A Living Sacrifice

“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.” (Romans 12:1 KJV)

19th Century evangelist Dwight L. Moody is said to have remarked on this verse of Scripture, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” We have a choice of whether we will yield ourselves to God or yield ourselves to sin (Rom. 6:13). Will we live a righteous, holy life or will we continue to walk in the way of this world?

What a stark contrast we have here in the New Testament book of Romans compared with the Law of the Old Testament. The watchword of Deuteronomy is “command” as the Law of Moses is given to the Children of Israel. Here in Romans, we see the word “beseech” or “urge.” Where Moses commanded, Paul appeals. He appeals to our sense of the grace and mercy, the goodness, of God as the reason for our obedience. It is not the voice of thunder shaking Mt. Sinai but the still-small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to the heart that our attention is called toward. Eleven chapters of Romans preceding this verse spell out what God has done for us and it is based on this that we are encouraged to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him.

Closing the verse, we are told that such is our reasonable service. Within that word rendered “reasonable” is the root of our English word logical. It only makes sense for us to obey God and yield ourselves to Him in light of all He has done for us. May we stay upon the altar and yield our lives for His service. Though we can never repay God for all He has done for us, becoming a living sacrifice is acceptable and well-pleasing to the Lord.

Be Transformed

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

There is for the Christian one important decision concerning how they will live their life: to be conformed to this world or to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. All other decisions are dependent upon this one. To be conformed to this world is by far the easier of the two, but it comes at a great cost. For the child of God will never experience the joy and peace that the Lord has provided if they continue to walk as the rest of the world does. Nor will they be able to fulfill God’s will for their life if they choose to remain conformed to the world.

To be transformed is a choice that we can make, otherwise the Scripture would not instruct us to do so. Yet transformation is not accomplished through our own willpower or good intentions, no, it can only be achieved as the Holy Spirit works in us, conforming us not to the world but to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). A renewed mind is a mind which sees things as God sees them and thinks thoughts in line with the way God thinks. It is the same washing and regeneration in the mind that was performed upon our spirits by the Holy Spirit when we first came to faith in Christ (cf. Titus 3:5).

Even so, this transformation is not the product of our simply waiting for God to change us. We participate in the process by spending time with the Lord in prayer and through the study of His Word. Ultimately, our mind is renewed as we delve into the Bible and let the Holy Spirit speak to us.

[Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.]

The Conclusion Of Romans (Romans 16)

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” (Romans 16:1)

This verse begins the final chapter of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome. Having instructed his readers in the great doctrines of the Faith, the Apostle now turns to a more personal note. He has told the Roman believers about his plans to visit them on a later journey to Spain, after a short relief mission to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:23-25). He has eloquently laid before them everything necessary for both a strong faith and for godly living; at times gently teaching them the basic tenets of Christianity, at other times firmly admonishing them by the great authority which God has given him. He has taught them the things which they need to know and has reminded them of those things which they should know already. Just as the Lord Jesus will later speak to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor through His Revelation to the Apostle John, Paul has both commended the Roman Church in the areas where they please God, and has rebuked them wherein they do not.

Yet now we come to the end of the Epistle and Paul is “preaching” to them no more. Paul tells them that he has fully preached the Gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Rom. 15:19) and now, through this Letter, he has preached the Gospel to them as well. However, he speaks to them now, at the conclusion, not as pupils under a master teacher, but as friends, brothers, and servants of the same Lord he himself serves.

It is not easy to find a great deal of commentary or teaching on Chapter 16 of the Book of Romans; many expositors simply skip over most of it, maybe giving a remark or two about divisive church members mentioned in verses 17 and 18 or commenting briefly on the closing “doxology” found in the final three verses of the chapter. But perhaps there is just as much for us to learn from what is not mentioned as there is from what is written. You see, as far as you and I are concerned, the bulk of Chapter 16 is just a bunch of names of people of whom very little is now known. But behind every name listed on the page there is a story, a life, a real person who came to faith in Jesus Christ and was saved by the very Gospel written in the previous 15 chapters. Bible scholars don’t know really anything about Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus, or Olympas (v. 14-15) except one thing: the Apostle Paul knew them (or at least knew of them) and they belonged to the Body of believers in Rome. They were important people to Paul and they are important people to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord knows them and we can be certain that they are living today in the place which He prepared for them and us. Someday, we will meet them all and will come to know them just as Paul did (or rather, does!).

We read these names in the Holy Word of God some 2,000 years after they first were written and it reminds us of another Book wherein our own names are recorded — if we are in Christ. And though our own names have not found their way into the Bible itself, we are assured that each one of us is loved by God just as much as these other believers who came before us. For both their names and ours are in the Lamb’s Book of Life, another Book written by the finger of the Spirit of the Lord, another Book filled with names behind which are real people who lived real lives.

Romans 16 reminds us that, at the end of the day, we are all part of a family, the family of God. And after all the teaching, admonition, correction, rebuking, and instructing we see a loving Father, full of grace and mercy, Who loves us, His own children. Some of the instructions given in Romans may seem daunting, maybe even impossible to follow, but we know from Chapter 8 that we are not walking in our own strength, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit. God has not told any of us that we must do the things written in His Word through our own strength, but has promised that He will give us the ability through the Lord Jesus Christ to walk according to His plans, will, and purposes. We must always remember that we are His children and that He wants us to walk with Him in the overcoming victory that He has won for us.

Though we experience trials, though we have setbacks, and though we suffer failures, God reminds us that all things work together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).

Back in November of 2010, when I wrote my introductory post for this study in the Book of Romans, I stated:

“I am eager to write about this great portion of Scripture because I know profoundly the capacity that writing about, reading about, and studying this Epistle has to affect wondrous spiritual growth for everyone involved, regardless of how many times they have previously done so. It is, therefore, with joy, excitement, and a keen awareness of my own inability to adequately deal with the Text at hand that I invite you to join me on this journey through the Book of Romans. May we come away from it at study’s end with a new and fresh appreciation for this very wonderful book of the Bible!”

Coming now to the end of this study, I am grateful to the Lord for all of the blessings He has given in opening my own eyes to the great truths of His Word. I have learned so much more about this great book of the Bible throughout the course of this study and I give thanks and praise to God for it. I thank all of you who have joined me on this journey and I look forward to moving soon into another part of the Word.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[ I will be taking the next several weeks off from writing and plan, Lord willing, to start posting again at the beginning of September. Thank all of you who take the time to read these articles and may the Lord greatly bless you in the study of His Word]