by Mike Ratliff
1παρακαλω ουν υμας αδελφοι δια των οικτιρμων του θεου παραστησαι τα σωματα υμων θυσιαν ζωσαν αγιαν τω θεω ευαρεστον την λογικην λατρειαν υμων 2και μη συνσχηματιζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω αλλα μεταμορφουσθε τη ανακαινωσει του νοος εις το δοκιμαζειν υμας τι το θελημα του θεου το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον (Romans 12:1-2)
The Book of Romans is an incredible gift to the Church by the Holy Spirit. Chapters 1-11 contain the cornerstone of Christian Doctrine. In those 11 chapters the Apostle Paul laid out man’s desperate lost condition and God’s work of providing the only way for men to be saved. In Chapters 12-15:13 Paul gives us what we need to live this Christian life according to the rich theological truths from the first 11 chapters.
This post is Part 1 of 9 of the marks or traits or characteristics of genuine believers who are born again, justified and are being sanctified. Here is the breakdown of this study.
Part 1 – Romans 12:1-2 – A Living Sacrifice
Part 2 – Romans 12:3-8 – Gifts of Grace
Part 3 – Romans 12:9-21 – Marks of the True Christian
Part 4 – Romans 13:1-7 – Submission to the Authorities
Part 5 – Romans 13:8-14 – Fulfilling the Law Through Love
Part 6 – Romans 14:1-13 – Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
Part 7 – Romans 14:14-23 – Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
Part 8 – Romans 15:1-7 – The Example of Christ
Part 9 – Romans 15:8-13 – Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles
So let’s begin. ☺
A Living Sacrifice
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)
Works righteousness is the default religion of man. However, God’s ways are not man’s ways. Neither are His thoughts man’s thoughts. His ways are higher than man’s. The Natural Man believes that the way to be justified by God is to do good works or not be as bad as those really evil people. However, Romans 1-11 makes it clear that no one is righteous or innocent. All have sinned. All are guilty. Also, there is not one thing anyone can do about that problem. Oh, people have and still try all sorts of things to try to earn salvation, to be justified by God. They become very religious. They do good works. However, Paul makes it crystal clear that that is all a total waste of time.
Unless faith exists in a person’s heart and that person believes God and receives Christ as Lord and Saviour there is no salvation. We teach that when a person is regenerated, believes, and is justified by God, their sanctification begins immediately. Sanctification is the work of Grace by God to remove His people from sin. Now, it is very important to know what this “sin” is. In Romans 14:23 we learn that whatever does not proceed or come from faith is sin. Therefore, it is sin for a Christian to not walk by faith. It is a sin for a Christian to not be Spirit-filled or Spirit-led. It is a sin for a Christian to not surrender their circumstances to Christ. It is a sin to not obey God’s commandments. All of these are things that Christians do by faith alone.
How does a Christian mature in God’s Grace in order to live this way? It must start somewhere. Paul gives us the starting point of our sanctification in Romans 12:1-2.
The first word in the Greek in v1 that is translated as “I appeal to” or “I beseech” is “παρακαλω” or “parakaleo.” It means to call near, invite, or call for. The root from which this word comes means “to call alongside to help.” Our Lord Jesus Christ used a similar Greek word for the Holy Spirit that is translated as “comforter.” (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) Paul’s usage here in v1 is an exhortation from him as a counselor based upon his apostolic authority. For us, we should understand that Paul is telling us that what he is telling us here is vital. The next word in this passage is translated as “you.” This passage is for the reader. It is something that we should take to heart and make our own for Paul wrote it for all believers by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The next word in v1 is “ουν” or “oun.” It is translated as “therefore.” When we encounter “therefore” in a passage we must stop and look for context. This is telling us that the statement we are reading is closely related and subsequent to a prior statement or passage. In this case Paul is referring back to the doxology that ended Chapter 11.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)
Because of God’s majesty, grandeur, and wisdom is beyond our understanding, “therefore” believers should read, grasp, obey and apply what Paul is going to share in the rest of the book of Romans and that starts in Romans 12:1-2.
The next word in v1 is “αδελφοι” or “adelphos.” It is translated as “brethren.” Or “brothers.” Paul is telling us that this message is for his brethren in Christ. This is for genuine believers only. The unregenerate not only will not understand what Paul is getting ready to share, they cannot apply it.
The next word in v1 is “διαS” or “dia.” It is a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act or “through”; by or through what? It is by or through “των οικτιρμων του θεου” or “the mercies of God.” Our sanctification begins and continues for the rest of our lives by and through the mercies of God. God has given His people gracious, extravagant, divine graces. Paul expounded this in Romans 1-11. This would include God love (Romans 1:7; 5:5; 8:35,39), His grace (Romans 1:6,7; 3:24; 5:2,20,21; 6:15), His Righteousness (Romans 1:17; 3:21,22; 4:5, 6,22-24; 5:17,19), and the gift of faith (Romans 1:5,17; 3:22,26; 4:5,13; 5:1; 10:17; 12:3). We mature and grow in grace by the mercies of God.
What is our part? We are to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice.” Under the Old Covenant God did accept the sacrifices of dead animals, but our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross did away with any need for it. (Hebrews 9:11,12) Instead of dead beasts, living sacrifices: instead of the blood of beasts which was but a shadow and pleased not God of itself, the acceptable sacrifice is that of the spiritual man, framed by faith to godliness and love. For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer oneself completely to the Lord. Believer’s bodies are not redeemed. Therefore, they must surrender them to God as an instrument of righteousness. This involves surrendering our circumstances to God. This is taking up our crosses and partaking of the fruit of the cross.
To God, this act of sacrifice is holy and acceptable to Him. To worship God in spirit and truth requires this sacrifice. Our worship is our surrender to His will in all parts of our lives, to be Spirit-filled and under God’s control in all things. This is our reasonable service. The Greek word translated as “reasonable” is “λογικηνS.” This word means “logic.” This is Paul’s reinforcing the fact that in light of God’s mercies towards us then it logically follows that we owe to Him our highest form of service. Just as the priests of the Old Covenant were called to be an integral part of worship in that time, our act of total surrender is that in the New Covenant. It is our reasonable service to be Spirit-filled, humble and obedient Christians who know that their service is not to be religious, but to love and obey God.
In v2 we discover how to surrender and become living sacrifices. The first phrase in this verse is, “Do not be conformed to this world.” The Greek is, “και μη συνσχηματιζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω.” The Greek word translated as “conformed” means “to fashion.” The verb and participle structure here is Present, Imperative, Active. This describes action that takes place in the future continuously or repeatedly. However, in this passage, Paul negates it so he is telling us that we must stop patterning our lives after this world or age. This present age or world is Satanically controlled. It is not of God, nor should believers have any part in it to the point of them becoming conformed to it in any way. That means that activities and beliefs and philosophies that form contemporary thinking are not for Christians. When believers do partake of them they are not eating from the dead tree of the cross, but are eating from the tree of rebellion that is this world. To become a living sacrifice requires us to not be conformed to this world. How do we do it?
The next phrase is, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This is where the rubber meets the road. This is how we do not conform ourselves to the world. This is how we do become living sacrifices in our reasonable service of presenting our bodies to God. What does it mean? Again, Paul uses the Present, Imperative, Active here. This means that we must be continually doing what ever it takes to be transformed by mind renewal. The Greek word for “transformed” is “μεταμορφουσθεS” or “metamorphoo.” It is the root word from which we get our English word “metamorphosis.” Think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a tadpole becoming a frog. It is a process whereby a being is changed from one form to another. We are being called to become qualitatively changed by the process of mind renewal on a continuous basis. What is mind renewal?
The mind here is our intellect. The renewal is describing the work of renovation. Mind renewal would be the renovation of our intellect by the work of the Holy Spirit actually changing our thinking as we submit to thorough, consistent study and mediation of sacred Scripture. The renewed mind is one that is saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. Doesn’t this sound like becoming Spirit-filled? Yes, this is simply the methodology through which we do become Spirit-filled.
As a result of this what will happen? “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” What does this mean? This is the result of Holy living. The Spirit-filled believer is morally and spiritually spotless and in step with the Holy Spirit.
I pray that you have discerned that it is this act of surrender of our bodies as living sacrifices that is how we serve our God every day. We don’t take days off. This is every day, all day. If we will draw near unto God, He will draw near unto us. If we renew our minds continually by being in the Word as much as possible, meditating and studying it, then our intellect will become conformed to God’s standards because the Holy Spirit is actually changing us from the inside out.