The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship – Part 2

by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In yesterday’s post, The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship – Part 1, we looked at Romans 12:1a, which says, “Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God.” Today we will look at Romans 12:1b which says, “to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service.” Actually, what Paul is saying here is that genuine believers must give their bodies to God. Yes all of us who are true believers have given our souls to God through faith in Jesus Christ, however, we also specifically called to present our bodies to Him as living, holy sacrifices.

The words to present in v1 translate the Greek verb παραστῆσαι (parastēsai) the aorist tense, active mood, infinitive voice of παρίστημι (paristēmi) which means “place beside, stand near, present, help, provide.” In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament, paristēmi (to present ) was often used as a technical term for a priest’s placing an offering on the altar. It therefore carried the general idea of surrendering or yielding up. Christians are members of God’s present “holy priesthood” (Peter 2:5), and are here exhorted to perform what is essentially a priestly act of worship.

What are we commanded to present to God first? It is our bodies. Our souls already belong to God through salvation. He already has the inner man. However, He wants the outer man. Why? The inner dwells within. Our bodies, however, are more than physical shells that house our souls. hey are also where our old unredeemed humanness resides. In fact, our humanness is a part of our bodies, but our souls are not. Our bodies incorporate our humanness, our humanness incorporates our flesh, and our flesh incorporates our sin, as Romans 6 and 7 plainly lay out for us.

Our bodies therefore encompass not only our physical being but also the evil longings of our mind, will and emotions.

5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5 (NASB) 

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Romans 7:22-23 (NASB) 

In other words, the redeemed soul resides in a body of flesh that is still the beachhead of sin, a place that can readily be given to unholy thoughts and longings. It is that powerful force within our “mortal bodies” that tempts and lures us to do evil. When they succumb to the impulses of the fleshly mind, our “mortal bodies” again become instruments of sin and unrighteousness.

However, Paul clearly taught that the body can be controlled by the redeemed soul. He told the sinful Corinthians that “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:11-13). Scripture makes clear that God created the body as good (Genesis), and that, despite their continuing corruption by sin, the bodies of redeemed souls will also one day be redeemed and sanctified. Even now, our unredeemed bodies can and should be made slaves to the power of our redeemed souls.

As with our souls, the Lord created our bodies for Himself, and in this life, He cannot work through us without in some way working through our bodies. If we speak for Him, it must be through our mouths,. If we read His Word, it must be with our eyes (or hands for those who are blind). If we hear His Word it must be through our ears. If we go to do His work, we must use our feet, and if we help others in His name, it must be with our hands. And if we think for Him, it must be with our minds, which now reside in our bodies. There can be no sanctification, no holy living, apart from our bodies. That is why Paul prayed, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

We cannot prevent the remnants of sin from persisting in our mortal bodies. However, we are able, with the Lord’s power, to keep that sin from ruling our bodies. Since we are given a new, Spirit-indwelt nature through Christ, sin cannot reign in our souls. And it should not reign in our bodies (Romans 8:11). Sin will not reign “if by the Spirit [we] are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13; cf. 6:16).

What does Paul tell us to do through the compassions of God? We are to offer our imperfect and useful bodies to the Lord as living, holy sacrifices. Again, Paul is using the language of the Old Testament ritual offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple, the language of the Levitical priesthood. According to the Law, a Jew would bring his offering of an animal to the priest who would take it, slay it, and place it on the altar in behalf of the person who brought it.

But the sacrifices required by the Law are no longer of any effect, not even symbolic effect. Why?

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12 (NASB) 

Sacrifices of dead animals are no longer acceptable to God. Because the Lamb of God was sacrificed in their place, the redeemed of the Lord are now to offer themselves, all that they are and have, as living sacrifices.The only acceptable worship under the New Covenant is the offer of oneself to God.

Only a living and holy sacrifice, the giving of ourselves and the giving of our best is well pleasing to God. Only in that way can we give Him our spiritual service. The word spiritual translates the Greek adjective λογικὴν (logikēn) the accusative case of λογικός (logikos). It is the word from which we get logic and logical. Our offerings to God are certainly to be spiritual, but that is not what Paul is talking about here. Logikos also can be translated reasonable, as in the KJV. Paul is saying that, in light of “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” and His “unsearchable…judgments and unfathomable…ways”; and because “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:33,36), including His immeasurable” compassions that we already have received (Romans 12:1a), our only reasonable–and by implication, spiritual–service is to present God with all that we are and all that we have.

Service translates the Greek noun λατρείαν (latreian) the accusative case of λατρεία (latreia), which means “worship, ministry, service to God.” It was used in the Greek Old Testament to speak of worshiping God according to the prescribed Levitical ceremonies, and it became part of the priestly, sacrificial language. The priestly service was an integral part of Old Testament worship.

True worship does not consist of elaborate and impressive prayers, intricate liturgy, stained-glass windows, lighted candles, flowing robes, incense, and classical sacred music. It does not require great talent, skill, or leadership ability. Many of those things can be a part of the outward forms of genuine worship, but they are acceptable to God only if the heart and mind of the worshiper is focused on Him. The only spiritual service that honors and pleases God is the sincere, loving, thoughtful, and heartfelt devotion and praise of His children.

Soli Deo Gloria.

In our next post we will attempt to tackle Romans 12:2a, God willing!

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