Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies AS A LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
From what I understand this is a hinge verse, an inflection point in Romans.
It is the point at which we see BE and DO coming together perfectly!
I would postulate that in Christianity there is an order to these ideas… it is first Be, then Do. We can’t “Do” anything for Christ until we “Are” in him.
As I have heard my pastor say, “Witnessing is not something you DO it’s something you are ARE”.
Back to Romans 12:1, I am overcome by how important this is. I can’t help but muse:
This verse is massive. It is cosmic in it’s scope. It is terrifying in its implications. It is infinite in its application. It is glorious (as in full of weight and substance). It is essential.
So I would like to humbly propose a short commentary on what I feel are the 8 aspects in this verse, followed by some thoughts on how this has struck me in an intense way personally. I have broken this verse into the two ideas of “Be” and “Do”:
What is preceding the “therefore”? All of Romans 1-11 which is an amazing exposition of discovering who we are. (Our being) and we can see this by looking at the 4 “therefores” Carl Westerlund highlights in his commentary on Romans which I discovered on Blue Letter Bible:
The four therefores — (commentary by Carl Westerlund)
-The “Therefore…” of condemnation
Romans 3:20 – Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.
-The “Therefore…” of justification
Romans 5:1 -Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
-The “…therefore…” of sanctification
Romans 8:1 – [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
-The “…therefore…” of dedication
We find this the last therefore… after all of these, Romans 12:1 is the final therefore, the result of all of the ideas presented in Romans so far, thus why it is the hinge that leads us to the practical walking out of the teaching of Romans in chapters 12-16. As it is put in the JFP commentary, “The doctrinal teaching of this Epistle is now followed up by a series of exhortations to practical duty. And first, the all-comprehensive duty.” (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown)
2. I urge you brothers and sisters
Paul (the author of Romans) is not commanding us but rather urging us, therefore it is a choice, not something we are commanded to do. Thus we must willingly lay down our lives at Jesus feet as a living sacrifice.
3. In view of God’s mercy
– It is a view of God’s mercy that will move us, that will urge us, that will cause us to be able to offer ourselves.
– What is God’s mercy?: Christ’s sacrifice… “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
– I propose that there are 2 reasons why we won’t be urged:
1. We don’t think we need it… we need a revelation of our falleness… Even our being good can be sin if we are making the “if only” mistake. (The first therefore) This is why we have the Law, and why Jesus raised the standard of the law.
2. We don’t know the one making the sacrifice… As we come to know Christ and the Father and the Spirit intimately then more and more we will be constantly renewed in our joy, trust and thankfulness of his mercies
4. To offer
Again, this is our choice, we have to climb onto the alter… He won’t take it from us.
5. your bodies
Does this mean just our bodies and not the rest of us?
No! It of course must mean our whole selves…
6. As a living sacrifice
(Literally a living Killing)
And here we are, this is it… this is the thing…
If we are a living sacrifice, then what is it about us that is dying? Clearly something must die in order for us to be a sacrifice. It is our will… Our right to make our own choices… to become a slave to Christ: It is making Jesus our Lord. And we enter into this by faith.
Now wait a minute… Didn’t Christ set us free for freedom? This alter thing doesn’t sound very much like freedom…
Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – NIV
Galatians 5:1 – So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law – NLT
Now this is terrifying… see the comments below.
7. holy and pleasing to God
Refer to the third therefore … we are sanctified by Him.
– it is only by his mercy in Christ Jesus that we are this kind of sacrifice!
8. this is your true and proper worship.
– Amplified: which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
– In a nutshell, the logical conclusion of looking at what Christ has done is to give ourselves up as a total sacrifice as the ultimate act of our love and worship of God.
And now some thoughts… The Gospel, Terrifying yet Liberating
I personally find this verse frightening in its implications, and I’m sure many others do as well. The whole idea of being a sacrifice… willingly crawling on the alter? Scary!
Take a deep breath…
Why is the idea of becoming a living sacrifice so scary? It is absolutely terrifying because it means we are laying down our lives… our will… our selves. And it’s probably going to hurt! In fact we are promised that is going to hurt! If we are a sacrifice, then we are completely surrendered! What is dying… its our free will. This is what it means to be born again, it is to be remade, re-created. That is not a nice sounding thing… that involves fire and purification, and change, and and and… sacrifice!
But remade into what? Hint hint: What we were created for all along…
But I am getting ahead of myself. Why are we scared? What are we scared of? We are scared that our desires will not be met. As in the “if only’s” of our life. The things that we say to… if I only had “that”, then I will be happy. Then I will be satisfied, then I will be able to rest. But when the term “living sacrifice” is in play, we automatically start thinking (worrying): Will I still be able to… have a family, keep my house, play video games, listen to that music, have those friends, play sports, have sex? etc. etc. etc. What is worry? It is in essence a realization of what happens when we don’t Trust in God. We don’t have faith in Christ. Remember the second therefore? We are not justified! We are trying to do without being! So can we trust in God to give us those things?
Actually that’s the wrong question, because first we need to ask, “But where will those desires lead us?” The nature of Sin is making good things ultimate things. (Tim Keller) Let me prove it to you. What did God tell Adam and Eve not to do! Not to eat fruit from a tree. A good thing. Thus the nature of sin is not doing bad things, it’s trying to find meaning in anything other than God. It’s taking our desires and pursuing them at all costs, striving to have them, you can see it is in a sense, sacrificing ourselves for them. But when we sacrifice ourselves on the alter of success, on the alter of physical or aesthetic pleasure, on the alter of moral goodness and good works (aka superiority/pride), on the alter of having “good things” in this world, on the alter of maintaining our dignity, on the alter of Family… when any of those are our desires, (aka the things we are sacrificing for) those masters will not fill us with life. In fact they will suck the life from us and leave us dry. All is darkness. As soon as we finally achieve the thing we were striving for, after a few weeks or days or often immediately, we feel cheated… it just doesn’t satisfy. We cannot serve two masters. Which one do we love and which one do we hate? See the scary thing, is that if we take these desires we have that we don’t want to give up, we will realize that we are really sacrificing our lives for these things, and in the end they will all result in darkness. Ro 6:16: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”
A song that perfectly encapsulates this idea, and has been a part of my personal soundtrack, is called Roll Away your Stone… If you look for “goodbit” in the comments I explain the feelings I get every time I listen to this song:
So how do we reconcile this? We have to go back to the “be”, to have a fuller be…ing. It all comes back to who we are, what is our identity? Do we trust Christ enough to die? Have we been Born again? What is the hole that we are trying to fill with things unreal? Go back to the beginning in Genesis, and see what God said when he created man. He said it “is good”. Consider this quote from Timothy Keller as he talks about Genesis: “Deeper than anything that we know right in the centre of our being… it is like water and we are grass, it’s the gas our engine needs to run on… is the fact that we need to hear our maker say to us, ‘you are good… you are very good’ “.
We have a hope… Peter told those who were suffering greatly for their faith, as in experiencing what it means to be a living sacrifice, 1 Peter 1:7…. that in the final days when Jesus Christ is revealed, we will receive Praise, Glory and Honor. How can we endure the Sacrifice? The same way Jesus endured the sacrifice: Hebrews 12:2, the hope that was set before him he endured the suffering. What was he hoping for? Couldn’t have been heaven, then he would never have come down… what did he come down for us? It was us! We were his Hope! We are his reward!
We have come full circle, and now we see WHY knowing the one who sacrificed is everything! Jesus, the word, the one by whose power all things are held together… He was hoping for… us! So in the same way, our hope is a hope in the eternal riches of eternal life in Christ Jesus! If we can see that this hope is what we were made for, then we can begin to have faith (trust) in him, and the more we trust him, the more free (it was for freedom he set us free) we can be to give up our desires to him, and find our souls newly impassioned as we surrender our will. This why we need to be captivated by the beauty of the cross. Because as our own will dies we can find rest. Rest from all of our striving to fulfill our desires, that are destroying us, that are darkness, that are moth and rust prone, that pale in comparison to the richness of our treasures stored up for us… kept for us in heaven.
So, in view of the amazing mercies that God has showered and lavished on us… It is only reasonable that we cry in worship, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the just reward of his sufferings”.
This is the prayer I feel compelled to pray as I think on these things:
Thank you Father for the gift of your Son Jesus.
Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice.
Thank you Holy Spirit for revealing the Son to us and making it real in our hearts and filling us with boldness and power.
Thank you that we have this hope, that you will look at us and give us Praise, Glory and Honor.
Thank you that now we get to love you in return.
Thank you that you accept the sacrifice of our wills.
Thank you that now we are free.
Thank you that in you we live and move and have our be-ing.