The Family Verses of Romans
Unlike many of Paul’s other letters, in Romans he never teaches directly on marriage and the family. There is nothing like he does in Ephesians or Colossians or 1 Corinthians. But that doesn’t mean Romans doesn’t have something to say about family. There are two verses in particular and they happen to be back to back.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV).
This verse is an all-encompassing statement of God’s purpose for everything and in everything. It’s all from him, through him, and to him. “Him” is Jesus. It’s all for his glory. It’s all about him. What in your family or home isn’t included in “all things?” Your family is for his glory. If you are married, your marriage is for his glory. When it’s not, then, as Romans 3:23 says, we are falling short of the glory of God. We are falling short of God’s intention for all things everywhere to glorify Christ. Every home, family, parent, child, and marriage is meant to be for his glory.
That ends Romans 1-11’s deep dive into the vertical gospel. God and man. Notice the enormous pivot in the next verse.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
This verse is the massive hinge of Romans. From the vertical to the horizontal. “By the mercies of God.” What’s that? The mercy of God toward us as sinners as described in chapters 1-11. What are we to do? Present our bodies as living sacrifices. This hearkens to the Old Testament Levitical practice in the temple of killing bulls and goats and placing them on the altar as a sacrifice or offering to God. They did so by the hundreds of thousands of animals over centuries. Yet, all that time, there was one thing all the sacrificial animals had in common—they were all dead. They were dead sacrifices.
Paul uses that powerful image and says that as Christians we now have the privilege of offering ourselves as living sacrifices. For an animal to be a temple sacrifice required a total commitment by the animal. It was all the goat or all the bull. All their body. All their blood. Now we as Christians, in view of God’s amazing saving grace to us, place all that we are on the altar to God. We are sacrifices who are still living.
“Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Our acceptability before God is purely based on Jesus’ work on our behalf. We are holy and acceptable to God because of Jesus and his atoning death on the cross. Still, like the sacrificial animals, all that we are is to be offered entirely to God as worship. It’s a transformative truth when the lightbulb goes on for a new Christian that now everything in life is theology, everything is for God, all your life can be lived for his glory. Whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. Your whole life can be offered to God as worship.
But this is family month. My burden and the point of this whole series is that our homes and the relationships represented in the family are part of Romans 12:1. Could we read it this way?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your families as a living sacrifice, present your marriage as a living sacrifice, present your sibling relationships as a living sacrifice…which is your spiritual act of worship.
In this we must realize that of all the horizontal relationships the power of the gospel can transform, the closest ones represent the most challenging and the most rewarding. The most redeeming. The most sanctifying. The most God-glorifying. Is God glorified when we help the old lady we don’t know across the street? Yes. But he is more glorified when, in the midst of conflict, as an act of worship to God, we do the dishes. He is even more glorified when, in view of his mercy to me, I show mercy to a family member and forgive the offense against me. Why? Why would I do such a thing? The gospel. God’s glory. It’s all about him.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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