Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 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 Original Intent

1) What is Paul’s “Therefore” in verse 1 “there for?”

Prior to his exhortation to Roman believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God in Romans 12:1-2, Paul delivered several doctrinal statements, emphasizing the counterculture call of Christ.

Among other things, he highlighted the depravity of sin in light of a holy God (Romans 1:18-32), righteousness and justification by faith (Romans 3:5-4:5), Israel’s rejection and the shortcomings of religiosity (Romans 10:1-13), God’s inclusion of Gentiles in His plan of salvation (Romans 11:11-25), the problem of sin (Romans 7:14-25), the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17), and the gospel message (Romans 8:31-39).

Paul gave many examples of God’s mercy and compassion along with explicit claims of God’s justice. His exhortation to the Romans by using the word “therefore” may be tied to the entirety of the letter leading up to chapter 12. However, it is also reasonable to conclude that Paul used “therefore” to explicitly reference the passages immediately preceding his exhortation.

The Roman church was likely mostly comprised of Gentiles. (Romans 1:7, Romans 1:16) Having shined a spotlight on the sin and failures of the Gentiles and the Jewish people, Paul drew them all together as one body of believers, saved by grace. As Paul encouraged them to present themselves to God in worship, he warned against giving in to the siren call of culture. Instead, he pointed them to sanctification, to learn what is most pleasing to God, and to do it. 

The Everyday Application

1) What is Paul’s “Therefore” in verse 1 “there for?”

When I consider what we know to be true of Roman culture and the historical happenings of Paul’s period, it is impossible to ignore the parallels in our current age. No matter the culture or age, sinful people do sinful things.

Throughout history, humanity has not failed to choose sin and self even once. The only one who could ever refuse all temptation to sin is Christ Jesus. Fully God, yet fully man, He alone lived a sinless life. He withstood every temptation known to man, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22-25)

Paul’s exhortation to the Romans holds for me (for us) today. The truth of the completed work of the gospel means all who repent of their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation are transformed! This reality of the new life we have been given in Christ Jesus means we are no longer slaves to sin. Instead, we are joyful servants of Christ!

Praise be to God! Our only proper response to the One Who saved us is to worship Him with all our hearts and lives as He fulfills our salvation and sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Philippians 1:6, Romans 6:6-14)

The Original Intent

2) What did Paul mean by “present your bodies as a living sacrifice”? (verse 1)

Although the Roman Jews were expelled from Rome, including Christian Jews, the original leaders of house churches in Rome were likely Jews who had converted to Christianity. They were accustomed to the practices of the Jewish religion and versed in the Holy Scriptures or Old Testament. Prior to their expulsion, they passed on their teachings to those within their respective house churches.

These practices included God’s original commandments as given to Moses and the additional rules and laws the Jewish religious leaders added. (Matthew 23:1-7) The concept of sacrifice would have been familiar, but the sacrifice Paul referenced was in sharp juxtaposition to their lived-out experience.

Jewish law required sacrifice by death of a living creature as covering for human sin. The animal, details, and process might vary, depending on the sin, but the sacrifice was always external and always ended in the death of the sacrificed animal. (Leviticus 4:13-21, Leviticus 4:22-26, Leviticus 4:27-35) The idea that a sacrifice could be made without a creature’s immediate death would have been a foreign concept but one that brought joy.

The Gentile believers in Rome were accustomed to various pagan worship practices, including worship of political rulers, false gods, and idols. The concept of a living sacrifice would have been foreign to them, too; sacrifice always meant death.

Regardless of their background, Paul called up the whole church in Rome, urging them to turn from sin and remain unhindered by the culture around them. They were called to be dead to sin, but alive to Christ. (Romans 6:11) Paul did not urge them to be a literal sacrifice but instead to surrender all their lives, including their bodies, to God as an act of worship. 

The Everyday Application

2) What did Paul mean by “present your bodies as a living sacrifice”? (verse 1)

Paul’s exhortation was for the church in Rome. Paul’s exhortation is for me. For us today. Just as it was in the early Roman church, presenting our whole lives to God as a living sacrifice is counter-culture today, too.

Culture dictates that we protect our “truest selves” and “follow our hearts.” In our post-modernist world, the assertion to do what makes us “happy” reigns. There is no absolute truth. Truth is relative. As long as you are not hurting anyone else, you’re golden. The idea that we must deny ourselves and present all of our lives to God for His glory goes directly against our sinful nature and the deception of this age.

Yet, Christ calls us to this daily surrender, this living sacrifice. He calls us to minute-by-minute life in Him alone.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25) We are utterly incapable of this in our strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit at work, we can choose to present our inner thoughts, lives, emotions, and bodies to the Lord for His work and glory. (Romans 8:14-16)

Just as the sacrifices of the old covenant preserved life and were made effective through the shed blood, this new covenant, made possible by the shed blood of our sinless Savior Jesus Christ, infuses our sacrifice of self with life! When we are in Christ, we are made alive in Him! 

The Original Intent

3) What does “the renewing of your mind” mean? (verse 2)

Paul’s caution to the Roman believers not to conform to “this age” may seem somewhat ambiguous at first blush. However, his meaning was clear to his audience; he was counseling those who followed Christ in Rome to keep themselves from adopting the customs and culture around them that did not honor God.

Instead, Paul directed the believers to be transformed by renewing their minds. The believers in Rome would have understood Paul’s exhortation to mean they should be changed not by what other people were doing in their culture or society or by the threat of harm but instead by God’s truth and righteousness.

The customs and culture of Rome were strong, and as history shows us, the expansion of the Roman empire was relentless. As the remaining Christians in Rome had seen with the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians, Rome would have its way, and it would remove those it deemed a threat. To refuse to go along with the way of Rome could result in bodily harm, personal loss, or even death.

Knowing this, Paul encouraged the church in Rome to remain steadfast in Christ, conforming only to God’s truth and ways. Paul said that as they spent time learning about God and the Holy Spirit worked in their lives to bring about conviction, repentance, and alignment with God, they would be changed to conform with God’s truth. 

The Everyday Application

3) What does “the renewing of your mind” mean? (verse 2)

I watched a TED talk recently about memory training. The speaker shared many engaging anecdotes and historical references to convey the importance of training one’s memory. Among other things, he shared how our modern culture works in opposition to strengthening our memories. He asserted that distraction is at an all-time high, and the ease with which we can set reminders and alerts to ensure we don’t forget an important date or task is costing us the discipline required to cultivate a strong memory.

His words reminded me of Paul’s words to the Romans, and I thought about how God renews our minds. He has given us His holy Word, the Bible, to learn about who He is, what He has done, what He is like, and what He will do. God has given us salvation in Christ Jesus if we have repented from our sins and put our trust in the saving work of Christ’s blood shed on the cross and triumphant resurrection. He has given true believers the ever-present gift of the Holy Spirit, working in and through us to sanctify, convict, grow, and become more like Christ. The work is all God’s, and we can take no credit for it. Nevertheless, as He extends us the invitation to be transformed by renewing our minds, we can respond!

We can participate in this renewal by turning from our sins, denying ourselves in favor of our Savior and abiding in Him. Through prayer. Through praise and worship of God. Through studying and meditating on His word. Through inviting Him to convict us wherever we need correction or transformation.

All of this requires a continual, living sacrifice of self and our ideas and a choice to embrace what God shows us is good, righteous, and holy. As we embrace this lifestyle of disciplining our minds and selves, the Holy Spirit can be trusted to finish the good work God has begun!

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