Sabbath School Lesson for December 16-22, 2017

The first eight chapters of Paul’s Roman epistle consisted of defining elements of our salvation (how justification and sanctification work in the life of a believer). Then chapters 9-11 were devoted to a vindication of God’s choosing of an elect group to represent Him. This included how that group rejected His love, and forfeited their position as ambassadors, relinquishing the task of evangelism to the New Testament church.

The rest of the epistle, which we begin to examine this week, reveals the application of Paul’s themes. We see clearly how Paul’s instruction affects our day-to-day life and allows us to grow in grace and favor with God. True obedience must have the true foundation of faith that Paul so painstakingly laid out for them throughout his epistle.

In almost every mention of faith, Paul mentioned its relationship to the law, because the Jews were so wrapped up in their obedience of the law; but they were practically oblivious to the faith and love required to keep it. He, like the Lord Jesus before him, specifically stated that the law was not to be done away with, or even minimized in importance.  Not surprisingly, the only obedience to the law that God could recognize, according to Paul, was obedience that came from a heart of love. Anything else, was wasted effort.

Memory Text: “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.” Romans 12:2 KJV

After surrendering ourselves as a “living sacrifice”, as described in the previous verse, Paul asked his fellow believers to take a passive role by allowing God to transform them through the renewing of their minds.

Since the animal sacrifices offered to God were required to be pure and without blemish, He requires the same spotless character of these “living sacrifices”. This, of course, is only possible through that renewing of the mind, which is accomplished through the Holy Spirit.

Sunday: Your Reasonable Service

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 NKJV

If the animal sacrifices were to be holy and acceptable to God, we must present ourselves with the same standard of purity. But God does not leave us helpless in accomplishing this task. The next verse describes how we can achieve this requirement…

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV

In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 12, we can see the whole premise of salvation, our justification and sanctification. We first actively accept God, presenting ourselves to Him to be used for His divine purposes. God then steps in, at our invitation, and equips us for His service by transforming us by renewing our minds, making us His obedient, faithful, and fruitful friends.

This process fosters a mutually cooperative relationship that causes our spiritual life to grow and become even more satisfying to both God and the believer.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 12:1 and Psalm 9:11 and 107:22. Describe how our sacrifice should be given to God. How can music be a kind of sacrifice we offer to God? What kind of blessings does it give and to whom?

Read Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15 and Ephesians 4:23, 24. In what way is this a two-step process, and why are both steps (not conforming and the transforming) important? Are they done simultaneously, and how are they both done?

Read Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 7:25. What is described as “perfect” in this verse in Romans? How much perfection is it possible for us to achieve, with God’s help? And is it really our perfection, or Christ’s? Why will we always need an intercessor?

Monday: To Think Soberly

The rest of chapter 12 is full of practical reminders of what it means to conform to God’s will. Those that claim that the Ten Commandments, comprising God’s moral law, are done away with after the cross, are ignoring the many passages, such as this one, that amplify its meaning for us. Instead of admonishing us to forget about the law given to Moses, Paul helps us sense the spirit of the law, which was God’s intended purpose for us in the beginning.

Verses 3-8 encourages us to use our spiritual gifts, not to bless ourselves, but to uplift and glorify God’s church. He expects us to use our gifts, whatever they are, to bless others, both inside and outside the church. We are not all God’s mouthpiece. Some may be His arms, His legs, His eyesight. But He can and does use all of us in some way, as the Spirit sees fit, if we are willing vessels.

The rest of the chapter is vital in knowing what kind of behavior is acceptable to God, enabling us to grow in grace. Humility is a valued principle that seems to stand out most in this transformation process.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 12:3-8, Ephesians 4:7-13, and Acts 2:16, 17. Granted that we are all given a measure of faith and grace, does each of us also have a spiritual gift? Why is it important to use our gifts though, if we have them?

Read Romans 12:9-15. Which focus should a church have: to teach doctrine or to help those in need? What happens when we get too one-sided in serving God, either as a church or an individual?

Read Romans 12:16-21. Is it possible to live peaceably with all men (v. 18), and does the difficulty mean we aren’t to try? What phrases are found that support being humble in verses 3, 10, and 16? Why is being humble required, in order for overcoming evil to be successful, as it says in verse 21?

Tuesday: The Christian and the State

Paul’s counsel for believers concerning government is particularly noteworthy, due to the fact that the corrupt Roman government, which he was living under, turned out to be quite unfriendly to Christians. Paul himself was even put to death by the authorities in Rome.

Yet, Paul encourages us to give government officials whatever they require, when it doesn’t affect our obedience to God. This is because God is the one who sets up governments and allows them to thrive, and in some cases, to fall.

God evidently uses governments to maintain order and justice for its citizens, at least that is His desire. Governments can, and often do, serve many important functions, and Paul reminds us to do all we can to support our governments, so long as we aren’t required to give up our allegiance to God.

No matter what side of the political fence we are found though, Paul advises us to be careful and deliberate in our words and actions. We must consider carefully how we express our disappointments and concerns when it comes to those in authority. With countries as divided as they are now, we must not close ourselves off to those who might oppose us.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 13:1-7. What reasons does Paul give for not defying our government? Should we do nothing of a political nature then? How involved should Christians be with their governments?

Read 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Acts 5:29. When should we submit and when should we obey our governments? What should be the limits of our allegiance?

How can we oppose our leaders’ policies and actions without dishonoring them in the process? Why must we learn how to deal respectfully with those who oppose our ideas? Or, should we keep our political concerns private? When and how might it be proper and helpful to express our views?

Wednesday: Love One Another

The first words of Romans 13:8,“Owe no man anything…”, has no doubt been lifted out of context at times to prove that Christians should not have any outstanding debt on their financial records. Although there is merit in having good spending habits, we would be missing out on Paul’s message here if we focused on the monetary aspect of his statement alone.

He is emphasizing that if we are to owe anyone anything, it’s not our money…it’s our love. Once again, Paul wants his Jewish readers to take note of the purpose of the law. The law is a vehicle with which we deliver love to our neighbors. Knowing the law’s requirements enables us to express our love in the kindest way possible.

Not cheating on our spouse, killing, stealing, or lying is but the first step in showing love to others. Paul expands on ways to show our love in the previous verses, and in the chapter to follow. Love encompasses what you do to your neighbor, in addition to what you don’t do.

Paul states twice in this short passage (v. 8-10) that love is the fulfillment of the law. In other words, the only way to fulfill the law is to love each other first. If we toss out the law, we are tossing out love, which Paul states is the summation of the law (v. 9). You can’t have one without the other.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 13:8-1o, Matthew 22:36-40, and James 2:10. As stated by Jesus, what other kind of love is pointed out in the Ten Commandments? Does God consider them equally important? Can we pick and choose which commandments to keep?

Read  Galatians 5:13, 14. How might we “use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh”, as Paul mentions here? Does love ever free us from keeping God’s commandments? In what way is there liberty in our commandment-keeping?

Read Leviticus 19:18 and 1 John 4:20, 21. Was love also used as the motivating factor for those living in Old Testament times? Can we love God without loving others?

Thursday: Now Is Our Salvation

Paul wrapped up this last passage of chapter 13 with a distinct call for his readers to put on Christ. Doing this is the only way they would be able to keep God’s law and become the loving servant God requires.

He sounded almost desperate that they make this decision as soon as possible, because time was running out, he warned them. We almost feel he is preaching about the Second Coming, even though he wrote the epistle in the first century. He said plainly, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”

But Paul was right to present this topic with such urgency. No one knows how much longer he or she has to live on this earth. Therefore we can’t afford to postpone our decision to accept Christ. Only by accepting Him can we “walk properly, as in the day” (v. 13). Because Christ is the Light of the world (John 1:9), and is capable of leading “us in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3).

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 13:11-13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 7. Why is sin often referred to as living in darkness?

Read Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27. What does it mean to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”? Why is it important to be baptized? Is it a requirement to be saved?

Read Galatians 5:16-21. What are some of the “works of the flesh” that are not necessarily actions or works, but just a mindset? Why are these included in those things that fulfill the “lusts of the flesh”?


Paul’s statement about overcoming evil with good is in the heart of the lesson this week. We learn in chapters 12 and 13 that there are several aspects of doing this:

  1. Give yourself to God, in the same way as animal sacrifices were given. In other words, give Him your best. (Sunday)
  2. Be humble before God and before man. (Monday)
  3. Be a good citizen and show respect to those in authority. (Tuesday)
  4. Use love as your motivation to keep the commandments of God. (Wednesday)
  5. Live each day as if it were last. (Thursday)

Final Thoughts

Paul’s final verses in chapter 13 about putting on Christ resonate throughout this epistle. Indeed, the only way to overcome evil is to put on Christ’s robe of righteousness and be covered with His love and goodness. We don’t overcome evil with our OWN good. It has to be the holiness that comes from God.

Paul does not hesitate to show us ways to be humble, just as Jesus was humble in coming down from heaven to our world two thousand years ago. Jesus was and is our model. He is the One who shows us how to overcome evil. When we put on Christ, we are putting on His goodness. So, Paul wants to make it clear, especially to his legalistic Jewish friends, that we mustn’t strive to be good, as much as we strive to put on Christ, who is already good.

Next Week: Christian Living

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