Picking up where we left off yesterday, Paul has made his appeal to the Roman church (and to us) based on the mercies of God. I would add here that he uses “mercies” rather than “mercy” because the mercy God shows is multi-faceted and ever-flowing. And based on the mercies God has shown to us, Paul lays out our reasonable response…
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” When Paul uses the term “bodies,” it would seem that he is not just talking about our physical bodies but would include the totality of who we are. It is, however, with our physical bodies that we interact with the world around us. Our understanding of God mercies and our salvation experience because of His mercy saves our souls, but it also influences our actions and interactions in the physical realm.
There was also a belief taught by philosophers and embraced by many that body and spirit were totally separate. Indulging in sinful behaviors with your body, they believed, would have no affect on your spirit whatsoever. Paul’s words argue against such a dichotomy. We are not simply to present our souls to God but every part of ourselves. When we bring our bodies to Him, we are, as the Hokey Pokey song would say, putting our wholeself in. The trick is not to then take our wholeself out!
So what is a “living sacrifice“? Remember that animal sacrifice was common, but in each case the animal was killed. That was the sacrifice. The idea of a living sacrifice would have struck the readers as very strange. The answer, however, may be far simpler than it appears.
The words of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel shed some like on the idea of a living sacrifice. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Just as a sacrifice was a one-time event, so too was a crucifixion! Yet Jesus calls us to take up our cross DAILY. We are daily dying to ourselves so as to live for Christ – or better yet, to allow Christ to live in and through us!
Paul then adds two terms that describe the living sacrifice – “holy” and “acceptable to God.” The standards God placed upon acceptable offerings were high. A Jew was to carefully consider what He would bring to the Lord as an offering. It was not random or haphazard in any way. He was to bring the first fruits, the best of his flock or herd. He was not to bring blind or lame animals, that which would be less costly to dispose of.
When we come to the Lord as living sacrifices, we are not to bring our least or the leftovers of our lives. We are to give to God the very best of ourselves. This is not simply in regard to money we might place in an offering basket. Paul is talking about giving our very selves!
And he adds – “which is your spiritual worship.” We offer our BODIES as SPIRITUAL worship. There is no divide here. We don’t separate our spirit and our physical form. True worship, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, is in spirit and in truth. When we offer our spiritual worship, it is giving ourselves to God inside and out and without reservation or holding back. And it is the only reasonable and logical thing to do based on the mercy He has shown to us.
In times of prosperity and times of lack, in times of triumph and in life’s defeats, in our best times and our worst times, God covers us with His mercy and calls us to live in such a way to bring glory to Him and bring people to Jesus.