Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.
Apostle Paul wants us to learn that none of the doctrines of the gospel are designed to be cold and barren speculations. The gospel were already in the hearts and lives of Christians, thus he wants to push us to dedicate ourselves without reserve unto God.
It is not only our obligation to devote ourselves to God but it is an act of faith founded upon the teachings that we heard and read from the scriptures. We should therefore to lead holy lives through the mercies of God.
By the Mercies of God
The word “by” διὰ (dia) denotes here the reason why we should do it, why do we have to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, as our reasonable service. God had been great and merciful to us, and His mercy have shown us His kindness, compassion, which even if we don’t deserve it, He has shown it to us because He loves us so much. God is the Father of Mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3).
The Apostles of Jesus in their epistles explains the mercy of God was shown to those people who are all by nature under sin; that they had no claim on God; and that he had showed great compassion in manifesting Himself through Jesus to come for them and pardon their sins.
This is the reason why we should devote ourselves to God.
That ye present
The word used here commonly denotes the action of bringing and presenting an animal or other sacrifice before an altar. It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering. Religion is free; and the act of devoting ourselves to God is one of the most free that we ever perform.
The bodies of animals were offered in sacrifice. The apostle specifies their bodies particularly in reference to that fact. Still the entire animal was devoted; and Paul evidently meant here the same as to say, present Yourselves, your entire person, to the service of God.
A living sacrifice
A sacrifice is an offering made to God as an atonement for sin; or any offering made to him and his service as an expression of thanksgiving or homage. It implies that he who offers it presents it entirely, releases all claim or right to it, and leaves it to be disposed of for the honor of God.
In the case of an animal, it was slain, and the blood offered; in the case of any other offering, as the first-fruits, etc., it was set apart to the service of God; and he who offered it released all claim on it, and submitted it to God, to be disposed of at his will.
This is the offering which the apostle entreats the Romans to make: to devote themselves to God, as if they had no longer any claim on themselves; to be disposed of by him; to suffer and bear all that he might appoint; and to promote his honor in any way which he might command. This is the nature of true religion.
ζῶσυν zōsun. The expression probably means that they were to devote the vigorous, active powers of their bodies and souls to the service of God. The Jew offered his victim, slew it, and presented it dead. It could not be presented again.
In opposition to this, we are to present ourselves with all our living, vital energies. Christianity does not require a service of death or inactivity. It demands vigorous and active powers in the service of God the Saviour. There is something very affecting in the view of such a sacrifice; in regarding life, with all its energies, its intellectual, and moral, and physical powers, as one long sacrifice; one continued offering unto God.
This is religion.
This means properly without blemish or defect. No other sacrifice could be made to God. The Jews were expressly forbid to offer what was lame, or blind, or in anyway deformed; If offered without any of these defects, it was regarded as holy, that is, appropriately set apart, or consecrated to God.
In like manner we are to consecrate to God our best faculties; the vigor of our minds, and talents, and time. Not the feebleness of sickness merely; not old age alone; not time which we cannot otherwise employ, but the first vigor and energies of the mind and body; our youth, and health, and strength.
Our sacrifice to God is to be not divided, separate; but it is to be entire and complete. Many are expecting to be Christians in sickness; many in old age; thus purposing to offer unto him the blind and the lame. The sacrifice is to be free from sin. It is not to be a divided, and broken, and polluted service. It is to be with the best affections of our hearts and lives.
Acceptable unto God
They are exhorted to offer such a sacrifice as will be acceptable to God; that is, such a one as he had just specified, one that was living and holy. No sacrifice should be made which is not acceptable to God. The offerings of the pagan; the pilgrimages of the Muslims; the self-inflicted penalties of the Roman Catholics, uncommanded by God, cannot be acceptable to him.
Those services will be acceptable to God, and those only, which He appoints. People are not to invent services; or to make crosses; or to seek persecutions and trials; or to provoke opposition. They are to do just what God requires of them, and that will be acceptable to God.
And this fact, that what we do is acceptable to God, is the highest recompense we can have. It matters little what people think of us, if God approves what we do. To please him should be our highest aim; the fact that we do please him is our highest reward.
Which is your reasonable service
The word rendered “service” λατρείαν latreian properly denotes worship, or the homage rendered to God. The word “reasonable” with us means what is “governed by reason; thinking, speaking, or acting conformably to the dictates of reason” (Webster); or what can be shown to be rational or proper.
This does not express the meaning of the original. That word λογικὴν logikēn denotes what pertains to the mind, and a reasonable service means what is mental, or pertaining to reason. It stands opposed, nor to what is foolish or unreasonable, but to the external service of the Jews, and such as they relied on for salvation.
The worship of the Christian is what pertains to the mind, or is spiritual; that of the Jew was external.
We may learn from this verse,
(1) That the proper worship of God is the free homage of the mind. It is not forced or constrained. The offering of ourselves should be voluntary. No other can be a true offering, and none other can be acceptable.
(2) we are to offer our entire selves, all that we have and are, to God. No other offering can be such as he will approve.
(3) the character of God is such as should lead us to that. It is a character of mercy; of long-continued and patient forbearance, and it should influence us to devote ourselves to him.
(4) it should be done without delay. God is as worthy of such service now as he ever will or can be. He has every possible claim on our affections and our hearts.