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.

9 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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