By Gregg Bing
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)
With these familiar words, the apostle Paul begins the portion of the letter to the Romans that deals with the daily life and service of a believer. Paul beseeches each of us as brethren, as fellow believers in Christ, to present our bodies as a sacrifice to God.
The word beseech literally means to “call to the side of” for the purpose of supporting, comforting, encouraging, or urging. Paul is urging and encouraging us, as believers, to “present” ourselves to God.
To “present” means “to place near or beside; to put at the disposal of; to make available for use.” The word is used in Matthew 26:53 when Peter tried to prevent Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus asked him, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” This same word is used in Luke 2:22 when Jesus’ parents brought Him to Jerusalem, as a baby, “to present Him to the Lord.” In accordance with the law of the firstborn (Exo. 13:2,12), Jesus’ parents consecrated Him and presented Him to the Lord. We are urged to do the same thing with our bodies: to “present” or “yield” them to the Lord as “members of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13), that they might be vessels “for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
Believers are to present their bodies a sacrifice to God. The word “sacrifice” is the same word that is used for the Old Testament sacrifices (Heb. 10:1), as well as for Christ’s sacrifice to God for us (Eph. 5:2). Paul uses three adjectives to describe our sacrifice to God.
A Living Sacrifice
First, it is to be a living sacrifice. Old Testament sacrifices were slain and offered to the Lord, but ours is to be a living sacrifice. 2 Corinthians 5:15 states that “… those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
A Holy Sacrifice
Second, our sacrifice is to be a holy sacrifice. The word holy means “separated or set apart.” The Old Testament offerings consisted of a lamb or a ram which was without spot or blemish (Lev. 1:3). The Lord Jesus Himself was offered to God “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). A holy God requires a holy offering. As believers, we are sanctified or made holy by the blood of Christ. When we trust in Christ as our Savior, we are placed “in Christ.” God sees us as He sees Christ: “holy and without blame before Him” (Eph. 1:4). This is what we are positionally in Christ, but as a living sacrifice, believers should also seek to live holy, separated lives for the Lord; lives which are set apart from the world (1 John 2:15-17) with its sinful thoughts, desires, words, and actions; lives which are clean and pure; lives which are consecrated to a holy God.
An Acceptable Sacrifice
Third, our sacrifice is to be an acceptable sacrifice. The word acceptable means “well pleasing;” that which brings delight or pleasure. The majority of people, including many believers, live to please themselves or to please other people, but Romans 12:1 declares that our sacrifice is to be well pleasing to God. Many of the Old Testament sacrifices were offerings made by fire. When these offerings were given and sacrificed in accordance with God’s Word, the smell of the offering, as it was burnt, was “a sweet aroma to the Lord” (Lev. 1:13). This means it was well pleasing to Him. The Lord Jesus was called by God, “My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). When Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to God in our behalf, it was a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God (Eph. 5:2). As a living sacrifice, we are to seek to please the Lord in all that we do, say, and think. The apostle Paul stated this was to be our aim in life, “to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
Here is God’s desire for His children—that we present our bodies as a sacrifice to Him, a sacrifice that is living, holy, and well pleasing to the Lord. Paul declares that this is our “reasonable service.” The word service, as used in the New Testament, refers to service rendered unto God. When Jesus was tempted to bow down and worship Satan, He answered, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve” (Matt. 4:10). The word service is used particularly of service rendered to God in the tabernacle (Heb. 9:1,6). It is closely associated with the idea of worship.
The word reasonable is the Greek word logikos, which is akin to the Greek word logos. It means “reasonable, logical, rational; that which is of the mind, thus it is sensible or intelligent.” When we consider God’s wonderful love for us and the indescribable gift He has given us in His Son (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10), what should our reasonable response be? When we consider that we have been bought with the precious blood of Christ and therefore we belong to God (1 Cor. 6:20), what should be our logical service? When we consider God’s wonderful purpose for our lives, to bring glory and honor to Him and to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), what is the sensible, intelligent thing for us to do? We are to worship the Lord and serve Him only; we are to sacrificially present ourselves to God, placing ourselves completely at His disposal to be used as He sees fit. This is our reasonable service.