Chapter Twelve

Verses 1,2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

    Paul beseeches or makes a special plea and request of his brethren in the Lord. He asks them to do something very important. He urges them to make a presentation to God. That which ought to be presented was themselves, their very own bodies as sacrifices unto God. Notice he urges that they be living sacrifices. Someone has said that the only thing more noble than dying for the Lord would be living for the Lord. God wants people to live lives according to His will. He wants everyone to deny themselves, and follow the Savior. This is what Paul calls for these brethren to do. They are to set themselves apart, consecrate, and devote themselves unto the acceptable service of God.
    The King James Version says "reasonable" service, and the American Standard Version says "spiritual" service. I find no conflict in these varied renditions, but rather a complement to each other. Such rendering gives tremendous aid in understanding what is spiritual. For something to be reasonable means it must appeal to the mind or intellect of man. Serving God is rational and intelligent. The human heart, the mind, must be reached and converted. Man has the power to reason and weigh evidence. Service to God is service that results from an intelligent consideration of the evidence and the formation of the conviction that serving God is what ought be done. When a man serves God with his mind, and from conviction, in an intelligent fashion, and according to the directions of the Holy Spirit, that is spiritual service. Sometimes people have confused that which is almost entirely emotional with that which is spiritual. Many artificial environmental aids and gimmicks have been used to arouse the carnal emotions of people during various religious exercises, and those who have been so led are sometimes heard to say that their experience was so "spiritual." Such is not spiritual, Biblically speaking. That which is spiritual is not based upon emotion, but upon revelation, and intelligent understanding. Reasonable service, that which appeals to the intellect of man, as guided by the Holy Spirit though the Word, is spiritual service. When the Word of God conveys a message to the mind of man, and convinces man of a certain course of action, and man follows that course of action because his mind has been so convinced with the evidence of the Word, that is reasonable or spiritual service. One can well be aroused emotionally, even to the point of hysterics, and never be spiritual or spiritually minded as the Bible used the term. Our sacrifice of ourselves must result in spiritual service, rational, intelligent, with understanding and conviction.
    Having now given a positive instruction, Paul also gives a negative instruction. Christians are not to follow the sinful ways of the world, nor follow the multitude to do evil. Christians are not to let the world set his pace, or determine his standards. While in many things a Christian can conform to what is around him, there are certain limits beyond which he cannot, and will not, go regardless of what the rest of the world about him does. There is no value in being different or a non-conformist simply to be one, or to attract unwarranted attention to oneself. But the Christian is expected to be a different person because of his relationship to God through Christ. His attitudes and actions will differ from those embroiled in sin, and caught up with what "everybody's doing." Of course, not everybody is doing anything, but often it seems that most are going a certain way, and the Christian is tempted to go along. But the Christian is a person who thinks before he acts, and his thoughts are always centered on what Christ would have him do in all circumstances. Sometimes it seems one of the hardest lessons for Christians to learn is to be wary of imitating the world, following the world, and allowing the world to determine his conduct, dress, manner of speech, goals, ideals, values and habits. Rather than allowing himself to be guided by the Lord's way, he allows himself to be molded by the world. But the Christian is one who is transformed, changed, and different. This transformation and conversion comes by the mind being changed, and actions based on the conviction of the mind. The mind is renewed. The heart is converted. As stated above, the intellect of man is convinced and persuaded. The doctrine of Christ makes its prime appeal to that part of man that thinks. The transformation or conversion that makes one a Christian means he no longer seeks the way of the sinful world, but by changing his mind, and accepting the doctrine of Jesus Christ, he is made distinctive and different.
    Once transformed, the Christian proves (puts to the test and demonstrates) God's will. He is expected to show what the will of the Lord is by the life that he lives. The gospel is to be preached by word, to be sure. But the way of truth is to be lived, demonstrated, and proved.
    Take note that the will of God is described as being good, acceptable, and perfect. These are the terms, therefore, that ought to describe our lives as we demonstrate the will of God. To the extent our lives are not so described, to that extent there is room for growth. We must not fail to demonstrate to the world how God would have all men everywhere to live.
    It would seem that it goes without belaboring further that one would find it impossible to live and demonstrate in life the will of God if he should refuse to give himself completely as a living sacrifice to the Lord. Having given oneself to the Lord, one is able, with God's help and spiritual growth, to live the kind of life that brings glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

Verse 3

3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    Paul writes not as one who is giving his own ideas or perceptions, but as he is directed and guided by the Lord. He so expresses this in the phrase, "through the grace given unto me." The grace of which he speaks is his apostleship to which he referred in chapter one, verse five. What he is saying is, therefore, the Word of God.
    The instruction of this verse is for every Christian. It strikes at the temptation to consider oneself more than he ought to consider himself. It strikes down the attitude of pride and conceit. It urges a sense of humility, and calls for a recognition of one's own limitations and inabilities. It is the concept presented by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount that one should be "poor in spirit." Much of this world's ills are caused by people who are too self-centered, too conscious of themselves, and who rate themselves more highly than they ought. Possibly, we all are inclined to do this, or are tempted to do so. Paul is not denouncing legitimate self-respect, but condemning conceit and pride.
    Furthermore, he calls for sober thinking, and discreet consideration of life. The person who is enamored with himself will not likely be able to think clearly and properly on any matter, especially if it pertains to him, because he will always have the cloud of pride between him and true wisdom. To be sure, we are not all endowed with the same capacities, physically or mentally. But each shall be responsible for whatever capacity he has, and whatever that is must be governed by a humble and sober mind.
    We are justified in thinking that the phrase, "according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith," to mean the presentation of the standard by which we govern our thinking. In other words, we are to think like the faith would have us think. Paul shows us two standards. One is incorrect, and the other is correct. The incorrect one is according to our personal pride. The correct one is according to what has come from God.

Verses 4-8

4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    Building upon the admonition given in verse three, Paul reminds those in Christ of the oneness and unity that abides among us. We are all of the same family, the same body, servants of the same God, and we all have been saved by the same Christ. Regardless of ancestral or national background, those in Christ are simply different members of the same body. This very thought ought make us considerate of every other member of the body. There is something very wrong with a body where one member of it seeks the harm of another member, or fails to cooperate with the other members in their particular functions for the overall good of the entire body. Paul alludes here to the body to picture the relationship of one Christian to other Christians, and drives toward the goal of showing practical reasons why we ought follow the teaching of verse three. Just as the physical body has many members, and every member does not have the same function or office to perform, the same is true of the body of Christ. First Corinthians twelve brings out these very truths explicitly. Together, we make up the body of Christ. The term "body" is the very term used in other passages to define the Lord's church (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). We are, therefore, related, and are one of another.
    We have differing talents, and whatever talent we have ought be used properly, and to the best advantage for all concerned. Let me insert here that it is very possible that Paul includes the use of spiritual gifts, miraculous gifts, that some in the early church did possess. It is not sure that anyone in Rome had such gifts at the time Paul wrote this letter, although it is possible that some did. Whatever be that situation, Paul hoped to visit them and grant them such gifts, as noted in chapter one, verse eleven. Here is a regulation of these gifts, if ever and whenever, such gifts were given them. Certainly, the use of those abilities would be included in this teaching, but we would not conclude it referred only to the use of miraculous gifts. The principle taught would embrace the use of whatever contribution or talent each one could offer to the advantage of the whole body.
    If one could prophesy (used here in the sense of teaching rather than foretelling the future), let him do it according to the faith he had, and the understanding of the faith he possessed. If one was given to performing certain services (termed here ministry), let him tend to that the best he could. Let the one who teaches tend to his teaching. The one who can best exhort, let him emphasize that ability. The one who gives, may he do so with simplicity, meaning sincerity and honesty. The one who rules, which would certainly have reference to the leaders of the church, let them rule with diligence by giving the work of leadership their genuine and complete concern. The one who shows mercy, let him do so with cheerfulness, not as if he merely had to be merciful, but because he truly wanted to be merciful, and was glad for the opportunity to show mercy.
    What Paul is expressing is understandable enough. With everyone working together, each doing his part to the fullest, great and lasting good would result. Such oneness makes for a wonderful fellowship in Christ.

Verses 9-13

9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

    In this paragraph we are introduced to several short, simple, and very direct commandments and practical admonitions in living the Christian life, especially our relationship with brethren. It should go without much comment that love (seeking the highest good of the other) ought to abide and abound among brethren. It is most unfortunate when there is evidence that each is not seeking the good of the other, and love is not present. Surely, God is highly displeased when brethren are of such evil dispositions and attitudes toward one another.
    But this love is to be genuine, not pretended or feigned, "without dissimulation." People can smother you with words of sweetness and kindness, and not really mean a word of it. It is not altogether unknown for people to "sweet talk" you to your face and tear you apart behind your back. This is the kind of thing Paul says should never be among brethren. Let there be love among the brethren, and let it be true and real like God wants it to be.
    The Christian must learn to hate some things. "Abhor" is one of the strongest terms that can be used to denote disapproval. God "hates" some things (Proverbs 6:16-19). Surely, the child of God ought to learn to hate what his heavenly Father hates. God hates that which is evil. Something is wrong if the Christian does not learn to hate, abhor, and despise whatever is contrary to the will of God.
    We must ever keep in mind that there is a difference between hating sin, and hating the sinner. The first we are to do, but the second we are never to do. Christ hated sin, but loved the sinner. He did not approve of the sinner in his sins, but He still loved the sinner, even while hating the sin that condemned the sinner He loved. So must be the attitude of His followers.
    But just taking a negative attitude toward sin is not all that God expects of a Christian. In addition to hating sin, Christians should learn to hold fast, "cleave," to that which is good. Life cannot be lived in a vacuum. Our lives will be filled with either good or evil. While driving out the evil, we must fill our lives with good. If we do not do this, evil will come and reoccupy our lives (Matthew 12:43-45). In verse nine, Paul gives us a do and a don't like he did in verse one. There is a positive and negative side to serving God. Emphasis on one to the neglect of the other will make our service lopsided, distorted, and unacceptable before God.
    Paul returns to the idea of brotherly affection one for another in verse ten. Here the word translated "kindly affectioned" comes from the Greek word storge, one of the three words in the Greek New Testament that conveys the idea of love in the English language. It gives emphasis to the family relationship we have in Christ. While each member of the family truly seeks to please the Father of the family, we must also learn to love one another, because we realize the Father loves every member of the family. Christians are God's spiritual family (First Timothy 3:15). It is only natural and proper that we love our Father. Therefore, it follows automatically that we ought to have brotherly love for each other because of the Father's love for all.
    This love is to be put into practice. It demands selflessness. It requires putting the consideration of the other before consideration of self. It means seeking the other's best interest before your own. It means having preference for the other's welfare before your own. Often men find this difficult to practice, but never is it wrong, but always right, to behave toward each other in this manner. The more such a disposition among brethren exists, the greater the chance of tranquility and peace abiding among them. Brethren will cooperate more, work together better, and be far more likely to fulfill their mission on earth in God's family.
    The teaching of verse eleven exhorts the Christian in two ways toward the same goal. (1) The Christian is to be energetic and active as far as he is capable. He is to be diligent as he goes about his tasks that are honorable and beneficial. (2) He is not to be a person who is lazy and irresponsible, but one who serves the Lord and his fellowman with a zest and zeal that marks him as a child of God. Whatever task he undertakes, he is to do it with all his might, believing in what he is doing, and doing it like he knows the worth of it. Solomon wrote similarly in Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
    Verse twelve continues with expressions of the attitudes of practical use that are to be found in the heart of the Christian. The child of God has more reason to rejoice than any other person on earth. After all, he belongs to God. He is in the right spiritual relationship with his Creator and Judge. His sins are forgiven him and he is saved. He is on his way to heaven. Why should he not rejoice? He has a hope, and this hope burns within his heart. It enables him to face hardships and tribulations with patience and stedfastness. He does not buckle under when hard times come because he has hope, and he has the quality of perseverance. All the while he realizes his dependence on God. He knows he is not self-sufficient. Therefore, he reflects this recognition of dependence by constant prayer.
    The Christian life, so amply defined in the verses of chapter twelve, does not confine itself to attitude. Already, in verses four through eight, we have seen the need for cooperative action. Verse nine through verse eleven includes action and attitude. The Christian is mindful of those who are less fortunate than he. He distributes, gives to the necessary provision, of those who lack. While this passage asserts his attentiveness to the needs of the saints, which must always take priority, his concern for those outside the body of Christ is amply taught in such passages as Galatians 6:10, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." The same lesson is taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, by the examples of Jesus, and others. Always, however, the Christian is more concerned for the welfare of his brothers and sisters in the Lord than anyone else.
    This trait of character will call upon him to share what he has. He will show concern for others. He will manifest the unselfishness that he has learned as a part of following his Lord. He is one given to hospitality. This idea is more than just "having company," but is a kindred statement to the preceding one. Those who are strangers and sojourners that have need will also find a place in the Christian's concern. His provisions are open to the use of those in need.

Verses 14-16

14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

    Continuing certain teaching designed to make the Christian a Christ-like person, Paul takes cognizance of something the early Christians knew first hand, and which all those who live godly in Christ Jesus can expect. There is persecution to suffer (Second Timothy 3:12). There will ever be those who will deride the Christian because of his faith and convictions regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. Persecution is not a stranger, nor a strange thing, to those who serve the Lord (First Peter 4:12). Yet, the attitude the Christian has toward those who seek his harm is so different from the action men generally manifest toward those who seek harm. Whereas others curse the Christian, the Christian is not obliged to curse them in return. Rather, he will seek to bless such people. While this takes more courage and character than to respond with curses when cursed, it is the way the Lord reacted, and He wants His followers to react as He did. This does not preclude certain personal safeguards and protection of self that God allows, which shall be considered when we discuss chapter thirteen. But the attitude of blessing rather than cursing is that which is to be found in the heart of the child of God.
    From verse fifteen it is obvious that the Christian heart is sympathetic and understanding. We may often be called upon to weep with those who are in sorrow. We do not usually find this to be very difficult if there is any compassion whatever in the heart. Pitiable indeed is that person who cannot be grieved when another is brought low due to sorrow and tragedy that causes him to weep. Surely, we ought be able to feel sorry for people in any kind of trouble. While it may well be true that they are receiving their "just desserts," and reaping as they have sown, it is no cause for rejoicing, but only cause for sorrow, to realize that others suffer heartache and heartbreak. So many things can, and do, happen in the course of the lives of human beings that bring sadness and pain that seemingly are unavoidable. Can we not weep with those who weep?
    But the first part of the verse also teaches the Christian to rejoice with those who rejoice. The only thing that would keep one from rejoicing over the good fortunes of another is jealousy. Possibly sometimes people cannot truly be glad that another has received good fortune and prosperity because they wish it had happened to them. Certainly, it is not wrong that we could want good things to come our way, but it is truly wrong to fail to be glad when good things come the way of others. Rather than being jealous and envious we ought rejoice when others succeed in what is right and honorable. Whether one succeeds in some worthy goal or accomplishment, or whether in the greater realms of becoming and being a child of God, we ought to be made glad when things go well with others. Such is the Christian way of doing things. This is the Christian way of thinking.
    Unity is another trait that is urged upon the Christian in verse sixteen. Be of the same mind and think alike. To think alike, people must have the same measure by which to measure their thinking. Possessing the same values is necessary in order to be of the same mind. Christians may not always have the same values in all matters of a secular nature because of differing interests, talents, and tastes. But these matters are relatively unimportant. But when it comes to matters of the spirit, when it is a matter of serving God, when it comes to submission of the human will to the will of Jehovah, Christians are to think alike. If they do not, one, or possibly both, are in error. When they think correctly they will think alike, and be of the same mind. This is an essential quality tending toward essential unity. Unity of mind is essential to Christian unity in matters of God's revealed Word.
    We are also admonished, "mind not high things." This has reference to seeking the glory and praise of the men of this world. Men often will seek the grand and glorious according to worldly standards, and in doing so, lose their souls. The "great things" of this life pale into relative insignificance in comparison with the things of the life to come. So often men are willing to be "great," or be given some "great" assignment and recognition. But they despise the lowly and more humble aspects of service. They seek the "high things" for their own conceited ambitions. Often those who quietly and unpretentiously go about doing their tasks faithfully without fanfare are neither recognized nor appreciated as they ought to be, except by the Lord. But that is what counts after all. Being "the big hen in the pen" is not always the best thing. "Top man on the totem pole" should not be our goal. To sit at the head of the table should not be our prime interest. Certainly, such ambitions are not to be allowed to provoke neglect of those of lowly estate, or cause one to turn away from serving them. Again, there is this teaching through Paul toward genuine humility and sacrifice of self and selfish ambitions.
    The teaching to "be not wise in your own conceits" is so much like the teaching in verse three, "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." You have heard it said that some people have the "big head," meaning they really think they have the world by the tail and they are the last word in perfection. Such an attitude surely does not commend itself, and does not exemplify the character God wants among His people.
    What glorious traits Paul has urged upon the Christian! Let us not minimize the importance, nor think for a moment, that these qualities are to become ours in a single day or with a single bound. They are qualities of character that will likely occupy a lifetime to acquire and develop. We can never think that we have attained, but must keep working more and more toward their development.

Verses 17, 18

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

    One of the outstanding characteristics of being a Christian is the imitation of Christ in not seeking the harm, but seeking the good for all those around you, even those who have done you evil. The Christian is not the kind of person who feels he must "even the score" and get revenge when someone has mistreated him. Instead of evil in return for evil, the child of God seeks to do what is honorable in the sight of all men.
    The Christian is not a person who seeks conflict. Instead, he would much prefer to avoid conflict, and live in peace with those around him. While it is true that those who will live godly lives shall suffer persecution (Second Timothy 3:12), and while it is true and cannot be denied that those who want to live godly lives will always be in antagonism with those who wish to live contrary to God's will (Second Corinthians 10:4-6), this conflict is neither the making, desire, nor preference of the Christian. This conflict is imposed upon him. He cannot compromise his convictions for a moment even to live in peace with others, but his attitude and disposition toward others is that of peace, as far as is possible. Short of denying his duties to God or compromising the truth, he will try to get along "peaceably" with everyone, doing what men consider honorable.
    At the same time, he knows that peace with God is the peace that matters. He will not sacrifice that peace in order to have peace with anybody. He will never be the kind of person who is willing to "go along with error" to "get along with others."

Verses 19-21

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Paul urges his brethren not to take matters of revenge into their own hands. One thing the Christian knows that others do not accept is that ultimately the right shall be victorious over the wrong. Satan cannot win the great conflict, but God shall be victorious, and those who are with God shall be victors as well. Therefore, we should not seek to settle all matters against evil in this life. Indeed, we cannot, and it is not within our power to do so. But in the long run of things and in the final analysis we shall be avenged and shall enjoy the spiritual victory in Christ. Instead of taking vengeance against those who do us harm, instead of trying to "get them back" for what they have done, instead of seeking as much or more evil for them than they have sought for us, we are to "give place unto wrath."
    Many have confused this last phrase, "give place unto wrath," by concluding that we are to simply, passively, timidly, idly sit by and allow the evildoer a free and unrestricted hand in doing whatever he wishes. This passage is not teaching the Christian to submit to the wrath of the evildoer, but to acquiesce to the wrath of God against the evildoer rather than attempting to handle the evildoer alone. In other words, the Christian is to give place to the wrath of God against the evildoer rather than take it upon himself to mete out revenge against the evildoer on his own. The reason that such a course is the proper one is because the Lord has said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." This matter of vengeance does not belong to the Christian, but is a matter that lies in the hands of God to mediate as He sees fit and when He sees fit. (We shall learn that one instrument of God in rendering vengeance on the evildoer is the long and powerful arm of civil authority, as is taught in chapter thirteen.)
    Instead of vengeance, the Christian's attitude and action is to be one of rendering good for evil, as already suggested in verse seventeen. Rather than doing harm, even to an enemy, Christians are to be ready to assist and help should opportunity afford.
    This kind of reaction toward the evildoer and toward the one who has offended the Christian would "heap coals of fire on his head." I take this great and oft-repeated phrase to mean that this Christ-like kind of benevolent attitude on the part of the Christian would burn out the animosity the persecutor might have against the Christian. It would make the enemy ashamed. It would cause him, by appealing in a very distinct manner, to his sense of compassion, if there was any such sense within him, to relent and discontinue imposing the hardships he was placing upon the Christian. This kind of benevolent response would be more practical, beneficial, and would likely obtain the desired result of release from persecution than fighting back and getting even, which thing the Christian could not do because such vengeance is reserved by the Lord for Himself.
    It is wise to mention here that God is not unjust in heaping vengeance against the evildoer, but rather justice demands that such be done, or God would no longer be a just God. It is, therefore, not a matter whether the enemy or persecutor ought be dealt with and handled and the matter settled. The enemy deserves being punished. It is a matter of who is going to administer the wrath against the enemy. Paul says God would attend to that rather than the Christian, personally, and on his own.
    There was, and is, the very strong likelihood that being the recipient of hardships from the hands of enemies might crush the Christian, or so provoke him that he would react in such a fashion that would cause his own condemnation. Recognizing the most tempting reaction to be retaliation (to be distinguished from self-defense), Paul urges the Christian to rise above that level of conduct and not be overcome by the evil, but so conduct himself that the good he would perform would overcome the evil.
    Admittedly, this may prove to be one of the most difficult obligations that the Christian has to perform in his service to Christ. When one is wronged, the most natural thing that comes to mind is to "not let him get away with it." But as stated before, the Christian knows (because God has told him through His Word) that the wrongdoer will "not get away with it" at all, but the Christian is to leave the settling of the matter, and the retaliation, in the hands of God. This requires great faith and patience on the part of the Christian who is being mistreated. Especially difficult it may be to obey when everything necessary to utterly destroy the enemy is at you disposal, which is often the case. He has probably left himself vulnerable. The temptation to strike back may be strong. But the obligation to refrain from doing so is imposed. The Christian is not the kind of person who seeks harm, but who seeks to help. This requires of him forbearance from doing what men otherwise might do with regard to their enemies and opponents.
    This chapter is without question one of the great chapters of the new covenant of Jesus Christ with respect to daily conduct and Christian demeanor. If those who profess to follow the Lord could and would study and apply this chapter to their lives, even when difficulties are presented against them, maybe I should say especially when difficulties are presented against them, the cause of Christ would be observed to have an influence on the church, and on the world, that would make for a better world in which to live. It would promote the influence of Christ. The obligations of this chapter cannot be taken lightly, but must be considered with the weightiest degree of seriousness.

Back to Table of Contents