“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
Romans 12:1 NLT
Paul starts this chapter with an “And so”. Other translations use the word “Therefore”. He is referring to all that he has written in the previous verses and chapters, and because of all this, Romans 12:1 is the proper response. Paul “pleads” with his readers to do something, something that perhaps they would find hard or difficult. How can we give our bodies to God? He is Spirit. Our bodies are physical. Flesh and blood. But the Jewish Christians would have known what Paul was getting at. Animal sacrifice was very much a part of the Jewish religion, at least while they had a temple. But is Paul here saying that they, his readers, should be the sacrifices instead?
First of all we should remember that Jesus put an end to the practice of animal sacrifice, by becoming an eternal offering for sin. In Hebrews 10:5 we read, “That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer””. Why did Jesus do that? Hebrews 10:10, “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time”. And then Hebrews 10:18, “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices”.
But Paul “pleads” with his readers to “be a living and holy sacrifice”. It can’t be anything to do with forgiveness for sins, because Jesus was the ultimate and eternal sacrifice. There is, perhaps, a clue when Paul adds the reason for giving our bodies – “because of all he has done for [us]”. How can we properly respond to God for what Jesus did for us at Calvary? It is no good offering Him our money, or anything else that we own. And neither will working for God in some religious role, such as a missionary or minister, be good enough. No, God wants us, body, soul and spirit, our entirety.
It is easier in many ways to go through the religious motions of being a Christian. Going to church. Attending the prayer meetings. Putting a tithe in the offering. Standing on a street corner with a collecting box for the poor. But none of this costs us what God is really looking for – our selves. We must bring our wills to God, and lay them on His altar.
Paul said that our sacrifice, our bodies, must be “living and holy”. Nothing else is acceptable to God. Our bodily sacrifice has to be alive, because then our wills, our selves, are active and making decisions God’s way. If we were dead there would be no benefit, either to us or to God. And we mustn’t forget that God will only accept what is holy into His presence. Hebrews 12:14, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord“. We are sanctified – made holy – through Jesus. Colossians 1:22, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault“.
Through our willingness to present every facet of our lives to God, for His service and worship, and because of the blood of Jesus, we are an acceptable sacrifice to God. Of course, we become stained and soiled by our sin and the sins of others, but by confessing our sins to God we are forgiven, becoming a living and holy sacrifice.
Dear Father God. We respond to Your servant Paul’s pleadings today. We reach out to You in praise and worship. Amen.