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Romans 12:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And be not conformed to this world - By this world, αιωνι τουτῳ, may be understood that present state of things both among the Jews and Gentiles; the customs and fashions of the people who then lived, the Gentiles particularly, who had neither the power nor the form of godliness; though some think that the Jewish economy, frequently termed הזה עולם olam hazzeh, this world, this peculiar state of things, is alone intended. And the apostle warns them against reviving usages that Christ had abolished: this exhortation still continues in full force. The world that now is - This present state of things, is as much opposed to the spirit of genuine Christianity as the world then was. Pride, luxury, vanity, extravagance in dress, and riotous living, prevail now, as they did then, and are as unworthy of a Christian's pursuit as they are injurious to his soul, and hateful in the sight of God.

Be ye transformed - Μεταμορφουσθε, Be ye metamorphosed, transfigured, appear as new persons, and with new habits, as God has given you a new form of worship, so that ye serve in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. The word implies a radical, thorough, and universal change, both outward and inward. Seneca, Epis. vi, shows us the force of this word when used in a moral sense. Sentio, says he, non Emendari me tantum, sed Transfigurari; "I perceive myself not to be amended merely, but to be transformed:" i. e entirely renewed.

By the renewing of your mind - Let the inward change produce the outward. Where the spirit, the temper, and disposition of the mind, Ephesians 4:23, are not renewed, an outward change is of but little worth, and but of short standing.

That ye may prove - Εις το δοκιμαζειν, That ye may have practical proof and experimental knowledge of, the will of God - of his purpose and determination, which is good in itself; infinitely so. Acceptable, ευαρεστον, well pleasing to and well received by every mind that is renewed and transformed.

And perfect - Τελειον, Finished and complete: when the mind is renewed, and the whole life changed, then the will of God is perfectly fulfilled; for this is its grand design in reference to every human being.

These words are supposed by Schoettgen to refer entirely to the Jewish law. The Christians were to renounce this world - the Jewish state of things; to be transformed, by having their minds enlightened in the pure and simple Christian worship, that they might prove the grand characteristic difference between the two covenants: the latter being good in opposition to the statutes which were not good, Ezekiel 20:25; acceptable, in opposition to those sacrifices and offerings which God would not accept, as it is written, Psalm 40:6-8; and perfect, in opposition to that system which was imperfect, and which made nothing perfect, and was only the shadow of good things to come. There are both ingenuity and probability in this view of the subject.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And be not conformed … - The word rendered “conformed” properly means to put on the form, fashion, or appearance of another. It may refer to anything pertaining to the habit, manner, dress, style of living, etc., of others.

Of this world - τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ tō aiōni toutōThe word which is commonly rendered “world,” when applied to the material universe, is κόσμος kosmos“cosmos.” The word used here properly denotes an age, or generation of people. It may denote a particular generation, or it may be applied to the race. It is sometimes used in each of these senses. Thus, here it may mean that Christians should not conform to the maxims, habits, feelings, etc., of a wicked, luxurious, and idolatrous age, but should be conformed solely to the precepts and laws of the gospel; or the same principle may be extended to every age, and the direction may be, that Christians should not conform to the prevailing habits, style, and manners of the world, the people who know not God. They are to be governed by the laws of the Bible; to fashion their lives after the example of Christ; and to form themselves by principles different from those which prevail in the world. In the application of this rule there is much difficulty. Many may think that they are not conformed to the world, while they can easily perceive that their neighbor is. They indulge in many things which others may think to be conformity to the world, and are opposed to many things which others think innocent. The design of this passage is doubtless to produce a spirit that should not find pleasure in the pomp and vanity of the World; and which will regard all vain amusements and gaieties with disgust, and lead the mind to find pleasure in better things.

Be ye transformed - The word from which the expression here is derived means “form, habit” μορφή morphēThe direction is, “put on another form, change the form of the world for that of Christianity.” This word would properly refer to the external appearance, but the expression which the apostle immediately uses, “renewing of the mind,.” shows that he did not intend to use it with reference to that only, but to the charge of the whole man. The meaning is, do not cherish a spirit. devoted to the world, following its vain fashions and pleasures, but cultivate a spirit attached to God, and his kingdom and cause.

By the renewing - By the making new; the changing into new views and feelings. The Christian is often represented as a new creature; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 2:2.

Your mind - The word translated “mind” properly denotes intellect, as distinguished from the will and affections. But here it seems to be used as applicable to the whole spirit as distinguished from the body, including the understanding, will, and affections. As if he had said, Let not this change appertain to the body only, but to the soul. Let it not be a mere external conformity, but let it have its seat in the spirit. All external changes, if the mind was not changed, would be useless, or would be hypocrisy. Christianity seeks to reign in the soul; and having its seat there, the external conduct and habits will be regulated accordingly.

That ye may prove - The word used here δοκιμάζω dokimazōis commonly applied to metals, to the operation of testing, or trying them by the severity of fire, etc. Hence, it also means to explore, investigate, ascertain. This is its meaning here. The sense is, that such a renewed mind is essential to a successful inquiry after the will of God. Having a disposition to obey him, the mind will be prepared to understand his precepts. There will be a correspondence between the feelings of the heart and his will; a nice tact or taste, which will admit his laws, and see the propriety and beauty of his commands. A renewed heart is the best preparation for studying Christianity; as a man who is temperate is the best suited to understand the arguments for temperance; the man who is chaste, has most clearly and forcibly the arguments for chastity, etc. A heart in love with the fashions and follies of the world is ill-suited to appreciate the arguments for humility, prayer, etc. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God,” John 7:17. The reason why the heart is renewed is that we may do the will of God: the heart that is renewed is best suited to appreciate and understand his will.

That good … - This part of the verse might be rendered, that ye may investigate the will of God, or ascertain the Will of God, what is good, and perfect, and acceptable. The will of God relates to his commands in regard to our conduct, his doctrines in regard to our belief, his providential dealings in relation to our external circumstances. It means what God demands of us, in whatever way it may be made known. They do not err from his ways who seek his guidance, and who, not confiding in their own wisdom, but in God, commit their way to him. “The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way,” Psalm 25:9. The word “good” here is not an adjective agreeing with “will,” but a noun. “That ye may find the will of God, what is good and acceptable.” It implies that that thing which is good is his will; or that we may find his will by finding what is good and perfect. That is good which promotes the honor of God and the interests of his universe.

Perfect - Free from defect, stain, or injury. That which has all its parts complete, or which is not disproportionate. Applied to religion, it means what is consistent, which is carried out; which is evinced in all the circumstances and reactions of life.

Acceptable - That which will be pleasing to God. or which he will approve. There is scarcely a more difficult text in the Bible than this, or one that is more full of meaning. It involves the main duty of religion to be separated from the world; and expresses the way in which that duty may be performed, and in which we may live so as to ascertain and do the will of God. If all Christians would obey this, religion would be everywhere honored. If all would separate from the vices and follies, the amusements and gaieties of the world, Christ would be glorified. If all were truly renewed in their minds, they would lose their relish for such things, and seeking only to do the will of God, they would not be slow to find it.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle having closed the part of his epistle wherein he argues and proves various doctrines which are practically applied, here urges important duties from gospel principles. He entreated the Romans, as his brethren in Christ, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. This is a powerful appeal. We receive from the Lord every day the fruits of his mercy. Let us render ourselves; all we are, all we have, all we can do: and after all, what return is it for such very rich receivings? It is acceptable to God: a reasonable service, which we are able and ready to give a reason for, and which we understand. Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. The great enemy to this renewal is, conformity to this world. Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things. The work of the Holy Ghost first begins in the understanding, and is carried on to the will, affections, and conversation, till there is a change of the whole man into the likeness of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Thus, to be godly, is to give up ourselves to God.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 9

“Be not conformed to this world: but
be ye transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that ye may prove what
is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2.

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 44

God calls for separation from the world. Will you obey? Will you come out from among them, and remain separate and distinct from them? “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” You cannot mingle with worldlings, and partake of their spirit, and follow their example, and be at the same time a child of God. The Creator of the universe addresses you as an affectionate Father. If you separate from the world in your affections, and remain free from its contamination, escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust, God will be your Father, He will adopt you into His family, and you will be His heir. In place of the world, He will give you, for a life of obedience, the kingdom under the whole heavens. He will give you an eternal weight of glory and a life that is as enduring as eternity. 2T 44.1

Your heavenly Father proposes to make you a member of the royal family, that through His exceeding great and precious promises you may be a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The more you partake of the character of the pure, sinless angels, and of Christ your Redeemer, the more vividly will you bear the impress of the divine, and the more faint will be the resemblance to the world. The world and Christ are at variance, because the world will not be in union with Christ. The world will also be at variance with Christ's followers. In the prayer of our Saviour to His Father, He says: “I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” 2T 44.2

Your calling is a high, an elevated one, to glorify God in your body and spirit, which are His. You are not to measure yourself by others. The word of God has presented you an unerring pattern, a faultless example. You have dreaded the cross. It is an inconvenient instrument to lift, and because it is covered with reproach and shame, you have shunned it. You need to carry out the health reform in your life; to deny yourself, and eat and drink to the glory of God. Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. You need to practice temperance in all things. Here is a cross which you have shunned. To confine yourself to a simple diet, which will preserve you in the best condition of health, is a task to you. Had you lived up to the light which Heaven has permitted to shine upon your pathway, much suffering might have been saved your family. Your own course of action has brought the sure result. While you continue in this course, God will not come into your family and especially bless you and work a miracle to save your family from suffering. A plain diet, free from spices and flesh meats and grease of all kinds, would prove a blessing to you and would save your wife a great amount of suffering, grief, and despondency. 2T 45.1

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 240

Dear Brother and Sister K,

In my last vision I was shown some things in regard to your family. The Lord has thoughts of mercy concerning you and will not forsake you unless you forsake Him. L and M are in a lukewarm condition. They must arouse and make efforts for salvation, or they will fail of everlasting life. They must feel an individual responsibility and have an experience for themselves. They need a work wrought in their hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, which will lead them to love and choose the society of God's people above any other, and to be separate from those who have no love for spiritual things. Jesus demands a whole sacrifice, an entire consecration. L and M, you have not realized that God requires your undivided affections. You have made a holy profession, yet have sunk down to the dead level of ordinary professors. You love the society of the young who have no regard for the sacred truths which you profess. You have appeared like your associates, and have been contented with as much religion as would render you agreeable to all, without incurring the censure of any. 1T 240.1

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