In Romans 12 Paul turns his attention to the practical aspects of all that he has just written concerning the condemnation of man (Romans 1:18-3:20), Justification (Romans 4-5), Sanctification (Romans 6-7), the preservation of believers (Romans 8) and the role of the nation Israel in God’s plan (Romans 9-11). It is typical for Paul to present a theological treatise, and then follow it with the practical application of that theology. But in reality, the two can never be separated.
Romans 12: 1 says,
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Paul urges the Roman believers to present their bodies to service for God. Previously, in chapter 6, as he discussed sanctification he told them to “know” certain things (Romans 6:3, 6, 9), “reckon” or internalize those things (Romans 6:11), and to “present” themselves to God (Romans 6:13). He didn’t elaborate on how one is to “present himself to God as one alive from the dead”. But it appears that he returns to that idea in the text above. It is an act of consecration.
He urges (or commands) the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. The body is the instrument of the soul, and God receives service as it is manifested through the body: the hands, the feet, the mouth, etc… So, Paul speaks of the body, and that includes the soul or spirit. It describes the whole man.
That body is to be presented as a living sacrifice, as opposed to the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were all dead. Paul just spent a considerable amount of time explaining to them that they are dead to sin, but alive to Christ (See chapter 6). So, this sacrifice is to be as one who is alive to Christ! Additionally, is not to be thought of as we usually think of a sacrifice: giving up something we would rather not give up. This sacrifice is one of joy and eagerness. Not only are we giving up something, but we are giving it up to God joyfully.
He also describes this sacrifice as holy, acceptable, and reasonable. It is holy in that this sacrifice is not something that is done is ones own merit. We are sinners and we come now in Christ’s merit, by his blood, and that makes the sacrifice a holy one. It is acceptable because the merit of Christ is pleasing to God. It is attractive and excites the pleasures of a holy and loving God. It is reasonable because it is the response of a person who recognizes that he was bought with a price, and belongs to the One who bought him. It is the only logical response.
He continues in Romans 12:2,
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Being conformed to this world has to do with an outward appearance. It is an outward expression that does not reflect what is within. It has the idea of masquerading, or pretending. Paul’s instruction is that we should not parade around pretending to be, or living like a worldly person. It is not representative of what we are in our inner being as a regenerated child of God. Rather, we are to be transformed. This word also means an outward conformity, but it reaches deeper. It means to be outwardly conformed to reflect an inner reality. And this transformation is brought to fruition by the work of the Holy Spirit as He renews our minds through the Word.
Finally, we come to the result of a consecrated life. The end result is “that you may prove what the will of God is“. That means that when our mind is transformed, our ability to think, reason and understand is able to rightly assess things. Therefore, we are able to reject what does not conform to God’s will. We can accept only those things that conform to the will of God, and our life will prove, or demonstrate, what the will of God is when we do the things that are good, acceptable and perfect.
The will of God is described here as good, acceptable and perfect. It is good because it is God’s. God’s will is always good. It may not be easy at times, but it is always good. It is acceptable, again because it is pleasing to Him. It is attractive to Him and excites the pleasure of a holy and loving God. It is the perfect will of God because it is complete. It is everything it should be, without flaw or error.
A consecrated life is one that is lived in joyful, eager sacrifice to God, not pretending to be like the worldly person, but living in such a way that the reality of an inward change is evident. When we do this, we demonstrate that God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect.