that way. Otherwise He would have gifted everybody with those gifts. However, those who have those gifts have a greater stewardship and will be held with greater accountability (James 3:1). God has graciously gifted each person as He sees fit, and they must accept how God has called them and wired them. The Potter has made each clay vessel for a reason and a purpose, and only when it operates according to its divine design does the body benefit and the clay itself find fullness of joy. It is no good for us to have spiritual gifts and then not use them. God has gifted us for the work of the kingdom and for serving others. Most of us will do all of the ministries set out by Paul, even if we are not gifted in them. The goal would be, however, to harvest the gifts that we are given so that we serve in the proper place.
The gift of prophecy is no longer needed since its purpose was to speak forth divine revelation and to exhort by way of revealing mysteries and hidden knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:2). The word for prophesy is “propheteuo,” which is more than merely speaking forth the word of God by preaching and teaching. Thus, Ephesians 4:11 differentiates the gifts. Prophecy was a gift of the Holy Spirit operative in the early church for the purpose of giving the needed instruction for the church prior to the completion of the canon of Scripture. Those who used this gift needed to be full of faith so that they would be filled with the Spirit in order to be able to speak accurately and boldly the revelation and instruction from God. The church was built on this faithful teaching of the apostles and prophets, but now we have the written Word to continue building upon their foundation (Ephesians 2:19-20, Ephesians 3:5). Christ has spoken finally and definitely through His Word by way of these early New Testament apostles and prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2). Prophesy will be reactivated once at the time of Christ’s second coming (Joel 2:28).
7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
Deacons held a specific office of service, but service is also a gift, though all believers should serve in some capacity. The word for service implies ministering Christian affection through ways such as giving money, goods, time, or food. Some are gifted at preparing food, feeding the hungry, supplying medical treatment to those in need, and so on. These are examples of works of service. There are those who are great at doing what others ask of them to do on behalf of the church, community, or anyone else. Those who serve will be great in the kingdom of God (Mark 9:35). Service should also be done in proportion to the faith that we have in Christ.
The gift of teaching is for the purpose of instructing in right doctrine and in the precepts of God. Those who are gifted to teach are able to rightly explain and expound upon God’s truths. They are able to use the spoken word or written word to be able to train and instruct others in the way of truth. Teachers, too, teach by faith in Christ.
8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
To exhort is to admonish, strengthen, encourage, call to action, console, and persuade. Exhortation includes instruction and teaching, but it adds the component of stirring speech that moves one to act. Teaching is more informative while exhortation is more persuasive, though both teach the Word of God. This ministry is to be done according to the faith given a person as well.
Giving is a gift which is to be exercised with liberality, generosity, freedom, and cheerfulness. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving is certainly applied to finances, though time, energy, and other resources could be included. Proper giving has no ulterior motive, and its intentions are forthright and honest.
Those who are gifted in leading are to do so with all diligence, earnestness, devotion, and commitment. A lazy, uninspired leader will create like followers. Thus, the leader is responsible to actively use his or her gift to set the pace for others and show them the proper direction. Elders must shepherd the flock with eagerness (1 Peter 5:7). Leaders cannot be slack or careless, but they must be purposeful and responsible.
Some are gifted in showing mercy, though again we all should be merciful in one way or another. To show mercy is to help one who is afflicted, suffering, or in need of help in some way. Those who are merciful go to the needy and brokenhearted and offer them the love of Christ and whatever earthly provision that they have to offer. Some are in need because of factors outside of their control. They need mercy to help them in their time of need. Others are suffering because of sin that they have committed. Still, they can be given mercy, though the sin issues need to be addressed at some point. To give somebody good when they deserve evil is a manifestation of the gift of mercy.
9Let love be without hypocrisy Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Love is to be free from ulterior motives, pure, and sincere. Exterior niceness with a judgmental or hateful attitude on the inside is a violation of our call as believers. We must really care and be concerned about the well-being of others, regardless of what it might cost us or whom it might not impress. To abhor evil is to dislike it and to have a horror of it. It is to be dismayed at wrongdoing and to have no joy when evil is committed (1 Corinthians 13:6). The word for cling means to glue together, and it is the same word for describing a man being joined to his wife. This is an unbreakable, tightly knit union that must be guarded carefully. We must love what is good, rejoice in the truth, and hold fast to all that is pure, upright, and noble (Philippians 4:8). We should let good permeate our thoughts, what we do, and what we say.
10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
The devotion that Paul is getting at is the tender warmth, love, and affection that comes in an accepting and caring family. In such a place, we have no fear, we are secure, and we know that others will do what is best for us.
11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Sometimes it is easy to become lazy or slack in our relationship with the Lord. Paul is calling believers to be passionate, fervent, committed, and heartfelt when it comes to the things of the Lord. We need to be diligent to carry out our calling as witnesses of Christ so that we take advantage of every opportunity to do good (Galatians 6:10).
12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
We are not to be those who grow weary in doing good or who become dismayed because of moral decay or evil around us. We are rather to be firm in our hope that Jesus has power over our circumstances, that He can change them if He wills, and that He will come back and establish peace on the earth. We have much to look forward to as believers which should keep our hope strong. In fact, our hope should be so obvious even when we are under trial or persecution that others have to ask how we do it (1 Peter 3:14-15). When tribulation comes, we are to stand fast, honoring Christ, knowing that Christ has overcome this world (John 16:33). If we resist sin and continue serving Christ despite difficulty and temptation, we will grow in perseverance and character (James 1:2-4). Paul wants us to stay committed to prayer. 1 Peter 4:7 reminds us that the reason we are to stay steadfast and persevere is for the purpose of prayer. Prayer is highly effective from a righteous, believing heart that prays according to the will of God (James 5:16). Prayer is a way that we can serve the Lord even if circumstances prevent us from doing other means of service. Christians must come to the place where we devote ourselves to prayer because we know and believe that we need it. Until we see that we must pray and that prayer multiplies our labor, we will fail miserably in it.
13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
The early church was excellent at holding possessions lightly, knowing that God was the owner of all ultimately. Those who had an abundance were to give to those who lacked so that all evened out (2 Corinthians 8:14). This was a very visible testimony of brotherly love and of the family of God. The reality is that saints will have needs, even though God promises to supply all of them (Philippians 4:19). The point is that we as believers can act as the vehicles of God’s provision. We are not to give judgmentally or expecting something in return. We are to give freely because we want to. We may even need to open our homes at times to give people a roof over their heads or a warm meal. Hospitality is almost to be synonymous with the church experience.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
We will be persecuted and reviled (1 Timothy 3:12). It will happen, and when it does we are to rejoice, knowing that such is an honor. Persecution is intimate fellowship with our Lord (Philippians 3:10). We are to not hate, curse, insult, malign, or condemn those who insult us. They want to provoke us, and God tells us that love is not easily provoked (1 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus did not fight back when He was persecuted (1 Peter 2:23). What we are to do is forgive those who wrong us and let God be the One Who avenges our cause (see v. 19). We can be sure that He will execute justice, though it may not be until eternity.
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Being of the same mind with one another implies that we are growing in the truth according to the Word of God. Truth is the foundation of true unity. Secondly, we are to be those who truly love one another, for love is the “perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:4). Thus we are to think Biblically and love Biblically, sympathizing and empathizing with others as they experience the goods and bads of life. There will be times of sorrow and times of celebration. We need to not envy or become jealous when others are blessed, but we need to praise God for blessing them. When others suffer, we need to not judge them but pray for them. Thirdly, we cannot rank one another in an unrighteous attitude of comparison and classification. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” If we do live this way, true fellowship and family in the church can never happen as we parcel ourselves only into groups that we would feel most comfortable with. We need to associate with the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the male and female, and the successful and not so successful. We must be impartial about our associations, loving all people, for God is the impartial Judge (1 Peter 1:17). God hates haughty eyes which look on others with scorn or contempt (Psalm 101:5). It is easy to think that we are better than others and fall for the trap of being self-consumed even though we may be in a position of service. The only evaluation of us that will matter is God’s. Our focus should not be self but others and God.
17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.
20"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD."
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If we decide to retaliate against those who persecute us for the sake of Christ or against those who are just mean and nasty in general, we let ourselves be overcome by evil. The only way to overcome evil is through good. Force cannot change a person’s heart and mind, though it may alter their behavior. Doing something good for them might transform them from the inside out (Matthew 5:16). Christianity needs to be known by the marks that Christ gave us whereby we are to be identified, namely love (John 13:34-35), unity (John 17:21), holiness (Hebrews 12:14), hope (1 Peter 3:15), and good works (Matthew 5:16). We are not a passive religion, but a people of God who are committed to loving others whether they deserve it or not. We are not to sit back and wait for them to figure things out or to repent, but we are to go to them with loving deeds, words, and a message of hope. We know we are not to take revenge, for God will avenge His own. If God is really sovereign, then His own can expect Him to take up their cause, whether now or later. When we take measures into our own hands in terms of returning evil for evil, we make it appear as though God is dead. We need to leave room for the wrath of God. There will be people who disturb the peace, but we must do our part to keep it by being those who do not provoke, who do not seek a fight, and who do not retaliate. Rather, we need to aggressively, though not maliciously, do good deeds to those who make our lives miserable and disturb the peace.
The Christian looks to find where the ungodly, even those who have mocked us for our faith, have needs. If they need food, we are to offer them food. If they need a drink, we need to offer them a drink. If they need some other kind of help, we should offer that as well. In a society that is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity, Christians need to seek out needs and meet them, demonstrating good for those who hate us and our God. God will deal with those who reject us and Him. Our job is simply to go to those who hate us and minister love to them (Luke 6:27). Our good will reveal their evil in such a way that light shines into the darkness (John 1:5). They may not understand what we are doing or why, but our pursuit of love, peace, and good works enables the Spirit to work on their conscience. This heaps fiery coals on their head and earns us a reward (Proverbs 25:21-22). In ancient Egypt, people would walk about with a pan of burning coals on their head to show shame, guilt, and contrition. Our fleshly response to hate is to insult back. Our spiritual response is to love back. This is God’s will for His purpose is to redeem the one who did the hating. Only love and grace can show a person his own sin and bring him to repentance. God’s kindness manifested through our good works can lead to their repentance (Romans 2:4).