In light of the joint-venture that those of faith enjoy (from Chapter 11), Paul is now going to write more closely about our relationship, one with another. From Chapters 5 through 8, we saw how we have been removed from the flesh, being justified freely by His grace and that even though sin still works in the playground of our flesh, with our minds, we can serve the law of God. This law isn’t a law of the Letter, which kills, but is of the Spirit, which makes alive.
Romans 12:1 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. 12:2 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.
In light of what is true of us individually, Paul begins to describe how that truth should influence what is true for us, corporately.
Therefore, Paul beseeches us, by the mercies of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Notice Paul doesn’t make this appeal to us by the judgment of God, but by the mercies of God. The motivation for presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is not that of apprehension and uncertainty, but is from the never-changing mercies of God. It is not the wrath and judgment of God that demands a sacrifice, but it is the mercies of God that allure a sacrifice. In other words, being a sacrifice is an alluring option because of God’s mercies – it is not an obligation driven by fear. What are the mercies of God? It is the ability to look at the sinner, enslaved to Sin and Death, yet be moved with love and compassion to rescue the sinner from his enslavement. Paul appeals to that as the reason for presenting ourselves as a sacrifice.
But, notice closely – the nature of this sacrifice is to be a LIVING sacrifice. The idea of a sacrifice is to give one’s life on the behalf of others, but in this, Paul says we are to give ourselves unto God, not as a dead sacrifice, but as a living sacrifice. Remember what we read in Romans 5 through 8. What would a dead sacrifice look like?
Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
A dead sacrifice is presenting one’s self before the Lord, standing in one’s righteousness, having done all to impress Him by the works of the flesh. Lord have we not done many wonderful works in thy name? The Lord replies that He never knew them – why? Because the works were actually done in their name, not His.
Many who look at Romans 12:1 conclude that this is Paul’s declaration for folks to walk the “straight and narrow.” (Of course, what the straight and narrow is is not unanimously agreed upon, depending on which group you are asking.) But, in general terms, this straight and narrow is often defined as a series of regimentations by which one attempts to tame their flesh so that God will find the person acceptable and therefore given a reason to bless the believer. However, this mindset – this motivation is a dead sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of the Letter – of the flesh.
And, by the way, the straight and narrow is the WAY that leads unto LIFE and few there be that find it – it is Jesus Christ Himself (as “the WAY, the truth and the LIFE”). It is the very One who satisfied all of the rules so that you could live in grace and liberty.
Paul says to present your bodies as LIVING sacrifices. If the Life of Christ is a Spiritual reality, not a fleshly one, then the very best living sacrifice we can be is to allow the Spirit to animate His life in and through us. In other words, yielding to my flesh – even to produce righteousness – is a dead sacrifice. A dead sacrifice has no use in the kingdom that is governed by Life.
Simply showing up to church doesn’t make me a living sacrifice.
Dressing up for church doesn’t make me a living sacrifice.
Reading my Bible every day doesn’t make a living sacrifice.
Listening or singing the ‘right kind of music’ doesn’t make me a living sacrifice.
Praying every day doesn’t make me a living sacrifice.
What unbeliever cannot consistently accomplish these things?
When I perceive that it is through these kinds of things that I’m sacrificing for God, then all I’ve done is look to myself and the works of my hands as the offering – and it is an offering of death. Yielding to the Spirit of Life, however, will allow us to be the living sacrifice unto God. Does this mean that the things mentioned above are wrong? No, absolutely not – but it is to recognize that these are to be byproducts of a Spirit-led, living sacrifice. They are not what jump-starts that reality, but what follows it.
It is by this that we demonstrate a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable. To be holy is to be separate. A living sacrifice is certainly holy, when compared to the rest of the dead sacrifices. But, when folks stand up in the spotlight of their own pride, beaming themselves upon God, we find it is the living sacrifice that is acceptable unto God, not the dead kind. The sacrifice that is not working in the spotlight of their own pride, but is resting in the spotlight of His grace – that’s the acceptable sacrifice.
And, recall that God made you acceptable, not the other way around (Ephesians 1:6)
The acceptable sacrifice, is wholly governed by Life and the Spirit. Note how Peter describes this truth when writing to his audience:
1Peter 2:5 – Ye also, as LIVELY stones, are built up a SPIRITUAL house, an HOLY priesthood, TO OFFER UP SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES, ACCEPTABLE to God by Jesus Christ
Note the catalyst for these sacrifices – by Jesus Christ. In other words, the only acceptable sacrifices to God are those which transcend through Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ is alive, so too must the acceptable sacrifice be alive in Christ and therefore allowing HIM to work through you.
Paul says that this sacrifice is our ‘reasonable service.’ The word reasonable comes from a word that means logical or spiritual. In other words, it is a service that is well-reasoned – well-reasoned from the standpoint of understanding what service would look like if it were of a living sacrifice vs a dead one. Interestingly enough, the word service carries the same idea as worship.
We are told we need to find ways to serve God without ever stopping to think about what all service entails. If service is worship, then it would stand to reason that our well-reasoned worship will, again, emanate from the Spirit of Life, not from the fleshly, dead sacrifice we conjure up from ourselves.
Worship comes from a word that means to ‘bow down’ or to ‘prostrate’. The fundamental root of worship can be boiled down to two aspects:
- One aspect is the praise/adoration of Him
- The other aspect is the humility that manifests itself in your life when you recognize His majesty
Humility is not something you force yourself to be – humility is something you ALLOW yourself to be because it is the end-result of divine recognition.
Worshiping or Serving God is the product of serving the Law of God with your mind, by which, you recognize the praise-worthiness of God and therefore allow that reality to bread humility in your life. And, when you are humble, you have the desire to see the promotion of others, over yourself. Note Paul’s words in Philippians 2 – to be of lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than ourselves, just as Christ did when He laid down His life for us.
If humility desires to see the promotion of others over self, how would that tie into service/worship of God? Note Christ’s words in Matthew 25. Here, we find the separation of the sheep from the goats and the separation of these two animals is determined by one thing:
Matthew 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The sheep were curious how they had done all of these things to Christ and they are told that to the extent they did these things unto the least of His brethren, they have done it unto Him. You mean that serving our fellow brothers/sisters in Christ actually serves Christ? That’s exactly it! Recall when Paul is stopped on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, that Christ asked him, Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou ME. Not only did service from fellow believers serve Christ, but by persecuting the believers, Saul was persecuting Christ. Think about that the next time we go on some crusade to tear down a fellow brother in Christ. In as much as we do it unto him, we do it unto Christ.
All of this makes it sound like we are all part of the same body or something. …well, patience. We’ll get there.
Yes indeed, our well-reasoned service/worship of God is that by yielding to the Law of the Spirit of Life, we serve one another and thereby, serve Christ. We do not serve one another with the works of death, by the flesh, but by the motivation of the Spirit Himself. Our purpose in our liberty in Christ is exactly this:
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Through this service, we find ourselves not being conformed to this world, but rather transformed by the renewal of our minds. To conform is to take the shape of. It is to fashion one’s self after a particular manner or pattern. Remember, towards the end of Chapter 8, Paul reminds us that it was God’s supreme desire to conform believers to the image of His Son.
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The image of His Son is not an image of self, but of His Spirit. By allowing the Spirit to live His life in us, we respond to the conformation we’ve already experienced in Christ, however, by responding to it, we yield not to our flesh, but rather become transformed by the renewing of our minds. Note it doesn’t say to ‘reform’ our minds. To reform is to take what exists and refashion it by altering its shape. But, Paul says to be transformed, which is the total change of what exists into something new. Paul says that by allowing our minds to be transformed, we prove the Will of God and prove it for what it is – good and acceptable and perfect. It is the will of God that we be transformed as we allow the Spirit to renew our minds.
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Again, are you getting the idea that there is one body in Christ?
Romans 12:3 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.
Therefore, if we all have the same opportunity to allow the Spirit of Life to be the life of our living sacrifice and if we all have the same opportunity to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we should not be too quick to assume that some of us are of any greater value than others. Paul says that we ought not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Why? Because we have been dealt measured faith. What is the measure – it is Christ Himself. How high ought someone to think of themselves? No higher than rejoicing in Christ for what Christ as done for him/her.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
However, does every believer possess the same talents and abilities? No, clearly not. But, does the talent or ability prove value?
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Paul says that we have many members in one body and not all members have the same office. In other words, all parts of the body are together in one body, yet not all parts of the body fulfill the same function. But, being joined to one body intertwines us one with another. Being one body in Christ is very important because it describes the will of God – that the believers would live in unity in Christ. Unfortunately, like in Paul’s day, and perhaps more so today, believers are doing their best to foster disunity by dividing themselves over frivolous things. As Paul asked the Corinthians, Is Christ divided? (1Corinthians 1:13) When we get to the end of Romans, we’ll deal with Paul’s statement to mark them which cause DIVISIONS contrary to the doctrines these Romans have learned.
The purpose God has for us in Christ is to live in unity, one with another, yet recognizing the various functions we may fulfill. In the next post, we’ll look more at what this Body of Christ is all about – not only its makeup and its origins, but also its purpose and destiny.
Our story continues…