Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God–which is your spiritual worship.”
The kind of sacrifice that Paul has in mind no longer requires that anyone or anything actually physically die. Jesus’ death put an end to that kind of sacrifice. The kind of sacrifice Paul has in mind is a living sacrifice, not a killing one.
Actually, Paul is mixing his metaphors. When he encourages us to offer our bodies, the word he uses for “offer” is not the ordinary word used for bringing God a sacrifice. Rather, he uses a word from the world of royalty and king’s courts. In ancient times kings surrounded themselves with servants, officers and nobles who stood at the king’s disposal. Their business was doing whatever the king asked of them. In this way they “offered” themselves to the king.
There are several things to keep in mind here as we offer our service to the “King of kings.” First of all, think of the privilege. God has invited us into his own royal court to carry out his holy work. We aren’t mere peasants in God’s kingdom. We are nobility, people the Lord of heaven and earth trusts to be near him. He believes he can confide in us and even share his plans with you and me.
Then think of the importance this gives to our service. Each of us has been given work to serve the King of kings. Our place in God’s kingdom ennobles and sanctifies everything we do, no matter how humble our service might seem. We are serving the Ruler of the universe! You have a purpose, Christian friend. You and I are all on a mission from God.
But we aren’t the King himself. As obvious as this is, in practice we tend to forget it. Even Christians begin to think, “Hey, it’s MY life. I’ll decide what I want to do. I’ll decide how I want to live it. I’ll decide what I do with my stuff.” But that’s not right. Either our lives and our stuff are offered to God, at his disposal, or we aren’t the privileged servants of the King.
The totality with which our lives belong to God is emphasized in the other picture here, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” When a calf, or lamb, or dove was sacrificed in the Old Testament, that animal lost its whole life. It didn’t just give up a leg, or some hide, or a few feathers. The whole animal was part of the sacrifice. It gave up everything as it gave up its life.
When we become the royal servants of God, we lose our whole lives, too. We may not literally die. Paul calls us living sacrifices. As such, every waking or sleeping moment, every mundane activity, serves our God.
This is different than most people are accustomed to think. Unbelievers don’t want any part of their lives to belong to God. They want it all for themselves. But even we Christians are tempted to think they can hold some part back for ourselves. As long as I give God 10 percent of my income (or 5? or 2?), I can keep the other 90 percent (after taxes) for myself. As long as God gets me for an hour on Sunday and a couple of hours of volunteer work during the week, I can have the other165 hours to myself.
This is wrong. God wants it all. He wants all 604,800 seconds in your week to belong to him. He wants every penny in your pocketbook. He wants every ability in your body. We are worshiping God’s way only when we are offering our whole selves as human, living sacrifices to him in everything we do.
We find the strength to worship God’s way the same place we find forgiveness for the offering of our bodies that we have denied him: in the mercy of God himself. Paul began by saying, “I urge your brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies…” Who could really object if the Lord just said, “You are getting what you deserve. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it”? But he so loves us that our situation moved him to have compassion on us. And can anything compare to the outpouring of God’s love that we have received?
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Our King came into our world, and he didn’t obsess about taking care of his own needs first. He didn’t occupy himself with gathering up all the glory that was his due. He totally emptied himself out as our servant. He withheld nothing of himself so that he could serve and save you. For him, sacrifice wasn’t just a metaphor describing his dedication. He literally gave up his life to redeem us from our sins and save us from this world.
It is this mercy of God that also converts us from slaves to self to servants of the Most High. In view of this mercy God makes us willing to offer ourselves as living, human sacrifices in our daily worship to God.