Summary: Presenting our bodies as a sacrifice is part of worship to which we are called. The message is an exploration of the apostolic design for worship pleasing to God.
“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 spiritual worship. Do 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.”
The message this day is planned as the first in a series dealing with the topic of worship. In particular, I wish to begin exploring what worship is and what happens when we worship. In this way, I am endeavouring to ensure that we have a basis for our conduct as a congregation and as individuals during times of worship. These studies will require several weeks as we review the Word of God and as we think of what is required for worship to be pleasing to the Lord. Whatever else may be true concerning worship, I trust that we will discover that central to worship is meeting the Risen Saviour.
When the Apostle wrote the words of our text, he provided instruction for worship. Seldom do we think of this as a text instructing Christians in the elements of worship; we read these words and imagine that Paul is perhaps speaking of how we conduct our daily lives. However, reviewing the words of the text as they occur in that original language gives a different understanding from what may be commonly accepted among the saints. Permit me to read that opening sentence, employing a freer translation of the Apostle’s words. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your logical liturgy—(Greek, logikós latreía).” If the presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice is our logical liturgy, then it should be important for us to understand as precisely as possible what the Apostle is saying, adjusting our own worship to align with the biblical expectation.
In view is worship that we present to the Living God and to Christ Jesus the Son of God. Such worship is presented as logical, reasonable, thoughtful and deliberate. Biblical worship is not wild ecstasy; but rather it is defined by reason, by thoughtful service to God, by rational acts performed deliberately. The word that is translated “spiritual” in the text occurs but one other time in the New Testament, when Peter urges Christians, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual (logical) milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” [1 PETER 2:2].
The word translated “worship” in our text occurs but five times in the New Testament. Jesus warned of a time when religious people would put the disciples out of the synagogues, and such people would kill even disciples, arguing that they were “offering service [latreía] to God” [JOHN 16:2]. The author of the Letter to Hebrew Christians spoke of priests performing in the outer section of the Temple “their ritual duties [latreía]” [HEBREWS 9:6]. That author also reminded readers that “the first covenant had regulations for worship [latreía]” [HEBREWS 9:1]. In addition to using this word in our text, Paul had earlier written these words concerning the Jewish forebears of our Faith: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship [latreía]…” [ROMANS 9:4]. Therefore, what is in view when this word is employed is the concept of service offered to God. This service is qualified as reasonable, sensible or even logical.
I confess that for most of us who name the Name of Christ the Lord, worship is an event we plan—a performance that we endure in order to say that we have performed a duty. However, as the Apostle wrote the words of our text, I believe he was urging us as followers of the Risen Son of God to prepare for and to anticipate a dynamic, life-changing event—worship. Join me as we unpack the passage to learn the facts about spiritual worship.
WORSHIP IS CONTINUAL — For the child of God living in the presence of the Living God, worship is continual. Worship is ongoing for him who is known by the Lord and who walks in His presence. Worship is not so much planned as it is spontaneous. Paul urges believers “to present [their] bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God” [ROMANS 12:1 NET BIBLE]. In this instance, the participle and the two adjectives are taken as predicates in relation to “sacrifice.” This makes Paul’s admonition more emphatic still, which I believe to have been his intent in writing these words.
The presentation of the body is to be a one-time act for the child of God. This is not something that should need to be done repeatedly. Years ago, among many evangelical churches, and certainly among Baptists, the invitation frequently included a call to “recommit” one’s life to the Lord. Consequently, I witnessed multiple people coming to the altar asking for prayer as they “recommitted” their lives to Christ and to His service. I was disturbed by this phenomenon, as I did not see a single call in Scripture for recommitment. I did observe, however, multiple places calling for the lost to trust Christ the Lord—in effect, calling them to commit themselves to His reign.