In the course of our Daily Readings we have recently completed Paul’s most encouraging Letter to the Romans and have been reminded once again of the importance and power of the doctrine of the Atonement in relation to our daily living. This is nowhere better summarised than in the words of Romans 12:1,2. We cannot conquer the flesh by our own strength or will-power, nor can ritualistic obedience to law justify us in the sight of God. Therefore we must seek a source of power outside ourselves and only through the obedience of faith can we be justified before God.

The theme of Romans is clearly expressed in 1:16,17 where Paul states that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. In the first instance, it is our belief (or faith) in the Gospel that declares the Righteousness of God, for the greatest thing we can do to honour God is to believe Him. In response, God justifies (accounts righteous) the believer and thereafter desires that these justified ones “shall live by faith”.

 This most important subject of “the righteousness of God” is then considered under three aspects:—

1:18–3:20 Man left to himself has failed to attain to God’s righteousness

3:21–5:21 What man could not do of himself, God has done, by revealing His righteousness in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

6:1–8:39 Through baptism, the believer can identify with God’s righteousness revealed in His Son.

Chapters 9 to 11 deal with the national aspect of the Gospel and how it relates to Israel and this is followed by the more directly practical side of the epistle commencing in chapter 12. It is here, in the first two verses, that we find our theme of “the Living Sacrifice”.

The Diaglott translates these verses in the following way. “I intreat you therefore, Brethren, by the tender compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice holy, well-pleasing to God—your rational, religious service. And do not conform yourselves to this age, but transform yourselves by the renovation of your mind, that you may ascertain what is the will of God—the good and well-pleasing, and perfect.”

A Living Sacrifice

 The whole argument of the first eleven chapters was designed to show the obligation on each one of us to devote ourselves to God. Hence Paul makes his appeal on the ground of God’s mercies to “present your bodies as a Living Sacrifice”. Sacrifices associated with the Law of Moses were not “living sacrifices” but dead ones and, as the efficacy of a covenant depends on the virtue of the blood with which it is purged, their blood was a negative principle since bulls and goats were as destitute of righteousness as they were devoid of sin. “They had no righteousness; therefore their sprinkled blood would constitute no one righteous; they had no life; therefore it could impart no title to eternal life; and not being human they could not expiate humanity’s offence, inasmuch as the wisdom of God determined that sin should be condemned in the flesh, not representative of animals only, but literally in that of man.” The Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land Explained, page 5.

God is not interested in dead animals but in living people, nevertheless it is important to understand the need for sacrifice in our daily living.

Brother Carter says: “The bodies of men and women were used in various unrighteous ways in the corrupt practices of the pagan world. Those who through some religious influence avoided the gross evils of that day very often followed ascetic practices, and thought to develop holiness by the infliction of torture and a rigorous discipline of the body. Such a course had the effect of focusing thought on the bodily appetites, and the punishing of the body was ‘not really of any value to remedy indulgence of the flesh’ (Col 2:23). The right way is to use all parts of one’s being, heart, soul, mind and strength (Matt 22:37) in service to God… The believer dies with Christ in baptism, and rises with him to walk in newness of life. The life now lived is one of service to God. Hence he has to be a ‘living sacrifice’ in this challenging language of Paul.”

Your Reasonable Service

 “Reasonable” (Greek “logikos”) means “pertaining to the reasoning faculty, rational”; it is used in the context of the service to be rendered by believers in presenting their bodies “a living sacrifice”. The sacrifice is to be intelligent, in contrast to those offered by ritual and compulsion; the presentation is to be in accordance with the spiritual intelligence of those who are new creatures in Christ and are mindful of “the mercies of God”. It stands opposed, not to that which is foolish or unreasonable, but to that which is based on externals and motivated by mere obedience to law. Our worship is that which pertains to the mind, or is spiritual; that of the Jews was external. The word “logikos” only occurs here and in 1Peter 2:2, where it is rendered “of the Word”.

“Be not conformed to this age”. Conform” means “to fashion or shape one thing like another” and is translated as “fashioning” in 1Peter1:14 (the only two places where the word occurs). It has reference literally to that which is transitory, changeable and unstable—the word properly means to put on the form, fashion or appearance of another. It may refer to any thing pertaining to the habit, manner, dress, style of living, etc, of others.

“Be ye transformed”—Greek “metamorphoo”, from “meta” to change, and “morphe” form. It occurs also in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2 where it is used in reference to Christ’s transfiguration. To CONFORM is to manifest outward show, as with Judaism and worldliness in general: to TRANSFORM lays stress on an inward change. See also 2 Corinthians 3:18. Both “conform” and “transform” are in the present continuous tense as Rotherham translates “… and be not configuring yourselves unto this age, but be ye transforming yourselves…”: hence it is a process. It can only come about by the “renewing of your mind”—this “making new” of the mind comes only from daily reading and study of the Word.

“Good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. The word “good” describes that which, being good in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect. “Acceptable” is the same as “well pleasing” in verse 1. “Perfect”—“that which has reached its end, finished, complete”. One authority says it means that which is carried out or consistent in every circumstance of life.

So then, Paul is appealing to simple logic when he pleads with the Roman believers to consider the mercies of God and, in return, to render to Him a life of consistent, well pleasing service. These verses become the basis of the remainder of Paul’s letter in which he powerfully exhorts his readers to manifest these characteristics in such a way that it will be seen in their relationship one with another as part of the body of Christ—“so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom 12:5).

The strength of the One Body is totally dependant upon the personal strength of every individual member of that body seen in their transformed lives as living sacrifices offering well pleasing service to God.