Sunday morning, Scott gave a sermon on Romans 12:1. If you are interested in reading the sermon, follow along below. If not, you can stop reading. You won’t hurt our feelings 🙂
Once again, Altin Zefi translated into Albanian for Scott. The unneccesary stuff has been edited out but most of it is here for you to follow along. We pray this is edifying to you as you seek to glorify your King.
Here is the text we are viewing, Romans 12:1:
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.
Scott thanked the church members for having him speak. He read Romans 12:1-2 and then prayed. Here is what transpired afterwards.
Last time I shared with you from Colossians 3:17 and we discussed living our lives in accordance with “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” When we got to the “how” to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, I told you I would share Romans 12:1-2 the next time I spoke with you as this passage is at the heart of the “how.” Unfortunately, as I began preparing to share with you all I realized I will not be able to get through both verses today. Altin has graciously allowed me to share verse one with you this week and verse two next week.
So, let’s look at the text and get started. “Therefore…” Therefore is a very important word in the book of Romans so lets stop here for a minute. Paul wrote Romans differently than, say, John wrote his gospel. Paul’s style of writing Romans is very argumentative. It is written in almost a legal form, as if Paul is standing before a court and is presenting his case. As a matter of fact, students studying law in America all the way up until the last 50 years studied the book of Romans as part of learning how to put together a case.
So the word “Therefore” is very impotant. Paul repeatedly lays out a set of facts and then says, because of these facts- “therefore”- this should be the result or verdict. Paul uses many “therefore’s” in the book of Romans but there are four “therefore’s” that are key to the book of Romans. The first is in Romans 1:24. Turn with me as we look at Romans 1:21-24 (emphasis added):
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
In this first major “therefore,” Paul is describing the condition of unregenerate man. Because man rejected God and His glory, exhanging His glory for the glory of other things, therefore God gave them over to what they wanted. And if you are to keep reading, Paul describes a rather terrible downward spiral that occurs after God gives somebody over. They begin by worshipping gods rather than The God. Then they become sexually immoral. Then from there they become full of immorality of every kind. But in this first “therefore” notice how Paul presents the case: they rejected God “therefore” God sent them toward their condemnation. This is the therefore of condemnation and in Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul fully lays out the sinfulness and the eternal case God has against man.
The second major “therefore” is located in Romans 5:1:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
This second “therefore” is the “therefore” of restoration. Starting from Romans 3:21 until Romans 5:1, Paul is laying the foundation of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Here in Romans 5:1, Paul is laying out his case saying, because of the work of Christ as a propitiating atonement by His death on the cross therefore man now has peace with God and his relationship with God is restored.
The third major “therefore” is in Romans 8:1:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
This “therefore” is a “therefore” of freedom and sanctification. Because man has been freed from the Law, having been set free from the Law when he died in Christ and was made alive in Christ, therefore man is free from the condemnation that the Law brought.
So that brings us to the fourth major “therefore” in Romans 12:1. If we are going to understand this “therefore” we need to know what facts Paul is refering to. This “therefore” is maybe the biggest in scope because it is the “therefore” of action. This therefore is in light of all the facts of the first 11 chapters of Romans. So, in light of all the facts layed out about man and the work of Christ, therefore living sacrifice. Let’s look at the immediate verses right before Romans 12:1. Look back at Romans 11:33-37:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID
BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
At the end of Romans 11, Paul breaks out in a beautiful doxology about our amazing Lord. So, in the immediate context we have: in light of the untold depth and riches of our amazing God, therefore living sacrifice.
If you keep going backwards in the book of Romans, chapters 9-11 are about the sovereignty of God in election and salvation. We don’t have the time to get into great detail here, but chapters 9-11 point us to an amazing truth: God chose Scott, of all people, He chose even me, and elected me (you can argue why He elected me later in a theology class), but He chose dirty, rotten me that I might be counted in His number. The fact that God would chose me to be His name-bearer on this earth is an absolute mind blowing truth that, undoubtedley, led Paul to give that doxology at the end of chapter 11. So, in light of the amazing fact God would choose me inspite of who I was, therefore living sacrifice.
And if you quickly look back on the first eight chapters of Romans, Paul is giving the gospel. In light of the fact all of men were sinful and rightly deserved to go to hell for their wickedness, in light of the fact God would see us exactly for who we were and would send His Son to die for us despite who we were, in light of the fact that we can have peace with God because of a righteousness not our own, in light of the fact we are slaves of God and righteousness now, in light of the fact God didn’t just save us from hell but also gave us His Spirit and both His Spirit and His Son are constantly interceding for us, in light of all of the miraculous and over-whelming truths of the gospel, therefore living sacrifice.
Notice what Paul did not say, by the way; Paul did not say “in light of the fact God multiplies your gifts back to you while you are on earth, therefore living sacrifices.” No, this health and wealth gospel stuff is nonsense. We aren’t living sacrifices to get stuff, we are living sacrifices in light of what God has done for us. I don’t give $10 to God so I can get $100 back. That’s crazy. I hope for the sake of everybody here (and you reading this too!) that you don’t want your rewards from God here on earth, you want your rewards in heaven. I’ll tell you what I want, I want crowns! I want to go up to my Lord Jesus Christ and start putting crowns on His head one-by-one. I want to have so many crowns there that everybody behind me in line gets bored waiting. “Here Jesus, here is another one. And here is the next one! Oh yes, this is the one for the giving that one time. Here, its yours! And this one, ah yes, this one is for You too. Here’s another, and another…” And I want to stand there and put crowns on His head for years, because He is worthy of them all! Crown after crown is His in light of what He did for me! And if God sees it fit that He must repay me here on earth, then I hope He brings my children to saving knowledge of Him. I want them there with me, too, so we can have even more crowns and we can spend even more time giving Him the glory and honor He deserves for being the kind of God who would save a person like me! If you feel differently then reread Romans 1-11, because you missed it. All praise, honor and glory to our King!
Okay, enough of that, let’s move on.
Go back to Romans 12:1. “(Therefore) I urge you, brethren…”
Isn’t this phrase precious. “I urge you, brethren.” Compare it to Moses coming down from Mount Sinai. Turn with me to Exodus 20 (emphasis added below). Moses came down the mountain and with the power and authority from God Almighty, look at what Moses said. These are ten commandments.
Verse 3: YOU SHALL HAVE NO other Gods before Me.
Verse 4: YOU SHALL NOT make for yourself an idol
Verse 5: YOU SHALL NOT worship them or serve them
Verse 7: YOU SHALL NOT take the name of the Lord your God in vain
Verse 10: YOU SHALL NOT do any work
Verse 13: YOU SHALL NOT murder
Verse 14: YOU SHALL NOT commit adultery
Verse 15: YOU SHALL NOT steal
Verse 16: YOU SHALL NOT bear false witness
Verse 17: YOU SHALL NOT covet
And look at the people’s response in verse 19 (emphasis added):
Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
Fear and reverence. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fear and reverence aren’t bad things, they are good. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).” But contrast Moses with Paul’s, “I urge you, brethren.” Moses came with the power and authority of God and demanded obedience- the Law. Paul comes with the same power and authority from God, only he comes in grace and love. Turn with me real quick to Philemon, v. 8-9. Philemon is a tiny letter, just one chapter long. Paul is writing to a slave owner on behalf of his runaway slave. The runaway slave found Paul, gave his life over to Christ, and now Paul is sending the slave back to his owner with this letter. Read with me verses eight and nine (emphasis added):
Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—
Paul could have ordered us to obey but he doesn’t. Look at his attitude. He’s just a fellow slave exhorting his fellow slaves to submit to their master in grace and love. Why? Turn with me to Romans 6:17-18 (emphasis added):
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Paul isn’t commanding us to do this, he is pleading with us because, as fellow slaves, we don’t obey Christ out of compulsion but out of love for Him in light of what He has done for us and because He first loved us.
The word “brethren” there is another beautiful word. In the Greek it is adelphos meaning “of the same womb.” Isn’t that an amazing truth. Altin and I are from the same womb, we are brothers, and we feel the same way about each other as we do our blood brothers and sisters. Look at Altin and me, don’t we look like brothers? (Everybody laughs and says no) No, but it’s true: the Apostle Paul is our brother, from the same womb, exhorting us to be living sacrifices as a loving brother.
So if I can recap, this verse is saying so far, “In light of the great truths of God and what He has done for us, despite who we were, Paul graciously and lovingly exhorts his beloved brothren in Christ…”
Go back to Romans 12:1: “by the mercies of God”
“By” is actually a fun word in the Greek. It can actually mean “because”, “through”, or “in.” So think about that: it isn’t just because of the mercy of God that we are to be living sacrifices, it is through His mercy and in His mercy that we are to be living sacrifices.
And “mercies” is a fantastic word. In the Greek this word is in the plural denoting mercy upon mercy or an abundence of mercy. Its like we are standing there before God with our arms wide open asking Him for mercy. And He starts pouring it out on us. Slowly at first and we are just drinking it up. *Slurp, slurp* Lapping it up because its living water – the water that gives life! And we are just lapping it up- loving it. “God give me more!” And God keeps pouring it out and pouring it out and we are just standing there, arms open, loving it and drinking it up in joy! Its almost overwhelming but God keeps giving us more and more. God pours it out on us until were swimming in His mercy and we are loving it all- we’re practically swimming in all His mercy because of how much He has poured out! It envelopes us and we are fully enjoying His great mercy which He lavishes upon us, mercy upon mercy, in full abundance. How great is our God?!?!
And mercy in the Greek is oiktirmos which is an action that comes from a feeling of pity. But the word has this picture of the pity coming from the bowels of your stomach, deep inside. We too often portray God as this emotionless being that just orchestrates everything down below. No, deep within the very being of God He loves us and has pity for us and out of His deep love for us He pours out mercy upon mercy in full abundance. Deep within Himself this is who He is and His mercy overflows out of Himself toward us!
Look back at the text with me. Although the doxology is sandwiched inbetween, look at how Romans 12:1 ties back to the verses just before the doxology. Look at Romans 11:30-32. In three verses Paul writes the word mercy four times. Read the verses with me (emphasis added):
For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Israel was hardened that we, the Gentiles, might be shown mercy by God. God is working out the salvation of men so that He might show and display His great mercy on us. He is working it all together for His glory that He might be shown merciful as He pours His mercy out on people like us.
So, let me recap where we are so far: “In light of the great truths of God and what He has done for us despite who we were, Paul graciously and lovingly exhorts his beloved brothren in Christ, through, in and by the mercies God has abundently poured on us…”
“to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice”
“Present” is the Greek word paristēmi which means to place at one’s disposal as a possession for their purposes.
And our “bodies” means all of us. Our wills have to be given over to Him and made His will. We give up our “I wants” for His wants. It’s not about what I want anymore, but what the King wants. Our minds have to be given over. We can’t put the same junk in it we used to put in it, but we fill it with His word, meditating on it day and night. Our hands become His hands. We used to be selfish or thieves, but now we work hard to earn more than we need so we can take care of the needs of our brethren. Our feet become His. We can no longer go to the places we are not supposed to go: to watch that movie or to the casino. We tell our feet that we will not go there anymore. Our tongues become His. This thing right here (grabs tongue), this thing that gets us into all kinds of trouble, its not ours anymore. No more gossip or tearing people down, but our words are for the building up of the church and for praising Him. Our emotions, our feelings, and the things we take joy in, they have to be given over. We are no longer to be afraid, but we trust that He is working all things together for our good. The hurts or frustrations have to all be subjected first to the Lord. Our emotions must be given over as well.
Which leads us to living sacrifices. The sacrifices of the old testament were “dead” sacrifices. The animal went up on the alter and was killed. But living sacrifices are different. This isn’t a one time sacrifice and then its over. No! Jesus Christ was the final dead sacrifice. He took the alter, dumped it over and cleared it, to make room for the living sacrifices. Christ doesn’t want you to jump on once and be done, He wants you to live on the alter.
This isn’t a sacrifice of propitiation; that was taken care of by the Lamb that was slain. This is a sacrifice of praise to the Lamb that is worthy of all praise. Which is why “dead” people (unsaved) cannot be living sacrifices. No, the alter is a place for the living to offer themselves to God. And not only to get on the alter, but we are called to stay on the alter as thanks and praise to our Redeemer.
There is this lie running rampant in the church that holiness is no longer important. If you mention holiness, people bristle and throw up the “legalism” signs of protest. That is an absolute lie from Satan. It is not a living sacrifice if it is not a holy sacrifice. Sacrifices are set apart, on the alter, for His possession to do His will. If your wills, minds, hands, feet, tongues, and emotions/feelings/joys aren’t given over to Him for holiness, they aren’t really being sacrificed. If you aren’t offering them in holiness, you are doing Satan a huge favor. Satan wanders the earth looking for ways to defile the name of our great God. Every time we get off the alter, we are doing what Satan can’t- defile the name of God from within the body of Christ.
A sacrifice includes dying to self, dying to the flesh and being alive for God. Holiness and dying to self are the calling of the alter now.
We are going to skip over “acceptable to God” and look at that with verse two next week and finish up with “which is your spiritual service of worship.” “Spiritual” in the Greek is the word logikos from which we get the word logic or logical. The phrase “service of worship” comes from the Greek word latreia. This word comes from the Levitical law. In the Old Testament the Israelites were told, down to the smallest of details, how they were to worship God. Remember, every inch of the temple was laid out by God: the showbread goes here, the ark goes there, the ark is to look exactly like this, on such and such days you are supposed to offer this sacrifice in this way, etc. This is what this word comes from; it is the methodology that God instituted in order for the Israelites to properly worship Him.
So, here is how these two ideas fit together: In light of all that God has done for us and the magnitude of His love toward us (especially in light of who we were and the cost it took to redeem us), the only logical response on our parts is to offer our worship to God in this way- living sacrifices. There is no other logical response to so great a love. There is nothing else that can make any sense to us in light of the gift of His Son. If you can read the first eleven chapters of Romans and come to any conclusion other than there is no place I’d rather be than on the alter, read them again, because you missed it. This is how God has orchestrated us to worship Him. Living sacrifice- our method of worshipping our King.
I’ll finish with this story. My wife saw this story of a Latvian pastor who came home one night and a burgler put a knife into his back. The pastor was tied up and lay on the floor of his living room in pain as the burgler stole his stuff. The Latvian pastor was there, hurting, but do you know what he was thinking about? Over the last few years prior to this, he had put it in his mind that whenever he was hurting, whether sick or had a headache or whatever, he was going to focus on Christ’s sufferings on the cross. The pastor would use the pain as a way to point himself to Christ’s pain that He suffered on the pastor’s behalf. So, for 45 minutes to an hour the Latvian pastor layed on the floor thinking about the pain and suffering Jesus had gone through for him, and spent the time worshipping and praising the Lord. The Latvian pastor had determined that in all things, he was going to praise Him.
God is calling us to get on the alter, offering all of our selves to Him, as a holy sacrifice. We must stay on the alter. As God’s people, please, stay on the alter.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)