“Be Aglow With the Spirit”
“Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.”—ROM. 12:11.
1. Why did the Israelites make animal sacrifices and other offerings?
JEHOVAH appreciates willing sacrifices made by his servants to express their love for him and their submission to his will. In ancient times, he accepted various animal sacrifices and other offerings. These were made according to the Mosaic Law by Israelites seeking to obtain forgiveness for sins and to express thanksgiving. In the Christian congregation, Jehovah does not require us to offer such formal, material sacrifices. However, in chapter 12 of his letter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul shows that we are still expected to offer sacrifices. Let us see how.
A Living Sacrifice
2. As Christians, what kind of life do we lead, and what does this involve?
2 Read Romans 12:1, 2. In the earlier part of his letter, Paul clearly demonstrated that anointed Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile, were declared righteous before God by faith, not by works. (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-24) In chapter 12, Paul explains that Christians should show their gratitude by a life of self-sacrifice. To that end, we have to make our minds over. Through inherited imperfection, we are subject to “the law of sin and of death.” (Rom. 8:2) We, therefore, need to be transformed, “be made new in the force actuating [our] mind,” by radically changing our inclinations. (Eph. 4:23) Such a complete change can be brought about only with the help of God and his spirit. It also requires serious effort on our part, using our “power of reason.” It means that we do our utmost not to be “fashioned after this system of things” with its corrupt morals, debased entertainment, and warped thinking.—Eph. 2:1-3.
3. Why do we engage in Christian activities?
3 Paul also invites us to use our “power of reason” to prove to ourselves what is “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Why do we read the Bible daily, meditate on what we read, pray, attend Christian meetings, and share in preaching the good news of the Kingdom? Is it because the congregation elders exhort us to do so? True, we are thankful for the helpful reminders of the elders. But we engage in Christian activities because we are moved by God’s spirit to demonstrate our heartfelt love for Jehovah. Furthermore, we are personally convinced that carrying out such activities is God’s will for us. (Zech. 4:6; Eph. 5:10) It brings us much joy and satisfaction to realize that by leading a truly Christian life, we can be acceptable to God.
4, 5. How should Christian elders use their gifts?
4 Read Romans 12:6-8, 11. Paul explains that “we have gifts differing according to the undeserved kindness given to us.” Some of the gifts Paul mentions—exhorting, presiding—especially concern Christian elders, who are admonished to preside “in real earnest.”
5 That same earnestness should be evident, states Paul, in the way overseers serve as teachers and carry out “a ministry.” The context seems to indicate that Paul here refers to “a ministry” carried out within the congregation, or the “one body.” (Rom. 12:4, 5) That ministry is similar to the one mentioned at Acts 6:4, where the apostles declare: “We shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” What does such a ministry involve? Christian elders use their gifts to build up the members of the congregation. They show themselves to “be at this ministry” when they earnestly provide guidance and instruction to the congregation from God’s Word by their prayerful study, research, teaching, and shepherding. Overseers should use their gifts conscientiously and care for the sheep “with cheerfulness.”—Rom. 12:7, 8; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
6. How can we follow the counsel given at Romans 12:11, the theme text of this article?
6 Paul further states: “Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” If we detect a tendency to be sluggish in our ministry, we may need to revise our study habits and to pray more intensely and more often for Jehovah’s spirit, which can help us to combat any lukewarmness and to renew our zeal. (Luke 11:9, 13; Rev. 2:4; 3:14, 15, 19) The holy spirit energized the early Christians to speak about “the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:4, 11) Likewise, it can move us to be zealous in the ministry, to “be aglow with the spirit.”
Humility and Modesty
7. Why should we serve with humility and modesty?
7 Read Romans 12:3, 16. The gifts we may have are due to Jehovah’s “undeserved kindness.” Paul states elsewhere: “Our being adequately qualified issues from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5) Therefore, we should not glorify ourselves. We should humbly recognize that any fruitage we may have in our ministry is the result of God’s blessing, not our own competence. (1 Cor. 3:6, 7) In line with this, Paul states: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” It is necessary that we have self-respect and find joy and satisfaction in our Kingdom service. However, being modest, or being aware of our limitations, will prevent us from becoming opinionated. Rather, we want to “think so as to have a sound mind.”
8. How can we avoid being “discreet in [our] own eyes”?
8 It would be foolish for us to boast of our own accomplishments. It is “God who makes it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:7) Paul states that God has distributed to each member of the congregation “a measure of faith.” Rather than feeling superior, we should recognize what others are accomplishing according to the measure of faith that they have. Paul further says: “Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.” In another of his letters, the apostle tells us to do “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” (Phil. 2:3) It takes true humility and conscious effort to recognize that each of our brothers and sisters is superior to us in one way or another. Humility will prevent us from being “discreet in [our] own eyes.” While privileges of special service may bring some into the limelight, all will find deep joy in accomplishing “lowly things,” humble tasks that often go unnoticed by men.—1 Pet. 5:5.
Our Christian Unity
9. Why does Paul compare spirit-begotten Christians to members of a body?
9 Read Romans 12:4, 5, 9, 10. Paul compares anointed Christians to members of a body serving unitedly under their Head, Christ. (Col. 1:18) He reminds spirit-begotten Christians that a body has many members with different functions and that they, “although many, are one body in union with Christ.” In a similar vein, Paul exhorted anointed Christians in Ephesus: “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:15, 16.
10. What authority should the “other sheep” recognize?
10 Although the “other sheep” are not part of the composite body of Christ, they can learn much from this illustration. (John 10:16) Paul states that Jehovah “subjected all things under [Christ’s] feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation.” (Eph. 1:22) Today, the other sheep are part of “all things” placed by Jehovah under the headship of his Son. They are also among the “belongings” that Christ has entrusted to his “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) Those with an earthly hope should, therefore, recognize Christ as their Head and be submissive to the faithful and discreet slave and its Governing Body and to the men appointed as overseers in the congregation. (Heb. 13:7, 17) This contributes to Christian unity.
11. Upon what is our unity based, and what other counsel did Paul give?
11 Such unity is based on love, the “perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:14) In Romans chapter 12, Paul emphasizes this, saying that our love should be “without hypocrisy” and that “in brotherly love” we should have “tender affection for one another.” This leads to mutual respect. The apostle says: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” Of course, we must not confuse love with sentimentality. We should do all we can to keep the congregation clean. When giving his counsel on love, Paul adds: “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.”
The Course of Hospitality
12. As to showing hospitality, what can we learn from Christians in ancient Macedonia?
12 Read Romans 12:13. Our love for our brothers will move us to “share with the holy ones according to their needs” and according to our ability. Even if we have few of this world’s goods, we can share what we have. Writing of Christians in Macedonia, Paul stated: “During a great test under affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty made the riches of their generosity abound. For according to their actual ability, yes, I testify, beyond their actual ability this was, while they of their own accord kept begging us with much entreaty for the privilege of kindly giving and for a share in the ministry destined for the holy ones [in Judea].” (2 Cor. 8:2-4) Although poor themselves, Christians in Macedonia were very generous. They considered it a privilege to share with their needy brothers in Judea.
13. What does it mean to “follow the course of hospitality”?
13 The phrase “follow the course of hospitality” translates a Greek expression that implies showing initiative. The New Jerusalem Bible renders the expression “look for opportunities to be hospitable.” Hospitality is sometimes expressed by inviting someone for a meal, and when this is done in love, it is commendable. But if we show initiative, we will discover many other ways of being hospitable. For one thing, if our means or our strength do not allow us to invite others for a meal, sharing a cup of coffee, tea, or some other beverage is also a way of showing hospitality.
14. (a) The Greek word translated “hospitality” is made up of what words? (b) In the ministry, how can we demonstrate our concern for foreigners?
14 Hospitality involves our outlook. The Greek word translated “hospitality” is made up of two root words meaning “love” and “stranger.” What are our feelings toward strangers, or foreigners? Christians who strive to learn another language so as to preach the good news among foreigners who have moved into the territory of their congregation can truly be counted among those who are following the course of hospitality. Of course, many of us are not in a position to learn another language. Still, all of us can have a meaningful share in helping foreigners by making good use of our booklet Good News for People of All Nations, which contains a Bible message in many languages. Have you had good results from using this booklet in the ministry?
15. How did Jesus exemplify the counsel given at Romans 12:15?
15 Read Romans 12:15. Paul’s counsel in this verse can be summed up in two words: Show empathy. We need to learn to understand and even share another person’s feelings, whether joy or sadness. If we are aglow with the spirit, our feelings of shared joy or compassion will be evident. When 70 disciples of Christ returned joyfully from a preaching campaign and related the good results of their work, Jesus himself “became overjoyed in the holy spirit.” (Luke 10:17-21) He shared their joy. On the other hand, Jesus ‘wept with people who were weeping’ when his friend Lazarus died.—John 11:32-35.
16. How can we show fellow feeling, and who, in particular, need to do so?
16 We want to follow Jesus’ example of showing empathy. When a fellow Christian rejoices, we wish to share his or her joy. Similarly, we should be sensitive to the pains and heartaches of our brothers and sisters. Often, we can bring much relief to fellow believers who are suffering emotional pain if we take the time to listen to them with a truly sympathetic ear. And at times, we may find that our heart is so touched that our genuine empathy is expressed with tears. (1 Pet. 1:22) Elders, in particular, should follow the counsel that Paul gives on showing empathy.
17. What have we learned thus far from Romans chapter 12, and what will be considered in the following article?
17 The verses we have considered thus far in Romans chapter 12 have given us counsel that can be applied in our personal lives as Christians and in our relationship with our brothers. In the next article, we will examine the remaining verses of this chapter, which discuss how we should view and deal with people outside the Christian congregation, including opposers and persecutors.
By Way of Review
• How do we demonstrate that we are “aglow with the spirit”?
• Why should we serve God with humility and modesty?
• In what ways may we show empathy and compassion to fellow believers?
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Why do we engage in these Christian activities?
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How can each of us share in helping foreigners to learn about the Kingdom?