“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
We now begin to focus our attention regarding the pursuit of holiness. One of the first Christian books I purchased as a young believer was a small paperback entitled The Pursuit of Holiness. Its author was Jerry Bridges. Little did I realize how enjoyable, thought provoking and challenging that little book would be for me. Little did I realize that Jerry would be one of my seminary professor’s years later.
The word “pursuit” means to chase, hunt, or search for something or someone. A pursuit is an important quest. The important quest we will be examining is the believer’s pursuit for the holiness of God.
Holiness is not necessarily paying particular attention to religious rituals but rather focusing on the character of God and how much of the Lord’s holy character we are inwardly possessing and outwardly expressing. Holiness is not just being saved or delivered from the penalty of sin, which is justification, or even being saved from the eventual presence of sin, which is glorification. Holiness, and its pursuit by the believer in Christ, is experiencing being saved or delivered daily from the power of sin.
There are several pertinent Biblical texts which speak of the pursuit of holiness. Romans 12:1-2 is one such example.
Following the Apostle Paul’s extensive explanation of the gospel (Romans 1-11), the apostle now addresses the practical application of the believer’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” Paul begins with an appeal. An appeal is a request, an entreaty of a plea. The word “appeal” (Παρακαλῶ; parakalo) in the text means to presently and actively urge and implore someone to do something. Paul is urging and imploring his brothers and sisters in Christ to do something. What is the basis for what the apostle is urging and imploring the Roman Christians to do?
“By the mercies of God.” The appeal by the Apostle Paul is because of the manifold mercies which belong to and originate from the Lord. These are the mercies Paul spoke of in Romans 1-11 which form the basis, and the results, of our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. What then, on the basis of our redemption, justification, reconciliation, adoption, does the apostle urge believers to do?
“To present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” To present (παραστῆσαι; parastesai) means to make available. What believers in Christ are to make available is their bodies, or their physical beings. The purpose of this is to become a living sacrifice. This appears to be a contradiction because a sacrifice, by its very definition, is an offering killed on behalf of a deity. However, the Lord compels the Christian to offer their physical life and living to Him as a display of love and devotion for all that God has done.
One commentator explains that, “Ancient Judaism and some philosophical schools often used “sacrifice” figuratively for praise or for a lifestyle of worship; hence it would be hard for Paul’s readers to miss his point here.”
Are you willing to offer unto the Lord your life as an offering of praise and worship? Quite frankly, there is no other way to live.
Soli deo Gloria!