by Mike Ratliff
1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)
1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. Colossians 3:16 (NASB) 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In our last post, The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship – Part 2, we looked at Romans 12:1b, which says, “to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service.” We learned that genuine believers give their souls to God at salvation and their bodies to to God as living, holy sacrifices as genuine acts of worship, as our priestly self-sacrifice. In this post we will look at Romans 12:2a, which says, “And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind“. The third element of our priestly self-sacrifice is giving our minds to God as an act of worship.
It is in the mind that our new nature and our old humanness are intermixed. It is in the mind that we make choices as to whether we will express our new nature in holiness or allow our fleshly humanness to act in unholiness. Be conformed is from συσχηματίζω (syschēmatizō), which refers to an outward expression that does not reflect what is within. It is used of masquerading or putting onan act, specifically by following a prescribed patter or scheme (σχῆμα (schēma)). It also carries the idea of being transitory, impermanent, and unstable. The negative μή (mē), not, makes the verb prohibitive. The verb itself is passive and imperative, the passive indicating that conformation is something we allow to be done to us, the imperative indicating a command.
Paul’s gentle but firm command is that we are not to allow ourselves to be conformed to this age. We are not to masquerade as a worldly person, for any reason. J.B. Phillips translates this phrase as “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” We must not pattern ourselves or allow ourselves to be patterned after the spirit of the age. We must not become victims of the world. We are to stop allowing ourselves to be fashioned after the present evil age in which we live.
One of the tragedies we are witnessing right now in the visible church is this very thing on a very large scale as denominational leaders, seminaries, and pastors are leading whoever will follow them into conforming to the evils of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality attempting to integrate them as part of the Church’s message to the world. My brothers, these things are Marxist corruptions that people are using to try to corrupt the Gospel and change the Truth that we present to the world to one that they believe the world wants instead. We must start by obeying these commands first then standing firm in resisting these movements within the Church wherever we can.
Age translates the Greek noun αἰῶνι (aiōni) the dative case of αἰών (aiōn), which means “forever, ages, world system, universe”. Some Bible translations render this as “World.” In this context it refers to this present sinful age, the world system now dominated by Satan, “the god of the world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Age here represents the sum of the demonic-human philosophy of life, it corresponds to the German zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) and has been well described as “that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitutes a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral atmosphere which at ever moment of our lives we inhale, again, inevitably to exhale” (G.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], 217-18).
It is not uncommon for unbelievers to mask themselves as Christians. Unfortunately, it is also not uncommon for Christians to wear the world’s masks. They want to enjoy the world’s entertainment, the world’s fashions, the world’s vocabulary, the world’s music, and many of the world’s attitudes–even when those things clearly do not conform to the standards of God’s Word. That sort of living is hypocrisy and is wholly unacceptable to God.
The world is an instrument of Satan, and his ungodly influence is pandemic. This is seen in the prideful spirit of rebellion, lies, error, and in the rapid spread of false religions–especially those that promote self and come under the broad umbrella of “New Age.” I was at Barnes & Noble today after lunch. I went through the “Religion” section carefully. I was surprised that they are still carrying all of Rob Bell’s books. I did not see any books by John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul or even classics by John Bunyan. No, everything I saw was books that The Gospel Coalition would give a thumbs up to I am sure which tells us where they stand now…
19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 (NASB)
So, what are we to do my brothers? Paul tells us to do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed! Transformed translates the Greek verb μεταμορφοῦσθε (metamorphousthe) the present tense, passive mood, imperative voice of μεταμορφόομαι (metamorphoomai), which connotes change in outward appearance and is the term from which we get the English metamorphosis. Matthew used the word in describing Jesus’ transfiguration. When “He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2), Christ’s inner divine nature and glory were , for a brief time and to a limited degree, manifested outwardly. Our inner redeemed nature also is to be manifested outwardly, but as completely and continually as possible, in our daily living.
As I stated above, the verb structure of μεταμορφοῦσθε (metamorphousthe) is a passive imperative. Positively, we are commanded to allow ourselves to be changed outwardly into conformity to our redeemed inner natures.
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)
Although we are to aspire to this outward change, it can be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit working in us by our being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
The Holy Spirit achieves your transformation by the renewing of your mind. This is an essential and repeated New Testament theme. The outward transformation is effected by and inner change in the mind, and the Spirit’s means of transforming our minds is the Word.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You. Psalms 119:11 (NASB)
God’s own Word is the instrument His own Holy Spirit uses to renew our minds, which, in turn, He uses to transform our living.
28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. Colossians 1:28 (NASB)
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— Colossians 3:10 (NASB)
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 (NASB)
The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. It is the mind that spends a little time as possible even with the necessary things of earthly living and as much time as possible with the things of God. It is the mind that is set “on the things above, not on the thing that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Whether good or bad, when anything happens in our lives, our immediate, almost reflexive response should be biblical. During His incarnation, Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations by hurling Scripture back into His adversary’s face (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Only the mind that is constantly being renewed by God’s Spirit working through God’s Word is pleasing to God. Only such a mind is able to make our lives “living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is [our] spiritual service.”
Soli Deo Gloria!
In our next post we will finish this study of Romans 12:1-2 with a close look at Romans 12:2b God willing!