Sometimes, Romans 12 is called the Little Bible or the Christian’s Manuel because it covers a lot information on how we are to live our lives toward God and toward others. This beautiful chapter will cause us to examine how well we are doing as servants of God. Let us begin with verse 1:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Everything Paul has been talking about in the previous chapters about God’s mercy and His grace has built up to this one. The word ‘beseech’ means to beg or to plead, so Paul was begging or pleading for these Christians to commit themselves to God. The reason he gives for this is the mercy of God. God’s justice demands that our sins be punished, but because of His love for us and His great mercy, He withheld His punishment and has given us a chance to be redeemed as taught in:
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
God is the Father of mercies (2 Cor. 1:3). While we deserved death, He gave us His best, His only begotten Son. When we remind ourselves of what God has provided for us through His Son it should cause us to want love God enough to serve Him with our entire beings. His mercy has been granted to everyone according to:
Romans 11:32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
God’s mercy and His grace had made it possible for us to have the forgiveness of our sins and to avoid the wrath of God. It has also offered us the hope of eternal life in heaven instead of eternity in hell.
In order for us to embrace the mercies of God, so that we can go to heaven, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The word ‘present’ means to give something over to another. We are to give our bodies to the Lord and use them to serve Him. Notice, it is a ‘living sacrifice’, which means it is spiritual and not physical as it was under the Law of Moses.
Under the Law of Moses, the priest would kill the animals, but their deaths were only a temporary solution because more animals had to be killed. Thanks to Jesus, and His sacrifice on the cross, animal sacrifices were rendered obsolete. The writer of Hebrews explains it this way:
Hebrews 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, and He made a covenant for Jews and Gentiles. The first step in making ourselves a living sacrifice is to die in Christ. Paul explains how this is done in Romans 6:1-11.
Unlike the animals, that were physical killed and did not come back to life, when we submit ourselves to the will of God and obey His Word, then we sacrifice ourselves in a spiritual sense. As Paul points out (Rom. 6:1-11), when we are baptized in water, it is the point that we die with Christ and our sins are removed. When we are raised up out of the water, we are alive, and it is this beginning of lives as a saved child of God. We have become dead to sin, but alive to Christ. Hence, we are a living sacrifice.
Paul also tells that we are to be “holy, and acceptable to God.” As I said, obeying the gospel by being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins is just the beginning of presenting your body as a living sacrifice. Under the Law of Moses, an animal without a blemish was to be used as a sacrifice. In a similar way, we are to live our lives to best of our ability without blemish. As Paul Said:
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
So, being a living sacrifice is something that we continue to be as we give ourselves to God. It is like this story I read about some natives whose village was flooded. Those upstream heard of the disaster and decided to help. They drew a large circle in the dirt and everyone brought gifts and placed them in the circle. One man, having nothing to give, simply stepped into the circle and gave himself.
That is what we must be willing to do daily when we become a Christian because we must offer our whole bodies as living sacrifices. For example:
We must sacrifice our eyes so that the lust of our eyes is replaced with the study of God’s Word so that we can be guided into all truth and know how to use our eyes for pure things and know when to turn them away from evil things. As David said:
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
We are to sacrifice our ears so that they don’t focus on gossip or evil words. Instead, they must be trained to hear the Word of God because through hearing is how our faith grows:
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We are to sacrifice our bodies from getting involved in the works of the flesh:
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
As Paul proclaimed, if we don’t, we will miss out on heaven.
We are to replace the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
We must sacrifice our hands so that we replace doing evil things with them with doing good as we labor in the kingdom of God.
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We must sacrifice our feet from running toward sin and use them to run toward righteousness because we must run the race of Christianity in order to make it to heaven:
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
We must sacrifice our tongues from speaking cruel angry words:
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Instead we must train our tongues to speak with love:
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
We must sacrifice our love in that we no longer just love ourselves, family. or friends first because God must become our first love:
Matthew 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
While I didn’t cover every part of the body, the message is clear. You must be willing to give your entire self over to God because anything less is not enough. We belong to Him, we are His servants, and we show that by our words and our actions.
Paul also says that this is our reasonable service. The word ‘reasonable’ means rational, which means that our services we reader to God is to be done intelligently by following the Word of God. We are not to blindly follow some manmade rituals. Our services, which can include our worship to Him, must come from a heart that is trained by the Word of God.
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Paul is not offering us a suggestion; he is commanding us to not be conformed with this world. He is not talking about this earth but the people who live in it and their worldly ideas. Peter tells us to do the same:
1 Peter 1:14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
When we choose to obey the gospel and become a children of God, we undergo a change because we conform ourselves to Christ and His ways, which will cause us to become separated from worldly ways. As John teaches:
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
We can no longer love the world or be part of it and its sinful ways. We must completely shift our love toward God and His ways. Sadly, sometimes, Christians allow the world to get the best of them. When this happens, disaster follows especial when it creeps into the church. I always hate to hear about a congregation that has chosen to move away from the Scriptures to conform to what is popular in the world. As John pointed out, if we stay committed to the will of God by living our lives by His Word and never compromising it for the sake of the world, then we will abide forever.
The best place for us to start is by transforming our minds to the way of Christ. As Peter said:
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Our minds are one the first places that the devil will attack because our thoughts will determine our actions, which is why it is imperative that we learn to be spiritual. As Paul said:
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
If we ever hope to be pleasing to God, we must train our minds with the Word of God and keep our attention focused on the ways of righteousness:
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Once we gain control of our minds and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, then we will have the foundation we need to live for God with our entire beings. When we do this, Paul says that it will “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Once we have renewed our minds toward the way of Christ, we will have the proper attitude to see that the Word of God is true. We will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what God wants from us and what the benefits are from doing so. As we reflect on our Christian lives, it will prove to us, and it can show others, that when you give your entire being over to God, you will have the peace, happiness, and hope that God has promised.
Let me ask you some questions:
1. Are you presenting your body as a living sacrifice for God?
2. Are you willing to put God first in your life above your family and yourself?
3. Are you conforming to the world, or are you continually transforming yourself toward Christ and His ways?
I want you to think about these questions as you examine your own lives. If you have been listening to what we have learned in this chapter so far, you know that if you are not presenting your body as a living sacrifice and are not willing to put God first in your life or you are not transforming yourself toward Christ every day, then you are not living your life as you should because you have not learned to give all of yourself to God.
I hope, what you have learned so far will encourage you to look at your life and change your ways if you are failing to be a living sacrifice because it’s worth it. When we give all of ourselves to God, then we can be confident of our salvation, and we can rejoice in God’s mercy and His grace.
Let’s now turn our attention to verse 3.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Here we see a continuation from verse two, which tells we need to have our minds under control. Notice, his charge is to everyone. It is easy for us to lose sight of being humble, especially in America. When we get a new job or a new promotion at work or others begin to boast about our abilities, it can go to our heads and cause us to have an inflated view of ourselves, which leads to being prideful and arrogant.
As Christians, we must learn to be humble because without humility, we cannot receive the grace of God according to:
James 4:6 "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
Jesus is a great example of the kind of humility that we should have.
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus was equal with God because He is part of the Godhead. Though He was equal with God, He never assumed a role that made Him better than His Father. Instead, He approached everything He did with humility. He submitted Himself to the Father’s will and was obedient to the point of death.
In a similar manner, we must realize that we are equal with those that are around us. Not one of us is better than the other in the eyes of God. As Paul said:
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Like Jesus, we should be willing to respect those around us and keep our minds humble no matter how much people boast about us or no matter what great feats we might accomplish. If anyone deserved to have a haughty attitude it was Christ. If He could be humble knowing who He was and all that He could do, we have no reason for not being able to learn humility because who we are and what we can do does not even come close to who and what Jesus could do. Paul further instructs us about how humble we are to be in:
Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
This is what being humble is about. When we can get to the point where we remove the selfishness from our lives and can esteem others better than ourselves, then we are following the example that Christ left us. This passage is not teaching that others are better than us, but it describes what being humble will cause us to do just as Jesus was to the Father.
Remember, Paul said that we are not to think too highly of ourselves, so we can think of ourselves and even be proud of ourselves, but we are to do it soberly. The word ‘soberly’ means: “to be balanced, sane, in one's right mind." When we think of ourselves, we must do so wisely and accurately. Since the opposite of sane is insane, it tells us that inflating our self-worth over others is insane.
Earlier in, Romans 11, Paul also warned the Gentiles about being boastful about the salvation that had been given to them:
Romans 11:17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Since the Gentiles were being saved and added to the church, they had no right to start boasting about their salvation over the Jews who had rejected God up to this point because if they boasted about this, He could easily cut them off.
With this principle in mind, we must also not find ourselves boasting about the talents God has blessed us with. As Paul said, we are to think soberly “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Some Christians can do more than others, but every Christian has something he or she can contribute. Let us never use our abundance of talent to boast over those with less. Instead, we should be thankful for what God has given us and be thankful for what God has given others. Instead of looking down on people who cannot do what you can, encourage them, because many times those who start out with less talents can develop new talents if they will simply put the time and effort in to do so.
Paul expounds on this in the next few verses:
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Many times, Paul described the church as a body. How many bodies are there? There is just one. Each individual member makes up that one body. Every part that makes it up is equally important. Without all the members with their various functions in place, the body cannot function as it should. Paul talks more about this concept in:
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Again, we have the thought of equality within a diversity of talents that make up the body of Christ. One cannot function without the other. We are each taught to use whatever our talents are for the Lord, and we are to be unified in thought and deed.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
If we fail to work together for the unity of the faith and fail to use the talents that God has blessed us with, then we make the body of Christ weaker and we do a great disservice to God. We cannot be the kind of Christians that do not use our abilities God has blessed us with. As long as we are able, we should use our talents to glorify Him and help grow His kingdom.
Can you image the apostle Paul writing in one of his letters that he was tired of serving the Lord and that he felt that he had done enough so he was going to let Timothy and Titus take his place? I cannot imagine it because Paul said he was one of the hardest working apostles that there was (1 Cor. 15:10). There were certainly times when he longed to be with the Lord more than he did on this earth, but he knew his work would continue to benefit the church:
Philippians 1:23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
It wasn’t until Paul was in prison awaiting execution that he said:
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Let us never be the kind of Christians that gives up our fight of faith or stop using our talents for the Lord. Perseverance is part of offering up ourselves as a living sacrifice.
Let me ask you, are you doing your part? Are you using your talents for the Lord? I hope that you are because God deserves it.