St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans Chapter 12


Heavenly Father,

Just as Your Son offered Himself as a willing sacrifice for
the redemption of humanity so too do we, who live in Christ, offer ourselves as
willing sacrifices to the glory of God, striving in every way to live lives of
holiness as we obediently follow Christ’s command to bear up our crosses daily
and follow Him.  We follow Him in sacrifice just as we are promised we will
follow Him in glory.  We ask, Lord, that You send Your Holy Spirit to guide us
in our study as we address the Christian’s call to living a sanctified life. We
pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


+ + +

“It is by the
apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and
gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the
Holy Spirit, may offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to

Vatican II,
Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

“I believe in
order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”

St. Paul has completed his teachings on basic Christian
doctrine and the promised reunification of the Covenant family.   Now in the
last part of his letter [chapters 12-15] he turns his attention to instruction
on the moral considerations and consequences for living the Christian life.  In
the New Covenant the body of the believer becomes a “living sacrifice” as
opposed to the dead sacrifices offered in the Old Covenant.  Any sacrifice
offered to God must be perfect; so too must the sacrifice of our lives be a
perfect offering; therefore, the Christian life offered to God must be dedicated
to the pursuit of holiness.


Please read Romans 12:1-2:
The Definition of Worship for the Christian

1 I urge you,
then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living
sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you,
as sensible people. 
2 Do not model
your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds
transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God’
what is is good and acceptable and mature.” 


In Romans 6:11-13
Paul urged the Roman community to let holiness and not sin be the guide for
their lives: “In the same way, you must see yourselves as being dead to sin
but alive for God in Christ Jesus. That is why you must not allow sin to reign
over your mortal bodies and make you obey their desires; or give any parts of
your bodies over to sin to be used as instruments of evil.  Instead, give
yourselves to God, as people brought to life from the dead, and give every part
of your bodies to God to be instruments of uprightness…”


In this part of his letter Paul summons the Roman community
to a pattern of Christian life that is responsive to the teaching of the Gospel
of Jesus Christ.  Mercy/ compassion is the key word in this opening verse, for
mercy is what defines God’s universal plan of salvation.  It is in the faithful
response to this call of “living in the spirit” that the Christian will fully
experience God’s mercy.  Now in Romans 12:1 Paul defines the necessity for that
life of holiness in terms of each Christian offering his and her live as a
sacrifice acceptable to God’a holy living sacrifice.

Question: Today as in the distant past private worship
has always been defined as giving adoration and praise to God but
how was public worship defined under the previous covenants from Adam to Abraham
to Sinai?  See Genesis
; 22:1-5; Leviticus
; Hebrews

Answer: Public worship in the Old Testament is most
often defined in the terms of blood sacrifice for the purpose of reestablishing
communion with God.  The animal was killed’its blood was separated from its body
and both the body and blood of the sacrificial victim was offered, either as a
whole burnt offering with the blood poured out on the Altar or as a sacrifice
that was shared with God, the blood being poured out, the fat being burned and
the flesh eaten either by the priests or by the offerer.


Question: How does Paul identify the principal
difference between the animal sacrifice of the previous covenants and the New
Covenant sacrifice?

Answer: In the previous covenants the animals offered
in sacrifice were dead but the “living” sacrifices of the New Testament are
uniquely alive because of Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is
represented on the altar as an on-going and ever present sacrifice of the
gloried living Jesus Christ and we offer our lives in sacrifice with Christ
living in us’offering a sacrifice that carries with it the gift of eternal


Question: Before the Sinai Covenant worship took place
wherever God manifested Himself and an altar was built [Genesis
; 28:12-19],
but with the establishment of the Sinai Covenant where was worship confined?
See Exodus
; 1
Kings 8:10

Answer: At first at God’s Tabernacle and later at the
Temple in Jerusalem.  Both the desert Tabernacle, which traveled with the
Covenant people, and the Temple in Jerusalem were places where God’s presence
was with His people and the only place of legitimate worship of Yahweh.

Question: The woman of Samaria in John chapter 4 had a
discussion with Jesus concerning the place of legitimate worship of Yahweh. What
did she suggest and what was Jesus’ response to her?  See John 4:20-22.

Answer: She suggested that there was no difference
whether her people worshipped Yahweh on Mt. Gerizim or the Jews worshipped in
Jerusalem [verse
], but Jesus corrected her when He said: “Believe me, woman, the hour
is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in
Jerusalem.  Your worship what you do not know, we worship what we do know; for
salvation comes from the Jews.”

Question:  After the Resurrection of Christ did this
place of established worship change and why?  What did Jesus tell the woman of
Samaria about this change in John 4:23-24 and
what did He mean?

Answer:  Jesus told the woman “But the hour is
coming’indeed is already here’when true worshippers will worship the Father in
spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.  God is
spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.” 
We worship
in the “spirit” because it is God the Holy Spirit who makes the baptized
believer a new creature’reborn into the family of God [see John 3:5].  God
dwelling in the believer makes the believer’s body the new Temple of the God.
He [the Holy Spirit] is also the inspiring foundation and principle of the new
worship of God in the New Covenant in Christ.  This new worship is in “truth”
because it is now the only worship that conforms to the conditions of worship
revealed by God the Father through God the Son.  The early Church Father Origen
wrote, “Paul says that the sacrifice is living because it has eternal life in
it, which is Christ.  Elsewhere he says, ‘We always carry in the body the death
of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.’  He
calls it holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, as he says elsewhere: ‘Do
you not know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in
you?'”  Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,
Origen [quoting 2
Corinthians 4:10
and 1
Corinthians 3:16


Question: Paul states in Romans 12:1
that to offer ourselves as living sacrifices is the only kind of worship for
Christians as “sensible people.”  How is it that believers are to be “sensible”
in worshipping God?  Hint: read 1 Samuel
; and Psalm 51:16-17;
Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21

Answer: Christ has defined for us in the Gospels what
it means to worship [John 4:23-24] “in
the spirit” and to live “life in the spirit.”  To offer oneself totally to God
is not a new concept.  In the Old Testament the prophet Samuel, King David and
the prophets Hosea and Amos wrote of what was true “worship” for God:

  • 1 Samuel
    : Is Yahweh pleased by burnt offerings and sacrifices or by
    obedience to Yahweh’s voice?  Truly, obedience is better than sacrifice,
    submissiveness than the fat of rams.  Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption
    a crime of idolatry!”
  • Psalm 51:16-17:
    “Sacrifice gives you no pleasure, burnt offering you do not desire.
    Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken, contrite heart you never
  • Hosea 6:6:
    …for faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not
    burnt offerings.”
  • Amos 5:21-24: “I
    hate, I scorn your festivals, I take no pleasure in your solemn assemblies.
    Whey you bring me burnt offerings…your oblations, I do not accept them and I
    do not look at your communion sacrifices of fat cattle.  Spare me the din of
    your chanting; let me hear none of your strumming on lyres, but let justice flow
    like water and uprightness like a never-failing stream!”


Question: Under the Old Covenant submission and
obedience of the believer had to be united with the offering of animal
sacrifice.  But were Old Covenant believers equipped to provide their lives as
perfect “living” sacrifices?

Answer: Neither animal sacrifice nor the sacrifice of
the lives of individual believers could be perfect enough under the old order
[see Psalms
; Romans
].  No animal could be perfect enough and no matter how hard one tried
to live a life of perfect righteousness under the Law of Moses, perfection was
incomplete because there was no filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the
lives of Old Covenant believers’they were still under the dominion of sin [Romans 6:8-13].
Even so, God expected the best each individual could give from the heart and
from love not from ritual or rote performance.  The same is of course true for
New Covenant believers.  Even though we can, through the power of God the Holy
Spirit, offer a living sacrifice that is acceptable because of a life
transformed by grace, we must remember that the offering of that living
sacrifice much be a perfect sacrifice sanctified by grace through the power of
the sacraments in order for our living sacrifice to be clothed with the
righteousness of Jesus Christ.  This is why we cannot receive communion if we
are not in a state of grace.  Simple following the rituals of our faith are not
enough now as they were not enough under the Old Covenant. The result of true
worship as defined for Christians under the New Covenant is through the
acceptable sacrifice; both Christ’s living sacrifice and our own living
sacrifice, which has the power to reestablish communion with the Most Holy
Trinity in a unity of spirit that comes from circumcised hearts infused with the
living presence of the Christ.


St. John Chrysostom identified the necessity of living in a
state of grace to insure the perfection of our personal living sacrifice:
“How is the body to become a sacrifice?  Let the eye look on no evil thing,
and it has already become a sacrifice.  Let the tongue say nothing filthy, and
it has become an offering.  Let you hand do nothing evil, and it has become a
whole burnt offering.  But even this is not enough, for we must have good works
also.  The hand must do alms, the mouth must bless those who curse it, and the
ears must find time to listen to the reading of Scripture.  Sacrifice allows of
no unclean thing.  It is the first fruits of all other actions.”
St. John
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 20.  [Also see CCC# 571; 1076; 1362-72; 2031; definition of
worship CCC page 904: “Worship: Adoration and honor given to God, which is
the first act of the virtue of religion (2096).  Public worship is given to God
in the Church by the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the liturgy


Therefore, we must be ever mindful that in the celebration of
the Mass once the prayer over the gifts is spoken and the priest, with his hands
extended greets us with the words, “The Lord be with you” and we respond
in unison, “And also with you”, that the moment to prepare for the gift
of our personal living sacrifice is upon us.  The priest then invites us with
uplifted hands to offer the holy and living sacrifice of our lives with the
words “Life up your hearts” recalling the words of the Book of Lamentations
, “Let us stretch out our hearts and hands to God in heaven”;
and we respond with uplifted hands and a cry from the heart, “We
lift them up to the Lord.”
It is at this moment that each of us prepares to
offer himself or herself in a state of grace to the Lord’in Scripture one’s
heart symbolizes all that one thinks, feels, and believes’the total sum of a
person.  In the heavenly hymn of the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Sanctus we
ready ourselves to stand as a living sacrifice before the throne of God when
heavenly and earthly worship will soon be joined in the words of the
Consecration.  As the Mass progresses we wait in joyous anticipation for the
words of invitation when the priest speaks words that closely repeat the words
used by John the Baptist in John 1:29 when he
introduced Jesus to the crowds on the shore of the Jordan River: “This is the
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”
and recalling the Lord’s
Supper when He first offered the faithful His Body and Blood the priest adds,
” Happy are those who are called to his supper”;
followed by our response
which closely echoes the words of the Roman centurion at Capernaum in Matthew 8:8:
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be
Then, having fully examined our conscience, having repented our
venial sins in the Penitential Rite, we process forward clothed in the bridal
garment of grace as a perfect living sacrifice offered in love to the Savior as
we receive Him in the most holy and intimate union of the Eucharist.  We would
not dare to go forward to offer an imperfect sacrifice of ourselves’tainted with
sin, for to do so would bring God’s condemnation upon us [see 1
Corinthians 11:26-32
].  The Eucharist is a sacrificial union of the Bride,
who is the Church and the Bridegroom, Christ’each given in a perfect unity of
love and sacrifice.


Pope Pius XII’s instruction to the faithful concerning this
most personal offering of the Bride who is the Church to the Bridegroom who is
Christ wrote, “If the oblation whereby the faithful in this Sacrifice offer
the divine victim to the heavenly Father is to produce its full effect […]
they must also offer themselves as victim, desiring intensely to make themselves
as like as possible to Jesus Christ who suffered so much, and offering
themselves as a spiritual victim with and through the High Priest himself.”
Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 25 [see CCC# 2099; 2100].


Question: In Romans 12:2
Paul gives two commands; what are they?

Answer: Paul writes,

1.      Do not model your
behavior on the contemporary world, but

2.      let the renewing of your
minds transform you

Our rejection of the standards of the world and our
submission to the principles of holiness laid out in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
is what defines our living sacrifice’it is the way we model our behavior that is
opposed to the behavioral norm of the “world of the flesh.”  However, this
refusal to conform to the world’s norm may bring ridicule and persecution.


Question: In Romans 8:29 how
did Paul tell the Christians of Rome they must conform in order to live “life in
the Spirit”?

Answer: The Romans and all Christians are called
“to be molded to the pattern of his Son” or as the New American Bible
translates this verse “to be conformed to the image of his Son”–in other
words, we must all live “in imitation of Christ”.


Question: Does this mean to live only in the image of
His resurrected life?  Hint: see Romans 8:17

Answer: No, it also means to live in imitation of His
mercy, His forgiveness, and His suffering as Paul wrote in 8:17, “And
if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ,
provided that we share his suffering, so as to share his glory.”


In verse 1 Paul advises the Romans that their worship should
be “sensible” or rational and now in verse 2 he urges them to “let the
renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves
what is the will of God’what is good and acceptable and mature.”
  In living
a life of sacrificial consecration believers must discern what it is God
requires of them.  It is the obligation of all Christians to seek the will of
God in their lives but how does one begin the process of discernment? Do we
discern by “faith alone” or through both faith and reason?

Question: What is the importance of both faith and
reason in the life of the Christian?  Hint: see CCC# 156-159.

Answer: Faith most certainly must come first but there
is no opposition between faith and reason.  God has not only given man the gift
of faith but also the gift of reason and intellect.  If intellect is not applied
to faith one cannot mature in one’s relationship with the Lord. However, what is
perceived as reason cannot contradict the teachings of faith as laid down in
Scripture and the teachings of the Magisterium.  When guided by the Church
faith perfects intellect.
  As Saint Augustine wrote: “I believe in order
to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” 
If Christian faith
remains “a blind impulse of the mind” [CCC # 156], Christian growth
cannot mature.  It is necessary to have knowledge and understanding of the
teachings of Christ in order to discern the will of God in the life of the
believer.  This is why Jesus gave us mother Church’like all mothers it is her
duty to teach and guide and to raise up children who will grow to maturity in
righteousness and faith.


Question: What should be the process of discerning the
will of God in our lives?  See 2
Corinthians 13:5-9
; Galatians
; Phil
; Hebrews
; Ephesians

Answer: You cannot discern God’s will for your life if
sin has a hold on you.  The Christian must discern God’s will clothed in the
garment of grace, committed to prayer and seeking to determine the gifts the
Holy Spirit has He has given them to the individual believer.  As in any gift,
the genuine value of the gift is only realized in the useful application of what
has been given.


Please read Romans 12:3-8:
Instruction on Discerning and Using the Gifts of the Spirit Within the

3 And through
the grace that I have been given, I say this to every one of you: never pride
yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself
dispassionately, recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of
4 Just as each of us has
various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function:
5 in the same way, all of us, though
there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we
are all jointed to one another. 
Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was
given to each of us:
7 if it is a
gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us;
8 if it is a gift of practical service, let us
devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching; if it is
encouraging, to encouraging.  When you give, you should give generously from the
heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of
mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them. 
9 Let love be without any pretence.  Avoid what is
evil; stick to what is good. 
10 In
brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to
expression and regard others as more important then yourself. 
11 In the service of the Lord, work not
half-heartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit. 
12 Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep
praying regularly;
13 share with any
of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable.


St. Paul now begins a teaching on the practical application
of spiritual gifts.  He wants the community to understand that the sharing of
spiritual gifts within the Church ensures the community’s life in fidelity and
fruitfulness and that these gift should be shared without any envy or jealousy
concerning what gifts certain individuals within the community have


“I say this to every one of you: never pride yourself on
being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately,
recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of faith.” 

Question: Paul begins his instruction by warning the
community to guard what spiritual virtue that is most threatened by pride?

Answer: Their humility.

Question: What warnings does the inspired author of
Proverbs give concerning the sin of pride?  See Proverbs
, 18, &

Answer: The sin of pride incurs God’s divine

Question: What did Paul have to say about the virtue
of humility in Philippians
and in 1
Corinthians 10:24


  • 1
    Corinthians 10:24
    : “Nobody should be looking for selfish advantage, but
    everybody for someone else’s.”
  • Philippians
    : “Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of
    humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing
    not selfish interests but those of others.  Make your own the mind of Christ

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