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Romans 12: Observations from S. Lewis Johnson


Continuing through Romans with S. Lewis Johnson, the twelfth chapter begins the section often referred to as the “practical” part.  Of course, as SLJ notes, it isn’t that “doctrine” isn’t practical.  All doctrine is practical.  Rather, this section, Romans 12-16, is the concrete part of doctrine, as distinct from the theoretical part, Romans 1-11.

In the Romans 12 messages Dr. Johnson emphasizes the difference between God’s decretive will of everything that happens, versus God’s preceptive will — that which is pleasing to God.  We don’t know God’s decretive will until after the event transpires. But we learn God’s preceptive will from studying His word.  SLJ also taught about God’s two wills in several other places, including some of his Old Testament series, as for instance in From Egypt to Canaan: Studies in the Exodus, Gideon, and The Life of Samson.

In reference to hospitality (Romans 12:13), we remember the historical setting of ancient Rome. They didn’t have national chain motels along the roads, and the inns were not pleasant places.  Johnson relates further interesting historical information, the custom of certain families/clans within Roman society to establish their own hospitality with another family. If a member of one family that lived in Rome wanted to visit Jerusalem, they could contact this other family that lived in Jerusalem.  Identification between the two clans would be provided through tokens, each family having a part of a broken object, and the individual’s identity verified by seeing that their broken piece fit to the other family’s matching part.

John Chrysostom observed a very good point regarding Romans 12:15 (Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep), that it is much easier for us, even as believers, to relate to others’ miseries and sympathize in those situations, than to rejoice with others in their good news.  How very true that is.  Envy gets in the way when we hear of the good things that happen to others, the things of which they rejoice.

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