Paul, having taught in the preceding chapters the great doctrines of redemption by grace through faith, now turns to the results of redemption the life of grace and godliness, or the believer's walk, conduct and conversation in this present world. Our attitude and duties to God, to the church of God and to all men may be summed up in one word love! He loved us (1 John 4:16) and we love him (1 John 4:19) and we love one another (1 John 4:20, 21). If we do not understand this and are not motivated by love, we fail before we even begin our discussion of duties and works (Gal. 5:13, 14).
(V. 1.) "I appeal to you, brethren, by the mercies of God." Whatever we are called upon to do, say, be or give is not by way of threats, fear or even bargaining but because of the mercy of God to us (1 John 4:11; Eph. 4:32; Luke 6:35,36).
"That you present your bodies a living sacrifice." Paul is talking about just what you think he is talking about our human faculties. Let our tongues be employed in praising God. Let our feet take us to worship, to the assembly, to the door of others to minister. Let our arms be used to embrace and lift the needy. The believer, as a priest, offers himself to God as a living sacrifice. "Here am I, Lord, send me" to preach to the lost, to care for the sick, to support the missionary, to cheer the faint, to comfort the weary but somehow use me to accomplish your purpose! Is that not our reasonable service, since we are not our own, but bought by his blood?
(V. 2.) The word "world" means the nature, character, opinions, goals and attitude of unregenerate men. The worldly man seeks the praise of men; the believer seeks the praise of God. The worldling thinks only of himself; the believer considers others. The worldling cares for the body; the believer cares for the soul. The worldling looks only upon that which is seen; the believer looks on that which is unseen. The worldling cares for what he shall eat, drink and wear; the believer seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
This spiritual attitude can only be accomplished by a renewing or regenerating work of God in the mind and soul. It is contrary to the nature of flesh (2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 2:12, 13). As old leaves drop off a tree to make room for the new ones, so the renewing work of the Spirit in our minds and hearts pushes out pride, envy, malice and covetousness. In this way we both experience and manifest what is pleasing and honouring to God (Eph. 5:9, 10).
(V.3.) Paul exhorts us to cultivate a crowning grace humility! (Jer. 9:23, 24; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.) We need to remember that our gifts, knowledge, ability and even faith are the gifts of God (1 Cor.4:7; 15:10).
(VV. 4, 5.) The apostle illustrates the union of believers by the human body. The human body is one, but it has many members; and each member is placed there in proportion to the others for the good of the whole body. The eye sees, but it does not hear. The ear hears, but it does not breathe. So we are one body in Christ and are in a union together, having gifts and ability differing but serving the same purpose the good of the body and the glory of Christ.
(VV. 6-8.) Several of these gifts are mentioned, not all by any means!
Prophecy At this period prophecy is the proper understanding of and preaching of the Scriptures. This is done according to God-given ability.
Ministry This is service, such as deacons and others who minister to the needs and welfare of others. There is no need to restrict this to official office, but it applies to all who are devoted to the needs of the body of Christ.
Teaching Fitness to teach others the Word is the gift of God; and if one possesses the gift, it should be used diligently.
Exhortation I suppose this would fall mainly to the pastor or elders, but it is certainly the duty of all believers to give a word of encouragement, warning and comfort (Heb. 3:12, 13).
Giving This does not mean that some are to give and others not, but some are blessed with the ability to give more, and it should be done liberally, without fanfare and with simplicity.
Ruling This is the place of leadership and responsibility, such as pastor, elders, deacons, husbands, fathers, taking our responsibility seriously and ruling in love.
Mercy This is a gift all possess and it involves kindness, forgiveness, a good word and understanding. We should not be reluctant to exercise this grace, but do it cheerfully!