There is an old saying that has been attributed to many different people which says,
A threefold cord is not easily broken for the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
In essence it means that the individual components of something when put together make something greater or better than the individual components themselves could ever be. For example, in Ecclesisates 4:12 we see the verse that says,
“…a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
Rope is generally made up of two or three strands that are twisted and bound together and each piece adds additional strength to the rope that is greater than a single strand can hold. So too when we are bound together with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we are much stronger than we would ever be individually and we can stand in the face of all adversity.
As I read this verse in Romans 12:12 this observation of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts occurred to me, for I have often looked at and read this verse in terms of its individual parts but never considered it as a whole. So let us look at it with new eyes again.
Persevere and never flag in zeal
This section of Romans 12 covers many different aspects of living in Christ. In this whole paragraph we see many exhortations to the people of Rome to stand firm and remain faithful, to live lives befitting those who call themselves Christians.
Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
Here in this verse I see a call to persevere in the Lord for it is by perseverance that we will see the work of the Lord completed in us.
There are many obstacles that stand in the way and there are and will be many persecutions that will come our way as the scripture tells us. Thus the need for perseverance is even more important and so these words need to be taken to heart and to encourage us.
It is interesting that some of the terminology used by writers in the bible would lead us to think that Christianity is a competition. It sounds in some places as if we are all competing in some way.
It's not a competition
This is especially true when Paul says in places about “running the race set before us” and it is “only those who run according to the rules will receive the prize” and similar messages.
But in truth it isn't a competition. I say this because if you mis-read this particular verse it could make you think it is a competition. The verse reads as follows and it is the last section that could mislead.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
As I read this verse these final few words seemed to stick out. Paul encourages and entreaty us to hate what is evil and to hold fast to what is good.
Hold fast to what is good.
It is in the determination of the difference between good and evil that we strike difficulties, especially in this modern day and age. There are so many things today that are evil, but which the world considers to be good, and conversely things that are good that the world claims to be evil, that it is easy to be confused.
How are we to reject and to hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good when there is so much confusion about the difference between these two things? How do we decide between things and to consider in all situations which path we are to take? Even in Christian matters there is division over what is good and evil, right and wrong, for there are many doctrines taught in the name of Jesus Christ and Christianity that have no basis at all in the teac hints of the Lord.
Fortunately there is a way to determine these things and to understand. It is not easy but it is possible.
Many parts, all different, one body
When Jesus came to the earth he was the complete package. He provided the perfect example of what a Christian should be like. He had all of the attributes of God the Father for He was truly in the image of God, and as God is love, so too Jesus is love also.
But we are not. We humans are weak. Born under sin and not able to live lives of holiness except by the grace of God and His work of transformation going on in us, as I have written about in the last couple of posts.
So in order for us to reach the place of perfection and to be in the image of Jesus Christ, we need help. We need the ministries of the church that God has given to the church as gifts to be employed for the education, learning and maturing of the church so that we can arrive at the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ as we are told in The book of Ephesians.
If there is one attribute of Jesus Christ that He epitomized and which we are to aspire to it is humility.
There is no way that any person can or will be able to enter the kingdom of God unless they are humble. Not a presence of humility, but humble through and through to the very core of their being.
This verse in Romans 12:3 as I read it screams out humility to me, defining and describing in some way what it means to be humble. Here we see how a person ought to think and behave if they are to show the true humility without which no one will see God.
Transformation. From ugly duckling/sinner to beautiful swan/child of God
In days of old God gave man the law of Moses. He gave this law to the children of Israel to guide them as to what was right and to keep sin in check. The Israelites followed the law for a while but they strayed from the right path which led to the opportunity for the rest of the world to come to God through Jesus Christ.
But for all the good, the justice and righteousness that the law defined, there was one major flaw. Man could not keep it.
There was nothing wrong with the law but man was unable to keep the law. And because man could not keep the law but continually failed, the law was never going to bring a man to perfection. The law was never going to make a person righteous before God because it could not transform anyone from the nature of sin to the nature of God.
But now there is a way.
Mercy in the love of God
It is the will of God that He show mercy to all mankind.
God is love and because He is love, He shows true and complete love and He will be absolutely merciful to all mankind if they will seek Him out.
There are many people in the world today who make this statement. “If God is a God of love, why do so many people suffer?” If we know that God is love, which He is, and if He is a merciful God, which He is, then there must be some other explanation. And there is, so let's look at it.
Unraveling the mystery of the new covenant
The new covenant was a mystery to the Jews prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. There was much written about it in the law and prophets but it was not understood and revealed in its fullness until Christ came to fulfill the prophecies and to explain the new covenant.
One of the great mysteries of the new covenant is revealed in this section of scripture. But to this day it is still not well understood. And it is because of this particular mystery that many both in the days of Jesus and the disciples right down to today have stumbled over the stumbling stone.
To understand this mystery, indeed all of the mysteries of the new covenant requires faith. And even among some who claim to see this matter, it is evident that they still do not understand it. Their words deny their stated beliefs and as such they do not receive all the promises of the Lord available under the new covenant which rest upon faith. Why is it so?
Beware pride and arrogance
So often today I see infighting between the different denominations and groups who call themselves Christians.
I see Protestants arguing with Catholics, Pentecostals arguing with non-spirit filled religions, and everything in between. Every group has a point of view and every group believes they are correct and have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They throw up the arguments of past Christian writers pitting one expert against another in an attempt to prove that they are right and others are wrong. And they use their experts to try to disprove and discredit the expert opinions their so-called opponents are quoting.
And they are all wrong. All they show in their arguing is pride and arrogance. They add nothing to the advancement of the gospel and rather they are away from it because pride and arrogance have no part in the gospel of Jesus Christ or the pathway to life. And this is part of what this section of scripture discusses.