What does God require of His children? Many view the Christian life as a serious of rules and regulations, or some see it as a mere attachment. After laying a strong foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first 11 chapters, Paul transitions into the last section of this book which focuses on the believer’s responsibilities in light of those chapters. He begins by stating what the believer’s responsibility to the Lord is. He says to his readers,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect(Rom. 12:1-2)
In this passage we will consider two areas of our lives that must be wholly devoted in the task of holy devotion – our bodies (12:1) andour minds (12:2).
DEVOTION BY PRESENTING OUR BODIES (Romans 12:1)
If we are going to present our bodies to the Lord, two things need to take place. Firstly there must be the reality of salvation (12:1a) and secondly the practice of sacrifice (12:2b). Paul begins this text by saying, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God” (12:1a). The “mercies of God” refers back to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Christ (3:21-11:36). This is where true devotion begins – you must be a recipient of God’s mercy in salvation. For the people of God, God’s mercy provided the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ and many other blessings as found in the previous chapters of Romans. This gift becomes the basis and motive for a life of holy devotion to the Lord (cf. Psalm 24:3-4). Next, he goes on to say “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1b). Holy devotion occurs when there is service. Such service consists of presenting our bodies as a “sacrifice”. Unlike the sacrifice of an animal as seen in the OT sacrificial system, consider the characteristics of this sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that is “living”, “holy” and “acceptable to God”.
The reference to “bodies” here refers to our whole being (cf. Rom. 6:6, 12). It is the duty of God’s people to devote their whole being to this as an ongoing act of sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice occurs when we are obedient to God’s Word (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22) and functions as our “spiritual worship”. This is a reference to the kind of worship that is reasonable, genuine and spiritual in contrast to ritualistic or man-made manipulation. If we are going to be wholly devoted to holy devotion, we must be presenting our bodies as living, holy and acceptable sacrifices.
DEVOTION BY RENEWING OUR MINDS (Romans 12:2)
The second area of devotion is in our minds. The mind is the arena in which the battle for holiness will rage. Too many Christians neglect the importance of protecting their minds.
Paul begins verse 2 with a negative prohibition, “Do not be conformed to this world”. The word “world” here refers to the evil system that characterizes this age we live in. So this command is to not let your thoughts be shaped and formed by the ideals, values and morals of the evil system. The Christian wholly devoted to holy devotion will fight against this by being a non-conformist when it comes to worldliness. We must not limit our understanding of worldliness to a series of items that traditionally receive the label. Worldliness is any ideal, value or moral that goes against the teaching of Scripture.
Paul continues by saying “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. Being transformed is work of God that takes place over time in which we have a responsibility in (this is in the present tense, passive voice, and imperative mood). The believer cannot be neutral in this battle. The means in which the believer becomes transformed is through the renewing of their minds. How does one renew their minds? It comes from a combination of the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The purpose of this renewal is so “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Suggested Study Questions:
- Why is it important to recall the work of salvation when it comes to our pursuit of holiness? Why is our personal walk with the Lord necessary for the health of the whole church?
- What are the necessary components of genuine God exalting spiritual worship?
- Define worldliness. Look up the following verses: Col. 3:2; Titus 2:12; James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15-17.
- Discuss practical ways we can renew our minds. Consider the following references: Psalm 119:11; John 17:17; Phil. 4:8 and Col. 3:16.