One With Christ.

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 ESV

The Corinthians were not taking their union with Christ seriously. Because of the dualistic approach to life, they seemed to believe that what they did with their bodies really didn’t matter. This led them to look on any sins they committed with their bodies as somehow separated from their spiritual lives. You can see the logic behind their thinking in the phrase, “All things are lawful for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV). This was a common expression used by the Corinthians to excuse their behavior. And it had led them to commit all kinds of sin with impunity, including sexual sin. The very fact that they had refused to deal with the man in their church who was having sexual relations with his stepmother shows how skewed their thinking had become. But Paul is out to confront and correct their improper views of the body and its relationship with sin.

Paul commands them to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18a ESV). He uses the Greek word, φεύγω (pheugō), which means “seek safety by flight or to escape safely out of danger” (“G5343 – pheugō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It is the same word he used when writing to Timothy. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 ESV). Paul had been warning Timothy about those who have an “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:4-5 ESV). Paul warned Timothy to flee from these things. Instead, he was to διώκω (diōkō) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. The word Paul used means “to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after” (“G1377 – diōkō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It is not enough to simply run from something. We must also run to something else. But if the Corinthians would not see sexual sin as wrong and dangerous to their spiritual well-being, they were going to continue in it. That was unacceptable to Paul.

So he attempts to paint a vivid picture of the dangers of sexual sin, by emphasizing that every other sin a person commits is “outside the body,” while sexual immorality is a sin “against” the body. The word he uses is a Greek preposition that is most often translated “into.” There is a physical union that takes place in sexual sin unlike any other sin. There is no doubt that all sin requires the use of my body. In order to lie or slander, the tongue is necessary. In order to steal, the hands and feet must be used. To murder another human being requires the mind to plan it and the body to carry out that plan. And while these sins are no less serious than sexual immorality, Paul’s point is that there is a difference. Sexual immorality is a blatant sin against the body, and that body, Paul stresses “is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God” (1 Corinthians 6:19b NLT).

As followers of Christ, we enjoy a mystical, but real union with Him. His Spirit lives within us. We take Him with us wherever we go. Paul told the Colossians, “Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory” (Colossians 1:27 NLT). And so, there is a sense that when someone commits sexual sin with his or her body, they are dragging Christ into that experience. Paul asks the Corinthians, “don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her?” (1 Corinthians 6:16a NLT). There is an intimacy and interconnection established. Which is what led Paul to ask, “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute?” (1 Corinthians 6:15 NLT). And just to clear up any possible confusion, Paul’s provides the correct answer: “Never!”

For Paul, union with Christ was an essential doctrine that needed to be understood and made a part of the believer’s daily life. John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption – Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans, 1955, pp. 201, 205). We are one with Christ. We share His identity. We are progressively being transformed into His likeness. We not only share in His death and resurrection, and all that those things imply, we share in His righteousness. We have the capacity to live like Christ in this lifetime. The very same power that raised Him from the dead lives within us and is available to us. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV). He went on to emphasize their oneness with Christ:

 In him we have redemption through his blood – vs 7

In him we have obtained an inheritance – vs 11

In him you also … were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – vs 13

We are in Christ. We are one with Christ. Sexual sin uses the body that belongs to Christ and re-purposes it for immorality. It takes what God has bought with the precious blood of His Son, our body, and uses it for ungodly purposes. And in so doing, we degrade and desecrate the very temple of God. Which is why Paul ends this section with a call to “honor God with you body.” Why? Because “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT). We belong to God – body and soul. Your body is no longer yours to do with as you want. It is the temple of God’s Spirit and is to be used to bring God glory and honor. As Paul reminds us, “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” (Romans 12:1 NLT).


Living Sacrifices.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Here Paul makes a transition, from talking about God’s relationship to the Jews in general, to the conduct of believers in particular. He has been addressing the issue of justification, being made right with God, based on the grace of God and not the efforts of man. Whether Jew or Gentile, every man or woman is justified before God by faith in Christ alone. Human effort has nothing to do with it. But Paul would not leave his readers with the false impression that behavior or actions are no longer a part of the equation. The salvation that God offers through the death of His Son should result in a dramatic change in the way we live. Paul has already addressed this on two different occasions.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. – Romans 6:13 ESV

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. – Romans 6:19 ESV

When Paul uses the word, “therefore,” he is telling us, that in light of all that God has done, our response should reflect our deep gratitude. In chapter five, Paul told us, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Romans 5:1 NLT). Because of the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf, giving Himself as our sin substitute on the cross, we have been restored to a right relationship with God. And God is the one who made it all possible. He sent His Son. He sacrificed what was most precious to Him so that we could be given new life and a right relationship with Him. And as Paul stated in chapter eight, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2 NLT). We no longer live under the Damocles sword of sin’s condemnation. Eternal separation from God is no longer a threat for us. It is also no longer to be a motivation for right behavior. We don’t attempt to live righteously to earn favor with God. That is a thing of the past. We live righteously out of thankfulness for all that God has done for us, including giving us the capacity to live righteous lives by virtue of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Our desire to live for God is no longer to be motivated by fear. It is not to be based on some kind of hope that what we do scores us enough points with God to make Him accept us. Our behavior in this lifetime is not about earning our way into God’s good graces, but about living according to the grace He has extended to us through the death of His Son. He has given us new life. He has and is transforming us into new creations. We are already His children, adopted into His family and heirs of all that is His. We don’t have to make God love us, He already does. The gift of His Son was the greatest expression of His love. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). So Paul urges us to present our bodies as “living sacrifices.” Our death is not required, because the payment for our sins has already been made in full. Our motivation for offering ourselves to God is the mercy of God. Unlike most sacrifices, where the one making the sacrifice is attempting to obtain mercy from God, we are offering ourselves because of the mercy we have already received from God. God has shown us mercy by delivering us from condemnation. Rather than giving us what we deserved, He showered us with His grace. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

So what does our “living sacrifice” look like? How are we to conduct ourselves in this world as a result of all that God has done for us? Paul gives us a negative and a positive aspect to our behavior. First of all we are NOT to be conformed to this world. The Greek word, syschēmatizō means “to conform one’s self (i.e. one’s mind and character) to another’s pattern, (fashion one’s self according to)” (Outline of Biblical Usage). We are not to pattern ourselves after the ways of this world. When Paul refers to the “world,” he is speaking of the mindset that is prevalent in our culture that seeks to exclude God from life. It is a man-centered way of thinking that diminishes God and deifies man. We make ourselves the center of the universe and live according to our own self-centered passions. We are not to live like this world. We have been separated by God from this world. As Jesus said, we are to live in it, but not be a part of it. We are to live separately and distinctly different lives. But how? Paul gives us a critical and non-negotiable requirement to pulling of this kind of life. It entails the “renewal” of our minds. We are to undergo a complete transformation in the way we act and think. Paul speaks of renewal, which is the Greek word, anakainōsis. It refers to “a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better” (Outline of Biblical Usage). It begins in our minds – how we think. We must constantly remind ourselves of all that God has done for us. We must repeatedly dwell on the fact that our transformation is as much the work of God as our salvation was. We must seek to eliminate our self-help mentality and lean on the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is as we live with this constant dependency upon God and His transformation power that we will begin to see what His will for our lives is all about. And as Paul so succinctly puts it, “God’s will is for you to be holy…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). That is His overarching objective for our lives. Nothing more. Nothing less. And as we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, we are telling Him that we want what He wants. We desire to be used by Him however He sees fit – for our good and His glory.

The Gospel of God.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 1:1-7 ESV

Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome from the city of Corinth during the winter of A.D. 56-57. It would be another three years before Paul actually set foot in Rome and, when he did, he would do so as a prisoner of the Roman government. It is not clear how the church in Rome got started. Paul obviously played no role in it, having never been there before. And there is no indication that any other apostle had ever made it to the Roman capital to share the gospel. But nevertheless, the gospel had arrived, perhaps as a result of some who had been eyewitnesses to the events that took place at the Feast of Pentecost. Regardless of how the church was started, it had gained a world-wide reputation and Paul acknowledged it. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Romans 1:8 ESV). No doubt, Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, under the influence of the Holy Spirit and with the desire to provide them with a solid understanding of the doctrine of the gospel of God. He knew the incredible influence this church would have because of its location within the capital of Rome, the most powerful nation in the world at the time.

Paul began his letter with an introduction of himself, even though the believers in Rome would have been well-acquainted with him. He referred to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. He did not operate on his own initiative, but as a willing slave to the one who had saved him. He served as an apostle, having been called to that role by Jesus Himself. And he acknowledged that he had been set apart or appointed for a singular purpose: the gospel of God. The entire letter of Romans will elaborate on the remarkable significance of the gospel of God, the good news concerning His Son. Paul boldly and unapologetically claims both the deity and full humanity of Jesus, “who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God” (Romans 1:3-4 ESV). Paul emphatically declares that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was that one miraculous reality that had made salvation possible and the grace of God available to sinful mankind. The resurrection of Jesus is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Without it, we have no hope, which is what led Paul to write, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV).

Paul never missed an opportunity to share the gospel, but he also took advantage of every chance he was given to strengthen the local church. He not only wanted to see people saved from sin, but he desired greatly to see them grow up in their salvation. In verse seven, Paul refers to his readers as saints, which means “set apart or holy ones”. In Paul’s mind they were positionally holy, but they were also to be practically holy in their behavior. They had been “called to belong to Jesus Christ” and so their actions and attitudes should reflect that calling. A big part of what Paul writes to them in this letter has to do with what practical holiness looks like. They are to live as if dead to sin and alive to God. They are to live by faith and not by works. They are to live according to the power of the Spirit of God and not the flesh. They are to recognize their position as heirs of God. They are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God and are not to be conformed to this world. The gospel of God does not stop with our salvation, but carries on throughout our lives as God continues His work of sanctification in our lives, “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5 ESV).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God. The very fact that He sent His own Son to die in our place is the greatest expression of God’s love He could have shown us. But not only are we loved by God, we are called by Him to be saints – set apart ones. We are to live our lives in the power of His Holy Spirit and allow Him to continually transform us into the likeness of His Son. It is His miraculous transformation of us that gives proof of His Son’s salvation of us. Not only have we been saved, we are being changed. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). The transformation of our lives by God is one of the greatest testimonies to the reality of the risen Christ and the power of the gospel of God.

Romans 12:1-16

What Difference Does It Make?

Romans 12:1-16

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.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men