Either the Glory of God or the Spirit of the Age
by Impact Church
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 11:36–12:2
The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors who wrote the Bible and every aspect of it is worthy of understanding. To study the Bible is to read the very thoughts of God. To know what is written and how it is presented provides insight into the why of the writing and thus, the very mind and heart of God. The Bible reveals Who God is. It reveals who mankind is. It reveals the problem of our separation from God and offers reconciliation in the time and space work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. Finally, the Bible offers the people of God counsel and admonition for how we ought to live as the redeemed. When we believed, He made us alive in Him and we can now do what we could never do before: please Him.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul has been outlining the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After going into great detail about the wrath of God, the justification by faith alone, sanctification of the believer, and the security of the believer, Paul changes to the moral and ethical expectations and commands God provides for His saints. Beginning in Romans 12 and based on the great and merciful works of Jesus Christ, Paul exhorts the believers to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…” Based on the life and work of Jesus Christ, Paul commands that we also sacrifice ourselves to God and to live a life much different than we did before.
From Romans 11:36 to the 12:2, there is a carefully chosen word that the Apostle uses to highlight an important transition and contrast. This word is instructive for us to consider the important difference in the frame of reference we have for the life we live. The word is seen in 11:36 as “forever”. There, it is used in reference to giving God His just glory “forever”. In the original Greek language Paul used, it is αἰῶνας, which is transliterated as aionas. It is an unbroken age or eternity and it endures forever. The glory of God is unceasing and eternal and we should recognize His glory as a timeless and eternal reality in our life.
Just 2 verses later, Paul commands two things for us. Following the sacrifice we ought to make of ourselves in Romans 12:1, he commands the nature of that sacrifice in two dimensions: the first negative and the second positive. It is in the first command that he links back to the end of Romans 11 in verse 36 and changes the reference to the same word, aionas. When Paul writes “And do not be conformed to this world” he chose to use the same word for “glory”, aionas, with a slight variation. In 12:2, he uses aioni, which could mean the same thing as “forever” but because he added an article “this” he restricted its use to “this world” or better, “the spirit of this age”. Simply, Paul commands that we are not shaped to the culture of our time.
The mercies of God are rooted in His glory and He has revealed that glory to us in the work of Jesus Christ. When we believe in Him, we are forever changed and are IN Jesus Christ. And yet, we live in the physical, fallen world. And just how are we to live? We are to live in light of the eternal glory of God rather than the passing “spirit of the age”. If we focus on the glory of God, we will not be conformed to the spirit of the day. To God be the Glory and may His Glory shape us!