The principle of sacrifice is so foundational to the doctrine of the Christian life that we must be very careful to lay it out correctly, and in order to do that we need to review the foundations for this foundation. The first foundation of this foundational teaching is that we are not our own but rather belong to Jesus, if we are truly Christians. Here is the way Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

I do not like the word "paradox" used in reference to Christian teachings, because to most people the word refers to something that is self-contradictory or false. Christianity is not false. But the dictionary also defines "paradox" as any statement that seems to be contradictory, yet may be true in fact, and in that sense there are paradoxes in Christianity. The most obvious is the doctrine of the Trinity. We speak of one God, but we also say that God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We know the doctrine of the Trinity is true because God has revealed it to be true, but we are foolish if we pretend we understand it or can explain it adequately.

As we plunge into the great forest of these remaining chapters we shall be looking very closely at the trees. But this week we have been doing something equally valuable. We have been looking at the forest, and the bottom line of our study is that truth is a whole. Since we are talking about God’s saving work for us, this means that everything God has done for us in salvation has bearing on everything we should do, in all of life. We must be different people because God has saved us from our sins.

"Therefore" is a linking word, as I have said. We have looked back to what it refers to. Now we should look forward to see what the doctrinal material of chapters 1-11 connects with. I am handling it in seven sections. First of all, in Romans 12, verses 1 and 2, we see that just as God is the basis of reality so that everything flows from him and takes its form from him ("For from him and through him and to him are all things" [Rom. 11:36]), so also our relationship to God is the basis of all other relationships and our duty to him the basis of all other duties. Because this is so, Paul sets out the principles that should govern our relationship to God in verses 1 and 2. He reminds us that we are not our own and that we should therefore present ourselves to God as willing and living sacrifices.

In Monday’s study I commented on Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live? saying that "then" is the all-important word. Now I note that when we come to the first verse of Romans 12 we discover exactly the same thing, only in this case the important word is "therefore." "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices" is Paul’s counsel. Paul means, "In view of what I have just been writing, you must not live for yourselves but rather give yourselves wholly to God."