Every good sermon will have a theological point and an action point or application. God’s people are still people and it is helpful for us to be instructed on how to apply instructions to our lives. This is the structure of Paul’s letter to the Roman saints. Having taught the theology of salvation, the apostle now turns to the application. It is a grand level application of the principle of indicatives and imperatives: having covered the theology, Paul proceeds on the reasonable assumption that his readers are Christians. Since this is true of them, they can comprehend and live in accordance with the instructions that follow.
Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
The first two words gave me the indication that I mentioned – Paul is speaking to people he considers to be brothers and sisters in Christ and he wants them to bear in mind what’s been covered as he begins the application. Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, Not content to rest on the identification of his readers as brothers, Paul pleads with them according to their standing in Christ – by the mercies of God! This reinforces their identity and the foundation for next 4 chapters. As Lamentations 3:22 & 23 reminds us, God’s mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness in providing us needed mercy is great, overly abundant! While we ought to be working diligently to be pleasing to our God in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we need His guidance and provision to do so. Those who are not in Christ have the general provision granted in Noah’s covenant (seedtime and harvest, food and shelter) but they cannot be pleasing to Him. They do not have these mercies that are shed upon the souls of the redeemed.
Having established their identity, Paul tells them the over-arching goal of whatever time each one of them has left: present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. We all know that animals that were sacrificed were killed for that purpose. This picture ought to provoke us to wonder about how serious we are in living deliberately for the glory of God in our daily lives. The animal being sacrificed has no say-so in how his life will go; it is not happenstance that Paul used this word here. He says elsewhere that we have been bought at a price and are longer our own. When we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, we will live more in line with Paul’s teaching here. And doing so will be pleasing to our God and Judge. The apostle says living this way is our spiritual or reasonable service. There are some who think living an obedient life is easy (they are not doing so, mind you); other say it is too difficult (they are imagining it in their own strength). And some think they are to obey the law spelled out in the Mosaic Covenant – surely those laws reveal what pleases God! Do you recall from Matt’s sermons from Galatians, this message: Galatians 3:3 (HCSB) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? And in chapter 7 of this letter, Paul is speaking to those under the law, explaining how the law does not bind them since they have died to it by becoming alive to Christ.