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Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians

Introduction

The books of Romans and Ephesians were written by Paul, and both contained extortions to the people on how to live their lives according to the dictates of Christianity. Romans 12: 1-2 and Ephesians 4:17-20 have a common theme- they both instruct the people to depend on God’s wisdom, rather than their own, in their new walk in faith. Romans stresses on the fact that new converts to Christianity need to allow God to renew their minds. This way, they may undergo a transformation into what is acceptable in God’s eyes. Ephesians continues this theme, adding that new converts need to get rid of all their worldly ways, for the worldly ways have alienated the unbelievers from God.

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Romans 12: 1-2

The first chapters of Romans were spent arguing about the case of salvation for the Gentiles. Paul had to clear the fact that the Gentiles, always condemned in the Old Testament, were now acceptable to God, while the Jews, declared “God’s people” in the Old Testament, now stood the chance of losing out on the eternal life. Paul’s approach to this issue was that God, in his eternal love and wisdom, was within his divine justification to reject those who rejected him, and to accept those whom, in faith and humility, accepted him regardless of whether they were Jews or not. The last few chapters just before chapter 12 shows Paul’s admiration for God’s eternal virtues: wisdom, love and patience. Then, having cleared the air about Gentiles in Christianity, he launches into a discourse, in Chapter 12, of how any believer should live the new life1.

Paul’s extortion to believers to present themselves as living sacrifices to God was a direct reference to the changed perceptions about sacrifices in general. In the Old Testament, animals were offered as sacrifices. But Jesus changed all this when he became the sacrifice for the atonement of mankind’s iniquities. Paul’s teachings were stressing on a spiritual kind of sacrifice – the kind given out every time a devout Christian, out of love and gratitude, gave forth glory and praise to God. To God, this freely given praise and glory was the most valuable, and it would be of a sweet-smelling savor2.

The second verse in Romans 12 describes the kind of change expected in a new convert to Christianity. It shows that the transformation is beyond mere physical or outwardly behavior. Rather, through an internal change of motivations, paradigms and vision, the person will show obeisance to a higher power in his or her life, and will live according to a new set of principles. This way, though the person’s action may look similar to those of worldly people around, his or her life is different. This was Paul’s way of showing that some deeds by the unconverted people were praiseworthy and noble, but they still lacked the spiritual dimension that occurred when one underwent spiritual transformation.

The second verse ends with the words “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.3” This phrase stresses the fact that the Christian’s actions are to be focused on what is substantially acceptable to God, rather than what is ritually practiced in conformity to traditions4. In this way, Paul decried the age-old practice of following teachings and social rigors without paying attention to their essential meanings to the spiritual well-being of the person. He emphasized that the will of God was perfect, and that we should all embrace it in all our meditations and actions.

Ephesians 4:17-20

In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, a similar scenario unfolds where Paul addresses the people of Ephesians on their Christian faith and how they should live it. The verses before the 17th extol how Christians should live in love and unity, giving weight to his argument through several rationalizations. From the 17th to the 19th verse, Paul then cautions the Christians against living their lives the way non-believers live theirs. He describes the non-believer’s way of life: that they depend on their own minds and imagination, rather than God’s perfect knowledge; that their knowledge is however insufficient to save them and is darkened; and that, because of relying on their own wisdom instead of God, they had alienated themselves from God’s will5.

Verse 20 closes up the argument by emphasizing that Christians, through their walk with Christ, were saved from facing a similar doom as the non believers. The overall implication here is that Christ’s doctrines are supreme over any worldly knowledge or pretensions. No worldly doctrines have the ability to curb sin, or to transform a person, like the saving graces of Jesus Christ. But the worldly in this world are blind to this truth, and continue on in their mindless search for ultimate enlightenment, not realizing that they have already rejected it by not accepting Jesus Christ as their sole guidance into the light.

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Application to spiritual formation

Paul was speaking directly to the Pharisees and other intellectual bodies who wallow under layers of superficial knowledge, rationalizing every action, building up moral codes and moral standards, and using these to govern the people. According to Paul, all this effort was in vain, if at the end of it all, the people remained ignorant of Christ’s saving graces and mercies. For while worldly rules and regulations held up the people to certain social obligations, they did not change the inner person, neither did they affect the person’s spirit. Hence while people could live in a socially-acceptable manner under the dictates of worldly values, they still needed God’s saving graces to make sense of this life.

Paul’s description of the worldly way of life showed just what a trap it was. While the non-believers were wallowing in their blindness and superficiality, they were simultaneously benumbed to their deplorable conditions. Their conscience was no longer active, and they were beyond realizing their folly and the need to change. Hence they sink deeper into the sinful mire, pulled ever more deeply by their insatiable greed. Paul clearly depicts the life of the unbeliever as hopeless. But the 20th verse of Ephesians 4 shows that all who submit to the will of God are saved from such a life.

Conclusion

The two books discussed here extolled one major truth: that all worldly wisdom was not adequate to change a person’s mentality permanently. In order for one to live according to God’s will, one first has to humble himself or herself, accept God’s dictates, live with them, and let them direct him or her. This way, at the end, the person can re-examine his or her transformed life, compare it with the previous existence, and realize that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect. And while doing so, the person should not bend down to worldly wisdom, but rather should be steadfast in the focus on spiritual matters, secure in the knowledge that God’s way was superior to any worldly ways.

References

All references listed here were retrieved from: Power BibleCD Help Version 3.5 Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Phil Lindner, Online Publishing, Inc.

Bible: King James Version

Commentaries:

  1. Adam Clarke’s commentary.
  2. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary
  3. William Burkitt’s Notes on the New Testament

Footnotes

  1. Adam Clarke’s commentary.
  2. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary
  3. Bible: King James Version
  4. William Burkitt’s Notes on the New Testament
  5. William Burkitt’s Notes on the New Testament

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 29). Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 29). Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians. https://studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/

Work Cited

"Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians." StudyCorgi, 29 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians." October 29, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/.


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StudyCorgi. "Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians." October 29, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2021. "Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians." October 29, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/spiritual-formation-in-the-books-of-romans-and-ephesians/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Spiritual Formation in the Books of Romans and Ephesians'. 29 October.

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