From the Word
1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1–2, RSV
Paul is preaching to those Christians already godly by faith, who are not to be restrained by commandment, but to be admonished. The object is to secure voluntary renunciation of their sinful nature. A preacher of grace persuades and incites by calling attention to the goodness and mercy of God. The latter does not desire works prompted by an unwilling spirit, nor service that is not the expression of a cheerful heart. He desires that a joyous and willing spirit shall incite to his service.
Paul makes use of three words, “living,” “holy,” “acceptable,” to teach that the sacrifices of the Old Testament are repealed. They consisted of bullocks, sheep and goats. The life of these was not spared. They were slain, burned and consumed. But the New Testament sacrifice is a wonderful offering. Though slain, it still lives.
The word “living” has reference to spiritual and not to temporal life. He who keeps his body in subjection and mortifies its lusts does not live to the world; he does not lead the life of the world. The Christian is bodily in the world, but he does not live after the flesh. Such a life is, before God, eternal and a true, living sacrifice. None of the Old Testament sacrifices were “holy,” except in an external and temporal sense, but the living sacrifice is holy before God, is designed for the service of God and employed in his honor. They who render this living, holy sacrifice are happy and assured of their acceptance with God.
This our reasonable service is rightly called a spiritual service of the heart, performed in the faith and knowledge of God. Paul rejects all service not performed in faith as entirely unreasonable, even if it has the appearance of spiritual life and of great holiness.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 17–18.
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