Changing Our Thinking – Romans 12:1-2

In order to be a living sacrifice, the believer must completely change the way they think about everything. There are two parts to this change of thinking.

obedienceFirst, Paul says the believer is to “not be conformed” to the image of this world. The verb συσχηματίζω refers to being molded into another form, or guided by something else (BDAG). This is a compound word with σχῆμα “The term σχῆμα denotes the outward structure or form that may be known by the senses” (TDNT 7:954-58).

The “pattern of this world” is the way a culture thinks, the Greco-Roman worldview. This would include how a Gentile thinks about the gods, how daily life is regulated by placate the gods, relying on magic or divination when making decisions, etc. The average Roman would think about the Roman empire and the claims made by the emperor quite differently than a Christian view of empires based on the Hebrew Bible. The pursuit of honor in the Roman culture effects how and why a person decides to act in any given situation.

Second, the believer must be “transformed by the renewal of our minds.” The verb μεταμορφόω refer to both outward physical changes (such as the transfiguration, Matthew 17:2) and inward spiritual changes (BDAG). It is used of the change of the physical body in glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). In Romans 12:2 the word refers to an inward spiritual change of the believer by the power of the Spirit. The verb is a passive imperative, suggesting that it is God who does the actual transforming of our minds so that we begin to think differently (Kruse, Romans, 464).

The key to this metamorphosis is the “renewing” of our minds. Paul may have coined the word ἀνακαίνωσις, both the noun and the verb (2 Cor 4:16; Col 3:10) do not appear outside of Christian literature (Jewett, Romans, 733). The word combines the more common καινόω, “to make new” with ἀνα to form a word which means to make something new again, to return it to a pristine state prior to it becoming “unnew.” In Ephesians 4:21-24 Paul describes this process as putting off the old man and putting on the new (Cf. Col 3).

Paul argued in Romans 1 that Gentiles are futile in their thinking and ignorant of the way things really are. But the one who is in Christ has been enlightened, renewed so that they can “think about how they think,” renewing their minds in Christ Jesus.

For example, they would have fully accepted gods had some control over their life, they may have made sacrifices or performed rituals to ensure good luck on a journey, they may have believed people could curse them, or even purchased magical amulets to protect themselves from such curses.

Paul is describing a change in the way we think about everything in life! For example: this new way of thinking includes how people relate to one another. Instead of trying to use people to get ahead in the pursuit of honor and shame, people ought to serve one another in sincerity of love. Instead of seeking revenge, we ought to pray for our enemies.

25 thoughts on “Changing Our Thinking – Romans 12:1-2

  1. It is definitely interesting that the age old problems facing the culture back then are still the problems we face now. Our culture is fraught with materialistic thinking and “every man for himself” has never been more true. Our biblical worldview tells us that scripture says to put others first. We look at Romans 12 and the transformation we are supposed to go through will be evident in how we live out the law of Love Paul is describing. Love should be what the world sees and it should point them to Christ. If Love were truly being lived out according to the word and not the worldly idea of love, we would see lives changed, families renewed and more people understanding the Gospel. But pride gets in the way and being right and many times we can forget the rest of Chapter 12. its not just a list of dos and don’ts, or “rules” but instead it is a code of conduct for Christians so that we can better display the love of God.

  2. Changing our mind set and way of thinking is not an easy task. It requires a lot of patience, dedication, discipline and accountability. Paul shares in Romans that we are not to be conformed to the patterns of this sinful and evil world. Our word is so good at capturing our attention and interest because we are sinful human beings and long for fulfillment. We are also called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our pattern of thinking must change from being self – centered to being Christ – centered. Once our way of thinking changes and the way we live changes, there will be room for loving others and genuinely caring for others. Moo explains how Paul uses the dispute in the Roman church to teach Christians how to relate to others when there are disagreements present (Moo, 3767). Moo explains that our entire body or being must change, our thoughts, emotions and wills (Moo, 3774 / Romans 12:1-2). We are called to “align ourselves with the values of the world to come” (Moo, 3801). The letters written by Paul are a great encouragement to us all to change the way we live and think and live for what is worth while. Live for Christ, by following the guidelines and truths He has given to us.

  3. In writing a paper for class about Paul’s idea of “total transformation,” this passage came up as the beginning and basis for his ideology. Romans 12:1-2 lays the foundation for the section of chapters 12-15, which lay out a blueprint for essentially how Christians should behave. Doug Moo states, “The moral life of the Christian grows directly out of the theology of the gospel” (Moo, 176). In these chapters, beginning in 12:1, Paul explains the Christian ethic, and how to behave in the world that we live in. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul presented a lot of theology, and the remaining chapters can go hand-in-hand with that because it displays how we should act in response to our justification. Christians need to have an eternal mindset, and realize that this earth is not their home. Paul has drilled home the point that our minds are fallen, and we have an innate sin nature from birth. We need a Savior, and Romans 5-8 explained the sacrifice of Christ to reconcile us from our sin and bring us into an eternal relationship with him. Our direct response, since Christ gave his all for us, should be to give our all to him. That is where Paul is coming from in Romans 12:1-2. We are to be totally transformed and not worry about things of this world. We are to move away from worldly things, and focus our whole life on Christ.

  4. I like the use of the word conformed here because it really seems that the world has a way of wrapping us up in it’s ways and because of that we are shaped like the world. I think that be renewing our minds, we are pushing against what is coming in to wrap us up. We renew our minds by focusing on what God has to say in each and every specific situation. We can either consult God or the world. The one that we consult will wrap us up as we conform to it. Renewing our minds is like conforming to the will of God and there is nothing more awesome sounding than that! It means we are thinking and believing the same thing that God is, that we are in agreement! The differences that Romans and the Christians would have had is evident here. The Christian would have been called to love his enemy while the Roman would seek revenge from any that have hurt him. It is being conformed to specific ideas, when we conform to God, we are free to live and love like Him!

  5. The Bible is amazing in the fact that it still is totally relevant to today’s society even though everything is different compared to when Paul was speaking these words. We struggle with a lot of the things that the church back then did. “Paul establishes a basis for transformed living that runs contrary to the quest for honor that marked out the ancient world (much like today)” (TTP, 188). Christians are supposed to die to themselves and present themselves as a living sacrifice to God. Pretty much dying to this world so no longer conforming to it as Paul mentions in Romans 12:2 and becoming pleasing to God in our hearts and minds. “Christians are to give themselves entirely to God because of saving grace” (ESVSB, 2178). It all comes back to God and his saving grace no matter what humans do.

  6. Changing your mindset like this is no small task. It is difficult for a reason. As fallen humans, we are not wired to automatically think this way, which is why this call can be so daunting. The bible has many good things to say about the way that we view and interact with people. For example, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16) and “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4). Now these things sound great on paper, but implementing them into our lives is a whole different story. It comes down to the fact that this is a heart issue. We can prance around pretending we love everyone but if your intentions and interactions are not pure and genuine, you cannot say that you are living the kind of lifestyle Paul describes. Unless we first evaluate our own hearts and get rid of our preconceived notions we have about the people that surround us, we are never going to be able to love anyone properly.

  7. The Bible expresses the we are meant to have the same mindset of Jesus Christ (Phil 2:5). Longenecker further explained this by saying “That is, they are to become ‘Christ-minded,’ to think as Jesus thought, so that in turn they might live as he lived” (TTP 201). After reading these thoughts, I then wonder if the reason for sin can be completely blamed on ones’ thinking. What we think about something dictates how we will act concerning the same thing. If I have no respect for my teacher, I will act in a way to demonstrate my feelings of entitlement. If I do not think drinking will cause me to further my relationship with Christ, why would I not drink? The issue here is the reality that we still base what is correct/incorrect off of everything but the Bible as a primary basis. We base our actions off of experiences, other godly individuals, our temporary feelings, what culture says is correct, etc. To put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you must think like them and to do that correctly, you must first study them.

  8. In order to fulfill our title as living sacrifices, we need to change our way of thinking. Romans 12:2 says, “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world…” When we fully conform to what our culture does, we are actively going against God. By conforming and adhering to the norms of secular society, we end up subconsciously worshipping worldly gods. We should stay true to biblical interpretation of the calling for Christian lifestyle, and not by a TikTok trend or with what super far left/right political ideology tells us we need to do.
    When we change the way we think about the world, we are actively, “transforming by the renewal of our minds.” This transforming of our minds is generally thought of to be a renewed outlook and love for others through many different types of outpourings. You mentioned that along with the physical outpouring, we also have inward changes as well. I believe those to be the love and grace that we give people in our daily lives.

  9. “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).” Paul uses the Greek word μεταμορφόω . The interesting thing about this word is that refers to both, change on the outward appearance. But also, to the internal spiritual change. However, I will only be focusing on the inward spiritual change. In Romans 12:2 Paul is writing to the Christian believers to leave the life, and the worlds ways of thinking. And instead be made new and transformed. With this renewal of the mind you will be able to know and test God’s will and his ways. “The person transformed by the renewing of the mind is able to discern and put into practice the will of God (Moo pg. 164).”

  10. Changing every aspect of our life, the way we think and what we do as in our actions we need to reflect Christ in how we talk and how we think because what we think will eventually be what we do so we should be thinking on the things of what God wants for us. we don’t need to be conforming to the world but be changing the world. if we do exactly what they do and end up only saying that we need change but doing the very things we are against and what to see gone. our lives should be a pure reflection of Christ and are bibles need to be open, we cant complain about God being silent and are Word be Closed.

  11. A change of lifestyle starts with a change of mind. In my opinion, changing your mindset and way of thinking is even harder than changing your actions. You can fake your actions and not be genuine about them—but this would mean your way of thinking was not really changed. The first point that the blog post brings up is that Paul points out that we are to not be conformed by this world. What Paul means by this is that we should not look to this would to guide us, but rather look to the Lord to guide us. When we let the world guide our decisions, we are conforming to the world. The pattern of this world includes the thinking of the culture. In today’s culture, their way of thinking is very focused on themselves, rather than on God. People live for themselves, instead of living for God.
    The second point that the blog post brings up is that the believer must be transformed by the renewal of their mind. This refers to both outward changes and inward changes. The choices that we make physically should be to glorify God, because our body is no longer our own, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. God does the actual transformation of our minds, but it needs to be something that we actually want. The word renewing refers to “to make new” and to make something new again.
    Paul’s attempt is to show us that we can change our way of thinking in everything in life. One of these ways includes praying for our enemies instead of seeking revenge (Luke 6:27-28). I like this point because praying for our enemies is something that is impossible to do without help from the Lord.

  12. “In order to be a living sacrifice, the believer must completely change the way they think about everything” (Long, 2017). As believers we are aware of this fact, but knowing this doesn’t make the constant battle any easier. The blog post further explains two ways this changing of the way we think is to happen. The first is not thinking the way the world thinks. Back in Paul’s time this meant “conforming” to the Greco-Roman world. Today, this means not following and becoming entangled in the way society and non-believers tell us how we should be living. This is a constant battle because the temptations, just like in the Roman world, are around every corner. You may be judged an outsider when you openly deny the lifestyle God calls you too.

    The second way is that, “the believer must be ‘transformed by the renewal of our minds’” (Long, 2017). The blog posts turns us to a couple of scriptures that further prove this point. Matthew 17:2 talks about the physical changes and the spiritual ones. My Pastor preached on this subject and painted the picture of getting as close to the mindset of Adam and Eve before they brought sin into the world. To have our bodies and minds fully faithful on God and not on the world sin has created.

    The crazy fact about the Bible is that it is still relevant today. A fact many push a side to day, but in reality it is the best instructional book for Christians today to help guide them to live this life the way God wished and planned for. Despite it being written many years ago, the Church today still struggles with many of the same things the church did in the past. Our biggest resource is to use the instructions and Word of God to help the community of God hurdle and clear the challenges a sinful world will throw our way.

  13. Acceptance and transformation are two very relevant things in today’s world. In the last 2 years, the world as a whole has experienced loss, isolation, and uncertainty. In many ways, not only because of the pandemic. Changing our thinking is an excellent topic to touch on in times like these because as Christians we have to learn to accept and transform our thinking in order to do what God has instructed us to which is to love our neighbors. I think that it is very easy to become conformed with the world and its thinking. So many things are always changing and learning to understand and apply the Word becomes more difficult. It is so easy to take on groupthink. In TTP we see the example of how there are weak and strong groups, no matter what each group is doing there will always be judgment from one another (TTP 189). People will always do what works for them. Further in the reading, Paul offered a solution to the problem. He assured that the integrity of both groups was to be maintained while also taking on one of the views, yet protecting the opposite group, therefore respecting what God has called each to do (TTP 189). One of the main things we have to remember is that God calls us to do things in different ways, and he calls us on different paths. The journey to salvation is not the same for everyone. It will always be easier said than done, but it is what God calls us to do.

  14. Romans 12:1-2 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul is saying that we are to be different from the world and also think differently. According to Long, “Paul is describing a change in the way we think about everything in life.” I believe this means to fight against the sin in our lives and change our ways. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I should be allowing God to change my behavior and thoughts. It is easy to be selfish and prideful, but we should strive to walk as Jesus walked. Jesus loved others, He stood against evil, and He cared for the people around Him. It is important that we change our thinking when it does not align with the word of God. God gave us instructions on how to live in the scriptures, it is important that we follow them and allow God to work within our hearts. Sometimes it is easier to put God aside and to want to do what is wrong because it appears easier then following the truth. The more we allow God to work within our hearts the more we will be drawn near to Him. As our maturely in our relationship with God grows it is harder to sin against God. We become uncomfortable with sin and have convicted hearts. This is why it is important to drawn to God and allow Him to change our hearts.

  15. I agree with what Paul said at the end of trying to use people to advance for honor and shame, and to try to serve one another in a loving way and that we should not seek revenge, just pray for our enemies (Long, 2017). Paul is not wrong. It’s a change in lifestyle starting with a change of mind. It is hard to control our minds but we use our actions in ways that are not helpful. It helps us to practice our ways when it comes to our mind and actions. Basically, we have to hold our tongues before we say anything to the person. The first part is about Paul telling the believers not to rely or think these worldly things. The second part is the believers should have their minds renewed like, have clear, good conscience thoughts. Colossians 3, Paul mentions about the putting off the old and putting on the new (Long, 2017). It is like 2 Corinthians 5:17, we give our life to Christ, we are the new creation in which the old things are gone and the new have come. So, we have to learn to transform and renew our mind when we choose to accept Christ and become a Christian. In the article, Paul argues that the Gentiles think of the way they can control their thoughts and life and have it their way. God is in control of the life of those who believe. He has a plan for us.

  16. It is interesting to see how the Christians back when Christianity first started dealt with issues that Christians are dealing with today. One main issue has to deal with conforming to the world around us. The example that Dr. Long used in class today of a man made of out playdough being squished on a pool ball made a lot of sense to me. It is a really good visual because it shows what happens when a person gives up on their beliefs just to fit in. I think with this issue the Jewish people have a large advantage. The reason for this is because they have been dealing with nonconformity their entire lives. An example of this is that they have not been able to eat the same foods as most people. If the Jewish people were to conform to the outside world, they would eat the meat that everyone else. A Jew who becomes a Christian does not have to deal with being like everyone else then changing, they have already been different. In contrast, a Gentile was most likely just like everyone else then would change to not be like everyone else. This alone would give the Jews a large advantage.

  17. I had previously only thought of this verse in the sense that we ought not act as the world acts. Specifically in the sense of sexually sins, and all the social issues we see daily. Something that was a new thought to me was what was stated at the end of the post, how we are not to seek personal gain as the world does (Philippians 2:3-5). This world is so focused on themselves and what they can do to better themselves but as Christians we ought to have a different mindset. We are to follow the example of Christ as we see in Mark 10:45 in the sense that Christ didn’t come to be served but he came as a servant. Longenecker hints at this when he talks about the idea of how we aren’t here for our own benefit but to further the kingdom of God (Longenecker, 2014). We are unable to further the kingdom of God when we are focused on what we can do to get ahead and stay ahead of the world, rather than lifting others above ourselves and serving them in that way. This fits well with the idea of putting our fleshly desires to the side and dying to ourselves to accomplish the work of the Lord. The gravitational pull of the world is strong, but it is nothing compared to the will of God.

  18. This blog post is tackling a problem that is always on the hearts of Christians. The pattern of the world is constantly at battle with the pattern of our Lord. We are in a constant battle over what we know is true and what the world is telling us. Paul makes this truly clear and in Romans 12:1-2, we read that we are to be transformed by our Lord. We must not become like the world because we are not of this world. This reality of sanctification that the Lord does in our lives is very crucial to pursue and understand. Becoming more like Christ is the opposite of what the world wants. Christ came to this world, and He was killed. We live our lives for Christ, and we see the world rejects us. This change in thinking is important to understanding why the world is how it is. This renewing of the mind changes everything. Our eyes become opened to the Lords will and how important it is that we follow it. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV). The inner self that is being renewed is all from the Lord. We cannot renew or selves, by the grace of God we are renewed. Paul is an example of transformation and renewal. Paul has the most famous conversion and renewal story in history. Change is only given to us by the Lord. May we be always surrendering to the will of God in our lives, regardless of the pattern of the world.

  19. Great post. I love the saturation of the Greek words and their meanings. The more I learn about the Greek language and the application, the more excited I get to study things like this in its original context. Many things from Pauline literature can be confusing as to what the modern application is (like head coverings in the church, for example.) Romans 12, on the other hand, is extremely applicable to modern day readers. The world adopts a pattern that is opposite of Christ. Pride, supersession, and greed are key models in the utilitarian utopia of the world today. Christ calls us to be the opposite. Christians are to be humble, loving, giving of place and self. For Paul to write this to the biggest metropolis of the entire Roman empire is huge. A modern equivalent (though he does not quite reach the magnitude of the Apostle Paul writing to the Roman empire) would be John Mark Comer writing the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry where he calls us to adopt a slower pace of life so as to focus on the outworking of Christ. The magnitude of Paul commanding the Roman Christians to abstain from the image of the world was immense. They would have to adopt an entirely new lifestyle. I believe that the same can be said about today. Christians today are called to put off the poor things of the world, the pride and fast paced, self-seeking environment, and instead put on a humble, slow, others-seeking lifestyle; a lifestyle that signifies Christ.

  20. This is something that a lot of Christians experience and have to work through. I think changing your way of thinking and your actions can be very challenging for many Christians because of everything that surrounds us. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul talks about this change of thinking and brings up two points. The first being, “the believer is not “not be conformed” to the image of this world” and we can look at this with our modern day world. We are surrounded by things that lead us to sin and oftentimes we don’t even mean to sin, it just happens. Like Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and we often let things get in the way of our guidance from God. Here Paul is reminding us to never lose sight of God and always follow Him no matter what surrounds us. The next part he brings up is “​​the believer must be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” which can be the challenge a lot of Christians face. It is easy to put up a front but your way of thinking by the Lord, believing and trusting in him, having that deep relationship with Him is what is really important. A lot of Christians can see themselves in this – show up to church on Sunday and call it good. Longenecker states that “it requires “offering” oneself to God” (TTP, 188) which I think is really powerful. Overall, Paul is reminding us that not only are our outward changes important but our inward changes are important as well.

  21. The theme of changing your thinking is a common theme throughout Romans 12. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul tells people to be transformed through the renewal of their mind. The reason why Paul tells the Romans to be renewed through their mind is because Christians are called to live for Christ. Without renewal of the mind, it is impossible to live a life for God. There are other verses in the Bible that stress the importance of renewing your mind. A few examples are:
    – Inner self is being renewed day after day – 2 Corinthians 4:16
    – Be renewed in the spirit of your mind – Ephesians 4:23
    – Put on a new self that is filled with knowledge – Colossians 3:10
    – A mind set on the Spirit is life and peace – Romans 8:6

    Renewal of the mind is important for a believer’s relationship with God. Without setting your mind on godly things, you cannot align your goals with God’s. There are a few reasons why it is important for believers to change their way of thinking. One reason why it is important is because it helps Christians to relate to others better. Near the end of the article, it says that people should serve each other with love and they should pray for their enemies. Lastly, being renewed through your thinking will help non-Christians to see what it truly looks like to be a Christian, which is a message that is often lost in translation today. This is what it looks like to change your thinking to be more Christ-like.

  22. “Changing your thinking” is a resonant theme throughout Romans 12 for good reason. The language behind not being “conformed to the patterns of the world” does not make Christians out to be vehement radicals against society’s uncaring, rotating gears. Instead, Christians should be adopting a different mindset, one that rallies against the “pattern of the world.” Dr. Long (2019) places this concept within the historical frame of Greco-Roman society, “This would include how a Gentile thinks about the gods, how daily life is regulated by placating the gods, relying on magic or divination when making decisions, etc.” The pursuit of honor, instead of aligning human will with God, is what drives and undergirds the Roman world. The transformation of our minds comes not from human intuition, but rather from God’s renewal. This invokes imperative language from 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV). Revenge ought to be replaced with prayer, malcontentedness with love, anxiety with peace, and betrayal with brotherhood. In fact, Longenecker & Still (2014) mention that “It is almost astonishing, while at the same time utterly predictable, that Paul sees healthy relationships among Christians who overcome their differences and support one another to be among the primary manifestations of the power of the gospel” (p. 189). Members of the church are to live in sincere love and embrace the roles assigned to them.

    The most integral question any Christian can ask regarding their lives is, “What distinguishes my life personally from the world (Long, 2023, p. 128)?” In class, Dr. Long mentioned the analogy of playdough molded around a blue billiard ball, the two objects becoming nearly indistinguishable from each other. This playdough can be used to form nearly anything, yet becomes little more than the crust of another object. In the same sense, we tend to absorb the news and the surrounding context of current events without properly digesting them through a biblical worldview, offering our minds to the discretion of the world. The way we think invariably shapes how we act and thus how we live, move, and have our being in modern society. This is not to say Christians should be “radical” in protest but rather radical in the ways they think, perhaps adopting contemporary occurrences for Christ’s purpose instead. In all aspects, we often falter in being “noble Bereans,” cross-checking the information lobbed at us with Scripture. This new perspective from a transformed mindspace informs how individuals treat and interact with each other while also coloring the lens from which we should conceptualize the world: A fleeting place we inhabit until the hope of heaven and eventually the new creation on earth.

  23. I believe that renewing our thinking would be a good thing for people to do. Relating to one another in different ways can make us love the people who may hate us and pray for them. Showing people love even when they are mad at us or if they are our enemy is a way to show that we are God’s children. He loves all of us no matter what and so why should we let little things affect the way we feel about people. Praying for your enemies sounds crazy at first but when you think about it, who are the people who need to be prayed for the most, the people who have anger built up inside of them, our enemies. These people may not deserve grace, but does anyone truly deserve grace? We are all sinners and God still shows us His grace. Grace is one of Gods gift to us and we should embrace it as well as give it. Although people may not deserve grace, they are still given it and we as humans should see each other as His creation and treat each other this way. Even an enemy has their own struggles and we need to remember that.

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