A Living Sacrifice- Romans 12:1

In this verse, Paul urges all believers to do something, something he prays all who read this would adhere to. He begins the verse with the word “therefore”, which connects this verse back to something which has come before. This verse does not, however, connect back to the end of chapter 11. In the flow of the letter to the Romans, Paul had been talking about learning to walk in the Spirit (8:1-27), and about how we do this because of the love God has for us (8:28-39). He concludes by telling us, in verses 38-39, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This is the specific verse to which the therefore here connects, so all that Paul commands here is to be a response to the fact that God loves us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. We are secure in His love for us, it is unfailing and nothing can separate us from it, and it is in light of this fact and in response to it that we are to do what Paul urges here, this should be the natural response to the proper understanding of the love which God has given us in Christ Jesus. He begins, then, by “urging” us to do something. The Greek word urge here is parakaleo, which can mean anything from invite to beseech to exhort to command, and it appears here in the present tense, meaning it is something he is continually urging us to do. The NIV does not translate this as “command” here, but as “urge”, which captures the concept of Paul’s statement. He does not command this because he believes it should be a natural response on our parts and need not be “commanded”, but rather strongly urged. We then find that his urging is given to “brothers”, used here in reference to all believers in Christ, since only true believers will have any desire to do what he is about to urge us to do. He urges this to be done “in view of God’s mercy”. The word translated “mercy” here is actually used in the plural, literally “mercies”, referring here to the multi-faceted nature of the mercy which God shows to those who are in Christ Jesus. His mercy comes in many forms, it is infinite and inexhaustible. The Greek word mercy here is oiktirmos, literally pity or compassion. God took pity on those who were hopeless and helpless, He Himself came and took care of our problem, did for us what we could not do to give us what we did not deserve, and Paul wants to remind us of this fact in order to stimulate us to respond in the way he is going to suggest. The Greek word “offer” here is paristemi, “to place at someone’s side or put at their disposal”, and what we are to offer is our “bodies”. What Paul is urging us to do, then, is to place our bodies at God’s disposal. Our bodies are normally at our own disposal, ours to use as we see fit. But Paul urges us here to place them at God’s disposal, to allow God to use them however He sees fit. We all “live” through our bodies, and Paul is urging all believers to learn to let God live through them instead. How does this happen, then? It happens as we offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice”. This is a term which would have sounded rather strange to first century ears, for to them there was no such thing as a “living sacrifice”, a sacrifice by nature had to die, for a sacrifice involved the shedding of the blood of the one sacrificed to offer that blood up to a “god”. The sacrifice which Paul urges us to here does not involve blood, because the sacrifice mentioned here involves a different kind of “death”. The sacrifice is living because it involves the body rather than the blood, it is the body which is “placed on the altar”, which is given over to God. What Paul means here by a living sacrifice is that we are to offer up our bodies to God, to place them at His disposal, to do with them as He sees fit. Our bodies offered up this way are then truly “holy”, which simply means “set apart for God’s service”, and it is in this condition that we become truly “pleasing to God”. This then is our “spiritual act of worship”. This serves as Paul’s explanation of Jesus’ command to worship God in “spirit and truth”. The type of worship which God seeks, which truly pleases Him, is the worship described here by Paul, the worship of offering our bodies a living sacrifice. True “worship” does not involve the singing of songs or any sort of emotional experience, true worship consists of coming to the place in which we say “Here I am Lord, do with me as you will’, or as we offer our bodies a living sacrifice, as we participate in the death of Jesus by dying daily to self-will and learning to live in God’s will.

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