“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)
As we begin focusing our attention on pursuing holiness, the word “pursue” means to chase, hunt, or search for something or someone. A pursuit is an important quest. The important quest for the believer in Christ is the pursuit for the holiness of God. Romans 12:1-2 is a key biblical test regarding this subject. A brief review of what we have thus far examined from this text is in order.
“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 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.
“Holy and acceptable to God.” What type of sacrifice or offering of our lives should we present to God because of His many mercies to us? First, our sacrifice is to be holy. To be holy (ἁγίαν; hagian) means to be separate from sin. It also means superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human. Second, our sacrifice is to be acceptable (εὐάρεστον; euareston) which means pleasing to God.
“Which is your spiritual worship.” In other words, to pursue holiness is the very definition of genuine praise and honor to God alone.
Dr. Don Carson comments that, “Paul’s summons to transform our lives does not come in a vacuum. It is only in view of God’s mercy that his appeal becomes relevant and that our obedience of it is possible. As we recognize all (the word ‘mercy’ is plural in the Greek) that God has done for us in his Son, as Paul has surveyed it in chs. 1–11, we realize that offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices is, indeed, a ‘reasonable’ (logikēn) act of worship. The word living reminds us of what God has made us: we are people who are now ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (6:11). Paul encourages us to look at our entire Christian lives as acts of worship. It is not just what is done on Sunday in a church building that ‘ascribes worth’ to God, but what God and the world see in us every day and every moment of the week.”
How do we maintain such a pursuit every day and every moment of the week? That is what we will examine in Romans 12:2 when next we meet.
Soli deo Gloria!