Who is holy? Who is good? Who is a saint?
There are a few possible answers here, but why don’t you quickly think of your own opinion of who you think is a good person? Or a holy person? Your pastor? Your mother? The Pope?
Then think why you would think that way about a particular person. What are the characteristics of a holy or good person? Is it the things they do? The example they set? The words they say?
We learn from Paul what God thought a holy or good person looks like. Before we get to the Scripture though, I thought this quote from Thomas Merton is a good introduction to the topic:
“A saint is not someone who is good, but who experiences the goodness of God.”
So what does Paul have to say?
(Rom 12:1) “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.”
We saw earlier that the mercy of God is manifested by His grace. This seemingly hard request is made possible by the mercy, or grace, of God. We are to be a living sacrifice, in other words, give everything of ourselves, as a living sacrifice to God. That is different to what answers were possible to the questions above. There is no window-dressing here, we are to give all of ourselves to God. Not pretend to be good or holy or saintly, but simply to completely surrender to His mercy.
(Rom 12:2 ) “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.”
The result of giving yourself as a living sacrifice is non-conformance to the world, and a renewal of your mind. And worth stressing again, brought on by the mercy of God. He does not expect the impossible from us, that we should stumble along blindly and know from our sinful nature what is good and perfect. No, God transforms us by His grace, ask that we trust Him completely. He then changes us into a person that can judge the difference between what is good and acceptable and perfect, according to HIS will. So many times we think we know, but how do we know whether it is according to the will of God? We have to test it.
(Rom 12:3) ” For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Paul says here to use the faith that you get from God to think soberly. The original Greek word is sōphroneō: to be of sound mind, that is, sane, (figuratively), be in right mind, be sober (minded), soberly. The faith that we get from God allows us to distinguish, not emotionally or blindly, but sanely, logically and I almost want to say, somewhat coldly. The truth of good or bad in the eyes of God stands out starkly. It stands in contrast to our own self, our own high opinion of ourselves, our emotional and arrogant self-promotion.
Then, as a result of that mercy, and our response to give ourselves as a living sacrifice, applying the renewal honestly and logically, we see what results, and this may go a bit towards answering the questions we raised to start with.
Rom 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
Rom 12:7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
Rom 12:8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
To emphasize, we see that with the grace that is given to us we are also granted gifts to use in the service of God. The various acts that result from our renewal is mentioned here. Service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and acts of mercy. All of these are described in extremes, to be done fully and with all of our enthusiasm and love.
We learn more about what results from the renewal through grace:
Rom 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Rom 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Rom 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rom 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Rom 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.
Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Rom 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Rom 12:20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Rom 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I see someone like that, I am likely to conclude that he or she is a Godly, good and holy person. Someone who is loving, honorable, patient, joyful, prayerful, generous and peaceful…
May God renew you, and may you be the living sacrifice that results from Gods grace.