What Difference Does It Make?
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. – Romans 12:1 NLT
Paul launches this next section of his letter with the words, “And so….” Some translations use the word, “Therefore….” Which reminds me of an old adage that says, when you see the word, therefore, in Scripture, always ask what it’s there for. What is the writer trying to tell you? It is almost always used as a transition from one train of thought to another. It is used to tie when section to another, and so it is here as Paul makes his transition from the end of chapter 11 to the beginning of chapter 12. Up until this point in his letter Paul has been stressing the sin of man and the grace of God. He has stressed the universality of man’s sinful state and his inability to save Himself. He has spoken of God’s gracious gift of salvation made possible through His Son’s death on the cross. He has contrasted faith and works. He has reminded his readers of the freedom found in Christ – freedom from having to try and keep the Law in order to have a right relationship with God. He has written of God’s mercy, love and faithfulness – illustrated in His plan to fulfill every single promise He has made to the people of Israel – despite their constant unfaithfulness to Him.
And then Paul says, “And so….” With all of that in mind, here is what we are to do. This is where Paul moves from the theological to the practical. As a result of all that he has told us about God, man, sin, salvation, the Spirit, freedom, grace, mercy, eternity, and love, here is how we should respond. Paul pleads with us to give our bodies to God as living and holy sacrifices. Why? Because of all He has done for us. Paul is going to begin with what our reaction should be to God. That is the most important relationship any man can have. All of our other earthly relationships with human beings are insignificant and immaterial if we do not have a right relationship with God. So Paul begs us to respond to God’s mercy, grace, goodness, sovereignty and love with an attitude of willing submission. We are to offer ourselves to Him for His use. In doing so we are acknowledging that we belong to Him and Him alone. Elsewhere Paul wrote, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT). But it is interesting to notice that Paul’s emphasis is on the group, not the individual in his letter to the Romans. He pleads with them to give “your bodies” as a living sacrifice. It is to be a group effort, not an individual one. Paul is going to stress what it looks like to live as a holy sacrifice to God and it is going to involve our interactions with one another as believers and our relationships with non-believing world in which we live.
Paul exhorts them to NOT copy the behaviors and customs of this world. As a group, they are to live lives that are set apart and distinct from the world around them. Part of living as a sacrifice to God is allowing Him to do with us as He wishes. And part of God’s desire for us is to transform the way we think. He wants to renew our minds and transform us into the likeness of His Son. And there’s no better way to see that transformation take place than in our relationships with one another. Paul makes it painfully practical. “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3b NLT). When God starts changing the way we think, we will see ourselves and others differently. Rather than living lives marked by pride and self-centeredness, we will begin to display humility toward others and develop a healthy assessment of who we are in Christ. We will understand that God has placed us in the body of Christ, given us gifts for the good of the body, and challenged us to live with and love one another. And we are not to live hypocritically or insincerely. Our love must be real, involving self-sacrifice and eager enthusiasm. As God transforms our way of thinking, we will begin to even bless those who persecute us. In other words, we’ll develop the capacity to love the unloving and unlovely. We’ll learn to love in ALL of our relationships and in all circumstances, developing a harmony and unity that is not of this world.
That kind of living is holy, sacrificial living. It is pleasing and honoring to God, because it reveals the very power of God in our lives. No one can live and love that way unless God makes it possible. It takes the saving work of Jesus Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to bring about that kind of radical transformation. But we must choose to offer ourselves as sacrifices to God, for Him to do with as He wishes. It all begins there – with a willing submission to the will of God. We must constantly give in to Him so that He can impart into us. In the end, this kind of life is the greatest form of worship to God.
Father, continue to show me how to live out this passage. It is so easy to talk about being living sacrifices, but it is another thing to live it out in real life. I keep wanting to crawl down off the altar. But I really do want to see You continue to change the way I think and transform my behavior. And I realize that the greatest illustration of those things taking place will be in how I react to and relate with others. That includes not only my fellow believers, but the lost world around me. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men