“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.” (Romans 12:1, ESV)
When we think of worship, the first thing that comes to our minds is sitting in an assembly area with a group of fellow believers and singing spiritual songs. And yes, this is an aspect of worship. Yet, worship is not limited to this alone. Our worship of God is to cover the totality of our lives. One of the courses I took at seminary used a book, “Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation,” by A.P. Gibbs. The title of the book explains everything. Worship is our principle and highest work.
The New Testament translates many Greek verbs as worship. The most frequent word, proskuneo, means to do reverence. Others include, sebomai to revere, sebazomai to honor, eusebeo to act piously. The word Paul used here is latreuo, to render religious service. This word, latreuo, gives us a picture of the worship service of the Old Testament priests in presenting sacrifices on the altar. This picture helps understand what it means to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice,” which is our “spiritual worship.”
What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Peter stated that we are a holy priesthood and are to follow the pattern of the priesthood in offering “spiritual sacrifices” to God (1 Pet 2:5).The priests would slay an animal and present it on the altar. These animals were dead. In some way, we as “a living sacrifice,” are to be dead while still alive. First, we are to put to death the flesh’s control of our bodies and yield to the Spirit’s control.
Paul put it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, ESV) Paul indicates that in living by faith, Christ is in control.
Second, a living sacrifice implies something that is continual. The animals that were sacrificed in the Old Testament died. They no longer lived and could not be sacrificed again. A living sacrifice is significantly different. It is not a one-time deal. To offer our bodies as a living sacrifice means that our bodies are to be continually offered unto God. Every day, every moment, every word, every action, and every thought are to be considered in this offering to God.
Paul goes on to give us two key aspects of this living sacrifice to clarify things. First, it is to be holy. You will remember that the animals sacrificed to God were to be without spot or blemish. The picture here is that we as living sacrifices are to forsake that which is unholy. We are to avoid and resist sin. This also implies confession and repentance on those occasions when we do sin (1 John 1:9). Second, we must present ourselves acceptable to God. Acceptable, euarestos, means well-pleasing. This implies a walk of faith for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6).
Paul appeals to us that in view of God’s mercies, we should present ourselves completely and continually to God as a living sacrifice. Think on this and what it means for you.