“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)
Before moving on to Romans 13 I’m going to back up a bit to Romans 12:1 and work forward to complete chapter 12. Romans 12:1 is one of those touch stone verses for me when it comes to how I am living my life. It, combined with Romans 12:2, sets forward solid guiding principles which are repeated over and over again in Scripture. Specifically, Romans 12:1 is a constant reminder that I have a spiritual response for which I am responsible in light of what God has done for me.
The first eleven chapters of Romans lay out just how lost all of us are apart from God. Man was created to have a relationship with God, but man rebelled. We read about this rebellion in the garden when Adam knowingly violated God’s only command which was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and all of mankind were introduced to sin and death through this one act. Yet we also read in Romans that God persistently reached down to man and offered Him a relationship and man repeatedly rebelled. Man’s sacrifices were never going to be enough to make up for man’s sin and God knew that. As we continue reading in Romans we read that God provided the answer to this dilemma in sending His Son as the perfect sacrifice for sin. And not only did Jesus pay the penalty for that sin by His death on the cross, but He also gave to us new life in His resurrection. With this new life came a constant abiding of God in us through the person of the Holy Spirit (the third member of the Trinity—Our God Three in One). As such we are made able to live for Him. There is so much more in these first eleven chapters, including His faithfulness to His promised people—the Jews and how we are equipped to fight the war with the flesh that wages within us.
From this Paul moved into the next portion of Romans which takes up with chapter 12, and the first verse of chapter 12 tells us that in light of God’s incredible mercies shown and worked in us that we are to present ourselves back to Him as living and holy sacrifices. In the Old Testament the people offered sacrifices of animals as a reminder of their transgressions and a fulfillment of His demand that a price be paid—even an ineffective one. Some offered up those sacrifices out of duty while others offered they up in faith. Even back to Genesis 4 we find this to be true in Cain and Abel. Abel gave of his first and his best to God. Cain, Scripture tells us, just gave as if out of duty. God had regard for Abel’s sacrifice, but as for Cain’s He had no regard. Cain got very tweaked over this and God spoke to Him about what to do in response—do right and your countenance will be lifted up. Instead Cain went into the field and killed his own brother. Contrary to Abel, Scripture records for us a number of saints of old who had not seen the fulfillment of God’s promised Savior (Messiah), but who were saved because of their faith in God who would send Him. We read that by faith they were reckoned righteous and were saved.
God has always been faithful to His promises, and in response to His faithfulness we are to be faithful in giving ourselves back to Him, doing what is right and acceptable in His sight (being holy even as God is holy). This is what we are called to do, and to be quite honest, it is the only thing that makes sense. It is for that reason I believe that Paul went on to write, “which is your spiritual service of worship.”
The word here ‘spiritual’ is the Greek work ‘logikos’ from which we get our words reasonable or logical, and that is exactly what it is. The reasonable or logical spiritual thing to do is to give ourselves wholly back to our Holy God who calls us to live holy lives of service before Him. It’s that simple, or if only it were. When we are saved we don’t instantly know everything there is to know about God and how we are to live, nor are our old tapes erased and our old desires flushed away. When we start off on this new life as saints made righteous by the righteousness of Christ we do so with baggage, but we also do so with the supernatural enablement of God’s Holy Spirit who is given to each and every believer for the purpose of living in such a way as to overcome that baggage as we have our minds renewed and we change our behavior. This is where 12:2 takes up for us and where we will go next.