What does Romans 12:11 mean?
ESV: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
NIV: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
NASB: not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
CSB: Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord.
NLT: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
KJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
In the previous verse, Paul commanded Christians to seek to outdo each other in showing honor to one another. Now he writes that we must not be lazy in our enthusiasm. The two commands may well be related. Paul is urging us to be energetic in our attempts to give honor to each other. It may be that he is urging us to live with zeal or enthusiasm, in general, to remain focused, intentional, and positive about our purpose in treating each other well in the body of Christ.
He ramps the idea of enthusiasm up another notch by adding that we must be fervent in spirit; we must keep our spiritual fervor. The Greek word here is zeontes, related to the root word for "life," and the phrase could literally be translated that we must be boiling in our spirit. This could either mean that we must keep up our own spirits or that we should be set on fire by God's Spirit in us. In either case, this is a clear call from Paul to avoid allowing ourselves to become bored or tepid as we pursue our purpose as believers.
There is an appropriate target for this energy and enthusiasm: serving the Lord. That's the final command in the verse. Connecting that together, Paul is urging us to be "all in," both spiritually and emotionally, when it comes to serving the Lord and serving each other.
Romans 12:9–21 is a list of numerous brief, bullet-pointed commands. Taken together, they paint a picture of what the living-sacrifice Christian life should look like. The unifying theme of the list is setting ourselves aside, to effectively love and serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies. We must serve with enthusiasm and focus, mastering our emotions to rejoice in our future and be patient in our present. We must refuse to sink to evil's level in taking revenge and instead overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.
In Romans 12, Paul describes the worship of our God as becoming living sacrifices to our God, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church. Paul's list of commands describes a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside. Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. We must refuse to sink to evil's level, giving good to those who harm us instead of revenge.
Romans 11 ended with a hymn describing God's vast ownership of the universe. Romans 12 begins by asking the question, ''Since He owed us nothing and has given us great mercy, how should we respond?'' The answer is a life of self-sacrificing worship spent in serving the Lord and other believers, refusing revenge and overcoming evil with good. Romans 13 will continue to describe God's intended lifestyle for those in Christ.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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