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Interpretation of Romans 12:1-2


In this day and age many individuals struggle with understanding the meaning of a Biblical Passage. Some simply guess, while others pull an allegorical meaning, while others try to fit deep mystical meaning to solve the dilemmas of circumstances or situations that plague the individual’s life. Using Romans 12: 1-2 as an example text a concise thesis statement will be developed as well as some common applications in for this verse for the Christian today. The method used to interpret this verse will be the four step method known as the Interpretative Journey. This method starts by examining the text in relevance to the time, place and context when written and bridges the gap to a relevant meaning to contemporary society (Carter, Duvall and Hays 2005).

The Biblical Meaning / Historical Setting

The Epistle to the Romans was written from Corinth in the winter of 56-57 AD by the Apostle Paul. It was written approximately 4 years before the great persecution of Christians and Jews by Nero and tension towards non-pagans were brewing in the Empire. The Christian Church, of Rome would have not been founded yet, despite Catholic claim which dates its founding at 42 AD, but many Christians would have been meeting in synagogues, homes and possibly grave yards at this time. Many Rome citizens were beginning to begin to be cautious of Christians as rumors about catabolism and infanticide were circulated as negative campaign of propaganda as Christians were seen as a threat to the pagan lifestyle of Rome and the Government itself (Gonzalez 2010). The meaning of Romans 12:1-21 itself is one of duty towards one brother and the church. In the Interpretative Journey this step is called grasping the meaning in their town and is used to help the reader understand the context from a Biblical perspective (Carter, Duvall and Hays 2005).

Differences and Similarities

The next steps involves looking for differences and similarities in language, situation, time, culture, and possibly covenant between today and the biblical audience and is known as measuring the width of the river in the Interpretive Journey Method (Carter, Duvall and Hays 2005). The New Testament was composed in Greek the common trade and academic language of the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire various languages were spoken besides Latin the language of Rome as the empire was made up of various provincial states over seen by governors who paid tribute and worshiped and emperor.  The Religious system of Rome was made up of various pagan elements some of official Roman Gods, some of regional Gods and other of mystery cults. Christians and Jews were distrusted in this society and seen as a threat as their emphasis on the removal of sin and ungodly living was in conflict to the hedonist lifestyle of the Romans. Although most of us do not speak or worship pagan Gods we as Christians still are at odds with those who cling to idols and earthly pleasures or what Paul described as the Flesh nature. Thus, the width today is not that wide.

The Meaning (Crossing the Bridge)

So what is the meaning or thesis statement of Romans 12:1-2? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern 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 12:1-2 NIV 1984).”

To state this in a simple statement: The only way one can know what is right and pleasing to God and to serve him is by seeking him in the study of Scripture. This not only will allow one to determine right from wrong but will enable protection from sin and prepare one to better serve God who should be the focus of all things.

Examples of Application

The final step is to determine how the thesis can be applied to a relevant circumstance in one’s life today.   The above verse could be applied to prepare one for work to carry the Gospel to others, however it is also used commonly by Christian counselor and individuals to remind us that sin starts first with a thought and only by changing our thinking and then our heart by biblical principles via sanctification and forgiveness can we become Christ-like. Despite our best intentions all of us our sinners and subjective to temptation and vices thus, only by the power of Holy Spirit is our body and minds renewed. This renewal can only be accomplished by seeking God through the study of his Word.

In God, Christ and Spirit,

Trent Rindoks

Word Count # 803


Carter, Terry G, J. Scott Duvall, and J.Daniel Hays. Preaching God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. I. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

NIV. Swindoll, Charles R. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publish House, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L, and Ben Gutiierrez. The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012.





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