Summary: An examination of how commitment is a proper response to Christ's work on our behalf.
With Heart and Mind
What would be the proper response to the discovery that God, the Creator against Whom the crown of his creation—humankind—had rebelled, the Holy One who had declared that all such rebels should endure eternal death, the Righteous Judge who had the perfect right to rain wrath down on the rebels, had provided the Way by which these same rebels could escape the death sentence, an escape that called for God himself to endure the punishment they deserved? And, what would be the proper response to the further discovery that these same rebels could participate in this escape by simply trusting God’s promise to treat them as if they had never rebelled?
Paul begins to answer these questions as he comes to the practical section of this letter to the Christians at Rome. He starts by reminding them of what he had said earlier, summed-up in the phrase “the mercies of God.”
We might expect him to call us to respond to those mercies with tears of joy, shouts of celebration, and songs of deepest emotion. Each of these is a proper response to the reality of the gospel. William Tyndale the early Reformer and Bible translator understood that the gospel, properly understood, involves a heart-response. Listen to his definition:
“Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy… [This gospel is] all of Christ the right David, how that he hath fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, overcome of the devil are without their own merits or deservings loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favor of God and set at one with him again. [Those who believe these] tidings [not only] laud, praise and thank God, [they] are glad, sing and dance for joy.”
Without denying that our hearts may express our response to the gospel, Paul calls us to involve our minds as well.
In light of these mercies, Paul calls on his readers to make “a decisive dedication” of their bodies. The dedication to which Paul refers does not happen automatically, it comes only after a moment of decision or, more likely, after repeated moments of decision. Each new challenge—be it an opportunity for service or a temptation to sin—calls for renewed commitment.
He specifically says they were to present their “bodies.” The word is more than a reference to our physical selves; here Paul probably used body to refer to the whole person. The Amplified Bible uses this meaning as it renders the verse, “presenting all your members and faculties.” Eugene Peterson in The Message offers a dynamic rendering of the idea. He says, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering.”