Summary: Paul, Pt. 3
THE ALTAR OF SACIFICE (ROMANS 12:1-2)
Pete and Larry had not seen each other in many years. Now they had a long talk trying to fill in the gap of those years by telling about their lives. Finally Pete invited Larry to visit him in his new apartment. “I got a wife and three kids and I’d love to have you visit us.”
“Great. Where do you live?”
“Here’s the address. And there’s plenty of parking behind the apartment. Park and come around to the front door, kick it open with your foot, go to the elevator and press the button with your left elbow, then enter! When you reach the sixth floor, go down the hall until you see my name on the door. Then press the doorbell with your right elbow and I’ll let you in.”
“Good. But tell me...what is all this business of kicking the front door open, then pressing elevator buttons with my right, then my left elbow?”
“Surely, you’re not coming empty-handed.”
Many believers return leftovers or nothing to the Lord and understand little about sacrifices and commitment. Paul offers some guidance to the Gentile believers in Rome about how to live a full life and not a futile life for the Lord, to be more like the Lord and less like the world. Romans 12 is one of the most popular texts in the Bible. I have heard pastors preaching this text more than most Pauline texts in the Bible.
Does a believer have an obligation to serve God? What motivates him to service? Why are some obstacles preventing and delaying him from completing his service?
Surrender Your All
12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. (Rom 12:1)
The Chinese are very particular about eating fresh seafood. They craved for fish right out of the tank. Many years ago when I visited my cousin in Chicago, we dined at a popular Chinese restaurant in the suburbs. We were eager for fresh fish but were not sure what to expect in Chicago, so I asked the waiter in Cantonese: “Is your fish ‘swimming fish’?” He paused, looked at us smugly and answered with a straight face, “It swam before.”
The FDA has tips on how to choose fresh fish:
Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonia-like.
A fish’s eyes should be clear and bulge a little.
Whole fish and filets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. Dull flesh could mean the fish is old.
The flesh should spring back when pressed.
Fish fillets should display no darkening or drying around the edges. They should have no green or yellowish discoloration, and should not appear dry or mushy in any areas.
Is your offering to the Lord fresh or frozen?
Paul encourages the Romans to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. Jewish sacrifices are totally opposite of Chinese and pagan sacrifices, where worshippers eat the sacrifices (1 Cor 10:18). Jewish sacrifice is wholly consumed, but not for consumption. The Israelites were not given detail instructions until the first chapter of Leviticus. Burnt offerings must be a male animal without defect. The presenter lays his hand on the head of the offering before its slaughter, and then the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar. The sons of Aaron shall then put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire, put the burnt offering that is skinned and cut into pieces, including the head and the fat, on the burning wood that is on the altar. The inner parts and the legs must be washed with water before the priest burns all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Lev 1:1-9)
In the same way, the believer’s body is totally given to the Lord as a living sacrifice. The conditions for acceptance are the same. It must be without defect – not damaged goods; it must be alive – not sick, diseased or dying animals, animals on its last legs. Nothing is saved or salvaged. The best parts are given or burnt to the Lord. No head for porridge, no kidney for soup, no inner parts and legs for barbeque.
Matthew Henry’s insight is amazing:
“Your bodies - your whole selves; so expressed because under the law the bodies of beasts were offered in sacrifice, 1 Cor 6:20. Our bodies and spirits are intended. The offering was sacrificed by the priest, but presented by the offerer, who transferred to God all his right, title, and interest in it, by laying his hand on the head of it. Presenting them denotes a voluntary act…It must be a free-will offering. Your bodies; not your beasts…The presenting of the body to God implies not only the avoiding of the sins that are committed with or against the body, but the using of the body as a servant of the soul in the service of God. It is to glorify God with our bodies…Present them a living sacrifice; not killed, as the sacrifices under the law. A Christian makes his body a sacrifice to God, though he does not give it to be burned. A body sincerely devoted to God is a living sacrifice.”