Presenting the Body, Romans 12.1-2

W. E. Davies, Nassau

Romans 12 is an extremely important chapter. It deals with the life of the Christian in the church and in the world. Verses 3 to 8 set out seven functions of the members of the body of Christ and verses 9 to 21 reveal a series of principles (about 24) to guide us in our life in the world.

The first two verses form an intro­duction to the chapter. Their signi­ficance must be seen in the light of the fact that we are living, as Christians, in two spheres - the church and the world.

Every young Christian should be familiar with:

1. The Request. "/ beseech you therefore, brethren". Paul was writing under the guidance and domination of the Holy Spirit. We are justified, therefore, in regarding his appeal as a divine request. It is as if the Lord Jesus is saying to each of us, "I beseech you.'1 It comes, therefore, as a personal request from our living, loving Lord. This emphasises the importance of all that follows.

Furthermore, Paul bases the request on "the mercies of God". The word "mercies" signifies God's compassion, tenderness and pity. Earlier in the epistle, Paul has mentioned many ex­pressions of God's mercy. He has referred, for instance, to God's love and grace demonstrated in His Son's death and our salvation. He has spoken of our redemption and justification, of the gift and ministry of the Holy Spirit and of the assured future blessedness of the believer. In the section im­mediately preceding (chapters 9 to 11) he has "reminded both Gentile and Jewish believers of the special aspects of sovereign mercy in their respective cases", H. C. G. Moule. "God", Paul said, "hath concluded them all (Jew and Gentile) in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all", 11. 32.

"What", the grateful soul enquires, "shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?", Psa. 116. 12. Romans 12. 1-2 is Paul's reply!

2. The Requirement. "Present your bodies". No Christian can be fully used of God unless he has met this requirement. If the believer's body is presented to God, then he will allow the Holy Spirit to control him for God's glory. Note that the verse says nothing about the body's colour, age, appearance or fitness. The important thing is that it is presented! Although in every case there must be an initial act in which this is done, this has to be followed by a day-to-day attitude of rededication.

Paul describes the believer's body as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable (well- pleasing) unto God". No doubt he has in mind a double contrast with the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. They were (i) unwilling victims and (ii) dead when they were sacrificed. Paul has already exhorted the Roman Christians to "yield (the same word as that translated "present") yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead", 6.13.

If it is to be offered to God, the body of the Christian must be "holy" and "acceptable". The thought is that it will not be acceptable (ie well-pteasing) to God unless it is consecrated - holy, in contrast to that which is defiled. In our day, as in Paul's, the believer must avoid, for example, the defilement of the body which comes from all forms of sexual impurity and uncleanness, 1 Thess. 4. 1-8.

The presentation of the body, Paul adds, is our "reasonable service". The word translated "service" indicates worshipful service. This service is de­ scribed as "reasonable" (not "spir­itual" as in many modern translations) because it involves our minds and intellects. The yielding of his body is the rational response of the Christian to the mercies of God.

The apostle next explains that we must not be "conformed to this world (or age)". The Christian should not "swim with the stream" by adopting the standards and patterns of behaviour which characterise the unbelieving world around. Yes, we must "if it be possible . . . live peaceably with all men", v.18, but we must not imitate their attitudes and ways. We should imitate, rather, the friends of Daniel, who "yielded their bodies" and re­fused to conform to the ways and dictates of the world about them, Dan. 3. 28.

Conformity to the world is a contra­diction of our profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and indicates clearly that we have not yielded ourselves to His control. The Christian is called to a new way of living quite different from the person who is not a Christian. The life-style of the believer should tell the world that he is one who is living a sacrificial life and who is given up to the worship and service of God.

This way of life is being constantly and radically "transformed by the renew­ ing of the "mind". This renewal is brought about by the Holy Spirit in response to our obedience to the Lord's requirement. It is an example of what has been called the spiritual law of "divine response to human resolution". God works in and through us when we submit to His will. Putting the same truth in another form, D. L. Moody said, "Christ is as great a Saviour as we make Him."

3. The Result. "That ye may prove {approve by testing) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God". A question frequently asked by young Christians is, "How may I know the will of God in my life?"

In the detailed decisions of life it is often difficult to discern the will of God. Yet, in His Word, God has revealed clearly His will about the way in which we should live. The conse­crated believer does not quarrel with God's revealed will; he learns to "approve" it by experimental submis­sion to its demands on him. Just as his presented body is "acceptable" to God, v.l, so God's will and command is "acceptable" to him. v.2.

In the context, this is expounded in relation to our function in the body of Christ, vv. 3-8. Whatever our gifts (perhaps teaching God's Word; perhaps performing acts of mercy), we should know what these gifts are and where they (and therefore we) lit in to the service of God. The Lord will make these things known to us if we are willing to pay the price of full commitment to Him, with all that this involves. We will find that, having discovered our gift and function in the church, the measure of our success and effectiveness will be determined by the maintenance of our dedication and commitment.

After dealing with the sphere of the church, Paul speaks of our actions in the world, vv. 9-21. Let me emphasise strongly that only the Christian who knows day-by-day yielding to God will receive the grace and power to live a life well-pleasing to God. Such a life­ style alone will testify to our rela­tionship to God in the eyes of people around. This section sets out many features of the lovely life which only the committed Christian can live.

Let us sum up. I challenge your heart as I challenge my own - Are we holding anything back from our living, all-worthy Lord? Does He have a controversy with us on account of some dominating sin or habit which is grieving Him? Is there an idol of worldliness on the throne of our hearts that is taking His place there?

If we face up to these questions honestly in the presence of God (tak­ing, as necessary, the place of repent­ance and confession) then, in grateful response to His compassion, we may present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God". This, and nothing less, is our "reasonable ser­ vice."