Key Verse: Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Chapter 11 concludes with a beautiful doxology praising God’s wisdom, knowledge, judgments, and paths. He is sovereign and does what He wants to do. And, in the context of chapters 9 through 11, we see He wants to have mercy on all children of disobedience — both Jew and Gentile. It’s “in view of God’s mercy” that Paul, in chapter 12:1, calls us to total commitment: a commitment that constitutes, in fact, our “spiritual worship” (NIV).
Paul bluntly calls for bodily sacrifice — not producing a dead body, mind you, but a living offering. It is significant that the emphasis is physical. We’d all be much happier if the call was for mental assent, but he says we’re to put our bodies where our profession of faith is. We’re to pay the price — choosing sacrifice rather than pleasure.
Someone has said that the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the alter. So true. Indeed, the very idea of sacrificial living in our self-absorbed western world seems painfully archaic. But if we’re to practice what we preach, and look to Jesus as our supreme example, then we’re certainly not to embrace a faith that costs us nothing.
It’s fascinating that Paul links bodily sacrifice with spiritual worship: You wouldn’t expect this, for our tendency would be to separate the physical from the spiritual — just as the heretical Gnostics of early church history did. But no, God sees us as a totality, body and soul, material and immaterial — complete individual personalities. And He has such a high view of our bodies that He intends to resurrect and glorify them one day. So don’t separate your “spiritual” live from your everyday physical life. They’re inextricably linked — and God expects total faith from the total man.