The Characteristics of Christian Behaviour
(a) Self-Sacrifice; Our Reasonable Service
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Paul’s Epistle to the Church in Rome is divided into two major divisions. We have now completed the first section which focuses upon what the Christian is to believe. The doctrines of sin, judgement, justification, sanctification, assurance and election have been fully developed by the apostle. Now inspired by the Holy Ghost, Paul turns his attention to how the Christian is to behave. The remainder of the letter is Paul’s application of the truths he has presented to the everyday lives and circumstances of God’s people. These final chapters can be divided using the following headings:
A: The Characteristics of Christian Behaviour – Chapters 12-13
B: Christian Liberty; The Remedy for Division – Chapters 14-15:13
C: The Ministry of Paul Chapter – 15:14-22
D: Concluding Remarks – Chapter 16
This section of the letter commences with another of these well known passages for which Romans is so famous among Christians everywhere. Warren Wiersbe commented that in a chapter which deals with relationships Paul begins with the relationship that the Christian should cultivate with God, in v1-2. There are two key words in these opening verses; “sacrifice” and “transformed”. These are the marks of godly person. If our behaviour is to be pleasing to God in every department of life we must first of all be living sacrifices and secondly we must be constantly undergoing transformation as God moulds and shapes us. Therefore Paul gets to the root of matter; he exposes the core element in Christian behaviour with these two words. This study will focus upon the self sacrifice required.
1: The Message concerning Self Sacrifice
I beseech you therefore brethren..
Paul is obviously passionate concerning the great need that exists within the Church; self sacrifice. He used a term of endearment, “brethren”, to show that he had their interests at heart. By far the most telling word, however, is “therefore”. On account of everything Paul has been teaching about God and Christ the believer cannot do other than offer himself. If we are justified through Christ’s blood (3:24-26), if God did not spare his only son (8:30), if the Holy Spirit gives us assurance (8:15-16), if nothing can separate us from God’s love (8:38-39) and if God is controlling all things with his glory in view (11:36) then why will we not surrender our bodies to him? The final argument is the strongest because it immediately precedes the appeal. God desires his own glory, therefore, we can only glorify him through absolute surrender
Revelation 4:11 – Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
2: The Means of Self Sacrifice
by the mercies of God
We do not offer ourselves through rules, procedures or disciplines. Manufactured contrivances which never create spiritual surrender. The only means by which we can be yielded to God are his mercies. This is why we need sound doctrine; to show us how undeserving we are. As we view this picture sacrifice becomes a natural progression.
3: The Manner of Self Sacrifice
…that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.
The presentation, the offering, is the body. God has redeemed the soul from the guilt of sin but he is in the process of purifying the body from the pollution of sin. Sanctification is the work of cleansing and improving the moral nature of the body. Salvation ultimately will conclude with the resurrection of the body. While we are in the flesh, however, the body is the focus of spiritual warfare. When we sin, we do so in the body (the word body including all that pertains to human nature including the physical house in which our souls dwell). Therefore we can only be victorious when we hand the body over to God. The body is to be a living sacrifice. The logic is clear – if we are not offering ourselves we are existing in a dead formal lifeless religion.
2 Timothy 3:5 – Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
4: The Motivation for Self Sacrifice
..holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
To please God is the goal of the Christian; there is no greater motivation than this. “Reasonable” comes from the same Greek word that gives us the word “logic”. Sacrifice is the most logical act for a Christian.