Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Divinely Reasonable and Infinitely Joyful Worship

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. (Romans 12:1)
Paul was not commanding or demanding anything; he was beseeching. The Greek work means to call out to someone, to exhort, entreat and encourage. He was not speaking from a position of law or requirement, but on the basis of God’s compassion and mercy. That sums up what the “therefore” is there for:
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (1:16).
  • Though all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (3:23), and the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ (6:23).
  • Those who receive the Lord Jesus are now dead to sin; that is, we no longer have to be enslaved by sin, but are alive to God (6:11).
  • We are also now dead to the law, the commandments ended up only condemning us (7:4). The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death (8:2).
Because of all this, Paul now encourages us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice.” We find this same word “present” in Romans 6:13.

Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Notice that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were slaughtered before they were presented. In Jesus Christ, we are now dead to sin and the law, but alive to God, for He is the God of living, not of the dead (Matthew 22:32).

This sacrifice, being dead to sin but alive to God, is a holy one. To be holy means to be set apart for God’s purposes. It is not about who we are and what we are doing; it is about who He is and what He is doing. We could never make ourselves holy; only He can do that for us, and that is what He has done in Jesus Christ—we are accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).

Yes, we are acceptable — and accepted — in Jesus Christ. The word for “acceptable” in Romans 12:1, and again in 12:2, means to be well pleasing. When Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). God is well pleased in Him, and with us in Him.

Pleasing God is always a matter of faith — believing His Word — for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Becoming a living sacrifice that is well pleasing to God is a matter of faith, believing the truth of His Word and the goodness of His grace.

Presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice is what Paul calls our “reasonable service.” The Greek word for “service” is latreia and refers to worship, the service given to God. We present out bodies as living sacrifices as an act of worship. The word for “reasonable” comes from logikos, which is where we get our word “logical.” Paul is referring to reason, not the reasoning of the world, though, but the reasoning of God. The wisdom of God seems foolish to this present age, but the “foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But those who have been made alive in Jesus Christ have received the Holy Spirit, who reveals the wisdom of God to us. In the natural, it is foolish for us to give ourselves away, but in the divine logic, it makes perfect sense for us to give ourselves to the One who has given Himself to us so freely. It is no burden, but joy itself.

When we understand the love and mercy God has shown to us in Jesus Christ, and the richness of the salvation He brings to us, it is divinely reasonable, and infinitely joyful, that we should offer ourselves to Him, dead to sin but alive to God, presenting everything about ourselves as instruments of His rightness.