I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…
This verse makes a transition from the first to the second half of this letter. All before it is what we call doctrinal, the most of what comes after it is practical. There are many men that say, "Give us the morality of the New Testament; never mind about the theology." But you cannot get the morality without the theology, unless you like to have rootless flowers and lamps without oil. On the other hand, many forget that the end of doctrine is life, and that therefore the most orthodox orthodoxy, divorced from practice, is like the dried flowers which botanists put between sheets of blotting-paper — the skeletons of dead beauty. Let us, then, always remember this little word "therefore," that binds together indissolubly Christian truth and Christian duty. Note —
I. THE SUM OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
1. Sacrifice means giving up everything to God. That is the true sacrifice, when I think as in His sight, and will, and love, and act as in obedience to Him. And this sacrifice will become visible in the sacrifice of the body, when in all common actions we have a supreme and distinct reference to His will, and do, or refuse to do, because of the fear and for the sake of the Lord. The body has wants and appetites; you have to see to it that these are supplied with a distinct reference to, and remembrance of, Him, and so made acts of religious worship. The excess which dulls the spirit and makes it all unapt to serve Him, the absorbing care about outward things which checks all the nobility of a man's life, are the forms in which the body comes in the way of the soul, and the regulation and suppression of these are the simplest parts of the offering. There is no need in this generation to preach against asceticism. Better John the Baptist's garment of camel's hair and his meat — locusts and wild honey, if, like John the Baptist, I shall see the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descending on the Son of Man, than this full-fed sensualism which is the curse and the crime of this generation.
2. This offering makes a man live more nobly and more truly than anything else. Not mutilation but consecration is the true sacrifice. We are not called upon to crush our desires, tastes, appetites, or to refrain from actions; only they are to be controlled and done in obedience to God.
(1) Now and then circumstances may come in which it is Christian duty to put your hand down there on the block and take an axe in the other and chop it off. But that is second-best; and if the man had always consecrated his faculty to God, he would never have had need to cut it off. To harness and tame it, to yoke it to the cart, and make it work, not to shoot the wild beast, is the right thing to do.
(2) Thus to consecrate one's self is the way to secure a higher and a nobler life. Just as when you take a flower out of the woods and put it into a greenhouse and cultivate it, you will get a broader leaf and a finer flower than when it was wild, so the disciplined, consecrated man is the man whose life is the richest every way. If you want to go all to rack and ruin live according to your own fancy and taste.
3. This sacrifice is "your reasonable service." The antithesis is with the material sacrifices, and the Revised Version gives the true meaning in its marginal rendering "spiritual." It is a service or worship rendered by the inner man, transacted by the mind or reason, and thus, as indicating the part of our nature which performs it, is reasonable. Now there is no need to depreciate outward forms of oral worship. But still we have all need to be reminded that devout daily living is true worship. Where the common food is eaten with thankfulness and in the consciousness of His presence, it is holy as the Lord's Supper. The same authority that said of the one," This do in remembrance of Me," said by His apostle of the other, "Whether ye eat or drink, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." "To work is to pray," if done from a right motive. The bells on the horses may bear the same inscription as blazed on the high priest's mitre, "Holiness to the Lord," and the shop-girl behind the counter may be as truly offering sacrifice to God as the priest by the altar. The mere formal worship is abomination without this. There are people that think they have done a meritorious thing in coming here to this service, and whose only notion of worship is a weary sitting in this place for an hour and a half. Do you think that is of any use? The sacrifice of praise is right, "but to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
II. THE GREAT MOTIVE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. By "the mercies of God," the apostle means the great scheme of mercy set forth in the previous chapters. The diffused and wide-shining mercies, which stream from the Father's heart, are all, as it were, focussed as through a burning-glass into one strong beam, which can kindle the greenest wood and melt the thick-ribbed ice.
1. Only on the footing of Christ's sacrifice can we offer ours. He has offered the one sacrifice of His death in order that we may offer the sacrifice of our life. He has offered the dying sacrifice which is propitiation, in order that, on the footing of that, we may offer the eucharistic sacrifice of grateful surrender of ourselves to Him.
2. These mercies are also the only motive power that will be strong enough to lead to this consecration of ourselves to Him. The fierce wants, passions, and appetites that rage and rule in men will be subdued by nothing short of the mighty motive drawn from the great love of God revealed in the dying love of Jesus. There is one magnet strong enough to draw reluctant hearts and reluctant limbs, and that is Jesus lifted up on the Cross. Other restraints from propriety, prudence, or even principle will reach their breaking point at a much lower strain than the silken bonds of Christ's love.
III. THE GENTLE ENFORCEMENT OF THIS GREAT MOTIVE FOR CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Law commands, the gospel entreats! "Christ's yoke is easy," not because His precepts let down the ideal of morality, but because the motive is love, and the manner of command gentle and beseeching. Hence its power; for hearts, like flowers, which could not be burst open by the crow-bar of law, may be wooed open by the sunshine of love. Surely as the morning sunrise drew a note from the stony lips of the statue, which storm and thunder could not awaken, His pleading voice will bring an answer that could not have been won by any commandments, however rigid, or by any threatenings, however severe.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
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.