When christianity is reduced to elements of “religiosity” (heritage, custom, liturgy, denominational preference etc.) one can be “faithful” without exhibiting much faith. This is the cause and result of the division in the Roman church, and a cause of division in the modern church. I do not necessarily mean a division characterized by ill-will. Division often occurs not because people don’t like each other, but because they neither know nor care to know one another.
Having established that no one stands well before God because of religiosity, and that the basis for any standing at all before God rests solely on faith, Paul launches in chapter twelve into the application of this truth. It involves life-change and positive and specific life action.
It’s not as though Paul has not addressed this before. It is really at the heart of his presentation in chapters 6 – 8, but in chapter twelve he comes back to address it more specifically.
I find it interesting that the first kind of behavior he mentions is involvement with church. While the opening of chapter twelve has been used to teach the quite inane notion that “all of life is worship,” Paul’s point is much different. Early Christians would have thought of worship as something they do “together,” not alone. Thus the presentation of one’s life as a “living sacrifice” has to do with self-sacrifice within the community of faith. Paul writes: “just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. [Use your gift] in accordance with your faith.” He lists some of the gifts: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, leadership, showing mercy, and contributing to the needs of others. All this lays the foundation for the very rapid series of commands that follow in verses 9-13, and while some of these commands reach beyond the context of the church family, all of them must include the church community. It is the community that matters most in the life of faith.