Living Sacrifices, Rom. 12:1-8
With the word “therefore,” Paul launches into practical application of the great doctrines of Romans. All that he was written to this point leads to the exhortation of this context. For Paul to urge is for Paul to command, for he taught by the authoritative, gracious charge given to him as an apostle (12:3; 1 Cor. 14:37). We must heed the following instructions. Again, please read, study, pray over, and apply the inspired text.
God’s mercy is the basis of Paul’s appeal for a consecrated life of service (12:1). By God’s mercy, he surely means the sum all the gracious kindness God has extended to sinners, both Jews and Gentiles. Since God has been so merciful and so generous, what is expected of us? Salvation is a free gift, but the grateful Christian will present his whole life as a living sacrifice to God. Sacrifice evokes the imagery of animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. These have ended, and God wants us to offer soul, mind, and body to his service. Our lives are to be holy, or completely set apart for God’s service. God gave his Son for us (John 3:16). Jesus gave his life for us (1 John 3:16). We are to gladly surrender our lives in return.
Paul refers to the sacrificial life of the Christian as “your spiritual act of worship” (12:1). Translators have struggled and differed with how to render this concept. Paul is saying that all of life is part of our worship or spiritual service to God. The concept will be seen in the way we live in private, how we treat our family, and how we perform our job. And on it goes. However, this does not replace the need for corporate Christian assembly (Heb. 10:25).
Conversion brings radical change. Paul commands that we must no longer be conformed to the world. The world is the realm of evil, opposed to God and destined for destruction (1 John 2:15-17). Conformity is the devil’s way. He deceives by telling us that the world offers too much to pass up. “You don’t want to miss out on this!” When we conform to the world, we allow it to mold our lives in ways that are displeasing to God. Rather, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Transformation is change for the better, from inside out. This is the word used of the transfiguration of Jesus, when his outward appearance was altered to reflect his inward, glorious nature (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2). God changes us from the inside. Conversion begins with the heart and is completed by obedience in thought, word, and deed. When we obey the gospel of Christ, the course of our lives is forever changed. Day by day we must continue to prove to ourselves that God’s way is the best way, the only way to be saved.
The law of self-sacrifice is to be seen in the exercise of God’s gifts to us. The list of seven gifts in verses 3-9 is not exhaustive. It is a combination of both miraculous gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12, and the more common aptitudes, skills, and talents God gives to us all. God’s gifts are for the common good of the church and never for the glory of the one who exercises the gift. None among us is more important than another. The human body is composed of many parts working together, and so it is with the body of Christ. Humility must rule the exercise of any ability God has given us. There is no limit to the good we do when we work together in love.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.