I don’t know much about this fellow (C. A. Coates), but I read some of this reflection on Romans and thought this was a good thought worth sharing, especially in light of some of my meditations lately on providence and contentment, worldiness and godliness. I thought his remarks on a Christian “flavouring” to the contemporary culture we live in (i.e., “the world”, as it is called in the Scriptures) were just as applicable to our American culture today as his own British culture when he wrote this (probably 75 or more years ago).
If our bodies are to be a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,” it is clear that there must be no working of the will of the flesh. The body must be held as dead towards sin, if it is to be a “living sacrifice” towards God. It must be held now as a holy vessel sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and dedicated to God absolutely. A sacrifice once presented could not be recalled. It became a “holy” thing which could no more be diverted to common uses. If a man regarded it as common he was cut off from his people. I have no doubt there is a moment when the Christian presents his body as a living sacrifice, and then he is responsible ever to regard it as being devoted to God. It is never more to be animated by the will and lusts of the flesh. It is never to be for self-gratification or vain-glory. It is to be for God.
And this is not to be a mere sentiment awakened by reading a book, or the passing impulse of religious fervour roused by a stirring address; it is the “intelligent service” of the Christian. It is the sober and deliberate action of spiritual intelligence energized by the Holy Spirit.
“And be not conformed to this world.” Let us dwell a moment upon this! This world [age] is in many respects more seductive now than in the days of the apostles. The whole course of things in Christendom, has to some extent, become coloured by Christianity. Certain ideas of propriety affect most people, more or less. This makes it very easy for believers to drop down to the level of things here without coming in contact with any gross form of evil which might affect their consciences. For example, people give a Christian flavouring to politics, or try to do so. But politics certainly belong to this age, and form perhaps one of its most prominent characteristics. There will be no politics, as we understand the term to-day, in the age to come, or in heaven.
Then again, think of religion. We live in a country where Christianity has a public and recognized place as forming part of what is right and proper in this age. No great state ceremonial would be complete apart from the presence of those who are supposed to represent Christianity, and to give its sanction to the proceedings. So that Christianity, instead of being quite apart from the course of this age, is looked upon as its crowning glory. But the Christian is not to be conformed to this age.
Take the ordinary social life of the world. It has its pleasing amiabilities, its many devices to pass smoothly the hours of leisure, its entertaining intelligence of everything that is done under the sun, and, it may be, a pinch of religious flavouring thrown in. But it all belongs to “this world,” to which the Christian is not to be conformed.
“But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The renewing of the mind is that gracious operation of God whereby saints become capable of entering intelligently into the apprehension of things which lie altogether outside this age. The Christian has a new kind of intelligent faculty by which he apprehends things that are outside the sphere of sight and the range of the senses. He becomes intelligent in the actings and ways of God, and familiar with that resurrection world which is the scene of “the wonderful works of God.”
The effect of apprehending these things is that the Christian is transformed; he comes out here in a new way, with new traits and characteristics. He thinks soberly of himself (v 3); he does not mind high things, but goes along with the lowly; he is not wise in his own conceit (v 16); he does not avenge himself, but overcomes evil with good (vv 19-21); he is subject to the powers that be (Rom 13:1-7); he puts on the Lord Jesus Christ, and makes no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof (Rom 13:14); he bears the infirmities of the weak, and does not please himself (Rom 15:1). If we think of what we are naturally, this is indeed a wondrous transformation.
– C. A. Coates