The Modern King James Version of the Holy Bible presents Romans 12:2 as follows:
“… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.”
The 400 year old King James Version renders the last words as “… what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Whichever version you use, the meaning and intent is the same; Christians are not to conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing or our minds to the Will of God. The Life Application Study Bible says of Romans 12:2,
“Paul warned Christians: “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world” that are usually selfish and often corrupting. Wise Christians decide that much worldly behaviour is off-limits for them. Our refusal to conform to this world’s values, however, must go even deeper than just behaviour and customs; it must be firmly planted in our mind: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” It is possible to avoid most worldly customs and still be proud, covetous, selfish, stubborn, and arrogant. Only when the Holy Spirit renews, re-educates, and redirects our mind are we truly transformed (see Romans 8:5).”
Paul opens Romans 12:2 with two commands for Christians:
First: We are not to be conformed to this world (or this age). Paul uses the Greek word ‘suschēmatizō’ [συσχηματίζω] which means to fashion alike, that is, conform to the same pattern. In other words, Christians are not to conform to, or fashion ourselves self according to, the ways of the world. This word in Greek is only used twice in the Bible, here and in First Peter 1:14 where the context is the same “… as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.”
Second: We are to be transformed, by the supernatural renewal or our mind. The word transformed here comes from the Greek ‘metamorphoō’ [μεταμορφόω] from which we get the word “metamorphose.” It means to literally or figuratively to change, to transfigure, to transform. As Titus 3:5 says, this is a supernatural change of our mind or our spirit “… through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
As Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says of this verse:
“Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. The great enemy to this renewal is, conformity to this world. Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things. The work of the Holy Spirit first begins in the understanding, and is carried on to the will, affections, and conversation, till there is a change of the whole man into the likeness of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Thus, to be godly, is to give up ourselves to God.”
This leads us to what Paul calls the “… good and pleasing and perfect will of God” or the “… good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Here we have three clear aspects or characteristics of the very Will of God.
- It is Good. The Greek is ‘agathos’ [ἀγαθός] meaning good, well and of benefit.
- It is Pleasing, Acceptable. The Greek is ‘euarestos’ [εὐάρεστος] meaning acceptable and well-pleasing.
- It is Perfect. The Greek is ‘teleios’ [τέλειος] meaning complete (in various applications of labour, growth, mental and moral character, etc.), in completeness: – of full age, mature, perfect.
We can look at these three aspects of God’s Will as follows:
The Good Will of God:
The Agathos of God, or the benefits of the Will of God which result when we come before God presenting our obedience to Him, rather than our sacrifice. Remember, what Psalm 51:17 says of God on this matter “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” And as Samuel asked and answered in First Samuel 15:22 “Does Jehovah delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice! To listen is better than the fat of rams!”
The Acceptable Will of God:
The Euarestos of God, is all that which is acceptable and well-pleasing to God. In all aspects, this needs to be in full agreement with the Will and Word of God.
The Perfect Will of God:
The Teleios of God, all that which is complete in labour, growth, mental and moral character, concerning the Will of God.
All words in the Bible are determined by the Lord God and penned by His agents for His glory. Indeed, God hold His Word higher than even His own name, as we read in Psalm 138:2 “… for You have magnified Your Word above all Your name.” As we read also in Second Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work,” we can take it to mean explicitly, that even the word order of the Bible is important for us. Thus even the order “good, and acceptable, and perfect” are worthy of note for a Christian:
- When we first choose to obey the Will of God, we are beginning to align ourselves with The Good Will of God.
- When we learn to come into agreement with the Will of God, we may see ourselves as coming into The Acceptable Will of God.
- When we finally come to full adult maturity in Christ and begin to move in the Will of God and in the Holy Spirit, we may see ourselves as having come into The Perfect Will of God.
What is it that we have achieved when we move through these three stages and into the perfect will of God? Paul gives us one answer to this in Romans 12:1 as he writes:
“I beseech [beg, implore, plead] you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.”
It is only when we have learned to be transformed by the renewal of our minds that we can fully present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. When we can achieve that in our daily living, and not just for 60 or 90 minutes in Church on the Sabbath, then we are beginning to meet God’s requirements of us and become a living testament for Him. as to that which is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
Jesus modelled this for us as He lived for His Father, saying in Luke 22:42 “… Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” And in John 5:30-31 as Jesus said “I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgement is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.”
When this supernatural change takes place in us, when we undergo spiritual metamorphosis and as Ephesians 4:24 says, we “put on the new man, who according to God was created in righteousness and true holiness,” then we have begun to comply with the commands of Paul in Romans 12:2 and have sense and experience the Will of God on our lives. As our God is a relational God and deeply cares about us, be assured that as you reach out to Him, He will be found and in ways we can scarcely imagine.