Summary: This sermon examines what is our reasonable service and why our service is reasonable.
For the past few weeks we have been studying Romans 12:1-2. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begins applying the doctrine that he has been teaching for the previous 11 chapters. Now, it is not that he has made no application in the previous 11 chapters; he has. However, as he begins chapter 12 he is, in a sense, saying, “In light of all that I have taught, how should we then live?”
So, let’s carefully examine each phrase in Romans 12:1-2.
Let’s read Romans 12:1-2:
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
The Greek words of the last phrase of verse 1 of Romans 12 have been translated in different ways. For example:
• English Standard Version: “which is your spiritual worship.”
• New International Version: “this is your spiritual act of worship.”
• New American Standard Bible: “which is your spiritual service of worship.”
• King James Version: “which is your reasonable service.”
• New King James Version: “which is your reasonable service.”
Other Bible translations are similar in their varying interpretations, which seem to fall into roughly two ways to translate the phrase. The phrase is either, “your spiritual worship,” or, “your reasonable service.”
So, what is the correct way of interpreting the Greek phrase?
Without going into a discourse about the Greek words, let me say that it is quite possible that both ideas are embraced at the same time. However, the dominant idea is more likely, “your reasonable service,” for as commentator John Murray says, “reasonable or rational is a more literal rendering.”
So, it seems to me that the better way to understand the last phrase of Romans 12:1 is as follows: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
And so today I want to examine what is involved in “your reasonable service.” I would like do so by utilizing the following outline:
1. What Is Our Reasonable Service?
2. Why Is Our Service Reasonable?
I. What Is Our Reasonable Service?
First, what is our reasonable service? Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (12:1e; NKJV).
Let me review briefly what we have covered in Romans 12:1-2. First, I examined how these verses link to the previous eleven chapters of Romans. Second, I looked at the concept of a “living sacrifice,” and explained that in Christianity we live by dying to self, as strange as that may seem. Third, I examined the nature of a “living sacrifice,” and observed that: (1) it is to be living, (2) it involves giving the various parts of our bodies to God, (3) it must be holy, and (4) if it is these things, then it will be acceptable to God. And fourth, the reason we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice is because of “the mercies of God.”
Our problem, however, is that we do not want to give ourselves to God. We will give him things. It is relatively easy to give God money, though even here we are frequently far less than generous. We will even give God a certain amount of our time. We will volunteer for ministry—providing it does not interfere with “American Idol,” or any other personal commitments!
But we will not give ourselves.
Yet without giving ourselves to God these other “gifts” mean nothing to God.
You will begin to understand the Christian life only when you understand that God does not want merely your money or your time. He wants you! You are the one for whom Jesus died. You are the one he loves. So when the Bible speaks of reasonable service, as it does here, it means that you are the one God wants.
Don’t substitute things for yourself.
A wonderful illustration of how we sometimes substitute things for ourselves is the story of Jacob’s return to his own country in Genesis 32. Jacob had cheated his brother Esau out of his father Isaac’s blessing about twenty years before, and he had been forced to run away because his brother Esau wanted to kill him.
Twenty years is a long time. Over those two decades Jacob had gradually forgotten his brother’s threats.
But when it came time to go home, which is what Genesis 32 describes, Jacob began to remember the past and grew increasingly concerned about what might happen.