Steven, an under-shepherd over the Church of God, called by the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. To the Church that dwells at Athens. Grace and peace unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the impediment of Satan, I have given all diligence to write to you once again that I may put you in remembrance of patient continuance in your pilgrim walk. From the scriptures, we find the words of our brother and Apostle, Paul.
He wrote in his epistle to the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).
Surely, these two verses are popular among the church; oft quoted, read, and recited. As the Spirit of the Lord has moved upon me concerning this passage of scripture, it is my intention, beloved, to expound upon it with the Lord’s help.
The Apostle opens chapter 12 by saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren.”
The word “beseech” means “to plead” or to “earnestly ask.” Further, the word “therefore” means “For this reason.”
So then, Paul says, “Brother and sisters I am pleading with you to present your bodies as living sacrifices FOR THIS REASON.”
Paul makes such a charge based on the reasoning he had revealed to us in the previous chapter with a metaphor. He used an olive tree to demonstrate how we have been brought into salvation and fellowship with God by grace. The Jews’ branches were cut off for a time that they may be provoked to jealousy and we were grafted in by God. This also is the “mercies of God” of which brother Paul speaks about in 12:1.
Paul rejoices in God’s grace towards us: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (11:33).
So, Paul’s instruction to us in more simple terms is this: “I am pleading with you brothers and sisters because of God’s mercy upon you and your salvation by His grace, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Because God has saved you — a people who previously were without hope and without God in the world and alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and all the promises.”
Beloved, I thank my God and Lord Jesus Christ! By the unsearchable riches of the love and wisdom of God, we are now a people, even the people of God! We are saved by His grace, through faith and not of ourselves! We have been redeemed, purchased, and by the precious blood of Christ, all our sins washed away!
Saints, God gave ALL when He gave Jesus. Jesus gave all upon the cross for our salvation. If we truly know the depth of our depravity and understand the hopelessness in ourselves and the wonder of God’s grace, then we can’t help but give our all, too! Give your all for Jesus, because He gave His all for you. Love Him, serve Him and live for Him!
When Paul says here that we are to “present” our bodies as a living sacrifice, what he means is that we “yield” our bodies over to the Lord. To “yield” means: To produce, give over freely or to submit. So, we are to submit our bodies to the Lord. About six chapters earlier, Paul expounds upon this by saying that when we believed on Christ and we were baptized in water, we were baptized into Jesus’ death. We died to the law and to sin and we have been raised up into a newness of life. Praise the Lord! We’ve been given a new start in Christ and we should live it.
Paul wrote that since we have died to sin, and since we have been raised up to the newness of life through Christ, that we should no longer yield or submit our bodies to sin, but rather we should submit our bodies to God as those who are alive from the dead; we are to be instruments of righteousness.
Since God has saved us in His great mercy, given us a new start and brought us from death to life, we conclude then that we are living! We are alive unto God, as the Bible puts it, and we have everlasting life abiding in us! Therefore, we are “living” sacrifices unto God because we are submitting or yielding ourselves over to Him by faith. We are not like the sacrifices upon the brazen altar in the Old Testament; we are not dead with our blood sprinkled upon the altar, but rather saints, we are alive by the blood of Jesus which is sprinkled upon the altar and continually presented in Heaven for us!
Jesus gave all! Let us also freely give all for Him.
The old hymn says: “But drops of grief can ne’er repay, the debt of love I owe; Here, Lord, I give myself away, ’Tis all that I can do.”
Only yielding a part will not do. Not a fourth, not even 99.9%. Jesus gave all, and He deserves all. We are to be Holy and that means everything! Let us be totally set apart and 100% loyal to and for Christ alone. He is our Lord and King and submitting all is the only thing acceptable to Him; it’s our reasonable service.
Now, concerning verse 2. Paul has already laid out the “what” — which is to yield all we are over to God. He has laid out the “Why” — why we should yield all we are because God has saved us and brought us from death to life. And now in verse 2, he gives us the “how” — how do we yield ourselves over to God?
The Apostle instructs: Do not conform yourself to this world. Although many things have been preached and said regarding “what the world is or worldly things are,” the truth from scripture concerning that which is worldly is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We must not be conformed to these things, in mind, in character or in action. We must not go along with society in these things.
If we are to be in submission to God, then we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In times past, when we were in sin and death abode upon us, we ran to do these evil things, but when we believed on Christ and He saved us, we were transformed, for our way of thinking was changed!
We came to an understanding and we accepted the truth in that our sin was death to us. We came to understand and believe that we had no hope and the only way out of death and Hell was Jesus Christ! So, we put our trust in Him and decided to follow Him. Where He went, we would go. What He did, we would do. How He thought, we would think. How He lived, we also would live. Our minds were totally changed as it were. They were “renewed.”
And now saints, with the Apostle Paul, I exhort you to continue in these things. Let us continue in our reasonable service of total submission unto our savior because He has given us new life and we owe Him everything!
The purpose for continuing living in the “renewal of mind” is not only because we owe the Lord. We don’t do it to try and repay Him, for we never could. We do it because we’re thankful! We do it because we love Him! We do it because we understand Christ has separated us from death and brought us into life. Finally, we do it so that, through our actions and our words, we might be a guide to each other and a witness of Him to those who are lost. You never know who is watching your life and who, through your good works, that you may be an encouragement to.
The end of verse 2 says: “… that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
That word prove means demonstrate. We submit ourselves to God because He loved us and we love Him and are thankful, and so that we might demonstrate the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. His will is that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance; that all should come from death to life!
Beloved, I pray that if any of you are not demonstrating such a life, that you indeed renew your mind in Christ and full submission to Him always.
Finally saints, love one another fervently. The whole world will know that we are Christ’s disciples in how that we love one another. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.