A CALL TO SERVE
Chapter 12 marks a turning point in the epistle to the Romans. Up to this point, Paul has been teaching doctrines to be believed. Now he sets forth what are the practical applications of those doctrines. As we hear of God’s righteousness in regards to justification and sanctification and election and the gospel, we might be tempted to ask, “So what? How does this relate to me when I go to work tomorrow morning?” These final chapters are the “so what” of Paul’s epistle.
God’s righteousness seen in our salvation
righteousness in His dealings with
God’s righteousness manifested in our daily lives
What we are to believe about God
How we are to live before God
Life by Faith
Life of Service
There is a principle here. It is that no doctrine of the Bible is ever given apart from a corresponding application. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge only succeeds in puffing up pride. The teachings of the Bible were not given to inflate your pride, but rather to make you to live differently.
A CALL TO SACRIFICE
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1).
The introductory word “therefore” marks a turning point in this epistle. Paul is saying that on the basis of everything he has said up to this point, he is now giving a call to action. That call is for a sacrifice.
All Old Testament worship presumed a sacrifice. From the early pages of Genesis and throughout all of the Law and the Prophets, when men came to God, they came on the basis of a sacrifice. What we have seen throughout the book of Romans is that Jesus was that sacrifice on our behalf. And yet, a call for a sacrifice remains. It is not an animal sacrifice that is needed. It is a personal sacrifice.
1. An Urging Call.
Paul could have merely given a command. After all, he had apostolic authority. There are places in his epistles where he does just that. There are times when he says, “I order you to act in a certain way!” But this is not one of them.
Instead, he urges. The Greek word is parakalo — to “call alongside.” It is the language of beseeching. It is an appeal made to those who are “brethren.”
There is an important principle here. The Lord is concerned, not only with WHAT you do, but also with the ATTITUDE with which you do it. He is the God who judges the heart as well as the outward actions (1 Corinthians 4:5).
2. The Basis of the Call.
The “mercies of God” looks back to verse 32 of the previous chapter. We read there that “God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” This is a summary of everything that Paul has said in the book of Romans about God’s righteous workings.
The phrase translated “reasonable service” comes from a root word from which we obtain our word “logical.” This is your logical service. It is only logical to serve God when you consider that He has given you everything.
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When Paul gives his call to do something for God, it is a call based upon everything that God has first done for us in Romans 1-11. Those chapters provide the motivation for the instructions given in chapters 12-16. Here is the principle. Grace is both the means and the motivation by which we are called to serve.
3. An Immediate Call.
The action of presentation is given in the aorist tense. Commands can normally be given in one of two tenses in the Greek language.
A command in the present tense emphasizes the continuing nature of the action: “I want you to continually present yourselves.” The same command in the aorist tense emphasizes the point at which the action begins: “I want you to present yourself in a point in time.”
It is the latter that is used here. The action is similar to that which is used
when a person comes to the
Have you ever made a decision to follow Christ? To entrust yourself to Him and to give Him your life and your soul and your very being to do with as He sees fit? It is such an invitation that Paul gives here.
4. A Sacrificial Call.
The concept of a sacrifice was imbedded both in the Old Testament as well as in the secular culture of that day. Both the Jews and the Romans made regular sacrifices.
a. This is a Living Sacrifice.
Paul’s call is to give yourself as a “living and holy sacrifice.” This is in contrast to the sacrifices which were offered under the Levitical system. They were dead sacrifices. They involved the death of the animal being sacrificed. You are to offer yourself as one who is reckoned to have died with Christ but who is now alive with Him.
...present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13b).
It has been said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. There is a certain truth to this. And it mandates that we continue to make such a sacrifice to God on a regular basis.
b. This is a Holy Sacrifice.
The word “holy” describes that which has been set apart for a special purpose. In the Old Testament, God’s people were called to be different. They were to dress differently and they were to eat differently and they were to order their lives differently. Every part of their lives was to set them apart from the rest of the world.
God has set us apart and called us to be special. He has called us to be different. We are to be set apart from sin and we are to be set apart in our service to the Lord.
c. This is to be an Acceptable Sacrifice.
The Greek word translated “acceptable” is literally, “well-pleasing.” This is an essential ingredient of our sacrifice. It is never enough to give to God. Cain did that. Remember the story? Cain and Abel each brought sacrifices to the Lord. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God. But Cain’s offering was unacceptable.
There is a lesson here. Not all sacrifices are acceptable to God. He doesn’t want your church membership or your Sunday school attendance or your money or your ministry. He wants YOU. And anything less than a commitment of yourself is an unacceptable sacrifice.
A CALL TO TRANSFORMATION
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2).
how this verse begins. It begins with an
In verse 1 Paul calls for a presentation of your BODY. In verse 2 he calls for a renewing of your MIND. The first explains the second. How do you present your body to God as a living and holy sacrifice? It is an act of the mind and the heart. It is a decision. This is stated both negatively and positively.
Do not be conformed to this world
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
The commitment to become a living sacrifice is a commitment to change. Such a change is radical. It involves a change in how we think and in how we live.
1. A Warning Against Conformity.
The phrase “do not be conformed” is a present passive imperative and contains the idea, “STOP being conformed.” What does it mean to be conformed to the world? The phrase translated, “to this world” is literally, “to this AGE.” This is not a reference to planet earth, but rather to the world system. Being conformed to this age refers to having the same type of thinking as this age.
The world wants to conform you to its own standards — to make you a cog in its wheel. This is what peer pressure is all about. But God says, “I have made you different.” Will you dare to be different? Will the world make its mark upon you, or will you make your mark upon the world?
2. The Passivity of the Call.
Both verbs (“be not conformed” and “be transformed”) are in the passive voice. Although they are given as a command, they are both passive in nature. This tends to go against most people’s thinking. We tend to imagine ourselves as independent thinkers. We feel as though we are making our own decisions and thinking our own thoughts. But this is merely an illusion. We are ALWAYS influenced. The only question is under whose influence you are.
As you feed yourself at the world’s table, you will gradually come to adopt the world’s attitudes and values. This does not happen all at once. But it does happen.
As you are yielded to the leading of the Spirit and obedient to God’s commands and trusting in His Lordship and in His salvation, then you will gradually begin to be transformed. You cannot transform yourself. It is God who does the transforming.
Now this brings us to a question. If it is God who does the transforming, then why does Paul tell you to be transformed? It is because you are involved in the process. Your involvement is to yield to the Lord in faith. As you do, you will find that He is the fulfillment of His own command.
The use of the present tense indicates that this transforming is to be a continuing and progressive action. Spiritual maturity does not take place immediately.
3. The Goal of Transformation.
The phrase translated “be transformed” is the present passive imperative of metamorphoo. It is a compound word, made from the joining of two Greek words.
A morphe is a “form.”
It describes a complete change of form. It is from this word that we have our own English term, “Metamorphosis.” This same word is used in the Gospels. One day Jesus took several of His disciples with Him up into a mountain and while they were up there, a change came over Him. His very being was changed. He began to glow with an inner radiance. Both Matthew and Mark use this term to describe what happened — He was “transfigured.”
That is what happens to us. We are called to a transfiguration. But in our case, there is a difference. We are not called merely to witness the transfiguration of Jesus. We are called to BE transfigured ourselves.
4. The Nature of Transformation.
This transformation is accomplished by the renewing of your mind. It is from the inside out. It begins with how I THINK and it works its way out from there into what I DO and how I ACT.
This is why legalism doesn’t work. Legalism says, “Make lots and lots of rules and that will make you better and better.” But God always works from the inside out. That is why Paul has spent the last eleven chapters teaching you what you are to THINK about God.
5. The Result of Transformation.
The result of this transformation is that you “may prove what the will of God is.” We tend to think of the “will of God” as some secret formula that God has for my life. Does He wish me to become a deacon or a missionary or an usher in the church? Does he wish me to work in this profession or to move to another career? Is that the person who I am supposed to marry or is there another that God has planned?
But that is not what Paul is speaking of here. Paul is saying that when you are transformed by God you become a living example of how to live according to the way God calls a man or a woman to live.
Notice that the emphasis here is not so much on “discovering” or “knowing” God’s will as it is in DOING God’s will or demonstrating His will. Paul tells us that we will “prove” what the “will of God” is rather than “learn” what it is.
The word translated “approve” is the Greek infinitive of a word Paul has already used twice in the book of Romans.
He used it to speak of the Gentile pagans who did not SEE FIT to acknowledge God any longer (Romans 1:28).
He used it of the Jewish unbelievers who APPROVE the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law (Romans 2:18).
Here is the principle. What you DO always demonstrates what you ARE. The pagan demonstrates his paganism. The legalist demonstrates his legalism. And the Christian demonstrates Christ.
Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation? Have you experienced the mercies of God? Have you offered your life to Him, as a sacrifice, for His glory and praise? You are called to do so today.
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