Living Sacrifice: Its NatureRomans 12:1-2Theme: Holiness.This week’s lessons teach us the extent to which we must offer ourselves to God. LessonAnother thing we need to see about the nature of the sacrifice God requires is that it involves the giving to God of our bodies. Some of the older commentators stress that offering our bodies really means offering ourselves, all we are. Calvin wrote, “By bodies he means not only our skin and bones, but the totality of which we are composed.”1 But although it is true that we are to offer God all we are, most commentators today rightly refuse to pass over the word “bodies” quite this easily. It is because they recognize how much the Bible stresses the importance of our bodies.
For example, Leon Morris says:
Paul surely expected Christians to offer to God not only their bodies but their whole selves…. But we should bear in mind that the body is very important in the Christian understanding of things. Our bodies are to be “implements of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13) and “members of Christ” (1 Cor. 6:15). The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19); Paul can speak of being “holy both in body and in spirit” (1 Cor. 7:34). He knows that there are possibilities of evil in the body but that in the believer “the body of sin” has been brought to nothing (Rom. 6:6).2
In a similar manner, Robert Haldane says, “It is of the body that the apostle here speaks, and it is not proper to extract out of his language more than it contains…. This shows the importance of serving God with the body as well as with the soul.”3
Paul does not elaborate upon what he means by presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices in Romans 12, but we are not left in the dark about his meaning since this is not a new idea, not even in Romans. We have already seen it in chapter 6. In that chapter Paul said, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (vv. 12-14). This is the point at which Paul first began to talk about sanctification, and the point he was making there is the point he is also making here, namely, that we are to serve God by offering him our bodies.
Sin can control us through our bodies, but it does not need to. So rather than offering our bodies as instruments of sin, we are to offer God our bodies as instruments for doing his will.
1 John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul, p. 264.2 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 433-434.3 Robert Haldane, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (MacDill AFB: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1958), p. 554. (See also John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 111.) Murray notes the depreciation of the body in favor of the spirit in Greek thought and argues that against that background an emphasis upon the body by Paul was a Christian necessity.
What other verses in Paul’s letters talk about the importance of the body?
How do these verses describe our bodies?
Why is it important to offer our physical body as a living sacrifice to God?
What does Romans 6 say about offering our bodies to God?
ApplicationThe first step in offering your body as a living sacrifice is determining with your mind to do so. You must use your mind to examine the actions of the rest of your body. How do you use your hands to glorify God? Are you using your mouth to praise God and encourage others? Examine other ways you’ve been using your body, and replace sinful behavior with actions that demonstrate the holiness you have in Christ.