Romans 12:1 - The Motivation for Our Thankfulness to God
l beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God...Romans 12:1
I beseech you by the mercies of God. With these words the apostle Paul points out what should motivate us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We should be motivated by God's mercy!
God's mercy – then we think of God's love shown to us in His Son Jesus Christ. The love of God as the apostle had spoken about it in the previous chapters of this letter pointing out that because of our sins we deserved nothing but eternal condemnation. We were dead in sin, prisoners of the law of sin. Yet Christ made us alive, redeemed us, set us free. Thus our life received prospect again. Endowed with the Spirit from above, the life-giving Spirit whom Christ obtained for us, we now may live a new life to the honour of God.
That's God's amazing grace. Out of thankfulness for this amazing grace we should now indeed offer our lives to Christ, serve Him from the heart readily and willingly. Yes, whoever has seen what God has given us in Christ will no longer consider 'serving-the Lord' to be a burden, but then we will do so joyfully. Then we rejoice in obeying God's law. Then we say with the words of Psalm 19 (rhymed version): God's ordinances are sweet. Yes, even "far sweeter than whatever sweetness man receives from combs with honey." I'm afraid that sometimes we sing these words so easily. Yet do we really understand what we sing and do we also accept that it is true that God's commandments are sweet and are not meant to burden our life.
That's how also the preaching should focus on these commandments. Not as a list of do's and don'ts, but as God's wholesome norm for life. The preaching should stimulate love for God's law; love necessary to abound in knowledge and discernment that we may approve the things that are excellent. We should never forget that also in His law God comes to us as the God of our redemption. Well, thankfulness for this redemption should give us incentive to obey God's commandments readily and willingly. That's what the apostle Paul is stressing in Rom. 12:1 when he says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God..."
Through God's work in Christ we have become new creatures who are once again able to offer their lives to God. This also shows that God asking for fruits of faith, doesn't ask the impossible of us. In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul writes, Ch. 2:10,
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
So it is all God's work. We are saved by grace alone. Yet this does not undo our responsibility. As it reads in the Form for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper, now God for the sake of Christ so exceedingly loved us first, we are now also to respond to this love not just in words but also in deeds. Thus motivated by God's amazing grace we ought to render our lives a living sacrifice to God.
Speaking about a living sacrifice the apostle Paul does not mean in contrast to the dead animals sacrificed in the time of the OT, but he contrasts this living over against being dead in sin, as it was previously the case with those Gentiles to whom Paul writes this letter. Being made alive by Christ, they now also have to consecrate their life to Christ as a living sacrifice.
Romans 12:1 thus contains a clear positive command to give our life the Lord in everything. Indeed being a child of God affects our whole way of life. In Christ we have been redeemed from a life that is subjected to futility.
That's why the apostle Paul says in vs. 2, "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
These last words contain a promise. It says, whoever motivated by the mercies of God wants to render his life to Christ in everything and in that situation asks himself the question what is pleasing to God and what not will receive answer. In Romans 1 Paul had said that whoever does not acknowledge God in his life will finally be given up to the vile passions of his own sinful heart (1:26). Yet here in the beginning of Ch. 12 Paul says that whoever does acknowledge God will see more and more clearly in his life what God wants him to do; then we will indeed approve that God's will is good, acceptable and perfect, wholesome for life.
Yes, whoever let his life be motivated by the riches of God's grace becomes another being, a new creature. Then it becomes once again our desire with a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works. Then transformed by the renewing of our mind we will know what is and what is not pleasing to the Lord. Then our life will indeed become a living sacrifice of thankfulness to God.