A Study on Romans 12:1–2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Elohim, which is your reasonable service. And 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 [well-pleasing], and perfect, will of Elohim. (Rom 12:1–2)
Let’s first define some words in verse one.
- Prove is the Greek word dokimazo signifying “to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals, to recognise as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.”
- Good is the Greek word agathos meaning “of good constitution or nature, useful, salutary, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy, excellent, distinguished, upright, honourable.”
- Acceptable is the Greek word euarestos and means “well pleasing, acceptable.”
- Perfect is the Greek word teleios (related to telos, see note on 10:4) signifies “a goal-oriented action, that which is complete, whole, brought to its end, lacking nothing necessary to completeness, that which is perfect.”
In this passage of Scripture, Paul’s juxtapositioning of these three words suggests the grammatical construction of the good (the nominative), better (the comparative) and best (the superlative).
What does this teach us? An amazing truth regarding the merciful graciousness of YHVH Elohim! Within the limits of the plan that YHVH has for each of our lives, there are different paths that we can take as Romans 12:2 indicates. The choice is ours. We can take the good path, the acceptable or better path or the best or perfect path.
As to which path is the perfect will of Elohim for us, we have a clue in verse one as to which path that is. Let’s unpack verse one, so that we’ll better understand verse two.
What Paul is teaching here us here is that to the degree that we become a living sacrifice for Yeshua by denying our sinful passions and submitting to the will of Elohim (v. 1), and to the degree that we allow the Spirit of Elohim to renew our minds into conformity to the mind of Yeshua by the “brainwashing” influences of his Spirit and the washing of his word (Eph 5:26) is the degree to which we will find ourselves walking in the perfect will of Elohim. This is a process. As we become deconformed or deprogrammed to the ways and thinking of the world (v. 2), and as we accept the wisdom from above, which is pure, peaceable and gentle as opposed to worldly, sensual and demonic resulting in bitter envying, self-seeking and resistance to the truth of Elohim (Jas 3:13–18), is the degree to which we will be able to prove or determine YHVH’s complete or perfect will for our lives (Rom 12:2).
In the bigger perspective, YHVH Elohim has a path for each of his saints to walk in. That path is based on Torah as David discusses in Psalm 119 (e.g. Ps 119:30, 32, 33, 35, 105), as well as the rest of YHVH’s written word from Genesis to Revelation. Within that path, YHVH gives a person room or liberty to wander from one side or the other without falling into the ditch on either side of the road. On several occasions, Moses urged the Israelites to go neither to the left or to the right (Deut 5:32; 17:11, 20; 28:14). Moreover, Yeshua talked about a narrow and a wide path—one leading to life and other leading to destruction (Matt 7:13–14). The wider our spiritual walk, the more likely we are to veer off the path and fall into the ditch of destruction on either side of the path of life. When we veer too far to one side or the other, we begin feeding from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is a dangerous place to be spiritually, for we know to do good and are drawn to the good, but, at the same time, we are enticed by the evil and may begin to find pleasure in it. Unless something wakes us up, the evil will eventually win out leading to eternal death. Adam and Eve found this out the hard way.
Yeshua characterized the narrow path that is pleasing to the Father as being spirit and truth (John 4:23–24). Truth taken to the extreme produces legalism, judgmentalism and a letter-of the-law approach to obedience. Spirit taken to the extreme results in licence to sin based on the false idea of extreme grace.
There are perhaps no examples in the entire Bible of a person walking consistently in the perfect will of Elohim. For example, Job was a righteous—the most godly, righteous and blameless man on the earth (Job 1:8). He was definitely a good (Gr. euarestos, Rom 12:2) man, but not perfect or complete (Gr. teleios, Rom 12:2) in the eyes of Elohim. YHVH allowed him to be tested to bring Job to a higher level in his spiritual walk. Similarly, Lot was anything but a perfect man. He may well have been the epitome of a lukewarm, world and flesh-appeasing believer, yet he had enough faith in YHVH to leave wicked Sodom and the Scriptures refer to him as a “just” and “righteous” man (2 Pet 2:7). Both Jephthah and Samson committed some glaring sins for which they paid a dear price, but Scripture commends them for their faith (Heb 11:32). Likewise, David failed on several occasions to walk in YHVH’s perfect will and even gave in to the temptation to commit murder, and adultery and to number Israel in direct violation of Elohim’s commandment, yet he repented of his sin and the Bible deems him a righteous man. Moreover, Peter denied Yeshua thrice—a grave sin against the Messiah—but was forgiven. All of these saints fell short in one way or another of Elohim’s highest standards of righteousness, but they did the best they could and YHVH blessed them for it.
It is the heart of Elohim for his servants to achieve the highest standard of righteousness possible. For example, Yeshua instructed his disciples to “be becoming perfect” (Gr. teleios, Matt 5:48), and told them that their righteousness must exceed that of even the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). Attaining to this high level is a process that will last a person’s lifetime, and will likely never be achieved by anyone. How many humans ever consistently attain a spiritual walk that can be characterized as “the perfect will of Elohim” (Rom 12:2). Only one that we know of: Yeshua the Messiah!
In the mean time, Elohim is dealing with imperfect humans, which is why we need his never-ending grace and mercy (and the righteousness of Yeshua to be attributed to our spiritual account).
The fact is that to the degree that one submits to the word and will of Elohim is to the degree that one will find Elohim’s perfect will for their life. When we fail to live our lives as a living sacrifice before Elohim (Rom 12:1) meaning that we are willing to lay down our own will and accept the will of Yeshua even as he accepted his Father’s will for his life when he went to the cross (Luke 22:42), then we’ll have to spend more time in the wilderness of our spiritual wanderings learning some hard lessons before the Father can bring us into the Promised Land of his perfect will for our lives.
When we choose to go against the will of Elohim and choose our own sinful will instead, we’re treading on dangerous ground. We may eventually come back to our Heavenly Father’s good or perfect will for our lives, or we may not. At times, we may be pulled away from Elohim and his righteous standards by the sinful influences of the world, the flesh and the devil as was the prodigal son in Yeshua’s parable (Luke 15:11–31). Hopefully, we’ll repent of our unrighteousness and return to our Father in heaven as the son in the parable did and not remain a spiritually lost prodigal forever.