Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Be not conformed . . . but be ye transformed.—Here the English is somewhat misleading. It would naturally lead us to expect a similar play upon words in the Greek. But it is not so; indeed, there is a clear distinction between the two different words employed. It is the difference between an outward conformity or disguise and a thorough inward assimilation. The Christian is not to copy the fleeting fashions of the present time, but to be wholly transfigured in view of that higher mode of existence, in strict accordance with God’s will, that he has chosen.

This world.—Not here the same word as that which is used, e.g., in 1John 2:15-17, but another, which signifies rather the state of the world as it existed at the Coming of Christ, as opposed to the newly-inaugurated Messianic reign. “To be conformed to this world” is to act as other men do, heathen who know not God; in opposition to this the Apostle exhorts his readers to undergo that total change which will bring them more into accordance with the will of God.

By the renewing of your mind.—“The mind” (i.e., the mental faculties, reason, or understanding) is in itself neutral. When informed by an evil principle, it becomes an instrument of evil; when informed by the Spirit, it is an instrument of good. It performs the process of discrimination between good and evil, and so supplies the data to conscience. “The mind” here is not strictly identical with what we now mean by “conscience;” it is, as it were, the rational part of conscience, to which the moral quality needs to be superadded. The “renewed mind,” or the mind acting under the influence of the Spirit, comes very near to “conscience” in the sense in which the word is used by Bishop Butler.

Prove.—As elsewhere, “discriminate, and so approve.” The double process is included: first, of deciding what the will of God is; and, secondly, of choosing and acting upon it.

What is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.—The “will of God” is here, not the divine attribute of will, but the thing willed by God, the right course of action. Are we to take the adjectives “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (with the Authorised version), as in agreement with this phrase, or are they rather in apposition to it, “that we may prove the will of God, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect”? Most of the commentators prefer this latter way of taking the passage, but it is not quite clear that the former is impossible, “that good, and acceptable, and perfect thing, or course of action which God wills.” “Acceptable,” that is to say, to God Himself.

Romans

TRANSFIGURATION

Romans 12:2
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I had occasion to point out, in a sermon on the preceding verse, that the Apostle is, in this context, making the transition from the doctrinal to the practical part of his letter, and that he lays down broad principles, of which all his subsequent injunctions and exhortations are simply the filling up of the details. One master word, for the whole Christian life, as we then saw, is sacrifice, self-surrender, and that to God. In like manner, Paul here brackets, with that great conception of the Christian life, another equally dominant and equally comprehensive. In one aspect, it is self-surrender; in another, it is growing transformation. And, just as in the former verse we found that an inward surrender preceded the outward sacrifice, and that the inner man, having been consecrated as a priest, by this yielding of himself to God, was then called upon to manifest inward consecration by outward sacrifice, so in this further exhortation, an inward ‘renewing of the mind’ is regarded as the necessary antecedent of transformation of outward life.

So we have here another comprehensive view of what the Christian life ought to be, and that not only grasped, as it were, in its very centre and essence, but traced out in two directions-as to that which must precede it within, and as to that which follows it as consequence. An outline of the possibilities, and therefore the duties, of the Christian, is set forth here, in these three thoughts of my text, the renewed mind issuing in a transfigured life, crowned and rewarded by a clearer and ever clearer insight into what we ought to be and do.

I. Note, then, that the foundation of all transformation of character and conduct is laid deep in a renewed mind.

Now it is a matter of world-wide experience, verified by each of us in our own case, if we have ever been honest in the attempt, that the power of self-improvement is limited by very narrow bounds. Any man that has ever tried to cure himself of the most trivial habit which he desires to get rid of, or to alter in the slightest degree the set of some strong taste or current of his being, knows how little he can do, even by the most determined effort. Something may be effected, but, alas! as the proverbs of all nations and all lands have taught us, it is very little indeed. ‘You cannot expel nature with a fork,’ said the Roman. ‘What’s bred in the bone won’t come out of the flesh,’ says the Englishman. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?’ says the Hebrew. And we all know what the answer to that question is. The problem that is set before a man when you tell him to effect self-improvement is something like that which confronted that poor paralytic lying in the porch at the pool: ‘If you can walk you will be able to get to the pool that will make you able to walk. But you have got to be cured before you can do what you need to do in order to be cured.’ Only one knife can cut the knot. The Gospel of Jesus Christ presents itself, not as a mere republication of morality, not as merely a new stimulus and motive to do what is right, but as an actual communication to men of a new power to work in them, a strong hand laid upon our poor, feeble hand with which we try to put on the brake or to apply the stimulus. It is a new gift of a life which will unfold itself after its own nature, as the bud into flower, and the flower into fruit; giving new desires, tastes, directions, and renewing the whole nature. And so, says Paul, the beginning of transformation of character is the renovation in the very centre of the being, and the communication of a new impulse and power to the inward self.

Now, I suppose that in my text the word ‘mind’ is not so much employed in the widest sense, including all the affections and will, and the other faculties of our nature, as in the narrower sense of the perceptive power, or that faculty in our nature by which we recognise, and make our own, certain truths. ‘The renewing of the mind,’ then, is only, in such an interpretation, a theological way of putting the simpler English thought, a change of estimates, a new set of views; or if that word be too shallow, as indeed it is, a new set of convictions. It is profoundly true that ‘As a man thinketh, so is he.’ Our characters are largely made by our estimates of what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable. And what the Apostle is thinking about here is, as I take it, principally how the body of Christian truth, if it effects a lodgment in, not merely the brain of a man, but his whole nature, will modify and alter it all. Why, we all know how often a whole life has been revolutionised by the sudden dawning or rising in its sky, of some starry new truth, formerly hidden and undreamed of. And if we should translate the somewhat archaic phraseology of our text into the plainest of modern English, it just comes to this: If you want to change your characters, and God knows they all need it, change the deep convictions of your mind; and get hold, as living realities, of the great truths of Christ’s Gospel. If you and I really believed what we say we believe, that Jesus Christ has died for us, and lives for us, and is ready to pour out upon us the gift of His Divine Spirit, and wills that we should be like Him, and holds out to us the great and wonderful hopes and prospects of an absolutely eternal life of supreme and serene blessedness at His right hand, should we be, could we be, the sort of people that most of us are? It is not the much that you say you believe that shapes your character; it is the little that you habitually realise. Truth professed has no transforming power; truth received and fed upon can revolutionise a man’s whole character.

So, dear brethren, remember that my text, though it is an analysis of the methods of Christian progress, and though it is a wonderful setting forth of the possibilities open to the poorest, dwarfed, blinded, corrupted nature, is also all commandment. And if it is true that the principles of the Gospel exercise transforming power upon men’s lives, and that in order for these principles to effect their natural results there must be honest dealing with them, on our parts, take this as the practical outcome of all this first part of my sermon-let us all see to it that we keep ourselves in touch with the truths which we say we believe; and that we thorough-goingly apply these truths in all their searching, revealing, quickening, curbing power, to every action of our daily lives. If for one day we could bring everything that we do into touch with the creed that we profess, we should be different men and women. Make of your every thought an action; link every action with a thought. Or, to put it more Christianlike, let there be nothing in your creed which is not in your commandments; and let nothing be in your life which is not moulded by these. The beginning of all transformation is the revolutionised conviction of a mind that has accepted the truths of the Gospel.

II. Well then, secondly, note the transfigured life.

The Apostle uses in his positive commandment, ‘Be ye transformed,’ the same word which is employed by two of the Evangelists in their account of our Lord’s transfiguration. And although I suppose it would be going too far to assert that there is a distinct reference intended to that event, it may be permissible to look back to it as being a lovely illustration of the possibilities that open to an honest Christian life-the possibility of a change, coming from within upwards, and shedding a strange radiance on the face, whilst yet the identity remains. So by the rippling up from within of the renewed mind will come into our lives a transformation not altogether unlike that which passed on Him when His garments did shine ‘so as no fuller on earth could white them’; and His face was as the sun in his strength.

The life is to be transfigured, yet it remains the same, not only in the consciousness of personal identity, but in the main trend and drift of the character. There is nothing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is meant to obliterate the lines of the strongly marked individuality which each of us receives by nature. Rather the Gospel is meant to heighten and deepen these, and to make each man more intensely himself, more thoroughly individual and unlike anybody else. The perfection of our nature is found in the pursuit, to the furthest point, of the characteristics of our nature, and so, by reason of diversity, there is the greater harmony, and, all taken together, will reflect less inadequately the infinite glories of which they are all partakers. But whilst the individuality remains, and ought to be heightened by Christian consecration, yet a change should pass over our lives, like the change that passes over the winter landscape when the summer sun draws out the green leaves from the hard black boughs, and flashes a fresh colour over all the brown pastures. There should be such a change as when a drop or two of ruby wine falls into a cup, and so diffuses a gradual warmth of tint over all the whiteness of the water. Christ in us, if we are true to Him, will make us more ourselves, and yet new creatures in Christ Jesus.

And the transformation is to be into His likeness who is the pattern of all perfection. We must be moulded after the same type. There are two types possible for us: this world; Jesus Christ. We have to make our choice which is to be the headline after which we are to try to write. ‘They that make them are like unto them.’ Men resemble their gods; men become more or less like their idols. What you conceive to be desirable you will more and more assimilate yourselves to. Christ is the Christian man’s pattern; is He not better than the blind, corrupt world?

That transformation is no sudden thing, though the revolution which underlies it may be instantaneous. The working out of the new motives, the working in of the new power, is no mere work of a moment. It is a lifelong task till the lump be leavened. Michael Angelo, in his mystical way, used to say that sculpture effected its aim by the removal of parts; as if the statue lay somehow hid in the marble block. We have, day by day, to work at the task of removing the superfluities that mask its outlines. Sometimes with a heavy mallet, and a hard blow, and a broad chisel, we have to take away huge masses; sometimes, with fine tools and delicate touches, to remove a grain or two of powdered dust from the sparkling block, but always to seek more and more, by slow, patient toil, to conform ourselves to that serene type of all perfectness that we have learned to love in Jesus Christ.

And remember, brethren, this transformation is no magic change effected whilst men sleep. It is a commandment which we have to brace ourselves to perform, day by day to set ourselves to the task of more completely assimilating ourselves to our Lord. It comes to be a solemn question for each of us whether we can say, ‘To-day I am liker Jesus Christ than I was yesterday; to-day the truth which renews the mind has a deeper hold upon me than it ever had before.’

But this positive commandment is only one side of the transfiguration that is to be effected. It is clear enough that if a new likeness is being stamped upon a man, the process may be looked at from the other side; and that in proportion as we become liker Jesus Christ, we shall become more unlike the old type to which we were previously conformed. And so, says Paul, ‘Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed.’ He does not mean to say that the nonconformity precedes the transformation. They are two sides of one process; both arising from the renewing of the mind within.

Now, I do not wish to do more than just touch most lightly upon the thoughts that are here, but I dare not pass them by altogether. ‘This world’ here, in my text, is more properly ‘this age,’ which means substantially the same thing as John’s favourite word ‘world,’ viz. the sum total of godless men and things conceived of as separated from God, only that by this expression the essentially fleeting nature of that type is more distinctly set forth. Now the world is the world to-day just as much as it was in Paul’s time. No doubt the Gospel has sweetened society; no doubt the average of godless life in England is a better thing than the average of godless life in the Roman Empire. No doubt there is a great deal of Christianity diffused through the average opinion and ways of looking at things, that prevail around us. But the World is the world still. There are maxims and ways of living, and so on, characteristic of the Christian life, which are in as complete antagonism to the ideas and maxims and practices that prevail amongst men who are outside of the influences of this Christian truth in their own hearts, as ever they were.

And although it can only be a word, I want to put in here a very earnest word which the tendencies of this generation do very specially require. It seems to be thought, by a great many people, who call themselves Christians nowadays, that the nearer they can come in life, in ways of looking at things, in estimates of literature, for instance, in customs of society, in politics, in trade, and especially in amusements-the nearer they can come to the un-Christian world, the more ‘broad’ {save the mark!} and ‘superior to prejudice’ they are. ‘Puritanism,’ not only in theology, but in life and conduct, has come to be at a discount in these days. And it seems to be by a great many professing Christians thought to be a great feat to walk as the mules on the Alps do, with one foot over the path and the precipice down below. Keep away from the edge. You are safer so. Although, of course, I am not talking about mere conventional dissimilarities; and though I know and believe and feel all that can be said about the insufficiency, and even insincerity, of such, yet there is a broad gulf between the man who believes in Jesus Christ and His Gospel and the man who does not, and the resulting conducts cannot be the same unless the Christian man is insincere.

III. And now lastly, and only a word, note the great reward and crown of this transfigured life.

Paul puts it in words which, if I had time, would require some commenting upon. The issue of such a life is, to put it into plain English, an increased power of perceiving, instinctively and surely, what it is God’s will that we should do. And that is the reward. Just as when you take away disturbing masses of metal from near a compass, it trembles to its true point, so when, by the discipline of which I have been speaking, there are swept away from either side of us the things that would perturb our judgment, there comes, as blessing and reward, a clear insight into that which it is our duty to do.

There may be many difficulties left, many perplexities. There is no promise here, nor is there anything in the tendencies of Christ-like living, to lead us to anticipate that guidance in regard to matters of prudence or expediency or temporal advantage will follow from such a transfigured life. All such matters are still to be determined in the proper fashion, by the exercise of our own best judgment and common-sense. But in the higher region, the knowledge of good and evil, surely it is a blessed reward, and one of the highest that can be given to a man, that there shall be in him so complete a harmony with God that, like God’s Son, he ‘does always the things that please Him,’ and that the Father will show him whatsoever things Himself doeth; and that these also will the son do likewise. To know beyond doubt what I ought to do, and knowing, to have no hesitation or reluctance in doing it, seems to me to be heaven upon earth, and the man that has it needs but little more. This, then, is the reward. Each peak we climb opens wider and clearer prospects into the untravelled land before us.

And so, brethren, here is the way, the only way, by which we can change ourselves, first let us have our minds renewed by contact with the truth, then we shall be able to transform our lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and our faces too will shine, and our lives will be ennobled, by a serene beauty which men cannot but admire, though it may rebuke them. And as the issue of all we shall have clearer and deeper insight into that will, which to know is life, in keeping of which there is great reward. And thus our apostle’s promise may be fulfilled for each of us. ‘We all with unveiled faces reflecting’-as a mirror does-’the glory of the Lord, are changed . . . into the same image.’Romans 12:2. And be not conformed — Neither in judgment, spirit, nor behaviour; to this vain and sinful world — Which, neglecting the will of God, entirely follows its own; but be ye transformed — Regenerated and created anew; by the renewing of your minds — Of your understandings, wills, and affections, through the influence of the Spirit of God, Titus 3:5. Thus, Ephesians 4:22-25, the new man is described as renewed in the spirit of his mind; that is, in all his faculties; in his affections and will, as well as in his understanding: in consequence whereof his whole conduct becomes holy and virtuous. That ye may prove — May be enabled to discern, approve, and know, not merely speculatively, but experimentally and practically, and by sure trial; what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God — The will of God is here to be understood of all the preceptive part of Christianity, which is in itself so excellently good, so acceptable to God, and so perfective of our nature: and it is here “set in opposition, on the one hand, to the idolatrous rites of worship practised by the heathen, which in their own nature were extremely bad; and, on the other, to the unprofitable ceremonies and sacrifices of the law of Moses, concerning which God himself declared that he had no pleasure in them, Hebrews 10:5-9. The rites of Moses, therefore, in which the Jews gloried, were no longer acceptable to God. Whereas the duties recommended by the apostle are of eternal obligation, and separate the people of God from the wicked in a more excellent manner than the Jews had been separated from idolaters by the rites of Moses.” — Macknight.12:1,2 The apostle having closed the part of his epistle wherein he argues and proves various doctrines which are practically applied, here urges important duties from gospel principles. He entreated the Romans, as his brethren in Christ, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. This is a powerful appeal. We receive from the Lord every day the fruits of his mercy. Let us render ourselves; all we are, all we have, all we can do: and after all, what return is it for such very rich receivings? It is acceptable to God: a reasonable service, which we are able and ready to give a reason for, and which we understand. Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. The great enemy to this renewal is, conformity to this world. Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things. The work of the Holy Ghost first begins in the understanding, and is carried on to the will, affections, and conversation, till there is a change of the whole man into the likeness of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Thus, to be godly, is to give up ourselves to God.And be not conformed ... - The word rendered "conformed" properly means to put on the form, fashion, or appearance of another. It may refer to anything pertaining to the habit, manner, dress, style of living, etc., of others.

Of this world - τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ tō aiōni toutō. The word which is commonly rendered "world," when applied to the material universe, is κόσμος kosmos, "cosmos." The word used here properly denotes an age, or generation of people. It may denote a particular generation, or it may be applied to the race. It is sometimes used in each of these senses. Thus, here it may mean that Christians should not conform to the maxims, habits, feelings, etc., of a wicked, luxurious, and idolatrous age, but should be conformed solely to the precepts and laws of the gospel; or the same principle may be extended to every age, and the direction may be, that Christians should not conform to the prevailing habits, style, and manners of the world, the people who know not God. They are to be governed by the laws of the Bible; to fashion their lives after the example of Christ; and to form themselves by principles different from those which prevail in the world. In the application of this rule there is much difficulty. Many may think that they are not conformed to the world, while they can easily perceive that their neighbor is. They indulge in many things which others may think to be conformity to the world, and are opposed to many things which others think innocent. The design of this passage is doubtless to produce a spirit that should not find pleasure in the pomp and vanity of the World; and which will regard all vain amusements and gaieties with disgust, and lead the mind to find pleasure in better things.

Be ye transformed - The word from which the expression here is derived means "form, habit" μορφή morphē. The direction is, "put on another form, change the form of the world for that of Christianity." This word would properly refer to the external appearance, but the expression which the apostle immediately uses, "renewing of the mind,." shows that he did not intend to use it with reference to that only, but to the charge of the whole man. The meaning is, do not cherish a spirit. devoted to the world, following its vain fashions and pleasures, but cultivate a spirit attached to God, and his kingdom and cause.

By the renewing - By the making new; the changing into new views and feelings. The Christian is often represented as a new creature; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 2:2.

Your mind - The word translated "mind" properly denotes intellect, as distinguished from the will and affections. But here it seems to be used as applicable to the whole spirit as distinguished from the body, including the understanding, will, and affections. As if he had said, Let not this change appertain to the body only, but to the soul. Let it not be a mere external conformity, but let it have its seat in the spirit. All external changes, if the mind was not changed, would be useless, or would be hypocrisy. Christianity seeks to reign in the soul; and having its seat there, the external conduct and habits will be regulated accordingly.

That ye may prove - The word used here δοκιμάζω dokimazō is commonly applied to metals, to the operation of testing, or trying them by the severity of fire, etc. Hence, it also means to explore, investigate, ascertain. This is its meaning here. The sense is, that such a renewed mind is essential to a successful inquiry after the will of God. Having a disposition to obey him, the mind will be prepared to understand his precepts. There will be a correspondence between the feelings of the heart and his will; a nice tact or taste, which will admit his laws, and see the propriety and beauty of his commands. A renewed heart is the best preparation for studying Christianity; as a man who is temperate is the best suited to understand the arguments for temperance; the man who is chaste, has most clearly and forcibly the arguments for chastity, etc. A heart in love with the fashions and follies of the world is ill-suited to appreciate the arguments for humility, prayer, etc. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God," John 7:17. The reason why the heart is renewed is that we may do the will of God: the heart that is renewed is best suited to appreciate and understand his will.

That good ... - This part of the verse might be rendered, that ye may investigate the will of God, or ascertain the Will of God, what is good, and perfect, and acceptable. The will of God relates to his commands in regard to our conduct, his doctrines in regard to our belief, his providential dealings in relation to our external circumstances. It means what God demands of us, in whatever way it may be made known. They do not err from his ways who seek his guidance, and who, not confiding in their own wisdom, but in God, commit their way to him. "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way," Psalm 25:9. The word "good" here is not an adjective agreeing with "will," but a noun. "That ye may find the will of God, what is good and acceptable." It implies that that thing which is good is his will; or that we may find his will by finding what is good and perfect. That is good which promotes the honor of God and the interests of his universe.

Perfect - Free from defect, stain, or injury. That which has all its parts complete, or which is not disproportionate. Applied to religion, it means what is consistent, which is carried out; which is evinced in all the circumstances and reactions of life.

Acceptable - That which will be pleasing to God. or which he will approve. There is scarcely a more difficult text in the Bible than this, or one that is more full of meaning. It involves the main duty of religion to be separated from the world; and expresses the way in which that duty may be performed, and in which we may live so as to ascertain and do the will of God. If all Christians would obey this, religion would be everywhere honored. If all would separate from the vices and follies, the amusements and gaieties of the world, Christ would be glorified. If all were truly renewed in their minds, they would lose their relish for such things, and seeking only to do the will of God, they would not be slow to find it.

2. And be ye not conformed to this world—Compare Eph 2:2; Ga 1:4, Greek.

but be ye transformed—or, "transfigured" (as in Mt 17:2; and 2Co 3:18, Greek).

by the renewing of your mind—not by a mere outward disconformity to the ungodly world, many of whose actions in themselves may be virtuous and praiseworthy; but by such an inward spiritual transformation as makes the whole life new—new in its motives and ends, even where the actions differ in nothing from those of the world—new, considered as a whole, and in such a sense as to be wholly unattainable save through the constraining power of the love of Christ.

that ye may prove—that is, experimentally. (On the word "experience" see on [2256]Ro 5:4, and compare 1Th 5:10, where the sentiment is the same).

what is that—"the"

good and acceptable—"well-pleasing"

and perfect, will of God—We prefer this rendering (with Calvin) to that which many able critics [Tholuck, Meyer, De Wette, Fritzsche, Philippi, Alford, Hodge] adopt—"that ye may prove," or "discern the will of God, [even] what is good, and acceptable, and perfect." God's will is "good," as it demands only what is essentially and unchangeably good (Ro 7:10); it is "well pleasing," in contrast with all that is arbitrary, as demanding only what God has eternal complacency in (compare Mic 6:8, with Jer 9:24); and it is "perfect," as it required nothing else than the perfection of God's reasonable creature, who, in proportion as he attains to it, reflects God's own perfection. Such then is the great general duty of the redeemed—SELF-CONSECRATION, in our whole spirit and soul and body to Him who hath called us into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. Next follow specific duties, chiefly social; beginning with Humility, the chiefest of all the graces—but here with special reference to spiritual gifts.

Be not conformed to this world; do not fashion or accommodate yourselves to the corrupt principles, customs, or courses of worldly and wicked men; and what they are, you will find in Romans 13:13 Ephesians 4:18,19 1 Peter 4:3. You have somewhat the like counsel, Exodus 23:2 1 Peter 1:14.

Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind: q.d. Be you regenerated, and changed in your whole man; beginning at the mind, by which the Spirit of God worketh upon the inferior faculties of the soul: see Ephesians 4:23.

That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God: by prove, understand discerning: by the will of God, his revealed will in his word; and so it best accords with the reasonable service, spoken of Romans 12:1, and with the scope of the text itself; which is, to exhort unto holiness and obedience, which is according to the rule of the word. He annexeth three adjuncts to the will or word of God: it is good; revealed only for our benefit. It is acceptable; i.e. by obedience thereunto we shall be accepted. It is perfect, and the observance thereof will make us so too, 2 Timothy 3:17. There are different readings of these words, but all to the same sense. Some thus, that you may prove the will of God, which to do, is good, acceptable, and perfect. Others thus, that you may prove what the will of God is, and what is good, acceptable, and perfect. And be not conformed to this world,.... By this world is meant, either the Mosaic dispensation, and Jewish church state, so called in opposition to , "the world to come", the Gospel dispensation; in which there were a worldly sanctuary, and the rites and ceremonies of which are styled the rudiments and elements of the world; to which believers in the present state are by no means to conform, there being sacrifices and ordinances of another nature, it is the will of God they should observe and attend unto: or else the men of the world are designed, carnal and unregenerate men, among whom they formerly had their conversation, from among whom they were chosen, called, and separated, and who lie and live in wickedness, and therefore should not be conformed unto them: which is to be understood, not in a civil sense of conformity to them in garb and apparel, provided that pride and luxury are guarded against, and decency and sobriety observed, and the different abilities of persons and stations in life are attended to; or to any other civil usages and customs which are not contrary to natural and revealed religion; but of a conformity in a moral sense to the evil manners of men, to walk vainly, as other Gentiles do, to go into the same excess of riot with them; for this is contrary both to the principle and doctrine of grace, which teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts: and of a compliance with the men of the world in a religious sense, by joining with them in acts of idolatry, superstition, and will worship, and in anything that is contrary to the order, ordinances, and truths of the Gospel.

But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind; which regards not the first work of conversion and renovation; for in this sense these persons were transformed, metamorphosed, changed, and renewed already; but the after progress and carrying on the work of renovation, the renewing of them day by day in the spirit of their minds; see Ephesians 4:23; which believers should be desirous of, and pray for, and make use of those means which the Spirit of God owns for this purpose, attending to the spiritual exercises of religion, as reading, meditation, prayer, conference, the ministration of the word and ordinances, which is the reverse of conformity to the world: and the end to be attained hereby is,

that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God; by which is meant not the secret will of God, which cannot be searched into, proved, and known, till time and facts discover it: but the revealed will of God, both in the law, as in the hands of Christ, which contains nothing but what is good; and which when done in faith, from a principle of love, and to the glory of God, is acceptable through Christ; and is perfect as a law of liberty, and rule of walk and conversation; and which is to be proved and approved of by all the saints, who delight in it after the inward man: and also that which is contained in the Gospel; as that all that the Father had given to Christ should be redeemed by him, that these should be sanctified, and persevere to the end, and be glorified; all which is the good will of God, an acceptable saying to sensible sinners, and such a scheme of salvation as is perfect and complete, and needs nothing to be added to it; and is, by such who are daily renewed in the spirit of their minds, more and more proved, tried, discerned, and approved of, even by all such who have their spiritual senses exercised to discern things that differ.

{2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your {f} mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

(2) The second precept is this, that we do not take other men's opinions or conduct as a rule for life, but that we wholly renounce this world, and set before us as our mark the will of God as is manifested and revealed to us in his word.

(f) This is the reason that there is no room left for reason, which the heathen philosophers place as a queen in a castle, nor for man's free will, which the popish scholars dream of, because the mind must be renewed; Eph 1:18 2:034:17Col 1:21

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 12:2. Infinitives (see the critical notes): συσχηματίζεσθαι, to become like-shaped, and μεταμορφοῦσθαι, to become transformed. The two verbs stand in contrast only through the prepositions, without any difference of sense in the stem-words. Comp. the interchange of μορφή and σχῆμα in Php 2:7, also the Greek usage of σχηματίζειν and μορφοῦν, which denote any kind of conformation according to the context (Plut. Mor. p. 719 B: τὸ μεμορφωμένον καὶ ἐσχηματισμένον, Eur. Iph. T. 292: μορφῆς σχήματα). Here of moral conformation, without requiring us to distinguish μορφή and σχῆμα as inner and outer (Bengel, Philippi), or as appearance to others and one’s own state in itself (Hofmann), On the interchange of the infinitive of the aorist (παραστῆσαι) and present, comp. on Romans 6:12.

τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ] to the present age, running on to the Parousia, עוֹלָם הַזֶּה (see on Matthew 12:32), the character (ethical mould) of which is that of immorality (Ephesians 2:2; Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4, et al.). συσχηματίζεσθαι is also found in rhetoricians with the dative (as also 1 Peter 1:14), instead of with πρός or εἰς.

τῇ ἀνακαιν. τ. νοός] whereby the μεταμορφ. is to be effected: through the renewal of the thinking power (ΝΟῦς here, according to its practical side, the reason in its moral quality and activity; see on Romans 7:23; Ephesians 4:23). It needs this renewal in order to become the sphere of operation for the divine truth of salvation, when it, under the ascendency of ἁμαρτία in the σάρξ, has become darkened, weak, unfree, and transformed into the ἀδόκιμος νοῦς (Romans 1:28), the νοῦς τῆς σαρκός (Colossians 2:18). Comp. on Romans 7:23. And this renewal, which the regenerate man also needs on account of the conflict of flesh and spirit which exists in him (Romans 8:4 ff.; Galatians 5:16 ff.) through daily penitence (Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23), is effected by means of the life-element of faith (Php 3:9 ff.), transforming the inner man (Ephesians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17), under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 4:23-24; Titus 3:5. This influence restores the harmony in which the ΝΟῦς ought to stand with the divine ΠΝΕῦΜΑ; not, however, annulling the moral freedom of the believer, but, on the contrary, presupposing it; hence the exhortation: to be transformed (passive). As to the ἈΝΆ in ἈΝΑΚΑΙΝ., see on Colossians 3:10.

ΕἸς ΤῸ ΔΟΚΙΜ.] belongs not merely to ἈΝΑΚΑΊΝΩΣΙς Τ. ΝΟῸς ὙΜ. as its direction (Hofmann), but (comp. Php 1:10 and on Romans 1:20) specifies the aim of the ΜΕΤΑΜΟΡΦ. Τ. ἈΝΑΚ. Τ. Ν. ὙΜῶΝ. To the man who is not transformed by the renewal of his intellect this proving—which is no merely theoretical business of reflection, but is the critical practice of the whole inner life—forms no part of the activity of conscience. Comp. Ephesians 5:10. The sense: to be able to prove (Rückert, Köllner), is as arbitrarily introduced as in Romans 2:18. He who is transformed by that renewal not merely can do, but—which Paul has here in view as the immediate object of the μεταμορφοῦσθαι κ.τ.λ.—actually does the ΔΟΚΙΜΆΖΕΙΝ, and has thereby the foundation for a further moral development; he does it by means of the judgment of his conscience, stirred and illuminated by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:12). On ΤῸ ΘΈΛΗΜΑ ΘΕΟῦ, what is willed by God, comp. Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 5:17; Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

τὸ ἀγαθὸν κ. εὐάρ. κ. τέλ.] is, by the Peschito, the Vulgate, Chrysostom, and most of the older interpreters, also by Rückert and Reiche, united adjectivally with τὸ θέλ. But as εὐάρ. would thus be unsuitable to this, we must rather (with Erasmus, Castalio, and others, including Tholuck, Flatt, Köllner, de Wette, Fritzsche, Reithmayr, Philippi, van Hengel, Hofmann) approve the substantival rendering (as apposition to ΤῸ ΘΈΛ. Τ. ΘΕΟῦ): that which is good and well-pleasing (to God) and perfect. The repetition of the article was the less necessary, as the three adjectives used substantivally exhaust one notion (that of moral good), and that climactically. Comp. Winer, p. 121 [E. T. 159]; Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 373 f.; Kühner, II. 1, p. 528.Romans 12:2. καὶ μὴ συνσχηματίζεσθε: the imperative is better supported ([24] [25] [26]) than the infinitive ([27] [28] [29] [30]). For the word cf. 1 Peter 1:14. The distinctions that have been drawn between συνσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε—on the ground of other distinctions assumed between σχῆμα and μορφή—though supported by distinguished scholars, remind one of the shrewd remark of Jowett, that there is a more dangerous deficiency for the commentator than ignorance of Greek, namely, ignorance of language. In the face of such examples as are quoted by Weiss (Plut., Mor., p. 719 B: τὸ μεμορφωμένον καὶ ἐσχηματισμένον: Eur., Iph. ., 292, μορφῆς σχήματα) and Wetstein (Sext. Emp., ἢ μένει μὲν ἐν τῇ οἰκείᾳ ὑποστάσει, εἰς ἄλλο δὲ εἶδος ἀντʼ ἄλλου μεταλαμβάνον γεννᾶται, ὡς ὁ μετασχηματιζόμενος κηρός, καὶ ἄλλοτε ἄλλην μορφὴν ἀναδεχόμενος) it is impossible not to regard the distinctions in question as very arbitrary. For the best supported and most relevant, reflected in Sanday and Headlam’s paraphrase (“do not adopt the external and fleeting fashion of this world, but be ye transformed in your inmost nature”), see Lightfoot on Php 2:7, or Gifford on the same passage (The Incarnation, pp. 22 ff., 88 ff.). τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ: “This world” or “age” is opposed to that which is to come; it is an evil world (Galatians 1:4) of which Satan is the God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Even apparent or superficial conformity to a system controlled by such a spirit, much more an actual accommodation to its ways, would be fatal to the Christian life. By nature, the Christian is at home in this world (cf. Ephesians 2:2); such as it is, its life and his life are one; and his deliverance is accomplished as he is transformed τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός, by the renewing of his mind. νοῦς in the Apostle’s usage (see chap. 7) is both intellectual and moral—the practical reason, or moral consciousness. This is corrupted and atrophied in the natural man, and renewed by the action of the Holy Spirit. The process would in modern language be described rather as sanctification than regeneration, but regeneration is assumed (Titus 3:5). εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν: this is the purpose of the transforming renewal of the mind. It is that Christians may prove, i.e., discern in their experience, what the will of God is. Cf. Romans 2:18. An unrenewed mind cannot do this; it is destitute of moral discernment—has no proper moral faculty. τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον: these words may either qualify τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ as in A.V., or be in apposition to it, as in R.V. margin. The last agrees better with the rhythm of the sentence. The will of God is identified with what is ἀγαθόν, good in the moral sense: εὐάρεστον well pleasing, sc., to God (so in all the nine cases of the adjective and three of the verb εὐαρεστεῖν which are found in the N.T.); and τέλειον ethically adequate or complete: Deuteronomy 18:13, Matthew 5:48. No one discovers the line of action which from possessing these characteristics can be identified as the will of God unless he is transformed from his native affinity to the world by the renewing of his mind by the Holy Spirit.

[24] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[25] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[26] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Romans 2:13-16.

[27] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[28] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[29] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of , and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[30] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.2. be not conformed] Same word as 1 Peter 1:14; (E. V. “not fashioning yourselves”) The Gr. noun (schema) on which the verb rendered “conform” is based indicates a form external rather than internal, transient or unreal rather than solid and lasting:—a “figure.” It occurs 1 Corinthians 7:31, (E. V. “the fashion of this world,”) and Php 2:8, (E. V. “in fashion as a man.”) In the last passage the reference is to the Lord’s Manhood not as unreal but as, in a certain sense, external, i.e. as distinguished from the real but invisible Deity which lay, as it were, within the veil or robe of the real and visible Humanity.—Here the verb indicates that a true Christian’s “conformity to this world” could only be (1) conformity to a transient thing, a thing doomed to destruction, and (2) illusory in itself, because alien from the man’s true principles and position.—A similar reference is plainly traceable in 1 Peter 1:14.

this world] Lit. this age. Same word as Matthew 12:32; Luke 16:8; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:21; 1 Timothy 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:12. The antithesis is “the world to come,” “the coming age,” “that age:” e.g. Matthew 12:32; Luke 20:35; Ephesians 1:21. The passages quoted (and many might be added) shew that the meaning is rightly conveyed in E. V. “This age” is the present order of things, the period of sin and death, and (by a natural transference) the contents of that period, the principles and practices of evil. The antithesis is the Eternal Future, the resurrection-life, (Luke 20:35-36,) in which sin and death shall have no place for ever. Thus the exhortation here is, to live as those whose lives are governed by the principles and hopes of a holy eternity in prospect.

be transformed] Same word as Matthew 17:2, (“was transfigured;”) 2 Corinthians 3:18, (“are changed”) The root-noun (morphè) is different from the root-noun of “conformed” just above, and forms an antithesis to it. In such antithetical connexions it indicates an essential, permanent, and real form. It is used e.g. Php 2:6; Php 2:8; in which verses the essential reality of the Lord’s Deity and Servitude respectively are emphasized. Here the point of the word is manifest: the Christian, by the Divine “renewal,” is to realize an essential and permanent change; to prove himself, as it were, one of a new species; a “new man,” not the “old man” in a new dress.

For masterly discussions of the differences between Schema and Morphè see Abp Trench’s New Testament Synonyms, under the word μορφὴ, and Bp Lightfoot’s Philippians, detached Note to ch. 2. Abp Trench vividly illustrates the difference thus: “If I were to change a Dutch garden into an Italian, this would be [a change of schema;] but if I were to transform a garden into something wholly different, say a garden into a city, this would be [a change of morphè.][44]”

[44] We translate the Greek nouns, used by the Abp in this sentence. He paraphrases the present passage: “Do not fall in with the fleeting fashions of this world, out undergo a deep abiding change, by the renewing of your mind, such as the Spirit of God alone can work in you (2 Corinthians 3:18).”

Observe that the Gr. word translated “conformed” in Romans 8:29 is based not on schema but on morphè.—This passage is illustrated by that. The predestinating will of God is carried out, as we here see, through the real efforts of the renewed wills of the saints, to which the appeal is here made. See Php 2:12-13; (where render “for His good pleasure’s sake.”)

by the renewing of your mind] As the quasi-instrument of the transformation. The regenerating power of the Holy Spirit had rectified their intelligence, which they were now to use in “purifying themselves as the Lord was pure.” As the Divine change had enabled them to use their intelligence aright, the change is spoken of as if itself the instrument to be used.—The word rendered “renewing” occurs Titus 3:5; and the cognate verb 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10. It may denote, according to context, either the initial “renewing,” when man definitely becomes “the child of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” and “the Spirit of Christ” takes up His dwelling in the soul; or the progressive “renewing” consequent on this, as thought, will, and affections “grow in grace,” and the man is (according to the appeal here) progressively “transformed.” Such is probably the reference in 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10. Here the other reference is more probable, as we have indicated above: the “renewing” here is already a fact, and is used in the process of “transformation.”

your mind] Here probably, in a strict sense, your intelligence, renewed or rectified by Divine grace, so as (in the following words) “to prove what is the will of God.”—Observe that the “mind,” as well as other parts of the being, is assumed to have needed “renewing.” Cp. Ephesians 4:18.

that ye may prove] may assay, or test. Same word as Romans 1:28, (E. V., “like,”) Romans 2:18, Romans 14:22 (“allow;”), 1 Corinthians 3:13 (“try;”), 2 Corinthians 13:5; Ephesians 5:10 (a close parallel;), Php 1:10 (where render, “test things which differ;), &c.” Where the context allows, the word often includes (and sometimes wholly adopts) the idea of preference, of approval; e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:3. Here the meaning is that the Christian’s intelligence has been so “renewed” by grace that he now, by a holy instinct, can discern, in conflicting cases, the will of God from the will of self or of the world. And on this perception he is to act.

acceptable] Same word as in Romans 12:1. His will is “acceptable” to the saints, because the will of their Father. It is also “acceptable “to Himself, both in itself, and because as done by His children it results in acts pleasing to Him.

perfect] In wisdom and love, whatever perplexities becloud it.Romans 12:2. Μὴ συσχηματίζεσθεἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε) μορφὴ, form, conformation, denotes something more inward and thoroughly finished, than σχῆμα, fashion or external appearance [habitus].—Comp. Php 2:6; Php 2:8; Php 3:21. The external appearance of the saints should not be inconsistent with the internal form [conformation].—αἰῶνι, to the world) which neglects the will of God, and is entirely devoted to selfish pursuits.—δοκιμάζειν, to prove [approve by testing]) This also refers to that new μορφὴν, form. The antithesis is in ch. Romans 1:28. [While a man’s mind continues in its original condition (the old man), how sagacious soever he may be, he cannot prove the will of God. He will endeavour to defend at one time this, and at another that (objectionable thing), thinking that God is such a one as himself.—V. g.]—[128] και τέλειον, and perfect) He, who presents [his body] an oblation, living, holy, acceptable, knows the will of God as good, requiring what is living and holy, acceptable, and, with the progress of believers [in course of time, as believers make progress] perfect. [They by unworthy means shun this perfect will, who are continually seeking after such things as they are at liberty still to engage in without sin (as they think). The conduct of such men as these resembles that of the traveller, who takes a delight in walking, not in the safe path, but without necessity on the extreme verge of the bank.—V. g.]

[128] Τὸ θέλημα, the will) For special reasons very many questions occasionally arise, whether it would be right to do this or that, or not. They can easily decide, who make the will of God their great concern and chief delight. But they require experience [to prove and test things] and intelligence. Ephesians 5:17.—V. g.Verse 2. - And be not conformed to (rather, fashioned after; the verb is συσχηματίζεσθαι this world; but be ye transformed (the verb here is μεταμορφοῦσθαι) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (or, discern) what is the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (So, rather than as in the Authorized Version; the epithets acceptable and perfect not being properly applicable to the will of God; and the translation given above being close to the original.) It is a matter of no importance for exegesis that ancient authorities leave it uncertain whether the verbs at the beginning of this verse should be read as imperatives (συσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε) or as infinitives (συσχηματίζεσθαι and μεταμορφοῦσθαι). In the latter case they depend, with παραστῆσαι in ver. 1, on παρακαλῶ. The meaning remains unaffected. As to the words themselves, Meyer's assertion that they stand in contrast only through the prepositions, without any difference of sense in the stem-words, is surely wrong. St. Paul is not in the habit of varying his expressions without a meaning; and he might have written μετασχηματίζεσθε (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 11:13, 14; Philippians 3:21) instead of μεταμορφοῦσθε or συμμορφοῦσθε (cf. Philippians 3:10) instead of συσχηματίζεσθε. And there is an essential difference between the senses in which σχῆμα and μορφή may be used. The former denotes outward fashion, which may be fleeting, and belonging to accident and circumstance; the latter is used to express essential form, in virtue of which a thing is what it is; cf. Philippians 3:21, and also (though Meyer denies any distinction here) Philippians 2:6, 7. The apostle warns his readers not to follow in their ways of life the fashions of this present world, which are both false and fleeting (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:31, Παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου), but to undergo such a change of essential form as to preclude their doing so. If they become συμμόρφοι with Christ (cf. Romans 8:29), the world's fashions will not affect them. The phrase, "this world" or "age"(τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, may be understood with reference to the rabbinical division of time into αἰὼν οῦτος, and αἰὼν μέλλων, or ἐρχόμενος; the latter denoting the age of the Messiah. The New Testament writers seem to regard themselves as still in the former, though to them it is irradiated by beams from the latter, which had already dawned in Christ, though not to be fully realized till the παρούσια (see note on Hebrews 1:2). The transformation here spoken of consists in the renewal of the mind (τοῦ νοὸς), which denotes the Understanding, or thinking power, regarded as to its moral activity. And Christian renewal imparts not only the will and power to do God's will, but also intelligence to discern it. Hence follows εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς, etc. (cf. Ephesians 4:17, 23; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8; and also supra ch. 1:28, where the Gentiles were said to have been given up, in judgment, εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, when ἀδόκιμον may possibly mean undiscerning. See note on that passage). It is to be observed, lastly, that the present tenses of the verbs συσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε, unlike the previous aorist παραστῆσαι, intimate progressive habits. The perfect Christian character is not formed all at once on conversion (of Philippians 3:12, seq.; see also previous note on Romans 6:13, with reference to παριστάνετε and παραστιήσατε). So far the exhortation has been general. The apostle now passes to particular directions; and first (vers. 3-9) as to the use of gifts. Conformed - transformed (συσχηματίζεσθε - μεταμορφοῦσθε).

See on was transfigured, Matthew 17:2. For conformed to, Rev., correctly, fashioned according to.

Mind (νοός)

See on Romans 7:23. Agreeing with reasonable service.

That good and acceptable and perfect will

Better to render the three adjectives as appositional. "May prove what is the will of God, what is good," etc. The other rendering compels us to take well-pleasing in the sense of agreeable to men.

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