Romans 1-11, in a sense, is an exposition of doctrine. Paul is explicit in Romans 12:1 that he is now moving into application of this teaching. He covers a wide range of practical issues, including the use of spiritual gifts (ch. 12), the status of ruling authorities (ch. 13), and the troubled relations between two parties in the Roman church (chs. 14-15). In this last section we see that another of Paul’s particular concerns in the letter is his desire to extend his missionary activity into Spain and to receive support from the Roman church on his way there (15:23-29).
The final quarter of Paul’s letter is chapter 12-15, with chapter 16 forming a conclusion. Paul summarizes everything that has proceeded in the letter as an account of God’s mercy1. In the next four chapters, Paul draws out multiple applications from the great plan of salvation he has outlined in Romans 1-11. Romans 12:1-2 summarizes the application positively and negatively.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.—12:1
Positively, in verse 1, the appropriate response to God is to offer, or present, ourselves to him in his service2. Here in 12:1 the scene evokes temple worship; rather than sacrificing bulls and goats, we are to offer ourselves as devoted to God. True, proper worship is not only offered in church; we are to worship God with out whole lives. Worship is whatever we do in our bodies, which includes absolutely everything.
In other words: Jesus’ followers must possess a strong passion to honor him in every aspect of life. Out of gratitude to God for his mercy and salvation, we should be completely devoted to loving him, living by his standards and serving his purposes for our lives, which means the following:
- Our goal should be to show God’s holiness in all we do. This requires separation from the patterns and practices of the world so we can pursue a deeper relationship with God. As we consider his sacrifice for us, offering ourselves to him as “living sacrifices” is good and pleasing as our spiritual act of worship.
- We must offer our bodies to God as dead to sin and alive to God3 and as the temple of the Holy Spirit4.
- We must realize that true Godly worship involves a lifestyle that brings honor to Christ in words and actions. It is not necessarily a great sacrifice to voice our worship to God in a church service where people are gathered for that very purpose5. Worship becomes a true sacrifice when we take it outside of the church by living in a way that truly honors, exalts and brings positive attention to God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.—12:2
Negatively, in verse 2, Paul says offering ourselves to God means rejecting the old way of life and the way everyone outside of Christ lives. Then our renewed minds, which are dead to sin but alive to God6, will know how to please God. Paul does not say we should seek guidance from God by looking for special signs; he says we will know God’s will when our minds are conformed to God’s mind through Scripture.
Paul in essence is brining our several things in this verse:
- There is very real pressure to conform “to the pattern” of this world and be squeezed into its likeness on many differences levels. Christians must firmly resist the temptation to accept and imitate the world’s ways of thinking and behaving.
- The reason we must resist adopting the world’s way is because it is evil7, it is under Satan’s rule8, it is hostile to God and his people9 and it is built on human wisdom and values10. The world holds a worldview that Christians cannot accept because it rejects God and his standards11.
- Christ’s kingdom is not of this world12. This world’s kingdom is full of spiritual darkness, deception and seduction13. Christ’s followers are called to be a light in the midst of this darkness14. Our lives should reflect a positive difference that those in the world cannot help but notice. This includes resisting the temptation to conform to the varied types of worldliness common in society, including greed, selfishness, humanistic thinking15, a desire for power, envy, hate, revenge, filthy language, sexual lust and impurity, ungodly entertainment, fashions that are immodest and seductive, substance abuse, relationships that do not honor God and other such things that deft the standards of God’s Word16.
- Instead of conforming to the world’s values and lifestyles, our minds must continually be renewed and transformed (i.e, changed) to God’s way of thinking17. This can only happen as we spend time reading and meditating on his Word, which simply means pondering over and over what it means and how it applies to our lives18. This will allow our visions, values, behaviors and plans to be directed by God’s eternal truth, rather than by the world’s temporary and deceptive pattern.
By having a spiritually renewed mind and a transformed life through a growing relationship with Christ, we are able to discern and follow God’s will—his desires, plans and intentions based on his character and purposes. This is his highest and best way of life for us, even though it is not necessarily the easiest. Some mistakenly regard the references to “good, pleasing and perfect” as three levels of God’s will, but this is really a single description of God’s ultimate purpose. God’s will is “good” because it leads to a Christian’s spiritual and moral growth. It is “pleasing” to God because it serves his purposes, even though we may not always understand it. It is “perfect” because we cannot improve on God’s will; it is absolutely what is best for us in our relation to fulfilling his purposes.
Paul here has given us the key to spiritual renewal. And the key living transformed life, which is what spiritual renewal is all about, is cultivating a renewed mind. What we must remember is that: the Christian who is too lazy mentally to drink deeply from God’s revealed Word or to think courageously about the meaning of personal faith will tend to be shaped by institutionalized values and socially acceptable modes of thought. Which means, the teacher may become the lazy person’s god, and that is not something that is acceptable. And in order to combat this the teacher must remain an instrument through whom God can work to challenge learners to think, question and change. Ultimately you as the follower of Christ must find God’s will personally and individually. Remember, no teacher can find God’s will for you, because it is ultimately your responsibility to develop a personal relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Finally remember, spiritual transformation through learning is a continuing process and is not a once-for-all accomplishment. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we move into dealing with humble service in the body of Christ.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30, Philippians 4, Psalm 75:1-10 and Proverbs 24:17-20
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2For other instances of offering ourselves see Romans 6:13,16 and 19.
3Romans 6:11 and 8:10
41 Corinthians 6:15 and 19
5Ephesians 5:2 and Hebrews 13:15
7Acts 2:40 and Galatians 1:4
8John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 1 John 5:19
9John 7:7; John 15:18-21; James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15-17
101 Corinthians 1:17-25
11Romans 1:18-32 and Colossians 2:8
13Matthew 5:14-16; John 3:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 12:9
14Matthew 5:14-16 and Ephesians 5:8-11
15A philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and agency of human beings. It considers human beings as the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry.
16Ephesians 5:3-16 and 1 John 2:15-17
171 Corinthians 2:16 and Philippians 2:5
18See Psalm 119:11 and 148; John 8:31-32 and John 15:7