I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…
After the lengthened exposition of the Divine "mercies" given in the preceding eleven chapters, the apostle feels himself in a position to apply the truth and enforce Christian morals. He accordingly proceeds to base his exhortation upon the "mercies of God," and the flint matter he urges is becoming individuality. These brethren at Rome ought to dedicate themselves as living sacrifices unto God, realizing how reasonable such a service is, and exhibiting due unworldliness of character in all things. Let us, then, with Paul as guide, consider the elements of Christian individualism as here set before us.
I. OUR BODIES ARE TO BE LAID AS LIVING SACRIFICES ON GOD'S ALTAR. (Ver. 1.) If we have been called with a holy calling, if the risen Saviour has given us the needed helping band, then we are bound to realize our obligation to him in dedicating our bodies as "living sacrifices" unto him. The reason why we can dedicate them as living sacrifices is that he has offered the atoning sacrifice our pardon and acceptance require, and we can consequently dedicate ourselves living to his glory. Now, when we look into the order of the Jewish sacrifices, we find that the sin offering came first, then the burnt offering, and then the peace offering. The leading idea in each was atonement, consecration, and fellowship. The sin offering emphasized atonement, the burnt offering or holocaust emphasized consecration, and the peace offering emphasized fellowship. Now, the self-dedication to which the apostle here calls us corresponds in the ritual to the burnt offering; and just as in this particular sacrifice the entire carcase was consumed in the sacred fire, so the idea is that our whole personality, body, soul, and spirit, is to be consecrated by the fire of the Holy Spirit to the service of our Lord and Master. The idea, in short, is that our bodies should be organs of the Holy Ghost. What a holy and blessed thought is thus associated with the body of the believer! It dare not be dedicated to any profane use. It is a holy thing, and is to be laid on God's altar and thus dedicated in its entirety to him. Miss Havergal's "Hymn of Consecration" will occur to every one, with the dedication of" hands," and "feet," and "voice," and "lips" and, in a word, "all' we are, to the glory of our Lord. Dean Goulburn, in his suggestive work on the ' Study of the Holy Scriptures,' gives a sketch upon this passage, from which the following will be found useful: "Consider the members of the body which must thus be yielded:
(1) The eyes. The lust of the eye must be mortified, and the eye employed in reading God's Word, or surveying his works.
(2) The ears. We must be 'swift to hear' the voice of instruction, and must turn away the ear from temptation and from flattery (see Acts 12:22, 23).
(3) The hands. 'Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth' (Ephesians 4:28).
(4) The feet. 'I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me' (Matthew 25:36).
(5) The mouth. 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers' (Ephesians 4:29). 'Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6)."
II. WE ARE TO REALIZE THAT THIS ENTIRE DEDICATION IS ONLY OUR REASONABLE SERVICE. (Ver. 1.) It seems at first a large demand. But it becomes reasonable the moment we consider our obligation. If Jesus has dedicated his body in life and in death to our interests and salvation, the dedication of our living bodies in return to him is surely a reasonable service. M. de Rougemont has brought out the reasonable character of this self-dedication in his own pointed fashion. Writing in his 'La Vie Humaine avec et sans la Foi' upon this passage, he says, "The word body signifies here the complete man; the victim, it is ourselves, and the sacrifice, to which St. Paul exhorts us, is that of our soul, of our will, of our thought, of our heart, without which that of our flesh would be impossible. But on hearing this term 'sacrifice,' the vicious takes to flight, the honest man is up in arms (resiste), the semi-Christian frets. All say it is impossible, or at least it is too difficult. And St. Paul contends that it is reasonable! Yes, reasonable, and irrational, senseless, absurd, to refuse God such a worship (culte). In fact, to refuse it to him is to refuse him all worship; it is to condemn ourselves to a life of worldliness and irreligion. Is it a true religion which consists in giving to prayer a half-hour a day, to the Divine service two or three hours on Sunday, when, even during those hours, one says to God, 'I give thee, indeed, a part of my time; but my heart? - no, I keep that for myself'? If at least, by guarding thus for ourselves our heart, we were happy! Let us leave aside here the lusts and passions which enslave and shame us. Let us speak only of our plans of happiness, of our favourite occupations, of our legitimate affections. We cannot bring ourselves to lay them on the altar, to present them to God, and minus these to sacrifice ourselves to him. But are we then our masters? do we dispose events according to our will? do we hold in our hands the threads of our life and of the life of our relatives (la vie des notres)? Can we do anything against God? If he wishes to take away from us the objects of our affections, to snatch us away from our labour or our pleasures, to over- turn all our projects, who are we to struggle against him? Is it not more reasonable to offer ourselves altogether unto him, like docile and trustful lambs, and to say to him, 'Here we are; make us what thou pleasest: thou canst take no more from us, since we have given all to thee; we are besides without fear, because we know by Jesus Christ how great are thy mercies? Can such living and holy victims be anything but acceptable to God? and is not this worship the only reasonable one, as it is also the only loyal, free, and joyous one?" (pp. 122-124).
III. Such A SELF-DEDICATION IMPLIES NONCONFORMITY TO THE WORLD AND TRANSFIGURATION INTO THE DIVINE WILL. (Ver. 2.) The conduct of others is not to be our standard, but the will of God. Worldliness consists essentially in this - making the fashion our standard of life. Now, in this respect we are not to conform to the worldly and prevailing ideas. Saurin has a fine sermon on this verse, in which he exhorts his hearers not to conform to the multitude in faith, or in worship, or in morals, or in our exodus at death. And then, if we take the Divine will as our proper standard, we shall find ourselves "transfigured" (μεταμορφοῦσθε) by the renewing of our minds, so that we shall "test" (δοκιμάζειν) and so come to understand what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (cf. Shedd, in loc.). Now, it is in this way, by surrendering ourselves to the Divine idea concerning us, that we shall realize that individuality and influence among men which is so desirable. In fact, we become most original, in the best sense of that term, when we do not try to be original, but simply to be and do what is God's will concerning us. It was the same with our blessed Master. He professed to do nothing of himself, but simply to mediate to men what the Father gave him (John 5:19); and yet he has been out of sight the most original personality which has ever appeared in this world. So will it be with us in our little spheres if we will only allow God to transfigure us.
IV. SUCH ABANDONMENT TO THE DIVINE WILL SECURES DUE SOBRIETY IN OUR ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES. (Ver. 3.) The gospel delivers us from egotism; we dare not think highly of ourselves; we can only think of how we are realizing God's will concerning us. And so, as merely mediating God's wiser will, we think soberly and humbly of ourselves. The apostle thus commends to the Romans and to all men what Leighton calls that "gracing grace of humility, the ornament and safety of all other graces, and what is so peculiarly Christian." Our individualism will thus be found delivered from the egotism and self-esteem of worldly men, and projected along the path of meekness and lowliness of heart which the Master trod before us. Such sober self-knowledge makes the Christian life a wondrous power. Contrasting with the self-assertion and self-esteem which are so valuable in the world's regard, the humility of the Christian becomes a power and influence radically different in kind from, but far more fruitful in results than, the noisy efforts of the world. May the Master help us all to follow in his meek and lowly steps! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.