Romans 12:1

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 29, 2009


Through the last chapter Paul has talked about the amazing thing that God was doing in the lives of people.

The Jews are God’s chosen people.

Even though they’ve been called by God, for the most part they have rejected Jesus as God’s Messiah.

Does that mean that God is finished with the Jews? Not at all.

When the Jews rejected Jesus, God turned the gospel toward the Gentiles.

God used the rejection of the Jews to bring mercy to the Gentiles.

But wait! There’s more! God still isn’t done.

God’s desire is that the Jews would become jealous of the Gentiles and that they too would want to have God working once again in them.

There will be a day when the “fullness of the Gentiles” has occurred, and God will once again turn His attention back on Israel and they will respond to God.

This is the picture of an incredibly merciful God.


:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,

therefore – When you see a “therefore”, you need to ask yourself what the word is there for. Paul is drawing a conclusion. He has something important to say as he draws a conclusion from all the things he’s said before.

beseechparakaleo – to call to one’s side, summon; to beg, entreat; to instruct, teach

Paul has something important to say. Pay attention.

merciesoiktirmos – compassion, pity, mercy; a heart of compassion

There are two different words in the New Testament translated “mercy”

eleeos” is the more common word, used to describe “acts of mercy”

It’s the word that has already been used in Romans 11
(Rom 11:30 NKJV) For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,

God has displayed His mercy by the act of withholding judgment from us, not giving us what we deserve.

oiktirmos” is the word used here and is more descriptive of the heart of compassion that results in the acts of mercy.

If you are a criminal, you beg the judge for eleeos.
If you are a hopeless person suffering under great difficulty, you can know that God already has “mercy”, He already has oiktirmos towards you.

The actions that Paul is going to encourage us to take are not based on whether or not we think we’ve experienced some act of mercy from God.

Our response of worship to God is to be based on the fact that He ALREADY has a heart of compassion and mercy towards us.

Paul is now going to start into the practical part of his letter to the Romans.

Up to now, he’s been kind of theological. But he’s now going to get practical.


Theology is practical

Theology isn’t supposed to be just a bunch of boring, difficult words that we don’t understand and that puts us to sleep.
Understanding correctly who God is, who we are, and what God requires of us ought to change the way we live.
And so Paul now draws a conclusion regarding God’s mercies towards us, that we ought to give ourselves to Him.


We serve Him because of His mercy.

It’s pretty interesting that Paul doesn’t say, “Because God is angry with you and is about to throw thunderbolts at you, you should therefore serve Him”.
But it’s because of His mercy.
I love that song we used to sing, “I will serve You, because I love You, You have given life to me”. That says pretty much the same thing. It’s not because we are totally afraid of God that we serve Him, but because we love Him so much.  And we love Him only because He has loved us.
David Livingstone wrote in his journal on one occasion concerning his “selfless” life: “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”

-- Giving and Living, by Samuel Young, Baker Book House, p.71

Even though we’ll be talking about “sacrifice” tonight, it’s really more of a privilege to serve the Lord.
I remember when I was young being afraid of giving myself completely to the Lord.
I was afraid that God would ask me to do something I didn’t want to do.  I was afraid He’d ask me to do something difficult like go to Africa.  Or worse, go to Russia.  Or be a pastor.
Our fear of total surrender only comes from our lack of understanding the mercy and love of God.

(Rom 8:32 NKJV)  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

If God loved you so much that He gave His Son to die for you, why in the world would you be afraid of anything else He has for you?

Marriage – since the relationship between husband and wife is often a picture of the relationship between Jesus and His church, I think we ought to be careful that we learn to serve one another not because we “have to”, but because we love each other.

:1 that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,

presentparistemi to place beside or near. This is actually a technical term used to describe the offering of a sacrifice (Josephus, Ant. IV. 6, 4). You “present” the sacrifice to your God. (We sing, “I will offer up my life, in spirit and truth …”)

bodiessoma – the body; your physical body

It’s not about public displays of being religious. It’s not about giving just a part of yourself to the Lord. It’s about giving your WHOLE self to the Lord.

sacrificethusia – a sacrifice, victim

livingzao – to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)

Not dead sacrifices, but living ones.

This is a picture of an altar being set up and the victim is laid out, perhaps even tied to, the altar.

Sometimes bad things happen to us and we call it sacrifice.


Christian Bear
A country preacher decided to skip services one Sunday and head to the hills to do some bear hunting. As he rounded the corner on a perilous twist in the trail, he and a bear collided, sending him and his rifle tumbling down the mountainside. Before he knew it, his rifle went one way and he went the other, landing on a rock and breaking both legs. That was the good news.
The bad news was the ferocious bear was charging at him from a distance, and he couldn’t move. “Oh, Lord,” the preacher prayed, “I’m so sorry for skipping services today to come out here and hunt. Please forgive me and grant me just one wish: Please make a Christian out of that bear that’s coming at me. Please, Lord!”
That very instant the bear skidded to a halt, fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and began to pray aloud right at the preacher’s feet: “Dear God, bless this food I am about to receive.”

Godly sacrifice is something you make a choice about.


General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was once asked the secret of his success.  General Booth hesitated a moment, then with tears streaming down his cheeks he replied, “I’ll tell you the secret; God had all of me there was to have.  From the day I got the poor on my heart and a vision of what Christ could do, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth—God had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will and all the influence of my life.”
The birth of the Salvation Army came about through a man who offered his life as a sacrifice to God.


William Booth cites his early efforts to bring God to the slums of London:
I hungered for hell. I pushed into the midst of it, the East Side of London. For days I stood in the seething streets, drinking it all in and loving it all; yes I loved it because I loved the souls that made upon the muddy stream. I went home one night to my wife and said to her, "My darling, I have given myself, I have given you, and I have given our children to the service of these souls."
-- Quoted in Charles M. Crowe, The Years of Our Lord (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1955), p. 14.


God does not always choose great people to accomplish what he wishes, but He chooses a person who is wholly yielded to Him.
Henrietta Mears  (Bible teacher at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, who remained single all her life, and who taught and encouraged many of today’s great Christian leaders including Billy Graham and Bill Bright).

:1  holy, acceptable to God,

holyhagios – characteristic of God, separated to God; Applied to persons as separated to God’s service; In the moral sense of sharing God’s purity; Of pure, clean sacrifices and offerings

This speaks of something that has been set apart for God’s own use. It speaks of a sacrifice that is pure and “unblemished”.

It’s not talking about us having to clean up our lives before we can give them to God, but it’s talking about not having mixed motives for the things we do.

Why are you giving yourself to God?

Is it because you want something from Him?
Is it so others might be impressed by you, perhaps even like you?
Or is it because He is God, and you must give yourself to Him?

acceptableeuarestos (“good” + “pleasing”) – well pleasing, acceptable

This reminds me of how God viewed the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament:

(Lev 1:9b NKJV)  …And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.

When we learn to truly worship God, to do “worship” as He likes it, then the result is something that is a sweet fragrance to Him.

Think of how the Old Testament sacrifices would smell! Think of the smell of a great piece of steak on the barbecue, or fresh bread baking in the oven. Those are the smells of God’s favorite sacrifices.

:1  which is your reasonable service.

reasonablelogikos – pertaining to the reason or logic; agreeable to reason, logical


It’s logical to worship.

It just makes sense.
When you look at how God has been so merciful to us, the best way we can respond to Him is in worship.
Chuck Smith:
“To commit my life to God for Him to direct is logical, because God knows the end of a matter from the beginning. God's wisdom is so much greater than mine. He has never made a mistake and never will. I have made many mistakes and still do. It makes good sense to seek His counsel and guidance and to give my life to His direction.”

servicelatreia – service rendered for hire; the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; to perform sacred services

What is worship?

There are several Greek words that could be translated “worship”, different words that give us a fuller idea of what “worship” is all about.  One of them is:

worshipproskuneo – to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence


Loving Adoration

We see this word used in:
(John 4:24 NKJV)  "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. They got to talking about how the Samaritans did worship differently than the Jews did. The Samaritans had their temple in another place, they did things differently.
The bottom line that Jesus was saying is that the worship of God doesn’t depend on the place you’re at, but whether your loving adoration of God is coming from your spirit, and whether or not you are following God’s truth.
Many of the songs we do focus on our love for the Lord, expressing our adoration toward Him.  I see this as proskuneo.


Service and Sacrifice

That’s the word that’s used here in Romans 12:1 (latreuo), a word that carries the idea of how the Levitical priests would “worship” God in their duties, which included the offering up of sacrifices. It carries both the idea of offering sacrifice as well as the actual work involved in serving God.  It’s the kind of work that the priests and Levites performed in their duties in the tabernacle and temple:
(Heb 9:6 NKJV)  Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
What kinds of things were the priests involved in with their “service”?
Trimming the lamps, putting out the bread, offering prayers, etc.
We are no longer required to offer up animal sacrifices because Jesus fulfilled the need of sacrifice by giving Himself as the ultimate, complete sacrifice.
Yet there are still a couple of sacrifices that we need to give.
(Heb 13:15 NKJV)  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

One of the kinds of sacrificial offerings we make is through our vocal praise, our thanksgiving to God. This is one of the things that we hope happens during the time of the service that we call “worship”, when we offer our love and thanks to God through our songs.

On Sunday night we often spend a portion of time set aside to simply give God “thanks”.  Sometimes this lasts for quite a while.  It’s good to say “thank you” to God.

Note: Sometimes praise is really a sacrifice. It doesn’t always come easy. Perhaps you’ve had a tough day at work. Perhaps you’ve been arguing with your wife on the way to church. Perhaps you’ve backslidden into a particular sin. Perhaps you’re just tired. That’s when our praise to God is most like a “sacrifice”, when it doesn’t come easy.

When David found the spot where the temple was to be built, the owner of the property offered to just give it to David. But David insisted paying full price:

(1 Chr 21:24 NKJV)  Then King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing."

Sacrifice involves cost. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a “sacrifice”. Don’t just praise Him when you “feel good”. We need to praise Him even when everything looks bleak.

This too is seen in the passage in Hebrews 13:

(Heb 13:16 NKJV)  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Doing good and sharing (Greek koinonia) are not always easy things to do. They are often a sacrifice.

These are things we do for others, whether ministering to your neighbors, cleaning the church, teaching a Sunday School class.


You are not your own.

When you give yourself to God as a living sacrifice, you no longer belong to you.
An animal that was to be sacrificed on an altar was called a devoted thing. When you decided that you were going to sacrifice that animal to God, you had already decided to give it to God, and it was now God’s property.

(Lev 27:28 NKJV)  'Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.

When you “devoted” it, it belonged to God, and it must be sacrificed.

God wants you to “present” yourself to God. You can’t take the gift back.

The Rev. Robert Ard, president of the Black Leadership Council, explains the difference between involvement and commitment:  “When you look at a plate of ham and eggs, you know the chicken was involved. But the pig was committed.”
We are to be living sacrifices.
We aren’t supposed to kill ourselves. We are a sacrifice that is given to God, but remains alive on the earth. But we are still His property.

Just like those sweatshirts that used to be so popular that said, “Property of UCLA” or stuff like that. We ought to have sweatshirts that say, “Property of Jesus Christ”.

Of course, there is a problem with a “living sacrifice”. They tend to crawl off the altar.
You no longer have the right to do what you want with your body. You don’t own it anymore.
(1 Cor 6:18-20 NKJV)  Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. {19} Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? {20} For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

He’s paid a great price for you. Treat His property with care.

Soon after Augustine’s conversion, he was walking down the street in Milan, Italy.  There he accosted a prostitute whom he had known most intimately.  She called but he would not answer. He kept right on walking.  “Augustine,” she called again.  “It is I!”  Without slowing down, but with assurance of Christ in his heart, he testified, “Yes, but it is no longer I.”