Romans 12:1-2

I just received the latest edition of Modern Reformation in the mail. They have been going through Romans for this year. By the way, every one who calls themselves Reformed ought to subscribe to this magazine. This issue deals with Romans 12-16. I was reminded of a terrific sermon I heard on Romans 12:1-2 by Eric Alexander. It was during the Philadelphia Conference on Reformation Theology. I am going to summarize what he said there.

First the text: Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ, παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν: καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός, εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον.

And now, the interpretation. The οὖν is quite possible the most important “therefore” in all of Scripture, since its import encompasses the entirety of Romans 1-11. Paul summarizes the previous chapter with this phrase: “the mercies of God.” That is shorthand for all the spiritual blessings that he has been describing for the previous 11 chapters.

We don’t have to offer our bodies as a dead sacrifice, since Christ has already done that. So we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This is λογικὴν. To this day, I cannot see why some translations have translated this as “spiritual.” It has much more to do with thoughtfulness (BDAG), or logicality. It is only logical, Paul says, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, given what Jesus has done for us.

Then follows a couple of Greek verbs that are important to parse correctly. First off is συσχηματίζεσθε. This is a present middle/passive imperative, 2 person plural. I think the force is passive. It is well translated in the Phillips translation: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” He uses 6 words to translate one Greek word, but that is fairly common. And it is a splendid rendition. The only thing I would change is that I think τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ means “this present age” rather than “this world.” It is a designation of time, not space. Paul is always contrasting the old age and the new age. This is especially evident in Romans 7:14ff, where the old “I” and the new “I” are duking it out. The next verb is μεταμορφοῦσθε, from which we get our word “metamorphosis.” This is a present passive imperative, 2 person plural. Note especially the force of the passive imperative. It is a command to us to have God transform us (it is a divine passive: God is doing the metamorphizing). The implications can hardly be over-estimated for our lives. Grammar here is necessary for God’s people to know. To have our minds transformed is the work of God, not of ourselves. This passage also implies that if we think the way this age does, then our minds are blinded. There is either an unrenewed mind or a renewed mind. Nothing in-between. Which are we?

John 1:1

John 1:1 is a passage completely misinterpreted by the New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation), and by many other translations mentioned by Steve, which are not mainline translations, but are the work of individual anti-church Arians. Here is the Greek: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν λόγος, καὶ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν λόγος. The New World translation says this: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Plainly, the New World translation says something quite different from most translations with which we are familiar. This translations seems to suggest that the Word (which we learn later is Jesus) is less than God. He is merely one of a pantheon of gods. This raises its own problems. But to kabosh this rendering, it is necessary to go into some Greek grammar. The phrase in question occurs after the second comma in the above Greek. Notice that “theos” (second word of the phrase) comes before ἦν, which is the verb meaning “was.” “Theos” (“God) is functioning as a predicate nominative. Stretch back to your grammar days and remember that a predicate nominative is the last word in the sentence “I am a pastor.” The subject is “I,” and the predicate nominative is “pastor.” In Greek, the predicate nominative can sometimes come before the verb, as it does here. When that happens, the word “the” does not occur with the predicate nominative. However, the noun should still be read as having the word “the” with it. This is the difference between “the God” (or just simply “God”) and “a god.” The New World Translation has twisted Greek grammar in order fit their preconceived notions about the non-deity of Christ. When you have two nouns connected by any form of the word “to be,” the definite article (“the”) tells you which noun is the subject, since word order doesn’t count in Greek. In other words, just because a noun doesn’t have “the” with it doesn’t mean that it should be interpreted as not having “the” with it, if that is clear. Clear as mud?